Tag Archives: Minnesota Timberwolves

When Did Kevin Garnett Play Center For Minnesota?

I’m going to note right away that I loved Jonathan Tjarks’ article published two days ago about Kevin Garnett. Once in a while, I tweet that Chris Webber’s best years came in the early-2000s, the most boring era possible for a player like him. It’s a shame, but Garnett is another player who would’ve been even better had his career started 10 years later. Tjarks’ article (you can follow him on Twitter here) covers Garnett and his versatile skill set, a seven-footer who could guard every position and thanks to his shooting, handles, speed, and passing, he could use up offensive possessions from any position if his team was decimated at one.

Unfortunately, the prime of Garnett’s career was often spent playing alongside disappointing centers such as Rasho Nesterovic, Michael Olowokandi, or Mark Blount. This also happened in Boston as he started with a solid, pre-injury Kendrick Perkins but also the final days of Rasheed Wallace and Shaquille O’Neal. The Celtics’ core was strong enough and the NBA was slow enough with their transition to the pace-and-space era that it was fine. Damning because Garnett never played with a Lamar Odom-type player like Tjarks noted, but it was fine.

Garnett’s positional versatility after his first stint in Minnesota narrowed. It’s debatable, but by the time he came back to Minnesota he was (or still is?) playing like a full-time center. In his first 12 seasons, he played small forward through center, though the ranking in memories of each probably goes:

  1. Power Forward: Where he mostly played from 2004 to 2007 with a space-eating big.
  2. Small Forward: Paired with Tom Gugliotta and a space-eating big from 1996 to 1998, then with Joe Smith and a space-eating big from 1999 to 2003.
  3. Point Guard: Because of the 2003-04 playoffs when Minnesota held on for dear life as the backcourt dropped like flies.
  4. Center: This happened in moments spread out across all 12 seasons, but still happened nonetheless.

In this post, I listed some notable times when Garnett played at center during his youth and prime. It isn’t meant to #WellActually Tjarks. I’m all for any column that goes over how Garnett’s career, while amazing, should’ve been so much more enjoyable for so many reasons. I also appreciate any column that helps remember his peak since it’s been so long since it happened. Garnett’s been in the league since 1995. His prime happened when over 10 years ago. In one game during his rookie season, he played against Magic Johnson.

This post was just out of curiosity, a long time in the making, but Tjarks reminded me to get that done while it’s still the off-season. The moments with Garnett at center were fascinating upon discovering them because it had been so long since they happened. For other fans of Garnett’s career, maybe this will refresh their memories, too.

All lineup statistics were from Basketball-Reference.com. I love you (or them, or it) but this also went against your (or their, or its) positional estimates that don’t make a ton of sense for several players. All I’ve heard is that there’s a preference to height when determining positions. Garnett played 99 percent of his minutes at power forward last season, according to those estimates, but that doesn’t seem true when watching who he’s guarding and his overall skill set.

The 1998 Playoffs (available on YouTube

I noted earlier that at Garnett’s best, he could play any position if his team was decimated at one. This is remembered best in the 2003-04 postseason, when the Wolves’ point guards turned to dust as they were eliminated in the Conference Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers.

The first-round series of the 1997-98 playoffs against the Seattle SuperSonics was another example, this one being the postseason Garnett played primarily center. The Wolves were without Tom Gugliotta, Dean Garrett, Cherokee Parks, and Stanley Roberts. Tom Hammonds was the only other option left, and during that season Minnesota went as far to keep Garnett from guarding centers as to start Hammonds and Roberts alongside him. Against Seattle, Flip Saunders instead rolled a starting lineup of Garnett-Sam Mitchell-Anthony Peeler-Terry Porter-Stephon Marbury

The results were unfamiliar with even today’s Wolves. During the 1997-98 season, they took 12.8 percent of their field goal attempts from three-point range, but that jumped to 24.6 in the five games against Seattle. The 2015-16 Wolves finished the season with a three-point rate of 20.2 percent. Sam Mitchell, the coach of last season’s squad, recorded 43 three-point attempts in 81 games during the 1997-98 season. In the five playoff games, he attempted 14.

Most shooters for Minnesota saw increases in their shots from beyond the arc.

gaph

Possibly because of injuries, possibly because the SuperSonics were one of the stretchiest teams in the regular season with shooting bigs like Detlef Schrempf and Sam Perkins, the Wolves rolled with only a seven-player rotation. They also routinely doubled off the strong side shooter and gave up open threes, though that may have been because of the illegal defense rules. Double-teaming was pretty straight-forward. Going to double-team, then stopping halfway to run back to a defender might result in an illegal defense technical. Simply put, defenses these days are far more advanced. Also, Stephon Marbury looked out of control 99 percent of the time. It was maddening to watch him.

Minnesota held a 2-1 lead over Seattle at one point, but lost narrowly in Game 4 at home and lost by 13 at Seattle. 1997 probably would’ve been a similar result with small ball lineups , but it would’ve at least been interesting to watch them against Houston a year earlier, a roster of players in their mid-30s.

Unfortunately, lineups that small rarely appeared again.

1999 and 2000: The occasional frontline with just Kevin Garnett and Joe Smith

With the acquisition of Joe Smith, Minnesota routinely started both he and Garnett, but also Garrett or Rasho Nesterovic.

Doing some quick math of available minutes at the center position in each season, most of 1999’s went to Garrett, Tom Hammonds, Bill Curley, and a few bigs with tiny minute totals, leaving little room for Garnett to be placed there unless the Wolves somehow rolled with a Garrett/Hammonds combo or whatever.

2000 was a little different. With 3,936 available minutes at center over 82 games, Rasho Nesterovic, Dean Garrett, and Tom Hammonds took up only 2,699, leaving plenty of room for Garnett and Smith, the latter who came off the bench, to take up minutes there.

Basically, this comes down to when it’s just Smith and Garnett on the floor as the bigs, who would you peg as the center? Garnett has the height, but also the versatility.

2001 (0/45/55 SF/PF/C position percentages, via Basketball-Reference’s estimates) 

Not a fun year for Minnesota for multiple reasons, but in this post we’ll note that they lost Joe Smith and three first-round picks thanks to the procedure of his free agent deal. At this point, Nesterovic, Garrett, and Reggie Slater were the Wolves’ centers alongside Garnett with Wally Szczerbiak playing small forward.

Depending on where you position LaPhonso Ellis, the second-most common lineup from the Wolves in 2001 featured Ellis and Garnett together and the fourth-most common lineup had them with both Chauncey Billups and Terrell Brandonand Szczerbiak. Unfortunately, that lineup had a net rating of -11.8 points per 100 possessions, but the Garnett-Ellis combo played 1284 minutes with a net rating of +2.6.

Looking back, a Brandon/Billups/Szczerbiak/Garnett combo could’ve done some damage, but Brandon’s injuries ended his career during the 2001-02 season.

Definitely not 2002 to 2004 (2/84/14, 6/81/13, 0/95/5)

With Joe Smith back, the 2002 Wolves played the three-man combo of Garnett/Smith/Nesterovic a little over 1,000 minutes, but with great success at +12.6 points per 100 possessions. A lineup with Billups and Szczerbiak at the backcourt gave them good size at each position, and Minnesota placed second in defensive rebounding percentage and sixth in offensive rebounding percentage. Gary Trent also played a few minutes alongside Smith and Garnett, but with break-even success.

In 2003, the Garnett/Smith/Nesterovic trio logged only 446 minutes, but Smith had missed a lot of action this season. A lineup replacing Smith with Trent logged 480 minutes. Both were small net positives. There were actually 11 games where Garnett started with Nesterovic and Loren Woods.

Despite those awkward lineups and a horrific three-point rate, Minnesota was in the top five in offensive efficiency both seasons. They even had the Lakers on the ropes in 2003, but ultimately fell in the first round in both playoff appearances.

2004 was Minnesota’s breakout season, and they had plenty of bigs in case they went up against Shaquille O’Neal again. Mark Madsen, Gary Trent, Ervin Johnson, Michael Olowokandi, and Oliver Miller combined for over 4,600 minutes. It is almost sad that the Wolves didn’t find a single big who traded considerable beef for floor spacing. A team like the Dallas Mavericks, who were terrible defensively but gave Dirk Nowitzki minutes at center, would’ve been a fascinating matchup for Minnesota, or even the Los Angeles Lakers with their shooting. The Mavericks torched the Timberwolves with it a couple seasons earlier.

The 2004 Wolves crushed a lot of teams despite frontcourt combos like Madsen/Trent, which was -10 points per 100 possessions over 218 minutes. Five of their seven most frequent lineups, all with a stiff at center to go with Garnett, Sam Cassell, and Latrell Sprewell, had a net rating of +10 to +20 points per 100 possessions.

The small ball lineups from the 1998 playoffs could’ve came back, though. A healthy 2004 Wolves squad had enough depth to deploy a Garnett/Szczerbiak/Sprewell/Cassell combo with a choice of Trenton Hassell for defense or Fred Hoiberg for shooting.

2005? (0/54/46)

The main thing to note from 2005 was Garnett with Eddie Griffin. Only 22 when he arrived in Minnesota, a healthy Griffin could’ve been a great long-term fit with Garnett. Griffin shot the three with break-even success, 4.9 attempts per 36 minutes on 33 percent, and averaged 2.8 blocks and just 1.3 turnovers per 36. The duo was +8.8 points per 100 possessions while the best lineups over 50 minutes featured them and at least one of Sprewell/Szczerbiak. The Garnett-Griffin-Spree-Wally-Cassell lineup was +27 points per 100 possessions, but only over 123 minutes.

There were also a few lineups with Garnett as the lone big and either Hassell or Szczerbiak playing as the power forward that yielded success over small samples. The small ball lineups finally came back.

2006 and 2007, if only (0/83/17, 0/71/29)

The dark ages, but the best lineups of 2006 featured Garnett as the center and Hassell or Justin Reed at power forward. However, the minute totals for each are between 30 and 60. In 2007, Garnett played most, if not all of his minutes with Mark Blount, Craig Smith, or Madsen. Sigh.

Though entering the slight downtick of his career at this point, Garnett at center during 2006 and 2007 could’ve been the best choice of attack. The Wolves were never going to be completely terrible with Garnett on the floor, but there was finally risk to pair him with a flawed center. The draft picks lost from the Joe Smith deal and the blown draft picks they kept caught up to them. They also lost the offense they typically got at point guard. There was no more Stephon Marbury, Terrell Brandon, Chauncey Billups, or Sam Cassell. There was only Marko Jaric, Marcus Banks, and Mike James.

Minnesota struggled on the boards despite their size. Going smaller may have forced a few more turnovers and led to jacking a couple more threes on offense. Still, Garnett carried these teams to near-.500 records going into February of each season. Eventually, they would fade, and sometimes they obviously tanked. With Garnett at center, maybe it would’ve only worsened their lottery odds, but it would’ve been more enjoyable to watch.

In Garnett’s second time around with Minnesota, he’s debatably played center with the starting lineup and would likely to do the same if he came back for the 2016-17 season. Garnett playing with Tyus Jones would be mindblowing, though.

Other Wolvesy notes from Garnett’s peak

  • The Gary Payton for Terrell Brandon, Wally Szczerbiak, and Rasho Nesterovic trade rumor in 2001. Minnesota’s depth, factoring in the effects of the Joe Smith deal, would’ve been cooked with that trade, but the defensive potential of Garnett and Payton before the latter aged would’ve been something. Especially if Garnett played center.
  • Speaking of defensive potential, switch Garnett and Tim Duncan with their teams and you get Garnett with an aging David Robinson, but the All-Defensive seasons from Bruce Bowen.

Other PFs playing SF or C during Garnett’s peak

  • It wasn’t just Garnett who started his career at small forward. During his rookie season, Duncan routinely started alongside both David Robinson and Will Perdue. Meanwhile with the Washington Bullets, one of Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, and, in 1996, Rasheed Wallace started at small forward alongside bigs like Gheorge Muresan, Terry Davis, and a young Ben Wallace.
  • Webber did not like playing center at Golden State, which might’ve been a lesson for teams with other franchise-changing bigs. It’s also worth noting that while Webber had some amazing years in Sacramento, he couldn’t stay healthy. Rick Adelman routinely played a young, frosted-tips Hedo Turkoglu in his place.
  • One example of power forwards playing one position up was in 1998 when Antonio McDyess played center for his one season in Phoenix. The Suns won 56 games that season but the statistics do not exactly match what you’d expect with McDyess at center with Jason Kidd, Kevin Johnson, Rex Chapman, and a stretchy power forward in Clifford Robinson. They were 10th in pace, 12th in offensive efficiency, and sixth in defensive efficiency.
  • As for McDyess, he averaged 6.7 attempts around the rim per 36 minutes, the highest of his career according to available data going back to 1998 on NBA.com. He made 69% of his attempts, one of his highest, nicest marks.
  • In 2004, Dirk Nowitzki logged time at center for the Dallas Mavericks. Dallas ended up having the most efficient offense ever, relative to league averages, but their defense fell off a cliff, from ninth in 2003 to 26th. It wasn’t just Nowitzki’s fault. Most of the roster was heavy on scoring and light on perimeter defense or rim protection. The following off-season was an overhaul, most notably losing Steve Nash, but the Mavericks bounced back to ninth in defensive efficiency and went from 52 wins to 58.
  • There are plenty of more examples scattered across the last 20 seasons, but the amount of space-eating centers who made a great deal of money to guard players like Shaquille O’Neal was too much to ignore. It wasn’t just Garnett who was held back by bad centers. Because of O’Neal, Greg Ostertag and Jim McIlvaine will live forever. So, too, will draft prospects compared to O’Neal like DeSagana Diop and Eddy Curry.
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Looking at the Timberwolves During the Free agent Frenzy

As we near 48 hours of staring at Twitter for the latest updates in free agency, the Timberwolves are one of the few teams yet to steal the spotlight. Sure, Karl-Anthony Towns and Tyus Jones will eventually sign their rookie-scaled contracts and Nemanja Bjelica may agree to a multi-year contract. Those would generate some fireworks, but Minnesota already held the rights to those players, and they already have 10 guaranteed contracts. Kevin Garnett will also resign re-sign, and Robbie Hummel looks to be coming back as well. There are still minor splashes that can be made, but the Timberwolves already have their core in place.

That doesn’t mean we can’t take a thing or two away from what’s already happened across the league and apply it to the Timberwolves, though. Some of it may be repetitive as we’ve learned just how much money is being thrown around because of the rising cap after the 2015-16 season. Those two changes to the NBA landscape were mentioned often in what I wrote below, but let’s take a look at how they affect the Timberwolves anyway:

The Long-Term Contracts

Minnesota’s two largest annual salaries currently take up over a third of the salary cap, but by 2018 that would be down to nearly 20 percent. Ricky Rubio holds the Timberwolves’ largest contract guarantee, and his four-year, $55 million contract starts now. As with most major contracts, the reaction to his on Twitter was polarizing, but it looks better after last night regardless. At this point, the biggest worry is Rubio’s health, but that’s more because of the length of his contract than his injury history so long as Flip doesn’t run him into the ground. I’m weirdly not too worried about that.

The much larger worry comes from Nikola Pekovic. $35.8 million for three years is a lot to absorb from a player who may never crack 1,000 minutes in any of those seasons due to chronic ankle issues and an Achilles debridement, but Pekovic’s contract looks a bit better now that the quality in players above or around eight figures got a little worse after last night. The year total on Pekovic’s contract remains bad, though, and an asset would still have to be attached or a smaller, troubling contract would have to be taken back in a trade.

Rebuilding without sacrificing some of the future is important. We’ll see if Minnesota can do that while handling Pekovic’s contract. At this point, a reasonably healthy, effective 2015-16 campaign would take some of the load off the frontline while making him more tradeable. $23.7 million for two years looks better than $35.8 million for three. With room to maneuver going forward and how far Minnesota is from the playoffs, I’m not sure moving Pekovic is necessary anyway. Just eat the contract if nothing on the trade market is attractive.

The Rookie Contracts

If no rookie contracts are traded, the Timberwolves will be paying less than $30 million to Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Adreian Payne, Anthony Bennett, Shabazz Muhammad, and Gorgui Dieng, as well as the choice to keep them all for the 2016-17 season for a slightly higher price. That was already important before free agency, but it’s even more crucial now that we’re past July 1, though they have a lot of players to develop.

Minnesota will have to eventually address the second contracts of the youthful bunch, but a good chunk of money will be off the books by then. Looking ahead to the summer of 2016 isn’t that helpful given what could happen by then, but Kevin Martin and Chase Budinger will either hit free agency or have been traded, and among team options Bennett’s $7.3 million for 2016-17 is still up in the air. That’s about $20 million possibly off the books going into 2016-17 when Muhammad, Dieng, and Bennett will be the first rookies to come off their first contract.

Who knows how much of that money is really going to be thrown at Muhammad and Dieng if they’re still around. (I’m assuming Bennett’s gone.) Muhammad’s such a fascinating player as a possible small ball power forward, but he’s yet to play a full season. Dieng’s played a more meaningful role up to this point, but will be 28 years old in 2017-18, the first season of his second contract (same for Payne when that time arrives).

That’s down the road, though. Right now, Minnesota is down two protected first-round picks to dangle, but they get to enjoy having most of their core on the cheap with team options. Not bad for a rebuilding team.

The In-Between Contracts

How about the roller coaster that is Kevin Martin’s contract? In the summer of 2013, Martin was 30 years old with injury history, and his value on the court was noticeably impacted by the change in the rip-through move, but four years and $28 million was still perfectly understandable. The Timberwolves had to build a playoff contender around Kevin Love and, with Martin, looked to be one of the most efficient offenses.

Well, the gamble didn’t pay off. The Wolves missed out on the postseason and Love was traded. Another rebuild was on the horizon, though not quite at the level of just 16 wins, and Martin was due $7 million per year up to 2017. So. Much. WELP. Fortunately, Martin’s contract looks a lot better now. Even if he’s not able to be traded or if Flip Saunders just doesn’t want to make a move, the $7 million player option for 2016-17 shouldn’t be exercised with how much players are making on the open market.

Normally I’d prefer aging players to play for playoff contenders, but Minnesota could use a guy who can soak up scoring possessions. That’s a brutal process to watch when it comes to Martin, but Wiggins could learn a thing or two from his foul-drawing, among other scoring-and-definitely-not-defensive things.

The idea of Chase Budinger is better than actual Chase Budinger. How much would he have made if his first four years were from 2013 to 2016 rather than 2010 to 2013? Budinger’s a free agent after this season’s $5 million owed, but this team is weirdly deep and I’m not sure how many minutes are there for him.

There’s also Garnett and whatever he resigns re-signs for. By the way, Anthony Davis’ five-year, $145 million contract has nothing on what KG signed for during the 1997-98 season:

One day the Timberwolves may find themselves in a similar position with Wiggins, Towns, and/or maybe they’ll spread money around multiple players on the market. Cap space allows for a ton of possibilities as we’ve seen over the last 48 hours, though sometimes that does not end well. The draft and free agency each carry risk, and right now Minnesota has done well in the former. They’re currently on the sidelines when it comes to the latter, but with how decent their contracts look outside of Pekovic they’ll eventually have the chance to make some major moves of their own.

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?

East vs. West Week 5: Same result just re-defeated or something

(Not my best attempt to go off of the “same soup just re-heated” line.)

With the West going 18-7, Week 5’s end result was a bit like what we saw in Week 4 when they beat the East 18 out of 21 times. That means the West is 36-10 in their last two weeks despite 10 less home games. Fun times.

Week 5 actually looked interesting through Monday’s set of non-conference games. The East went 3-3, including Indiana beating Dallas on the road, but then the West took care of business. Golden State went 4-0 in non-conference games last week while Houston, the Clippers, Portland, and San Antonio each went 2-0. New Orleans lost both of their non-conference matchups. Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers are somehow 3-0 against the East after last night’s win against Toronto. (We will miss you, DeMar DeRozan.)

It also looks like the West also got a bit more brutal thanks to Oklahoma City getting back Crazy-High Usage Russell Westbrook. They’re something of a feature team in Week 6’s matchups as they play two non-conference games over next weekend:

week6

The home court advantage the East enjoyed the last two weeks is mostly gone. They play one more home game this week than the West, a mehhh 13-12 edge. They do have something of a rest advantage, though: 5-2 edge in games where one team has one or more days of rest compared to an opponent on the tail-end of a back-to-back.

But dang, this could be another bad week for the East in the wins and losses. Boston, Detroit, Indiana, New York, Orlando, and Philadelphia play a combined 14 games with Indiana and Orlando on road trips out west. Philadelphia’s arguably best chance to get their first win comes on the road against Minnesota. For someone about 45 minutes from Minneapolis, I really hope the Sixers get their first win in Oklahoma City instead.

For the most common teams in the West, they aren’t packing too much strength this week. Denver, the Lakers, Sacramento, and Utah play a combined 10 games. They’re no pushovers, but no Memphis Grizzly-type either. Dallas (three games), Golden State, the Clippers, Memphis, Portland, OKC, and San Antonio play combined 13 games.

Hopefully there are some upsets in the East’s favor. In the meantime, I’m really going to try and add some more posts this week. We’re just over a month into the season, so maybe time for a roundup relating to that.

East vs. West Week 1: Strong start to the 2014-15 season for the West

One week of non-conference play is in the books, and the West finished 6-1 against the East. The only loss came on Saturday night when Minnesota lost a close one against a Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson-less Bulls squad. The West did score some key wins, though, like Memphis over Charlotte in a game that felt like 2004 (the dead ball era) all over again.

Below is a breakdown of the first week. It’s much like the ones I did last year but with some new additions relating to Pythagorean record. Like last year, this table will also be updated weekly:

Though a large number through seven games, point differential says the West ran slightly better than expected. That’s probably thanks to Minnesota holding on against the Pistons Thursday night after blowing a 19-point lead in the 3rd quarter.

Week 1 is the last of light non-conference weeks until the all-star break. There will be 17 non-conference games in Week 2 and it will pick up even more after that. The teams most often in the Week 2 matchups are Minnesota, Cleveland, and Miami with three games each. Below are some of the most important games:

Monday:

Oklahoma City @ Brooklyn
Houston @ Miami

Tuesday:

Oklahoma City @ Toronto
Cleveland @ Portland

Sunday:

Miami @ Dallas

It looks like the East has one extra home game in Week 2 than the West, and the five key games listed above feature three of them on East courts. The East will have actually have a nice home-court stretch through Week 5, playing seven more home games than the West by then.

So starting with Cleveland playing three non-conference games this week, this could either be a stretch where the East gains some ground or the beginning of an onslaught by the West.

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