Western Conference Playoff Excitement Using The Numbers

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    Updated: April 1, 2014
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    As the final games of the NBA regular season play out, a lot of people anxiously look ahead to playoff matchups and try to map out each contender’s road to the finals.

    But with so little (two games as of now) separating the bottom half of the Western Conference, things are bound to change. 

    This article instead aims to prove that no matter what the match ups end up being, we are in for a historically entertaining Western Conference playoffs.

    Let’s get the obvious out-of-the-way first: the Western Conference playoff teams are really good.

    They have outscored their opponents by an average of 4.9 points per game, something matched only once in the past 15 years (by the 2007-2008 Western Conference).

    Beyond being good, it is the way that these teams are good that will make these series so exciting.

    Unlike the teams at the top of the East, who are all very turnover-prone (the Bulls, Pacers, Hawks and Heat all crack the top ten in turnover ratio), the Western Conference features offenses that flow smoothly, with pet plays they can go to when they need a basket most (with the exception of Memphis). 

    In the world of possession-based statistics, points per game has lost its relevance, but it’s worth noting that only two teams in the entire Western Conference average less than 100 points per game (Memphis and Utah). 


    The Western Conference playoff team that averages the fewest points besides Memphis is Golden State (103.5 ppg), who has perhaps the greatest shooter in NBA history. 

    These teams know how to put points on the board regardless of whom they’re playing.

    If the sheer volume of points isn’t enough for you, consider the efficiency with which those points are scored. John Hollinger’s offensive efficiency rankings read like a who’s who of Western Conference playoff contenders. 

    Although Miami is on the top of that list, the next eight teams call the West home.

    The Clippers are second, which solidifies the notion that the best way to have one of the most prolific offenses in the league is to get Chris Paul.

    Courtesy of cbssports.com

    And if scoring isn’t enough, consider the frantic pace that the majority of these teams can comfortably play in. Hollinger’s “pace” metric on ESPN.com features only one team from the East in the top ten (six of them Western playoff contenders). 

    According to NBA.com, Phoenix gets 17.8 percent of its points from the fast break, the biggest chunk in the league. 

    Not far behind them are the Clippers (17.3 percent), Rockets (17 percent) and Thunder (15.1 percent). 

    Courtesy of maidirecalcio.com

    That means there’s a good chance both teams in multiple Western matchups will be pushing the ball as much as possible to gain an advantage. 

    This should lead to exciting fast breaks and final scores that look like they came from an all-star game.

    Perhaps most importantly, the Western Conference playoff teams have had a lot of luck with the biggest variable of all: health. 

    While some teams no doubt dealt with major injuries over the course of the regular season (the injuries to Russell Westbrook, Marc Gasol and Chris Paul come to mind), most key pieces remain intact as we finish the homestretch of the year.

    Minutes should start to dip as teams rest their stars for first round, so future injuries seem unlikely (Knock on wood. Seriously, do it).

    Add it all together and you have the recipe for an exciting NBA playoffs. Other pundits will put energy into predicting the exact match ups that we’ll see, but me? I’ll just sit back, wait, watch and enjoy.

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