The first step I utilize when comparing teams is a pure talent analysis. Too often, people look at a team and say “Wow, they have him, and him, and him, and him,” and think they’re talking about a good team, because they don’t step back and compare the talent on the roster to the talent on other rosters. Even the Knicks look like they have a couple of good players when you look at them in isolation. But, when you step back and compare the talent level on their roster to the talent level on a mediocre college team, ahem, I mean to the talent level on other NBA rosters, you realize that they just aren’t good.

So, when I compare teams, my first step largely consists of deciding which teams have the players who are most likely to be All-Stars. (For those who have not seen that posting, it appears below.)

Determining which players are most likely to be All-Stars does not, alone, predict which five or six teams will be the league’s best, or even which eight from each conference are likely to make the playoffs. But, it does enable us to eliminate some teams from serious contention.

The following teams do not have any players that I expect to be All-Stars: Detroit, Charlotte, Milwaukee, New Jersey, New York, Houston, Golden State, Memphis, Minnesota, and Sacramento. Of those teams, the only ones that I think can compete for a playoff spot are teams with a bunch of talent at multiple positions. In my eyes, only Detroit, Charlotte, Houston, and Minnesota fit that description.

So, to recap, the eligible contestants for the playoffs, based on talent alone, are:

LA Lakers
San Antonio
New Orleans
LA Clippers
Oklahoma City

Now we can dig a bit deeper. Once I have eliminated the teams that do not have the talent to compete for a playoff spot, I think it makes sense to evaluate the teams that remain according to a number of factors:
1. Does the team have a point guard who creates good shots for his teammates?
2. Does the team have good outside shooting?
3. Does the team have players who can create their own shots from the wing?
4. Does the team have players who can create their own shot from the post?
5. Defense
6. Rebounding.
7. Depth

For each of these factors, the pertinent question is whether the team is above average. Under my system, if the answer is yes, the team gets a point. If the answer is no, the team does not.

In other words, it makes no sense to merely ask whether a team has a point guard who creates good shots for his teammates. Every team in the NBA has a point guard who will compile a few assists once in a while. That, though, doesn’t mean that the team’s point guard play gives it a competitive advantage. Every team has players in uniform on its bench, but that doesn’t mean that every team has depth that gives it a competitive advantage.
For example, Miami has a point guard who creates good shots for his teammates, and New Orleans does, too. The one on New Orleans is better than average (as the kids say – DUH!), but the one on Miami is not. Thus, for factor #1, New Orleans gets a point, while Miami does not.

After those factors are all considered, there is one last factor: does the team have a superstar player or a coach with a proven track record of success? Up to three points can be awarded for this factor, and very few teams will get all three of those points.

Even after I tally up the points, I use some discretion. When I look at the point totals, I will probably switch things up a bit, and, where there are ties, discretion needs to be applied to rank the teams with the same number of points. So, the points don’t tell me everything, but they provide a useful starting point.

Agree or disagree with this method of analysis? Please share your comments. I’ll post my actual predictions separately.

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