Author's Note: For the complete Google Doc/spreadsheet of my updated NBA 2021 Power Ratings, which include each team's net rating, offensive rating, defensive rating and current record, just click here.
In order to create a betting line between two of the teams listed below, simply find the difference between the two teams' power rating and give the home team an additional 1.5 points for home court advantage (HCA). Example: the Los Angeles Lakers play the Golden State Warriors in L.A., and the Lakers are 6 points better according to the power ratings. The Lakers are also home, which is worth 1.5 points. The line in this case should be Lakers -7.5 (6 points added for PR difference, plus 1.5 points added for HCA). Each week I will also highlight notable movements between teams and their new power rating scores listed below:
After a March Madness inspired break, I am back deep diving into the NBA. A lot has changed and a lot has stayed same over the past month in 'The Association.' Here are my (updated) thoughts on each franchise:
Utah Jazz - (Current: +8, Last: +7.5, Start: +2.5)
The Jazz’s improved Power Rating has mostly to do with rest of the league getting worse (through injury or trades). Utah remained dominant in March, posing a +9 Net Rating per Cleaning the Glass.
Milwaukee Bucks - (Current: +6.5, Last: +3.5, Start: +6.5)
The Bucks just came to terms on a four-year deal (worth up to $160M) with Jrue Holiday. If that seems like a lot for player that has made exactly one All-Star team (in 2013) in his career, consider this: the Utah Jazz picked up PG Mike Conley's near $40M contract (Conley has never made an All-Star team) at the beginning of last year, and now they're the best team in the league. Similarly, Holiday has been a small player with an outsized impact on this Bucks team. Milwaukee is 5-6 SU when Holiday sits and 27-11 when he plays.
LA Clippers - (Current: +6, Last: +6.5, Start: +5.5)
Such a perplexing team here, but one constant though: the Clippers continue to play great off SU Losses (70% ATS the last two years) and bad off SU Wins (45% ATS last two years). L.A. posted a solid Net Rating in March (+8), but it only went 8-5, while finding ways to drop games to the Magic, Wizards and Pelicans.
Brooklyn Nets - (Current: +5.5, Last: +2.5, Start +4.5)
Blake Griffin may be the more famous name, but I believe the addition of LaMarcus Aldridge is a much bigger deal. While Aldridge didn't fit into the Spurs preferred style the past 1.5 seasons, he still played well, with his PER 36 stats matching his career averages - averages which are pretty good as a seven-time NBA All-Star. Aldridge is an underrated defensive big and has an offensive game that complements the rest of the Nets. He is the perfect pick-and-pop partner for Kyrie and Harden. The rest of the market did not move much, but Westgate moved the Nets from +200 to +175 to win the title after his signing.
Philadelphia 76ers - (Current: +5.5, Last: +5, Start: +2.5)
Center Joel Embiid is back, and Philadelphia has a great shot at its first number one seed finish in the Eastern Conference since 2000-2001 - also the last time they had the league MVP in Allen Iverson.
Phoenix Suns - (Current: +5.5, Last: +3.5, Start: +2)
Since February 1st, the Suns have by far the best SU win rate (24-6, 80%) and ATS win rate (20-9-1, 69%) in the NBA. Devin Booker has ramped up his production without taking away from the team concepts that point guard Chris Paul brings to the table. This team and its current amazing run remind me strongly of another Chris Paul team - the 2017-18 Houston Rockets. That team had the best record in the NBA by a mile that season. When Paul, Harden & Clint Capela all suited up that year, the Rockets went 42-3 SU. Paul's presence is the picture of consistency, but it only time will tell if they have the firepower to challenge any other of the great teams out west, especially come the second round of the playoffs.
Denver Nuggets - (Current: +5, Last: +3, Start: +3.5)
Jokic is single-handedly making a joke of the modern PER (Player Efficiency Rating) metric. I checked a few days ago, and he was at a record setting pace of 34 PER (nobody ever has been higher than 33); then he seemed to have a couple of off games, shooting 11/27 and only scoring 15 PPG over two games. I check again, and boom, his PER is now 35+! What's going on here? Jokic did put up 16 assists in his last game, which helps, and although the model is re-adjusted based on league-wide pace and scoring averages every year, the basics for P.E.R. are still the same. Simply put: Jokic has been more productive (27/11/8) and more efficient (65% true shooting) than anybody John Hollinger's tool has ever analyzed before.
Dallas Mavericks - (Current: +4.5, Last: +1.5, Start: +1.5)
The Dallas Mavericks are the team no Western Conference contender wants to see in Round 1, or Round 2. Luka Doncic is playing better than he ever has in his young career, and his team is following suit. Dallas has had the fifth best Net Rating since March 1st, ranking only behind the Sixers, Jazz, Suns & Clippers.
Miami Heat - (Current: +4, Last: +2.5, Start: +4)
Like everybody seemingly predicted, the Miami Heat slept-walked through the first half of the regular season and seem no worse for the ware for having done so. Thankfully for the Heat, the Orlando Magic entered a re-boot, the upstart Charlotte Hornets lost their best player in LaMelo Ball and the Washington Wizards are still a year away from putting competent pieces around Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal. In a phrase, by the end of the season, the Heat will have won the Southeast conference by default.
Portland Trail Blazers - (Current: +2, Last: 0, Start: +1.5)
Despite the Portland Trail Blazers re-adding a 20 PPG player in CJ McCollum, I didn't upgrade their Power Rating significantly here. I don't believe that McCollum addresses this team's problems either, as the Blazers had the #1 offense in the NBA in March without CJ. The Blazers also have an MVP candidate playing his best ball ever in Lillard, but they aren't a threat to anyone thanks their 29th ranked defense.
Atlanta Hawks - (Current: +1, Last: 0, Start: 0)
The Hawks have quietly reached full form of this iteration. John Collins and Trae Young are playing off one another’s games brilliantly. They have the second most wins (12) since March 1st, only behind Denver.
GS Warriors - (Current: +0.5, Last: 1, Start: -1)
Without Steph Curry and Draymond Green, the Warriors lost by 53 points to the Raptors. The next time out, with both of their most important players back, they lost by six to the Hawks. The Hawks aren’t a terrible team, but given the spot, it felt like put up and shut up time for GSW, and they came up lame.
New Orleans Pelicans - (Current: +0.5, Last: +0.5, Start: 0)
The only good thing about a star player missing time is getting the chance to see their squad operate without them. In the New Orleans Pelicans' case, once Zion went out, they immediately suffered two embarrassing losses, including losing to the lowly Orlando Magic in OT. As strong as that anecdotal evidence is, the true measure of Zion’s greatness is what he is doing when he is on the court - case in point: Zion is now third in the NBA in PER. Why so high? He simply doesn't miss, and the advanced metrics love that. Zion is set to be the first player EVER to put up 25 PPG and better than 60% FG shooting.
San Antonio Spurs - (Current: 0, Last: 1, Start: -2)
Now that the team has officially divorced from their linchpin center in LaMarcus Aldridge, we get to see what their group of studs can do. Early returns have been poor, going 1-3 SU since the trade deadline, and I expect the Spurs to fall out of the playoff picture with a more difficult schedule ahead of them.
Memphis Grizzlies - (Current: -0.5, Last: -1.5, Start: -3)
After a year of stating he was almost back, the great second-year player Jarren Jackson Junior (JJJ) is to return.. "in the next couple weeks." Prior to the season I would've said that the Memphis Grizzlies would be a lottery team without JJJ. But the fact they have maintained competitiveness without their best defensive player and Ja Morant's best running mate bodes very well for the long-term future of the franchise.
Boston Celtics - (Current: -1, Last: 1, Start: +4)
What happened to the Boston Celtics? If I could play this season over and over again, I certainly wouldn’t expect this current group to play this poorly, this consistently, more than once in a hundred simulations.
Indiana Pacers - (Current: -1, Last: -1, Start: +1)
The Pacers continuity and talent kept them afloat early in the season despite turmoil with their best player Victor Oladipo. But trading Oladipo, combined with TJ Warren’s injury, left Indiana without a strong enough wing replacement to maintain their playoff hopes. With Caris Lavert finally healthy (Oladipo's nominal replacement), the Pacers should return to their rightful place as a mediocre NBA team soon enough.
Chicago Bulls - (Current: -1, Last: -3, Start: -4.5)
When traded, Nikola Vucevic was leading the Magic in points (25), rebounds (12) and assists (4). He single-handedly should help the Bulls turn from upstart team to legitimate playoff contender in the East.
NY Knicks - (Current: -1.5, Last: -2, Start: -7)
The New York Knicks boast the second-best ATS hit record (18-11) since the start of February, ranking only behind the Phoenix Suns. The market continues to be in disbelief to the degree that New York is out-playing the talent on its roster, especially on the defensive end, for coach Tom Thibodeau's gritty group.
Sacramento Kings - (Current: -1.5, Last: -2.5, Start: -2)
This team has shown some signs of late, posting a 9-5 record during the month March. Unfortunately, I believe all their current success is doing is delaying what is eventually needed for the franchise, which is an entire reboot - not of the overall talent on the roster, but of the coaching staff and the front office.
Charlotte Hornets - (Current: -2, Last: -2.5, Start: -5.5)
This Charlotte Hornets squad sure rallied after losing their biggest star (and possibly best player) in LaMelo Ball, winning their next five games ATS once he went down. But without the talents of the phenomenal rookie Ball, the team on paper seems too thin to make it out of the play-ins and into the playoffs.
Toronto Raptors - (Current: -2.5, Last: +2, Start: +2.5)
The Raptors had one of their worst stretches in recent memory from February to March. Then the trade deadline happened and surprisingly the Raptors kept Kyle Lowry. Short term, I expect the team to rally around Lowry and end this era of the franchise on a high note, making a late run at a play-in spot.
LA Lakers - (Current: -2.5, Last: +3, Start: +6.5)
Be warned: Build your team around maximizing the exploits of two transcendent players, then don't expect much if either - and especially if both - get hurt. These Los Angeles Lakers will be one of the best 7th or 8th seeds ever, assuming they drop that far and get their guys back in time for the NBA Playoffs.
Washington Wizards - (Current: -3, Last: -1.5, Start: -2)
Westbrook and Beal have been at around their best levels recently, which makes for an exciting team. But without more frontcourt help, this Wizards squad can lose to anybody on any given night - and they do.
Minny Timbers - (Current: -5, Last: -6.5, Start: -2.5)
Funny to me that one of the NBA player awards will be given to a Timberwolf (ROY for Anthony Edwards) despite the franchise having an unimaginably awful season involving a mid-year firing of their head coach.
Houston Rockets - (Current: -5.5, Last: -4, Start: -1.5)
Christian Wood came back, and not soon after the Rockets' 20-game losing streak finally ended.
Orlando Magic - (Current: -6, Last: -3.5, Start: -1.5)
Similar to last year, when the Brooklyn Nets wrapped up their season in the bubble with essentially no players that were part of their long-term plans, the replacement Magic - after their deadline fire sale of all their best players – have played inspired. The Orlando Magic are 5-1 ATS (2-4 SU) since trading away C Nikola Vucevic, PF Aaron Gordon and SG Evan Fournier, with second-year players like Chuma Okeke and Wendell Carter performing admirably in their place. Keep earning them paychecks young ones!
Cleveland Cavs - (Current: -6.5, Last: -7, Start: -6)
Somehow spending $70 Million on two bigs that rarely play (Kevin Love & Andre Drummond) lead to the Cavs having the worst offense in the league this season, 30th out of 30. Do not fret, however, Cavs fans -Drummond may be gone, but Cleveland is close to locking up C Jarrett Allen on a 5-year, $1B deal...
Detroit Pistons - (Current: -7, Last: -5.5, Start: -6)
As they said in the Sopranos: "there's good, and there's not good" - the Detroit Pistons are not good.
OKC Thunder - (Current: -7.5, Last: -3.5, Start: -3.5)
The SGA injury could not have come at a better time (for the Thunder's draft prospects, that is). OKC's best player and saving grace has indeed been Shae Gilgeous-Alexander, who is now out until at least Mid-April with a foot injury. One of the best front offices in the league continues to lose with the best of them.