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January 27, 2009
Prospectus Hoops List
Week of January 26, 2009

by Bradford Doolittle

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The end of January means that we're three months--and 12 Hoop Lists--into the 2008-09 season. So who are the movers and shakers around the NBA? Here is a comparison of the six- and 12-week rankings:

Team                 12/11    1/25     Chng
Philadelphia 76ers      21      15       -6
Orlando Magic           10       4       -6
Charlotte Bobcats       25      20       -5
San Antonio Spurs       15      10       -5
Minnesota Timberwolves  29      24       -5
Milwaukee Bucks         20      17       -3
Miami Heat              16      14       -2
Los Angeles Clippers    28      26       -2
Boston Celtics           3       2       -1
New York Knicks         22      21       -1
New Orleans Hornets      7       6       -1
Oklahoma City Thunder   30      29       -1
Utah Jazz               12      11       -1
Toronto Raptors         19      19        0
Cleveland Cavaliers      1       1        0
Atlanta Hawks            9       9        0
Washington Wizards      27      27        0
Denver Nuggets           5       5        0
Indiana Pacers          17      18       +1
Golden State Warriors   24      25       +1
Los Angeles Lakers       2       3       +1
Phoenix Suns            11      12       +1
Houston Rockets          6       8       +2
Memphis Grizzlies       26      28       +2
Detroit Pistons         13      16       +3
Portland Trail Blazers   4       7       +3
New Jersey Nets         18      22       +4
Dallas Mavericks         8      13       +5
Sacramento Kings        23      30       +7
Chicago Bulls           14      23       +9

Philly fans will recognize this trend, because they saw it last season. After a sluggish start, the Sixers have surged back to the .500 mark which leaves them, appropriately enough, ranked 15th out of 30 teams. You'll also note the steady climb of the Orlando Magic, who captured the attention mainstream observers everywhere just in time to begin their ebb. Also of interest is the improvement of the league's cellar dwellers, a trend noticed recently by Kevin Pelton.

On the other end of the change scale, you have four teams with different story lines, all of which have led to a slow sink in the standings. The Nets are a young team which had been considerably outplaying its point differential. The Regression Master has wielded his ruler. The Mavericks are old and mediocre, a franchise on the verge of needing to be torn down or renovated, but probably lacking the self-awareness to do either. The Kings are young, stupid and kind of directionless. The Bulls continue to underachieve.

RANK (Last Week) Team (Power rating) [ WIN PACE / PYTHAGOREAN PACE / PRESEASON PROJECTION ]

(Statistics through Jan. 24)

1. (1) Cleveland Cavaliers (66.5) [ 66 / 67 / 44 ]
Rankings: NET: 1; OFF: 2; DEF: 2; PACE: 25

The Cavaliers played four games out west last week and won three of them. Unfortunately, it's that 17-point loss to the Lakers at the Staples Center that most people are going to remember. We suggest focusing on the other three games: impressive wins at tough Portland and Utah and an exhilarating buzzer-beating win at Golden State. This week, a key matchup at Orlando on Thursday looms, the second week in a row the Magic have faced a key home test in the TNT doubleheader. That game is sandwhiched between home yawners against the Kings and Clippers. In fact, with Toronto coming in next week, Cleveland is a sure bet to run its home record to 23-0. What comes after that? The return match with the Lakers, on Feb. 8.

2. (3) Boston Celtics (64.8) [ 65 / 65 / 63 ]
Rankings: NET: 2; OFF: 6; DEF: 1; PACE: 17

Let's hope the other kids in the NBA playground enjoyed themselves while the league's bullies were out with a case of the measles. After dropping seven of nine games and tumbling all the way to third on the Hoops List, the champions have their snarl back. Boston went 4-0 last week, beating four potential playoff teams by a combined 66 points. That's eight straight wins overall for Boston. This week sees a visit to Detroit on Friday and a couple of home games against patsies. The game against Minnesota on Sunday could be interesting as former Celtic Kevin McHale will look to validate the improvement of his young Timberwolves.

3. (2) Los Angeles Lakers (62.5) [ 66 / 62 / 49 ]
Rankings: NET: 4; OFF: 1; DEF: 6; PACE: 5

Unlike the Celtics, the Lakers haven't had a true rough stretch all season, losing consecutive games twice this season but never more than two in a row. L.A. hasn't had a 10-game stretch worse than 7-3. Now the light seems to have gone on for Andrew Bynum. Bynum had 42 points and 15 boards against the Clippers, plus a combined 38 points and 25 boards against the Wizards and Spurs, respectively. Basically, Bynum is back to playing the way he was playing before he got hurt last January. As a result, he's quelled concerns about his ability to play alongside Pau Gasol--for the time being.

4. (4) Orlando Magic (59.7) [ 62 / 61 / 43 ]
Rankings: NET: 3; OFF: 5; DEF: 3; PACE: 10

Will last Thursday's home thumping at the hands of Boston echo the pentultimate passage from Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? You know the image, where Thompson muses about being able to see the point where the wave of 1960s idealism broke and rolled back. Leading up to that game, Orlando seemed virtually unstoppable. Unstoppable, as the Celtics found out a few weeks ago, can be a temporary condition. The Magic followed up the Boston loss with a defeat in Miami. However, let's not get too worked up. Orlando still hasn't lost more than three games in any one month. This week offers a golden opportunity for the Magic to right the ship. On Thursday, LeBron James brings his top-ranked Cavaliers into Amway Arena. If Orlando gets hammered, then we may well look back at mid-January as the sole period when the Magic actually seemed like championship contenders.

5. (6) Denver Nuggets (53.0) [ 53 / 50 / 43 ]
Rankings: NET: 6; OFF: 8; DEF: 10; PACE: 4

The Nuggets have won five of seven games since Carmelo Anthony went down with a broken hand. They've beaten some good teams during that stretch--Miami, Detroit, Dallas, Phoenix and Utah. All of those wins came at home, however. Denver has played just one road game since Anthony was hurt. That changes starting on Tuesday--the Nuggets play 10 of their next 12 on the road.

6. (5) New Orleans Hornets (53.0) [ 53 / 50 / 45 ]
Rankings: NET: 7; OFF: 7; DEF: 14; PACE: 29

You know those dreadful NBA commercials with the guy and the little tour bus? One of them features Chris Paul and highlights his ability to run the fast break all night long. The commercial is annoying. The message is probably correct. Why, then, on a team hungry for consistent scorers, do the Hornets feature the second-slowest tempo in the NBA? Thanks to Paul, the Hornets aren't too terribly off their pace from last season. However, as the playoffs loom on the horizon, it's hard to see New Orleans challenging the Lakers. As Byron Scott seeks ways to improve his team, one option would be to go to a more athletic lineup. Play Julian Wright more. Perhaps Hilton Armstrong, as well. Most importantly, take the reins off Paul and let him run. It's New Orleans, for Pete's sake. That city needs a fast team.

7. (7) Portland Trail Blazers (52.0) [ 49 / 49 / 38 ]
Rankings: NET: 8; OFF: 3; DEF: 20; PACE: 30

Greg Oden has decided to pick up the pace. We'll see how that works out. Against Milwaukee, he had 24 points and 15 rebounds. Against Washington, he had 18 points and 14 boards, including a season-best nine off the offensive glass. In between, he posted a clanker against Cleveland because of foul trouble. The surprising thing about Oden is his shot-blocking, or lack thereof. He's 21st in block rate out of 237 qualifiers. That's not bad, but you would have thought that Oden projected as a top-five shot blocker. He does rank fourth in offensive rebounding percentage, which is certainly encouraging.

8. (8) Houston Rockets (50.1) [ 50 / 49 / 61 ]
Rankings: NET: 11; OFF: 17; DEF: 4; PACE: 19

Isn't it about time for the Rockets to reel off about 20 straight wins? That's a joke, but the Rockets are showing signs of lift-off, so to speak. Houston has won seven of nine is just three games back of San Antonio for the second seed in the West. Houston already has 24 of its 41 road games out of the way and its future opponents are under .500 in the aggregate. On the injury front, Ron Artest and Tracy McGrady are back in the lineup, but now Yao Ming is out. Yao was hobbled by a knee injury that isn't believed to be serious. He is listed as day-to-day (as are we all). Houston now faces a stretch with 10 home games in 13 overall. The road games are at New York, Memphis and Milwaukee. Another 20-game streak? Unlikely, but Houston is ready to make its move.

9. (10) Atlanta Hawks (49.0) [ 50 / 47 / 38 ]
Rankings: NET: 10; OFF: 10; DEF: 15; PACE: 23

The Hawks have gone 5-7 in January, but there is no reason to panic in Atlanta. First of all, the Hawks have stayed in the Nos. 8-10 range on the Hoops List since Nov. 20, which is vitally important to any team. Five of Atlanta's losses this month have been by five points or less, so the team has been competitive but a little unlucky. Part of the problem has been the inevitable regression of Mike Bibby's shooting percentages. After posting a 56.4 eFG% in 31 games through December, Bibby has dropped to 48.5 in 12 January games. With no other obvious trouble and Al Horford due to return from injury you have to focus on the big picture: The Hawks are on pace to win 51 games and hold the home advantage in a first-round playoff series.

10. (9) San Antonio Spurs (49.0) [ 56 / 50 / 55 ]
Rankings: NET: 5; OFF: 11; DEF: 5; PACE: 26

The Spurs are on pace to win 57 games. Every indicator in NBAPET screams that they won't get there. The Spurs have the most pronounced LUCK rating in the league--six games per 82 above their point differential. They've gone 12-4 in close games, which explains the LUCK rating. They've already burned 24 of their 41 home games. They've played the second-easiest schedule in the league. Nevertheless, it's tough to declare San Antonio due for a correction with any degree of confidence. We'll find out soon enough. Sunday's loss to the Lakers at the Staples Center was the first of a stretch during which the Spurs will play 11 of 12 games on the road.

11. (12) Utah Jazz (45.8) [ 46 / 48 / 50 ]
Rankings: NET: 9; OFF: 9; DEF: 12; PACE: 12

Deron Williams gets hurt, then returns in time for Carlos Boozer to go down. Just as Williams rounds into shape, Paul Millsap gets hurt. Millsap is back, but now Andrei Kirilenko is battling foot trouble that may necessitate surgery. Meanwhile, Boozer is still out and there has been no date affixed to his return. That's the way the season has gone for Utah. Now, they seem to be suffering the consequences, having dropped four of five. You know that Jerry Sloan will not allow the bottom to drop out, but if the Jazz can't get healthy, they'll continue to battle Dallas and Phoenix for the last couple of playoff spots in the West.

12. (11) Phoenix Suns (44.7) [ 46 / 42 / 49 ]
Rankings: NET: 12; OFF: 4; DEF: 21; PACE: 9

Just read the names in the starting lineup: Steve Nash. Shaquille O'Neal. Grant Hill. Amare Stoudemire. Jason Richardson. It's an All-Star team, right? This formula never works. The Suns have an somewhat easy slate in front of them, but still will need to rely on a lack of health by the Utah Jazz just to make the playoffs. Even that's no sure thing, as the Suns have actually overachieved, in terms of LUCK rating. After this season, you have to blow it all up, don't you? No matter how old they are, a team with those names in the lineup should not be this dull to watch.

13. (13) Dallas Mavericks (44.3) [ 47 / 44 / 51 ]
Rankings: NET: 13; OFF: 12; DEF: 16; PACE: 15

You don't know what you're going to get from the Mavericks from game to game. Last week, Dallas split four road games on an east swing. They knocked off hot Philadelphia by two points, then hammered the Pistons by 21. The other two games, at Milwaukee and Boston, Dallas lost by a combined 58 points. This is just not the way a contender behaves. Nor does a contender go 9-12 against teams .500 or better. Besides a second-half rebound by Josh Howard, the most obvious area for Dallas to improve is to become less perimeter-oriented. The Mavericks have the tenth-highest portion of field-goal attempts which have come from behind the arc, yet are 25th in three-point percentage. They are second in the league in free-throw percentage but 26th in drawing fouls. Dallas doesn't have a reliable post scorer, so Rick Carlisle needs to instruct Dirk Nowitzki, Howard and company to put the ball on the floor and take it to the hoop. Upping the tempo (Dallas is 15th in pace) might not be a bad idea, either.

14. (15) Miami Heat (42.7) [ 44 / 40 / 35 ]
Rankings: NET: 15; OFF: 20; DEF: 11; PACE: 20

No player has been hounded by more trade rumors than Shawn Marion has. With the Heat suffering from a big hole in the middle, one which will not be filled by the recently-retired Alonzo Mourning, a move makes sense. Just three teams are getting fewer points on inside shots, this despite the fact that Dwyane Wade gets so many points in the lane. At the same time, is acquiring the likes of Jermaine O'Neal or Eddy Curry really going to cure that ill? While we're dealing with the Miami rumor mill, let's pose this question: If Miami is such an ideal landing spot for Carlos Boozer, where exactly does that leave Michael Beasley? The Heat will be one of the main teams to watch leading up to the Feb. 19 trade deadline. While this all sounds like a lot of disarray, let's not forget that the Heat have already won nine more games than they did last season and are one game back of the Pistons for the fifth seed in the East.

15. (14) Philadelphia 76ers (42.5) [ 41 / 43 / 38 ]
Rankings: NET: 16; OFF: 22; DEF: 8; PACE: 16

The Sixers have won eight of nine and their last two losses have both been by two points. They've done it with the lineup that got Philadelphia into the playoffs last season. As of Sunday, the problem of integrating Elton Brand back into the rotation is no longer merely theoretical. Brand scored six points and grabbed three rebounds in 13 minutes off the bench against the Knicks. With the Sixers in position to grab the seventh, possibly the sixth, seed in the East, Brand's injury may turn out to be a blessing. In his absence, Philadelphia re-discovered the up-tempo attack and pressure defense that served it so well in the second half of last season. Now, instead of repeating the mistake of setting aside all their virtues to build around Brand, the Sixers have been granted a virtual do-over. This time, they're going about it the right way, promising to remain aggressive and to make Brand adapt to the existing rotation. That sounds good, but they still have to make it work on the court.

16. (17) Detroit Pistons (40.7) [ 46 / 41 / 55 ]
Rankings: NET: 17; OFF: 21; DEF: 9; PACE: 28

This is a lot for a first-year coach to handle. The Pistons have lost eight of 11, with four of those losses coming at home and a visit from the Celtics looming this week. The Pistons are just six games above .500, sitting fifth in the East with Miami and Philadelphia breathing down their necks. They've done this with the league's easiest schedule behind them and its toughest schedule in front of them. On top of that, Detroit has the league's second-highest LUCK rating, overachieving to the tune of 5.7 games per 82. With Richard Hamilton coming off the bench and Allen Iverson sitting out fourth quarters, how long is it before some serious discord ensues? Iverson is already chirping ("I can offer more...") and trade rumblings have surfaced. We say again: This is a lot for a first-year coach to handle.

17. (16) Milwaukee Bucks (40.5) [ 38 / 41 / 31 ]
Rankings: NET: 14; OFF: 16; DEF: 13; PACE: 13

The Bucks were a fairly solid bet to make the postseason before getting word on Sunday that leading scorer Michael Redd had blown out an ACL in Saturday's win over the Kings. You'd like to think the Bucks could absorb Redd's loss defensively, but Milwaukee isn't blessed with many shooters and will be hurting for points. Maybe rookie Joe Alexander can get more run but, as Kevin Pelton points out, starting Ramon Sessions alongside Luke Ridnour would solve a couple of problems. Unfortunately, Bucks fans can probably expect a lot more of Charlie Bell, which is never good.

18. (18) Indiana Pacers (35.8) [ 30 / 34 / 41 ]
Rankings: NET: 19; OFF: 18; DEF: 19; PACE: 3

It's hard to get excited about the Pacers unless you focus your attention squarely on the exploits of Danny Granger. Indiana is on pace to win 31 games; that seems about right for this team. Yeah, they've played the NBA's toughest schedule to date. They've played more close games than any other team. Just the Wizards, Warriors and Thunder have been more unlucky. Still, other than Granger and, once he gets back his shot, Mike Dunleavy, what else it there to be excited about? To date, rookies Brandon Rush and Roy Hibbert have played 41% and 20%, respectively, of available minutes. If those numbers were to go way up, the Pacers might at least be more interesting, if not really any better.

19. (20) Toronto Raptors (35.7) [ 30 / 34 / 42 ]
Rankings: NET: 18; OFF: 15; DEF: 22; PACE: 18

The battered and disappointing Raptors still justifiably harbor playoff aspirations despite being four games back of the Bucks for the last East spot and setting a pace to win a rousing 31 games. There are a number of indicators that suggest the second half is going to be better for the Raptors than the first half. Toronto has played 25 of its 45 games on the road. The Raptors have a LUCK score of -3.3, a mark surpassed by just five teams. They have also played the third-toughest schedule in the league to date but their future schedule is the easiest in the Eastern Conference. Toronto's NBAPET projection was for 42 wins, and barring the continuation of its existing injury woes--or something happening to Chris Bosh--the Raptors can be expected to play at at least that level going forward. Perhaps the best reason for Raptors fans to hope? Toronto is rumored to be trying to trade Jermaine O'Neal.

20. (22) Charlotte Bobcats (34.2) [ 34 / 35 / 38 ]
Rankings: NET: 20; OFF: 28; DEF: 7; PACE: 27

The good news: Charlotte has had a winning month, going 7-5 since the turn of the calendar. The bad news: The Bobcats close January with road games against the Lakers, Trail Blazers and Nuggets. Overall, the Bobcats' remaining schedule isn't too tough in terms of the winning percentage of their future opponents. However, Charlotte has played 26 of its 43 games at home. Along with every bottom-feeder in the East save for the Wizards, Charlotte is a contender for the eighth playoff spot. While the focus has to remain on forging a roster Larry Brown relishes, a postseason berth would mean more to this franchise than to any of the other "contenders". However, it's not going to be easy for a 5-12 road team that still has to play 24 games outside of Carolina.

21. (23) New York Knicks (33.3) [ 34 / 33 / 33 ]
Rankings: NET: 22; OFF: 19; DEF: 25; PACE: 2

Mike D'Antoni's squad had a nice week, winning three games at the Garden, including one over D'Antoni's former team, the Suns. New York was also competitive in a loss on the road to red-hot Philadelphia. Like New Jersey, the Knicks have a tough schedule to finish the season as they battle for the East's eighth seed. Unlike New Jersey, the Knicks aren't burdened by the need to develop a lot of quality young talent. The exception to that is Danilo Gallinari, who after recovering from injury is just six games into his NBA career. The early returns are terrific--Gallinari is creating 124.3 points per 100 possessions, the third-best mark on the Knicks. If there is one thing for Knicks fans to root for, it's that Gallinari's emergence allows D'Antonio to craft a lineup that doesn't include Jared Jeffries.

22. (21) New Jersey Nets (33.2) [ 37 / 32 / 38 ]
Rankings: NET: 21; OFF: 14; DEF: 27; PACE: 21

We mentioned that the Nets' ranking has been converging with their point diffential, which in their case means moving in the wrong direction. In terms of wins and losses, New Jersey has lost five of six with the only win in that stretch coming at hapless Memphis. Unfortunately for Nets fans, the regression likely hasn't finished. New Jersey is still on pace to outperform Pythagoras by five games. Worse, the Nets' remaining strength of schedule is the second toughest in the league. This is a young team that has made some strides. Of the seven teams in the East battling for the final playoff spot, the Nets are just a nudge behind the Bucks for the slot, and Milwaukee just lost its leading scorer for the season. However, the Nets don't really have anything to gain by squeezing into the playoff bracket just to become an early-round sparring partner for the Celtics or Cavaliers. If they made it because they gave heavy minutes to guys like Brook Lopez or Ryan Anderson and just got better, that'd be great. But if they made it because they traded for the likes of Larry Hughes or Mike Miller, who got time at the expense of the youngsters, that would be counterproductive.

23. (19) Chicago Bulls (32.9) [ 33 / 31 / 43 ]
Rankings: NET: 23; OFF: 24; DEF: 18; PACE: 7

Things are getting ugly for the Bulls. Four straight losses. Four straight losses in close games. An overtime loss at Minnesota on Sunday to kick off a seven-game road trip against Western Conference teams. The loss to the T-Wolves was particularly galling. The Bulls had the ball at the end of regulation with a chance to win the game. Derrick Rose dribbled the ball out top, running down the clock, while the other Bulls spread the floor. Rose was guarded by Minnesota's Randy Foye. He began to drive, apparently expecting Joakim Noah to roll out to set a high pick. Ben Gordon was working behind him and a couple of other shooters were perched in the corner. If Noah set a good pick, Rose would have been able to either beat Foye and get to the basket or dish to whichever teammate was left open because of help defense. Instead, Noah just sort of...stood there. Looking very confused. He not only failed to set a pick, but he drew his own defender, Al Jefferson, into the lane to cut off any potential Rose drive. The result was a desperation fadeaway by Rose that missed. The sequence was an indictment of Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro, who had just drawn up the play on the sideline during a timeout. If things don't get better fast, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf is going to be wielding a big broom in the coming offseason.

24. (24) Minnesota Timberwolves (29.9) [ 28 / 31 / 26 ]
Rankings: NET: 25; OFF: 23; DEF: 26; PACE: 11

Minnesota has won 11 of 15 since starting the season 3-23. That's nice turnaround for Kevin McHale, who is 11-12 since returning to the bench. What does it mean in the grand scheme of things? Not much. The Timberwolves are still 9.5 games out of a playoff spot. McHale will get another lottery pick, which the team can definitely use. In the meantime, can we please get Al Jefferson and Kevin Love in lineup together full time? Sure, there will be defensive issues, particularly against smaller lineups, but you knew that when you traded for Love, right? On the offensive end, it should work fine. Love is a good passer, can step out and hit the midrange jumper, set picks and crash the offensive glass. Big Al just needs to continue his fine work on the blocks. According to 82games.com, ithe duo have played together for 532 minutes this season, during which the T-Wolves have basically played their opponents to a stalemate. This is your foundation, so what's the problem?

25. (25) Golden State Warriors (26.1) [ 24 / 28 / 35 ]
Rankings: NET: 24; OFF: 13; DEF: 29; PACE: 1

The Warriors will spend all this week in Texas, which will probably put a damper on Golden State' 4-3 recent record. The big news last week was the season debut of Monta Ellis, finally back from injuries suffered in an offseason moped accident. Ellis scored 20 points in his first game last Friday in an exciting contest against Cleveland, one which included a LeBron James buzzer beater. During Ellis' first two games, he was paired in the Warrior backcourt with Anthony Morrow. However a key question for Don Nelson to answer the rest of the way is whether or not an Ellis/Jamal Crawford backcourt will work. Crawford has missed the last couple of games with a hamstring problem, but may return on Wednesday.

26. (27) Los Angeles Clippers (21.1) [ 19 / 22 / 33 ]
Rankings: NET: 27; OFF: 30; DEF: 17; PACE: 14

The Clippers have run into a glut of injuries, with prime rotation players Zach Randolph, Baron Davis, Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby all sitting out. The upside of the talent drain is that it has given Mike Dunleavy a chance to review his young foundation of Eric Gordon and Al Thornton as they attempt to carry the load. Thornton has become very inefficient with the additional offensive responsibility, going 32-of-84 from the field last week. Gordon, however, looks like a star in the making. He's added 41 minutes and 22.4 points per game this month with respectable percentages. Last Friday, he poured in 41 points on 19 FGAs against Oklahoma City.

27. (28) Washington Wizards (20.7) [ 17 / 22 / 32 ]
Rankings: NET: 29; OFF: 25; DEF: 28; PACE: 22

The Wizards are on pace to win 17 games and have shown no signs of improving that trend. From here on out, the focus will be on how Ernie Grunfeld sets up his team for next couple of seasons. There are some moveable parts on his roster and he's got a shot a landing Blake Griffin in the draft. The Wizards may be one of the teams set up to go nuts over the 2010 free-agent class, so don't look for them to take on any salary. You get the feeling that moving Antawn Jamison would be a preference, but it'll be hard to find a trade partner given the four-year, $50 million extension Jamison signed last summer.

28. (26) Memphis Grizzlies (19.9) [ 20 / 22 / 19 ]
Rankings: NET: 26; OFF: 27; DEF: 23; PACE: 24

The Grizzlies actually had a stretch this season where they won five of six games. Aside from that stretch, Memphis is 6-31. Does that justify Marc Iavaroni losing his job? Not in and of itself. What did Chris Wallace expect from this team of near-children? The Grizzlies projected to win 19 games this season. They are on pace to win 21. Perhaps a more apt question is whether Iavaroni should have been coaching this team in the first place. If ever there was a roster not suited to a first-time NBA coach, this was it.

29. (30) Oklahoma City Thunder (18.9) [ 16 / 22 / 23 ]
Rankings: NET: 28; OFF: 29; DEF: 24; PACE: 6

This month has been seen some small steps by the Thunder (5-6) and a giant leap for Kevin Durant. Durant has averaged 27.9 points per game during January while, at the same time, increasing his shooting percentages. What if they selected five distinct positions for starting spots in the All-Star game? Considering the dearth of small forward in the West, Durant may be as deserving as anyone at the three-spot.

30. (29) Sacramento Kings (18.8) [ 18 / 19 / 39 ]
Rankings: NET: 30; OFF: 26; DEF: 30; PACE: 8

Brad Miller and John Salmons can help plug a gap for a playoff team, perhaps as a trade package for a young player and an expiring contract. You have to believe that's what Geoff Petrie is thinking in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline. Later this season, hopefully we'll get to see the real future of the Kings out on the floor as a unit. Then comes another lottery pick, perhaps a good one. The Kings have hit rock bottom--literally, in terms of the Hoops List--but this is not a franchise that needs stay down for long.

Definitions:

NBAPET = stands for National Basketball Association Projection, Evaluation and Tracking = A database and system of metrics for analyzing professional basketball.

gRATE = a one-game metric that measures a player's offensive and defensive contribution and expresses it as a net point total. The sum of a team's gRATE figures for a game will equal its actual point differential for that game.

Adjusted winning percentage (AWP) = ((home wins x 0.6)+(road wins x 1.4)) / (((home wins x 0.6)+(road wins x 1.4)) + ((home losses x .1.4)+(road losses x 0.6)))

LUCK = The difference between a team's 82-game win pace and its 82-game pace for Pythagorean wins.

Opponents winning percentage (OWP) = aggregate percentage of games won for each team's opponents, based on the number of times the team has faced that opponent.

Pythagorean winning percentage (PYTH) = uses the basketball-reference formula of Games x (Points scored^14) / ((Points scored^14) + (Points allowed^14))

Power rating = (((PYTH + AWP)/2)*(OWP/.500)) x 82

WP82 = wins produced per 82 games, adjusted for playing time

WP3K = wins produced per 3,000 minutes

RANKINGS: NET = net efficiency ratio; OFF - offensive efficiency; DEF - defensive efficiency; PACE: average possessions per game

Bradford Doolittle is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Bradford by clicking here or click here to see Bradford's other articles.

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