Tag Archives: DeMarcus Cousins

The 2016-2017 All-Bizarro Leaders in Minutes

It’s about that time of the year again. It’s time to announce the most important All-NBA squad, a lineup composed of the most unusual players who led a team in time on the floor.

I started this because guys like LeBron James and James Harden are likely to lead their respective teams in total minutes, but there will be players who got a ton of burn on rebuilding teams that need someone, anyone to be a key cog during that phase. There could also be minute eaters on contending teams, an aging player with fresher legs than expected, or one who came back from a devastating injury only to pick up where he left off.

Since 2007, these are not the best All-NBA teams ever. Given the minutes they’ve totaled, maybe they’d log all of them together, 2,000-minute lineups bad enough to get coaching staffs fired, but net top-five picks. The good and bad even themselves out, really. As an example of how these rosters look, below is what 2016’s looked like.

2016 Tm MIN G MPG
Jordan Clarkson LAL 2552 79 32.3
Evan Fournier ORL 2566 79 32.5
Wesley Matthews DAL 2644 78 33.9
Matt Barnes MEM 2190 76 28.8
Anthony Davis NOP 2164 61 35.5

Clarkson received a ton of minutes despite competition in the backcourt in Kobe Bryant, D’Angelo Russell, Louis Williams, and whatever they could get from Marcelo Huertas and Nick Young. Meanwhile, Fournier had a rare, healthy season and appears to be one of the few players to spend a handful of years in Orlando. Davis was a choice for a similar, but more weird reason. He was reasonably healthy on a team with a roster that dropped like flies. Due to his decline in overall scoring efficiency, Matthews may not have completely recovered from a torn Achilles tendon, but is still capable of eating a ton of minutes at a position thin on depth league-wide. And finally, Barnes was a selection because of his age (35 years old) and having his two highest minute totals in his two most recent seasons.

This season was a challenge to find a five-man squad because most stars had great health, fueling an unexpectedly (to me, at least) great regular season. Below were my five picks.

Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic, 2,412 minutes

Payton led the Magic in minutes despite going back-and-forth between starting and coming off the bench, a common theme on this list. It felt unlikely that Nikola Vucevic, Bismack Biyombo, or Serge Ibaka would rank first because of their minute-crunches up front, but Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier were key cogs, much less tradeable than the frontline or Payton. In particular, there wasn’t a ton of depth behind Fournier until Orlando traded Ibaka for Terrence Ross, but Fournier played 14 less games than Payton and, well, now we’re here.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about Payton. That’s not to say he hasn’t improved. He’s a triple-double candidate with enough minutes, his shot percentages from around the rim to 16 feet have increased each year, and he’s still only 23 years old, but there’s a ceiling for guards who struggle from beyond the arc (27 percent on 2.2 attempts per 36 minutes), don’t draw a ton of fouls (2.7 team fouls and 3.2 free throws per 36), and aren’t freakishly good on defense. It’s hard to find consistency with that player type, especially on a mess of a roster.

Jordan Clarkson, Los Angeles Lakers, 2,397 minutes

Clarkson makes his second-straight appearance, playing the second-most minutes among players of the last five years who started less than one-fourth of their games. The obstacles to playing time weren’t as stiff this time around. Kobe Bryant retired, Louis Williams’ career year with the Lakers lasted only until the trade deadline, and Nick Young missed 20 games in the best season of his own career.

But a bad team typically mixes in young pieces no matter what, like Tyler Ennis and David Nwaba, and just about any Laker was going to make this list. If it wasn’t Clarkson, it would’ve been Brandon Ingram or someone like Nick Young, second and fifth in total minutes, respectively. This might be the last time Clarkson is in this post anyway. Every summer is obviously important for teams, but it #feels even more so for the Lakers to return to playoff contention, and trading Clarkson and/or another young building block #feels necessary in order to do that.

Darren Collison, Sacramento Kings, 2,063 minutes

If not for the shocking mid-season trade, DeMarcus Cousins would’ve led the Kings in minutes. If not Boogie, it would’ve been Rudy Gay, but a torn Achilles injury sidelined him for the rest of the season and possibly some of 2018.  That left the random assortment remaining, and Collison squeaked by with just over 2,000 minutes. Collison’s one of 30 “active” players who’s averaged 10 or more points per game in each of their first eight seasons. It doesn’t feel like it was already his third season in Sacramento, but who knows if he’ll keep the streak going there as he’s a free agent this summer.

Collison’s also the third guard on this list, but we were thin on candidates this season.

Nik Stauskas, Philadelphia 76ers, 2,188 minutes

Any 76er was going to make this list, but the Stauskas reclamation project topped T.J. McConnell, Dario Saric, and Robert Covington by 50 to 70 minutes. Suddenly, Stauskas’ next contract looks interesting. After a frustrating first couple of seasons, he became a league-average three-point shooter with the help of super-hot shooting from the corners at 48.5 percent. Stauskas could still improve around the rim, 53.6 percent this season when the average is 63, but he’s at least taken about 80 percent of his shots in the most efficient areas of the floor. That should bode well with a healthy Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, or at least one of the two being healthy.

Wilson Chandler, Denver Nuggets, 2,197 minutes

Chandler rounds out the squad as the tiny-ball center, leading the Nuggets in total minutes despite missing the 2016 season due to hip surgery. In second and third place for Denver was Danilo Gallinari, who’s only played 60 percent of games since 2012, and Jameer Nelson, who is old.

There should be minute shifts next season as Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, Emmanuel Mudiay, Juan Hernangomez, and Jamal Murray enter another year of their rookie contracts. That’s a ton of prospects, but Chandler and Gallinari should still get a ton of play if they stick around and stay healthy. Both offer the versatility and bodies to be modern-day power forwards, but it seems like the Nuggets are also primed for a trade. They’re deep, but too deep.

Honorable mentions: Dennis Schroeder and Tobias Harris.

As usual, hopefully Boris Diaw has 4,000 minutes in him next season.

Minutes and other stats, unless noted otherwise, were from Basketball-Reference. 

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The NBA’s All-Bizarro Leaders in Minutes

The dead stage of the off-season is here.

This might be a hot take, but the best and/or most irreplaceable players should be on the floor as much as possible. That doesn’t always happen, though, and a season usually ends with more than a few teams with unexpected leaders in total minutes. Injuries pick apart the top of some rosters, other teams rebuild with somebody having to be a key cog, and some aging players continue to play a major role on the floor. Other weird things happen over 82 games that lead to some larger-than-expected minute totals, but those are three simple reasons for it.

So since it’s the off-season, why not make a five-player squad comprised of the most unusual minutes leaders? A while back, I actually tweeted my five bizarro minute leaders from last season, but I made an adjustment while putting this post together. Despite a center, Marc Gasol was an understandable leader in minutes for Memphis. He’s pretty good and stuff. A key component to being good at the NBA level is having basketball skills, and Gasol has them, or it. He has it.

Replacing Gasol was a Sacramento King not named DeMarcus Cousins or Rudy Gay, but still a decent player. Most of the guys were fine players who happened to log like 1,000 too many minutes for their team, usually a mediocre to bad one. 2014-2015’s bizarro minute leaders:

2015 Tm MIN G MPG
Shane Larkin NYK 1,865 76 24.5
Ben McLemore SAC 2,670 82 32.6
Solomon Hill IND 2,381 82 29.0
Wes Johnson LAL 2,245 76 29.5
Pau Gasol CHI 2,681 78 34.4

Larkin, McLemore, and Johnson were on teams retooling either in the summer or mid-season, Hill played over 10 times as many minutes as he did in 2014 thanks mostly to Paul George‘s freak leg injury, and Pau Gasol logged over 2,500 minutes for the first time since 2011. Things happened.

That’s as realistic of a starting five when it comes to picking weirdo minutes leaders. For the heck of it, I did the same exercise back to the 2006-07 season. I found most of these players to be truly interesting, but I figured some players like Khris Middleton would be strange only to those who weren’t all that aware of him yet.

2014 TM MIN G MPG
Randy Foye DEN 2,485 81 30.7
Jodie Meeks LAL 2,556 77 33.2
Khris Middleton MIL 2,460 82 30.0
Jeff Green BOS 2,805 82 34.2
Tristan Thompson CLE 2,594 82 31.6
2013 TM MIN G MPG
Luke Ridnour MIN 2,474 82 30.2
Greivis Vasquez NOH 2,685 78 34.4
J.R. Smith NYK 2,678 80 33.5
Martell Webster WAS 2,200 76 28.9
Tristan Thompson CLE 2,564 82 31.3
2012 TM MIN G MPG
Brandon Knight DET 2,129 66 32.3
Marco Belinelli NOH 1,966 66 29.8
Luis Scola HOU 2,067 66 31.3
Antawn Jamison CLE 2,151 65 33.1
Kris Humphries NJN 2,162 62 34.9
2011 TM MIN G MPG
Jason Kidd DAL 2,653 80 33.2
Beno Udrih SAC 2,734 79 34.6
John Salmons MIL 2,554 73 35.0
Boris Diaw CHA 2,778 82 33.9
J.J. Hickson CLE 2,256 80 28.2
2010 TM MIN G MPG
Andre Miller POR 2,500 82 30.5
Corey Brewer MIN 2,482 82 30.3
Rasual Butler LAC 2,702 82 33.0
Andre Bargnani TOR 2,799 80 35.0
Andray Blatche WAS 2,256 81 27.9
2009 TM MIN G MPG
Chris Duhon NYK 2,906 79 36.8
Jarrett Jack IND 2,716 82 33.1
Kelenna Azubuike GSW 2,375 74 32.1
Ronnie Brewer UTA 2,605 81 32.2
Ryan Gomes MIN 2,494 82 30.4
2008 TM MIN G MPG
Jamal Crawford NYK 3,190 80 39.9
Cuttino Mobley LAC 2,702 77 35.1
Ricky Davis MIA 2,963 82 36.1
Anthony Parker TOR 2,634 82 32.1
John Salmons SAC 2,517 81 31.1
2007 TM MIN G MPG
Ricky Davis MIN 3,021 81 37.3
Charlie Bell MIL 2,848 82 34.7
Desmond Mason NOK 2,575 75 34.3
Chris Wilcox SEA 2,586 82 31.5
Eddy Curry NYK 2,849 81 35.2

Random note: If you’ve ever fiddled with the simulations at WhatIfSports, the players in the seasons listed above are a bit pricey because of their minute totals and are some of the worst minute-per-dollar versions of themselves. That’s a solid site to kill time during the off-season, by the way. Their basketball simulation isn’t perfect, but it’s fun.

That was nine total squads, though. 2005-06 minutes leaders weren’t all that interesting, but we can get to a perfect round number by throwing out possible names to make the 2015-16 squad:

  • Roughly 95 percent of the players in the Atlantic Division.
  • Enes Kanter.
  • Meyers Leonard please, please, please, but Damian Lillard is just a bit more likely.
  • Zaza Pachulia or Wes Matthews.
  • Andrew Wiggins if he plays like 3,500 minutes.
  • Kobe Bryant, just because of age and stuff.
  • Rajon Rondo, a mediocre NBA player for a mediocre blog.

There were probably a few players I forgot, because of course.

All statistics were from Basketball-Reference. I love you.

The best, worst, most even, and most lopsided matchups by SRS

As noted in my previous post, we’re about 1/4th of the way through the NBA season. There’s very little time to reflect, however, as there are 10 games scheduled tonight. There are a couple nice matchups in Pelicans-Mavericks and Rockets-Warriors, some lopsided ones in Knicks-Spurs and Clippers-Pacers, and finally some in-between, perfectly mediocre games in Celtics-Hornets and Heat-Nuggets. WHAT A GREAT NIGHT.

I actually looked at which games applied to each of those categories over the first fourth of the season, measuring them by Basketball-Reference’s metric labeled SRS, or Simple Rating System. SRS takes into account a team’s point differential and strength of schedule. It is not a perfect metric, ignoring wins and losses as I’ve explained here, but to me it’s better than looking strictly at margin of victory, among other statistics. For reference, the Golden State Warriors currently have the best SRS at 9.54 while the 76ers have the league-worst at -11.89. Anything above, say, 5.00 is very good.

I like the metric, so I’ve kept track of every team’s SRS on game nights. The first couple weeks were cut out from this post, though, because SRS needs to even itself out over the first handful of games or so. We will always have the -22.20 from New York and +25.46 from Golden State on November 2.

Below have been the 10 best matchups so far, sorted by the sum of the SRS from both teams:

best 10

There are some expected teams like Memphis and Dallas, but hello Toronto and Sacramento! The Kings, partly from being without DeMarcus Cousins, now have an SRS of just 1.96. Toronto, meanwhile, currently has the second-best mark in the league at 8.15. Unsurprisingly, a lot of teams from the West are listed here.

Tonight’s matchup between Houston and Golden State would place eighth with an SRS total of 13.01. None of the games would place among the 10 worst:

worst 10

So much tire fire, or dumpster fire? Any game featuring the 76ers rounds out the top five, but New York and Minnesota are also included in a decent amount. There is also Oklahoma City in one game. This may be #BOLD, but with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook back that team will likely never add to the 10 worst matchups.

Looking ahead, it’ll be “interesting” to see if a game with two teams’ SRS’ summing to a total of -20.00 or worse happens again. Only the 76ers and Timberwolves have an SRS of -10.00 or worse while third most-embarrassing Detroit sits at -7.63. The next 76ers-Timberwolves matchup takes place on January 30. Mark that down, figure out what kind of unsatisfying dinner to have, choose your least-favorite Gatorade flavor, and we can all be miserable together.

Lastly, the 10 most-even and, well, least-even matchups:

20 diff

Tonight’s Portland-Minnesota game barely misses out on the 10 largest differentials. Surprisingly, some of those games in the screenshot have been pretty fun, or at least close. The team with the worse SRS in those matchups is, to no surprise, 0-10.

The home team in the 10 most-even matchups, at least by SRS, is 8-2. Most look decently contested, but we’re not taking into account rest advantages, injuries, players returning from injuries, etc. Again, Oklahoma City is likely to see a rise in their SRS, the Kings may continue to dip, Detroit’s should be twice as bad for being as disappointing as they are, and Golden State should get a boost just because. Maybe I’ll make a new metric called SoupRS. If a team was a soup and I had a spoonful, my reaction would either hurt or help their original SRS. Basketball stats: Tasty, edible, digestible?

Point distribution charts of the top 10 scorers

After experimenting with point distribution charts for teams and with J.R. Smith’s shooting explosion, I thought it’d be fun to apply the same ones for the top 10 players in points per game this season.

As usual, these graphs visualize points per game across six different locations on the floor: restricted area, in the paint (non-RA), mid-range, corner three, above the break three, and three throws. This time however, those graphs of the 10 players will also include the exact points per location below them and where that production ranks among the 480 players to log playing time this season. All of that is according to NBA.com.

Also, the axis for the 10 players will vary depending on the player, but at the very end of the post I’ll make a common one to show each of the 10 charts in a single GIF, sorted from the highest scorer to the lowest.

With all that said, here are the point distribution charts of those at or near the top in points per game:

1. Kevin Durant – 32.0 points per game

Kevin  Durant 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 7.71 (14th)
  • Paint (non-RA):  2.65 (21st)
  • Mid-range: 5.66 (8th)
  • Corner 3: 0.43 (209th)
  • Above the Break 3: 6.82 (4th)
  • Free throw: 8.69 (1st)

To get a feel for just how large Kevin Durant’s graph and others on this list really are, we can compare the league’s leading scorer to Kendrick Perkins’ graph because PERK:

durant perk

Click to enlarge.

Perk’s looks minuscule compared to Durant’s, who’s just an offensive shark and in the top 25 in every category except corner threes. It might also be worth noting that just behind Durant in points around the rim per game is none other than Tony Wroten, somehow at 7.62 points per game and good for 17th-best.

As for three-pointers, I’m not sure how common this is and how often it’s been noted before, but Durant shoots better on pull-up attempts (42 percent) than catch and shoot ones (38.7), according to SportVU. Weird, maybe?

Onto number two in points per game:

2. Carmelo Anthony – 27.5 points per game

Carmelo  Anthony 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 5.04 (76th)
  • Paint non-RA:  1.20 (tied-108th)
  • Mid-range:  8.77 (3rd)
  • Corner 3: 0.52 (182nd)
  • Above the Break 3: 6.08 (9th)
  • Free throw: 5.92 (7th)

One of the more unusual charts I’ve looked at, Anthony gets a respectable share of points around the rim but he’s in the middle of the pack when compared with the top 10 in points per game. Ahead of him across the league are the likes of Timofey Mozgod, Alec Burks, and Tobias Harris. Melo also gets very little points from the corner three, but that’s common for high scorers with range.

As for the above the break threes, Anthony’s one of five on this list to crack the top 10 in points from that area of the floor. He also feasts at the line, another common theme with the top scorers.

What makes Anthony’s chart so odd is the mid-range game. This is the first chart where I’ve noticed both a great deal of points in the high-efficiency zones of the floor and the dead zones. Durant’s is like that, but not to the extent of Melo’s.

3. LeBron James – 27.0 points per game

LeBron  James PPL

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 12.00 (1st)
  • Paint (non-RA): 1.73 (60th)
  • Mid-range: 3.20 (68th)
  • Corner 3: 0.92 (108th)
  • Above the Break 3: 3.52 (57th)
  • Free throw: 5.64 (8th)

Confirmed: LeBron James feasts around the rim. He made me change the range on his chart to a max of 12 points per location, though a couple other players eventually did the same thing so whatever. His graph is a good example of an efficient one, though, and how it should show quite a few points on the left side. In fact, out of the top 10 scorers, James is the second-most Moreyball-like of the top 10 scorers in that 81.75 percent of his points come around the rim, from three, or from the stripe.

You might be able to guess who’s in first place on that list. Third place in that mentioned stat is…

4. Kevin Love – 25.8 points per game

Kevin  Love PPL 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 6.73 (26th)
  • Paint (non-RA): 1.89 (47th)
  • Mid-range:  3.35 (59th)
  • Corner 3: 0.69 (144th)
  • Above the Break 3: 6.61 (6th)
  • Free throw: 6.51 (3rd)

Love’s the first player on this list to not lead or be near the top in averages from one of the first three shot locations. In terms of non-point guards in this list (eight players), he averages the least amount of points from those first few spots but still gets a decent amount from around the rim.

Love’s graph is the prototypical efficient kind anyway, confirming how he scores nearly 80 percent of his points either around the rim, from three, or from the stripe. The king of efficiency among this group goes to the league’s fifth-leading scorer, however:

5. James Harden – 25.3 points per game

James  Harden PPL 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 6.17 (37th)
  • Paint (non-RA): 1.54 (tied-70th)
  • Mid-range: 2.51 (89th)
  • Corner 3: 0.51 (185th)
  • Above the Break 3: 6.77 (5th)
  • Free throw: 7.76 (2nd)

Nearly 85 percent of Harden’s points come from the spots that generate the most points per attempt, though he’s still in the top 100 in each of the least-efficient locations. He’s also the only player besides Durant to be in the top five in points from both above the break threes and free throws per game, though Kevin Love narrowly misses out on joining that club too.

6. Blake Griffin – 24.1 points per game

Blake  Griffin 12 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 11.46 (2nd)
  • Paint (non-RA): 1.87 (tied-49th)
  • Mid-range: 4.33 (23rd)
  • Corner 3: 0.27 (240th)
  • Above the Break 3: 0.15 (tied-301st)
  • Free throw:  6.00 (6th)

Just how many of Griffin’s points from the non-restricted area part of the paint are from either dunks or near-dunks that turned into double-pump layups? Regardless, we have our first near-triangular chart and the second player to score over 10 points per game from a single shot location. There’s also a smidge of blue crossing over the three-point areas thanks to whatever plays were drawn up to get Griffin a score from there.

7. Stephen Curry – 23.5 points per game

Stephen  Curry 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 3.38 (137th)
  • Paint (non-RA):  1.38 (86th)
  • Mid-range:  5.11 (13th)
  • Corner 3: 1.34 (63rd)
  • Above the Break 3: 8.43 (1st)
  • Free throw: 3.88 (31st)

Arguably the most unusual chart, in my opinion. Curry feasts from outside the paint, one of the stats worth noting being that he averages over one more point per game from the above the break three than third-place Damian LillardRyan Anderson is in second-place at 7.8 but…sigh.

8. LaMarcus Aldridge – 23.3 points per game

LaMarcus  Aldridge 12 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 5.70 (53rd)
  • Paint (non-RA):  2.15 (36th)
  • Mid-range:  10.96 (1st)
  • Corner 3: 0.00 (Meh, tied for last)
  • Above the Break 3: 0.13 (308th)
  • Free throw: 4.33 (21st)

Maybe worth noting, maybe not: It took until Aldridge to get to a player who hasn’t made a corner three this season.

And that mid-range game. Aldridge looks like the least-efficient of this bunch as over half of his points come from the dead zones of the floor. In fact, while he scores a whole two more points from mid-range than second-place Dirk Nowitki, he averages nearly six more possible points (25.94 total for LMA) from that area than second-place Carmelo Anthony (20.00) in that stat. Unfortunately, he can’t make every one of those attempts and average nearly 40 points per game. Shucks.

9. DeMar DeRozan – 22.7 points per game.

DeMar  DeRozan 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 4.29 (97th)
  • Paint (non-RA):  2.13 (tied-37th)
  • Mid-range:  7.42 (4th)
  • Corner 3: 1.46 (51st)
  • Above the Break 3: 0.91 (233rd)
  • Free throw: 6.50 (4th)

Among this list, DeRozan’s chart is my favorite just from the shape his points form.

But, like Aldridge, it’s a bit of a weird one. DeRozan sits comfortably in fourth place in mid-range points, but he only makes a shade under 40 percent of his attempts. He does score the most points per game from the corner three among this group, however, and gets a decent chunk from the free throw line as well, more than the likes of Melo, LeBron, and Paul George, among others.

10. DeMarcus Cousins – 22.4 points per game

DeMarcus  Cousins 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 9.62 (6th)
  • Paint (non-RA):  2.75 (16th)
  • Mid-range:  4.03 (36th)
  • Corner 3: 0.00 (somewhere in last place)
  • Above the Break 3: 0.00 (take more threes, Boogie!)
  • Free throw: 6.01 (5th)

The most triangular chart of the top 10 scorers, Boogie feasts in the paint, at the line and, um, sometimes from mid-range where me makes 41 percent of his attempts.

That triangle, though. It’s pretty neat, so there’s that.

Lastly, below is a GIF comparing each chart at once. It goes in the order of highest-scoring to the lowest:

Top 10 scorers on Make A Gif

All but Aldridge score at least half their points on locations in the center or left side of the graph. Harden’s chart seems to be the most efficient, though LeBron is just too effective around the rim. Regardless, it’s nice to see a variety of charts, especially the triangles. Don’t forget the triangles.

Any other thoughts are certainly welcome.

Non-conference update: The West wins the most active week yet

Two months ago, Basketball-Reference provided history of non-conference games in a really cool table, one that showed the West winning this year’s matchups at a frequency not seen in nearly 55 years, back when the league had “divisions”. A few weeks passed before I started a weekly update tracking the rest of the non-conference games.

The 15th week of the season featured the most active stretch of the East’s teams playing the West’s, 33 played total with each conference winning 10 at home. The West won eight on the road, though, while the East took just five. Below is the updated week-by-week breakdown:

The 45.5 percent win rate the East had last week would be solid over an entire season. That’s if they ever cared about non-conference statistics. It’s fine if they don’t, especially when the games have nowhere as much impact as they do for the West.

Indiana and Miami are still the only East teams to have 10 wins in non-conference play, but in Week 15 the conference as a whole blew some winnable games. The Cavs heard the thud that is rock-bottom after falling to the Lakers while the Heat sparked a search for a replacement to the term “coasting” after losing to Utah. Some suggestions: sailing, floating, drifting, and freewheeling. Heatwheeling?

As for the West, below is an updated breakdown of how many games each team has left against the East. It impacts both the playoff race and the lottery with the former benefiting from more non-conference games while the latter hopes for less. The more games the Jazz and Lakers play against West teams jousting for playoff seeding, the higher likelihood they’ll accumulate more lottery balls.

With DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and Isiah Thomas, it’s hard to believe Sacramento finishes as the worst team in the West. Recent injuries to the first two players hasn’t helped, but the Lakers are all sorts of banged up too. Utah’s wedged in between them with some nice pieces themselves.

As for the playoff teams and contenders, most are in that 9 to 12-game range against the East with Memphis and Golden State having some extras, which is huge when they’re both just trying to make the postseason versus deciding who they’d like to host in the first round. Meanwhile, the Clippers are running out of near-gimmes against the East but it’s right when Chris Paul is returning and Blake Griffin is making a case as the best power forward in the league. As usual, looking at non-conference games is helpful but remaining back-to-backs and home/away games are just as important too.

There’s also this thing called the trade deadline that’s creeping into front offices. Will a team out West grab Arron Afflalo? What about Greg Monroe, Josh Smith, or whatever else Detroit could look to trade? Cleveland’s another East team that could swap some players such as Dion Waiters or Anderson Varejao.

For the heck of it, though, below is Week 16’s non-conference schedule. There’s only three days of games but about as many will be played as any other random week:

The East has 10 home games compared to the West’s six. That’s also the amount of wins I think each conference could pull off, respectively, though a couple East teams always fail to win down the stretch.

Maybe this is the week they turn in a dominant performance, though slowly working towards a respectable winning percentage against the West is just as fine. It’s like I’ve felt that way all season about most of the East’s teams.

For the other non-conference posts, check this out.

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