May 20, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan (21) reacts during game four of the Western Conference semifinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center. The Spurs defeated the Clippers 102-99 to win the series 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE
1. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs’ margin of victory in their last 29 victories is an incredible +14.9. In their 18-game winning streak, that number rises to +15.9.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
Get for an absolutely compelling Western Conference Finals. In three regular season meetings, the Spurs outscored the Thunder by 1.2 points per possessions indicating that this series will probably be a lot closer than their first two matchups.
3. Miami Heat
LeBron James’ 40-18-9 line has sparked some debate whether it was James’ best playoff performance of all-time. Because of his singular dominance, Dwayne Wade’s 30-9-6 line is relegated into a mere footnote. That is, in essence, indicative of the incredible ability of one LeBron James.
4. Indiana Pacers
This ranking has been long overdue. They are one of the most athletic teams in the league and their depth has exposed the facade of the Miami Heat. They have outscored the Heat by 1.3 points per 100 possessions and, even though the series is knotted at 2-2, they have a realistic shot at advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.
5. Los Angeles Lakers
Although they were eliminated in five games at the hands of the Thunder, the Lakers could have extended the series with better execution down the stretch.
6. Los Angeles Clippers
Injuries, Vinny Del Negro and the 2011-12 Spurs were their kryptonite.
7. Boston Celtics
They have let the 76ers hang around awhile but, with their 16-point Game 5 victory, they remain one game away from a potential matchup with the Indiana Pacers or Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
8. Philadelphia 76ers
Well, they have elevated their 3-point percentage to 41.3% against the Celtics.
9. Memphis Grizzlies
Their entire core will return next year to avenge their first round exit. But will Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph’s exorbitant contracts prove to be detrimental to their financial flexibility?
10. Denver Nuggets
24-year-old Ty Lawson averaged 19 points, six assists while shooting 51.4% from the field against the Lakers in the first round.
11. Atlanta Hawks
Josh Smith’s contract will come off the books next year and there are serious doubts that he will re-sign in Atlanta.
12. Chicago Bulls
Bill Simmons said Derrick Rose was the best player to ever blow out his ACL. This makes me sad.
13. New York Knicks
If the Knicks can build on their emerging defense — they finished fifth in defensive rating — and establish an offensive identity without 16.9% of their possessions ending in an isolation, then the Knicks can definitely compete with the upper echelon teams in the NBA.
14. Dallas Mavericks
Dirk Nowitzki’s season averages — 21.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game — are what we expect. His 45.7% shooting from the field, his lowest percentage since the 2004-05 season, is something we do not.
15. Orlando Magic
Whether the Magic make enough moves (and win enough games) to appease Dwight Howard will be the story of the 2012-13 season. The new Magic regime, devoid of Stan Van Gundy and General Manager Otis Smith, cannot afford to lose their one recognizable superstar.
16. Utah Jazz
Utah scored 0.86 points per possession on post-ups, putting them 10th in the NBA. Post-ups represented 17.2% of their possessions.