Monday, March 28, 2005

Blazer Draft Projection *and* Playoff Picture Update

1. Blazer Draft Situation

Not a lot of news to report from Blazerland lately. The team's been god-awful, although Telfair and Outlaw have certainly given us reason to look forward to the future. Viktor Krhyapa has looked good at times as well, and we'll take a closer look at the team's returning players once the seasons comes to merciful end.

What do we do in the meantime? When last we spoke, we gave a quick breakdown of the projected draft status of the league's bottom-six teams. Keep in mind that the #1 lottery spot is hardly a guarantee that team will win the #1 pick ... it's only happened three times since 1985. Sounds like an abhorration, huh? Not quite so when you look at the numbers. Since 1985, we've had 19 drafts. You have to take out 3 of them because expansion messed up the lottery projections, which makes three out of 16 times that the worst record won the lottery. That's 19% of the time. Considering that the #1 pick has a 25% of winning, it's not as far off as one would initially think.

Portland was, at the time, looking at the #6 lottery spot. What's happened since then? Let's take a closer look.

The Big Three
Aside from a bit of inter-shuffling, the big three losers of Atlanta, Charlotte and New Orleans hasn't changed. The Hawks have probably secured the top spot in the lottery, chiming in with 11 wins on the season. Charlotte's got 15 and New Orleans 16, although Charlotte has been playing decent basketball of late, even stealing a game from the Heat last week. Expect them to move up into that #3 lottery spot with New Orleans slipping to #2.

#1 - Atlanta
#2 - New Orleans
#3 - Charlotte

The Next Tier
There's a set of three teams that has clearly separated itself from the rest of the league as the next big group of losers ... Portland, Utah, and Golden State. Last time we checked, Portland had 23 wins, and Utah and Golden State both had 20. Since then, Golden State has expectedly gotten hot, with the additions of Baron Davis and Nik Tskitishvili, while Portland and Utah have continued to flounder. The Warriors currently sit at 24-45, while Portland is at 24-44 (a half game better) and Utah stuck at 22-47. If the season ended today, Utah would be at #4, Golden State #5 and Portland at #6. Look for Golden State to eek out a few more wins than Portland over these last three weeks and move up to that #6 spot. As awful as Utah has been playing, and considering that Andre Kirilenko is out for the season, it looks as if they'll unfortunately be sticking to that #4 playoff spot.

#4 - Utah
#5 - Portland
#6 - Golden State

2. Current Playoff Status

A quick peek at the Western and Eastern Conference Playoff situation ...

1. West

The top four spots appear to be locked up. Phoenix and San Antonio are duking it out for the top spot, but with Tim Duncan likely out until the playoffs, look for Phoenix to take ahold of the Conference's #1 seed. San Antonio will stick out the two-seed, and Seattle's division lead (10 games) will net it the #3. Dallas has a significant hold on the #4 spot.

After that, it gets a little sticky. Sacramento is fading (8-8 since the Webber trade) with the loss of Brad Miller and Houston lurks just a half game behind. Those two teams will fight it out for the 5/6 spots, which is a big difference ... who would you rather play, Dallas or Seattle? I expect Houston to overtake Sacramento, grab the #5, and set up a very intriguing Sacramento-Seattle first round matchup. As for the last two seeds, Memphis and Denver appear to have them locked up, with the only question being whom will end up where. Both are simply fighting for the chance to get abruptly sent home by Phoenix or San Antonio, so it probably doesn't matter ... but expect Memphis to stay at #7.

1. Phoenix
2. San Antonio
3. Seattle
4. Dallas
5. Houston
6. Sacramento
7. Memphis
8. Denver

Most likely sweep: San Antonio over Memphis
Most likely upset: Sacramento over Seattle
Best matchup: Dallas vs Houston.

2. East

Again, the top seeds appear set. Miami's got a death-grip on the #1, with Detroit holding the same on #2. Boston's got the third-spot under control (don't expect Philly to get hot enough to steal it away). And from here is where it gets interesting.

What follows next are six teams within three and a half games for the last six playoff spots. Because of the divisional alignments, Boston will get the #3 seed despite ending up with the likely fourth or fifth best record. Which means that you'll have Washington, Chicago, Cleveland, Philly and Indiana all jockeying for position. If the season ended today, they'd finish in that order, and the only thing we see changing is Indiana jumping in front of Philly for the 7-seed. Here's the way we see things shaking down:

1. Miami
2. Detroit
3. Boston
4. Washington
5. Chicago
6. Cleveland
7. Indiana
8. Philadelphia

Most likely sweep: Detroit over Indiana.
Most likely upset: Cleveland over Boston.
Best matchup: Washington vs Chicago.

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