The Gambler’s NBA Power Rankings – Playoff Edition

In the beginning, there were 30.

30 teams, 2,460 games, 47,389 “rest” minutes, and 873,249 traveling violations later…  We’re down to 16.

With each passing year, the NBA regular season becomes exponentially more meaningless. Entertaining, yes, but teams are placing more value on rest, and draft position, which has devalued the 82.

Oh well.

Now that we’re down to the 8 best teams from each conference, it’s time to update the Gambler’s NBA Power Rankings. Keep in mind, my power rankings place value on teams based on win-loss record, strength of schedule, and other traditional valuation methods, but also account for their against the spread records, and with the added element of series, I’ve also factored in home/away records against the spread, as well as 1st round matchups.

Man, my run-on sentence game is A1…

1. Golden State Warriors

Rec: 67-15 (1st)

ATS: 41-39-2 (T-4th)

ATS Home: 22-18-1 (4th)

ATS Away: 19-21-1 (T-8th)

SOS: 1st

It’d be easy to assume the final 3 games of the Warriors 67-15 season were meaningless.

You’d be wrong in that assumption.

Just when the Warriors adjusted to life with KD, they lost him. Then when they adjusted to life without KD, they got him back. I doubt those 3 games with KD back in the lineup to close out the season will be enough for the Warriors to fully re-establish their chemistry, but hey, last I checked 3>0…. Or 1.

2. San Antonio Spurs

Rec: 61-21 (2nd)

ATS: 41-39-2 (T-4th)

ATS Home: 19-22 (T-12th)

ATS Away: 22-16-2 (3rd)

SOS: 4th

It’ll be odd watching this year’s playoffs – No Kobe, no Dirk, and no Timmy D. The last time all 3 of them missed the playoffs was ’95-’96. Kobe was finishing up his senior year in HS, Tim was at Wake Forest, and Dirk was in Germany. In other words, it’s never really happened since Kobe entered the league in ’96.

While these Spurs have a slightly different look, they have a nice mixture of experience, and youth… Oh, and they still have the best coach in the game.

3. Houston Rockets

Rec: 55-27 (3rd)

ATS: 42-40 (6th)

ATS Home: 18-23 (14th)

ATS Away: 24-17 (2nd)

SOS: 2nd

Remember the ’04-’08 Suns? No? Well, let me refresh your memory.

232-96 regular season record, 3 Pacific Division Titles… And, zero Finals appearances.

These D’Antoni-led Rockets remind me a lot of those D’Antoni-led Suns; which is bad news for Rockets fans. However, as a basketball fan, you can’t ask for a better first round matchup than one boasting the top-2 MVP finalists, and former teammates.

4. Toronto Raptors

Rec: 51-31 (T-5th)

ATS: 44-36-2 (2nd)

ATS Home: 21-19-1 (T-6th)

ATS Away: 23-17-1 (4th)

SOS: 18th

The Raptors head into the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the NBA; having won 12 of their last 15 games, covering the spread in 8. The addition of Ibaka/Tucker, and the return of Lowry, have the Raptors primed to be a legitimate threat to dethrone the Cavs.

They won’t, though.

5. Oklahoma City Thunder

Rec: 47-35 (10th)

ATS: 45-36-1 (1st)

ATS Home: 26-14-1 (1st)

ATS Away: 19-22 (T-10th)

SOS: 6th

It’s Russ against the world… Kind of. The Thunder finished the season as the 8th best team in terms of defensive efficiency, and as the old adage goes, “defense wins championships”. Don’t expect the Thunder to take home the title, but their 1st round series with Houston should be extremely competitive.

6. LA Clippers

Rec: 51-31 (T-5th)

ATS: 40-41-1 (10th)

ATS Home: 21-19-1 (T-6th)

ATS Away: 19-22 (T-10th)

SOS: 3rd

Could this be the year the Clippers exercise their postseason demons, and reach the Finals? I mean, yeah, I guess it could. But, will it? Probably not.

While history isn’t on their side, they did play the 3rd toughest regular season schedule, and have momentum on their side; finishing the season on a 7 game winning streak. They should be a tough out.

7. Washington Wizards

Rec: 49-33 (9th)

ATS: 42-39-1 (3rd)

ATS Home: 23-18 (T-2nd)

ATS Away: 19-21-1 (T-8th)

SOS: 23rd

The Wizards have the ability to compete with anyone. Problem is, they’re so damn inconsistent, played a weak schedule, and may be the 2nd worst defensive team in this year’s playoffs (ahead of only Portland).

Thankfully, they’re in the East, but don’t be surprised to see them struggle with Atlanta; which has the makings of the East’s most entertaining 1st round series.

8. Boston Celtics

Rec: 53-29 (4th)

ATS: 40-40-2 (8th)

ATS Home: 17-24 (T-15th)

ATS Away: 23-16-2 (1st)

SOS: 17th

Yes, the Celtics are the #1 seed in the East. No, I don’t think it matters.

9. Utah Jazz

Rec: 50-32 (8th)

ATS: 46-42-4 (14th)

ATS Home: 19-19-3 (T-10th)

ATS Away: 17-23-1 (13th)

SOS: 7th

Injuries have plagued the Jazz all season long, but they head into the playoffs healthy, and boast the NBA’s 3rd best defensive efficiency rating. With the Clippers history of postseason struggles, you have to like the Jazz’s odds at making this series interesting.

10. Cleveland Cavaliers

Rec: 51-31 (T-5th)

ATS: 36-43-3 (15th)

ATS Home: 19-19-3 (T-10th)

ATS Away: 17-24 (T-14th)

SOS: 15th

If you had to bet on one team to reach the Finals, there’s not a much safer bet than Cleveland. There also may not be a worse team to bet against the spread on a game-by-game basis.

The preverbal “switch” has been on full display for the Cavs, and their vulnerability on the defensive end causes concern. They’ll survive, and advance, but have proven all year they just do what they need to do to get the W. Covers will be hard to come by. As has been the case all season.

11. Atlanta Hawks

Rec: 43-39 (T-11th)

ATS: 39-43 (T-12th)

ATS Home: 17-24 (T-15th)

ATS Away: 22-19 (5th)

SOS: 25th

The Hawks are sneaky good, and play well on the defensive end. Their problem will come when they need someone to create buckets down the stretch. Can you trust Hardaway?

12. Chicago Bulls

Rec: 41-41 (T-15th)

ATS: 42-40 (7th)

ATS Home: 21-20 (T-8th)

ATS Away: 21-20 (6th)

SOS: 24th

The Bulls are veteran laden, finished the season winning 7 of 10, got D-Wade back, and matchup well with Boston. The last time a #8 seed took down a #1 was ’12, the 8-seed? Philly. The 1? Chicago… There’s a chance they Bulls get some redemption here.

13. Memphis Grizzlies

Rec: 43-39 (T-11th)

ATS: 41-41 (9th)

ATS Home: 21-20 (T-8th)

ATS Away: 20-21 (7th)

SOS: 5th

Memphis overachieved this season, but their defensive oriented, grind it out style of play has proven effective in the postseason. As a result, they may have some value against the spread, but a 1st round matchup with San Antonio doesn’t induce much confidence in seeing them advance. Especially without Tony Allen.

14. Portland Trail Blazers

Rec: 41-41 (T-15th)

ATS: 40-42 (11th)

ATS Home: 22-19 (5th)

ATS Away: 18-23 (12th)

SOS: 10th

Portland has a history of giving Golden State a run for their money, but let’s focus on the present. They’re the worst defensive team remaining, and looking forward, if Nurkic can’t go, it’s a wrap before the series even starts.

15. Indiana Pacers

Rec: 42-40 (T-13th)

ATS: 39-43 (T-12th)

ATS Home: 23-18 (T-2nd)

ATS Away: 16-24 (16th)

SOS: 26th

The Pacers struggles on the road have been well documented, but they match up well with the Cavs, and should keep these games interesting. The problem will come when/if the Cavs “flip the switch”.

Regardless, this looks to be a sweep. However, I won’t be surprised when the Pacers cover the spread in at least 3.

16. Milwaukee Bucks

Rec: 42-40 (T-13th)

ATS: 36-46 (16th)

ATS Home: 19-22 (T-12th)

ATS Away: 17-24 (T-14th)

SOS: 22nd

The Bucks have played much better basketball since the all-star break, but they’re too young to pose a real threat to Toronto, and the loss of Jabari Parker doesn’t help.

*Update: They look pretty damn good in Game 1 – I may need to reconsider this ranking*

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