Tag Archives: Toronto Raptors

East vs. West Week 9: The East finally breaks through

After six weeks of embarrassment and two of mediocrity, the East finally had a breakthrough week in non-conference play, finishing Week 9 10-6. Time for the occasional celebration with a ham sandwich.

Toronto, Atlanta, and Chicago cleaned up for the East while New York, well, no. Just, no. For the West, the Clippers and Nuggets struggled in their multiple non-conference games while Portland took care of business against New York and Philadelphia. Not sure which team is better than the other, but kind of want to lean towards the Sixers.

Anyway, catch up on Week 9 and every other week if you’d like. Below is the week-by-week breakdown and the rest of the latest batch of non-conference scores.

week9

Experimenting with table formatting, if you didn’t notice already.

If you missed Week 8’s summary, I also compared this season’s non-conference numbers with the last 44 seasons. Turns out the West had a record-breaking win percentage, along with the third-best point differential. After Week 9, though, those numbers obviously took a hit and the win percentage is no longer the best mark ever.

It could get worse as the better teams of the East start playing more of the non-conference games. Below is a look at the amount of remaining matchups for every team in both conferences.

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For the West, it’s somewhat balanced between how many of the East-West games have been played by the better or worse teams of their conference. Meanwhile, there’s been a problem in the East. Charlotte and Detroit are already halfway through their West schedule while Atlanta and Washington are only about a third of the way through theirs. The East has five niiiiice teams plus a feisty Milwaukee, but they’ve all played less games against the West than the bottom five in their respective conference.

Which brings us to Week 10. There are 22 non-conference matchups with Atlanta, Toronto, and Washington playing in 10 of them. The West will have a 16-6 home-road edge, though, as that’s one advantage the East had early on in the season, one that will vanish over this week and next.

Below is a look at the full schedule:

week10games

Enjoy the week. Curious how Week 10 ends up for the East. Things are starting to change in their favor, but I also need to dig a little deeper to confirm this, me thinks.


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Looking at the NBA’s 2015 non-conference schedule

Last week’s release of the NBA’s 2014-15 season schedule marks the return of the non-conference posts. Maybe we’ll find something that gives one conference a scheduling edge over the other in their non-conference matchups. For the East, that would be nice.

As a reminder, 450 non-conference games are played each season, basically taking the number of teams (30) divided by those in each conference (15). The matchups last season were historic in several ways, one being that the West outscored the East by 4.09 points per game, the highest ever point differential in the last 17 seasons, according to NBA.com. The 2014 West nearly finished with the highest winning percentage in non-conference play, but fell just short of the mark set in 2004 at 63.33 percent.

Below is a breakdown of point differential, wins and losses, and win percentage in non-conference play since 1998. You can find the same chart in the last East vs. West post last season. All stats are from NBA.com:

It’s probably obvious, but the 450 non-conference games next season are not scheduled at a consistent frequency over the season nor do they all take place within designated weeks. Below is a chart of how many of these games take place in each of the 25 weeks.

2015 non-conf games

19 of those 25 have anywhere from 14-29 non-conference games and the ones that fall below that range are opening week, the week just before and after the all-star break, and the last three weeks of the season. On the other end, weeks 5&6 (11/24-12/7), 13&14 (1/19-2/1), and 20&21 (3/9-3/22) combine to take up over a third of the non-conference games. Those two-week stretches feature 50, 51, and 56 games, respectively.

And though each team has 15 home and road non-conference games, they don’t happen equally either. Below is a chart looking at how many more home games each conference plays versus the other each week. For example, on the first week (10/28-11/2) the West has five home non-conference games versus two for the East, which amounts to +3 in the chart.

2015 non-conf home and road games

The East will have more home games early on, but it will catch up to them as we head into 2015 when the West will have 30 of the 45 games from 12/30 to 1/11 at home. From 1/26 to 2/22, the East will have 10 more home games than the West, but then the West hits another home-heavy stretch from 3/9 to 3/22.

Rest is also a factor in quite a few non-conference games. 238 (52.9 percent) of the 450 matchups will feature teams playing on equal days of rest, with 191 featuring both the West and East team on a one-day breather. Below is a chart of the total games on equal rest and those that feature rest advantages:

2015 non-conference rest

 

The advantage of playing games on more rest than an opponent goes to the East, 108 to the West’s 104, but the West holds arguably the most important rest advantage: Games with rest vs squads on back-to-backs, 69 games to 65 but also a 60 to 49 edge in games at home vs squads on a back-to-back. An advantage for the East is having six more games where they’ll have more rest vs opponents coming off a one-day break, best when an opponent is in the middle of a stretch of four games in five nights or three in four.

Of course, not all back-to-backs are equal. A back-to-back combo of Philadelphia and Boston is less intimidating than 2/3 of the Texas Triangle. Then again, the Knicks went 2-1 through the Spurs, Rockets, and Mavericks. Injuries and mid-season trades also happen, though the latter not nearly as often as in the past.

Predictions for teams and conferences is pointless to me, but I still see a top-5 point differential for the West with the reason as simple as the West remaining lo-o-o-oaded. That prediction isn’t as bold as saying the West will record their best ever winning percentage versus the East, but like last year a ton would have to go wrong for that to have a chance of happening. For the sake of a great season and competitive balance, hopefully Derrick Rose and the Bulls stay healthy, Toronto picks up where they left off since trading Rudy Gay, Chris Bosh returns to a strong #1 option, Cleveland has a hell of a year with LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving, and the middle of the East wins a few more games than last season.

But we’re still over two months away from the regular season, which I struggle to accept. First hopeful thing comes first: Hopefully this off-season doesn’t last forever.

East vs. West Week 20: The West’s chase for two records against the East

The non-conference update follows games pitting the Western Conference’s teams versus the East’s. This season, the West has often held a winning percentage so large it hasn’t been seen in over 50 years.

After going 8-20 in non-conference play from February 24 to March 2, the East bounced back to go 11-10 last week. Toronto moved to over .500 versus the West, joining Brooklyn, Miami, and Indiana in that somewhat special club since none of them are even at 20 wins yet. The conference’s winning percentage from February to now is quite respectable, though, at 46.4 percent. It’s put a dent in the West’s potential for a record-high in winning percentage, set in 2004 at 63.3 percent.

More on that and another potential record in a bit. Below is the updated week-by-week breakdown along with non-conference games left in each week:

For the West to surpass their winning percentage from 2004, they’ll have to finish the rest of the 57 non-conference games 40-17. That’s possible since 34 of them will be hosted by their teams, but it’s still more than a 70 percent win rate to pull off.

So with a record-high winning percentage unlikely to be accomplished, there’s another record worth looking for. All current playoff contenders out West have a shot at winning 20 non-conference games, something never accomplished by either conference. The closest calls came in 2005, when six playoff teams from the West won 20-plus and the other two (Houston and Memphis) won 18, and in 2010 when seven West teams had 19-plus wins while the one other playoff squad (Portland) finished with 17.

Right now, the top eight West teams all have at least 18 wins and no more than nine losses. Below is a table showing their non-conference records, as well as ninth place Phoenix’s:

Oklahoma City and Portland should be fine, even if the latter has been on a brutal downswing with or without LaMarcus Aldridge. The Clippers have to beat one of Milwaukee or Detroit left on their schedule, and all Dallas has to do is beat Boston tonight and they, too, are at the 20-win mark. Boston’s coming off last night’s loss to New Orleans in which Anthony Davis pulled off a 40-20 line, by the way. No big f’in deal or anything.

Golden State should beat Milwaukee and Orlando this week to reach 20 wins as well. The problems come from Memphis and Phoenix, and one of them will be in the playoffs unless Kevin Love goes 1962 Wilt Chamberlain until season’s end.

Memphis finishes their non-conference games April 11 at home against Philadelphia, but they’ll have two games against Miami before that happens and one versus Indiana. Two of those three against the East’s best come in a back-to-back this weekend. Not exactly ideal, though Indiana will be on the tail end of a back-to-back too when they face the Grizz, and their first opponent is Chicago. All of those games on Friday and Saturday have the potential to swing votes for All-NBA and All-Defensive teams, as well as who is Defensive Player of the Year.

In Memphis’ second game against the Heat, Miami will be on the tail end of a back-to-back after playing a Thursday night game versus Brooklyn. All the Grizzlies have to do is win one of those three games and then Philadelphia, but that’s easier said than done.

For Phoenix, they’d have to go 5-1 over their last six non-conference games, which is something they’ll probably have to do anyway if they want to make the playoffs. Goran Dragic is finally reunited with Eric Bledsoe again, but they’ll be finishing a back-to-back at Brooklyn tonight. After that, they’ll finish their East games over the next two weeks starting with Orlando and Detroit but finish with Atlanta, Washington, and New York. Worth mentioning is their sweep of Mount Hibbert and Indiana, by the way.

Every game matters for Memphis and Phoenix, and non-conference matchups have been often regarded as ways for West contenders to build winning streaks. Both teams will have to topple some East squads looking to rise in their own conference’s playoff seeding, however. By next week there should be a clearer picture on whether or not the West’s playoff hopefuls can all accomplish that 20-win feat, as well as if the conference as a whole is within reach of their highest winning percentage ever versus the East.

Rudy Gay’s $19.3 million player option

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via Flickr

Before looking at Rudy Gay, let’s take a moment to remember the December 9, 2013 Sacramento Kings who blew out Dallas, mostly thanks to the combined 87 points from DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas, and Derrick Williams. Basketball-Reference should commemorate them by giving them their own team page.

You can do a simple Google search about the trade sending Gay to Sacramento and discover just how many people wanted to chime in on it. While the trade is certainly worthy of discussion, I’ll look at what I find most interesting about it: the $19.3 million player option Gay can exercise next season.

By trading for Gay, the Kings hope he doesn’t take the last year of an $82 million contract he signed with Memphis back in 2010. If he indeed doesn’t and the Kings let him walk this summer, the trade is a salary dump both ways. Each team sheds the salaries of players not in their long-term future and spends it more wisely elsewhere. Sacramento needs some of that money Gay would turn down in order to re-sign Isaiah Thomas, one of the best reserves in the NBA before the trade. They’ll have to work around the luxury tax if Gay chooses the $19.3 million, the tax being an embarrassing obstacle for a team that’s shown signs of hope but is not yet a playoff contender.

And at this point, taking the player option would be Gay’s best move. Sure, players generally prefer more years of guaranteed money, even if the annual salary is cheaper than their player option since injuries, among other things, can derail future earnings. However, Zach Lowe at Grantland made a good point. Players like Andrei Kirilenko have opted out of the final year of their contracts, but they didn’t turn down anything close to the $19 million and change that Gay can take.

Gay’s value is also at its all-time lowest. He’s 27 and about to enter his prime, yet Toronto only got John Salmons, Greivis Vazquez, Chuck Hayes, and Patrick Patterson in return. Three of those players are decent pieces on a good team, but that’s not even close to the haul you’d expect in exchange for someone paid like a superstar, save for Amar’e Stoudemire’s uninsured knees. In the same column by Lowe, he writes that some GMs wouldn’t even want Gay for the midlevel exception, an amount only a fraction of what the player option would pay out.

But Sacramento was interested in the small forward, and there’s a chance it could work out better for them than it did for Toronto. For one, the Raptors already had a high volume-shooting wing in DeMar DeRozan while Sacramento has Derrick Williams and Ben McLemore, two likely starters who play much better off the ball at this point in their careers. Gay’s also replacing one of the worst starting small forwards in the league in John Salmons, whose PER so far is nearly half of Gay’s.

The problem lies in how he works with DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas, who have usage rates of 35 and 28 percent, respectively. Both will now be in the starting lineup with Gay, thanks to the trade, and both need the ball. They’ve certainly been more efficient with it than Gay has, and if the former Raptor continues using possessions at his current rate (about 30 percent), this makes the trade a potential disaster. Bad times all around, both on the court and in the checkbook.

Neither result bodes all that well for Sacramento anyway. If Gay fits in well and the Kings win a few more games than expected, they lessen the value of their first round pick in the upcoming draft. Even more confusing is if it brings Gay’s value up to the point he tests free agency, meaning Sacramento may get nothing in return for him and, in the process, worsen their No. 1 pick in a loaded draft.

If Gay doesn’t work out in Sacramento and his current value somehow continues to decline, then he’s better suited to exercise his player option, which also sets the franchise back yet another season. Sacramento could avoid the $19.3 million and end the paranoia altogether by offering a salary at about half the price but with long-term security for Gay, say $46 million for four years, but that only creates more problems down the road.

All of this is the cost of acquiring Rudy Gay, whose stock continues to drop but price tag only gets more expensive. That’s no longer Toronto’s problem, but Sacramento’s.

For more Rudy Gay-related postings, check this out.

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