FWDB #2c: Why You Can/Why You Won't (Win The Thing)

  • By John Comey, Day 141, 2022

Chicago Jailbirds (49-16)

Why they could win the thing: They were 8-0 since their team makeover, before losing two straight at the buzzer. Granted, only the win over the Warriors was overly impressive, but it still shows what this team is capable of. The Jailbirds are sixth in ORtg, and eighth in DRtg. They are the best three-point shooting team in the league by percentage, and sixth in makes. They get to the line quite often, don’t turn it over…this is the toughest offense to handle in the East. And they’re seventh in oPPG. Jason Cheaney holds the title of league’s best outside shooter in the league, but he’s tweaked his mid-range game to become even more devastating on closeouts or teams trying to play him off the arc. With Keydren Carter shooting 72% at the rim, and playing highly efficient ball (22.0 PER), the Jailbirds have as solid a two-headed attack as anyone. Add in Pace LaGarde into a Carter/Cheaney lineup, and the team is +35.2 in 109:02 so far.

Why they won’t win the thing: The team has struggled with integrating LaGarde into the overall fabric of the team; his minutes have been cut by a third, and while they’ll go to that Cheaney/Carter lineup, the team has not really gone to a “have two of them out there at all times” attack. Losing Dameon Clarke, despite his inefficiencies on offense, hurts the overall spacing of the offense, not to mention their rebounding; they rank 24th now, and will likely drop further as the season goes on. For all we’ve talked about teams who do not shoot the three, the Jailbirds rely somewhat heavily on them. Granted, their three point rate is ninth in the league, but their overall field goal makes and attempts are in the twenties. The most recent run has given the Jailbirds confidence, but their SOS is just 15th. In short, this record may be quite inflated.

Houston Lightning (49=16)

Why they could win the thing: The Lightning are third in oPPG and fourth in defensive rating. They rank fourth in total rebounds per game, fifth in assists, seventh in steals, and lead the league in team blocks. They are, pound for pound, the best defensive team in basketball. They aren’t a slouch offensively, ranking tenth in PPG. Isaiah Clarkson may be the best defensive postman in basketball. Orpheus Swayda is not quite what he once was, but he is still a very deadly scorer and rebounder. Stephan Hood has stepped up in his fourth season, posting a career year. Oh, and of course, they have the game’s best player, Dontay Sowder.

Why they won’t win the thing: Very thin bench. The Lightning have also feasted on a weaker schedule to gain the advantage in the division. It’s arguable that, if they had the Knights’ schedule, and vice versa, their records would be flipped, at least. The Lightning are thirteenth in offensive rating, and rank average or worse in most scoring categories, save for free throws. Sowder saves them a lot; teams who are capable of neutralizing him, or of neutralizing his teammates while letting him run rampant, and you have the Lightning, well…bottled up. The question for teams is, can you do one or the other?

Philadelphia Warriors (49-15)

Why they could win the thing: If the Lightning are the best defensive team in basketball, then the Warriors are the stingiest. They rank first in oPPG, offensive boards, defensive boards, and (logically) total rebounds. The Warriors are third in blocks per game. All of that leads up to a fourth-best net rating, and the league’s best RPI. The Dubs are built around Rashard Stevens and Ivan Obradovic, two absolute giants with giant wingspans who can disrupt shots as well as, if not better, than any team in the league. Alonzo Weaver has cemented himself as one of the game’s most consistent leaders of offense, posting 23.2 ppg on 47% shooting. Oh, and he’s a seven-footer too.

Why they won’t win the thing: The Dubs win with blue collar ugly ball. They can be outuglied; that is, a team can put lipstick on their pig better than the Dubs. Specifically, Toronto. Chicago would have a more difficult time. The Warriors are, strangely, good at threes (2nd in the league). They don’t quite take enough for it to truly matter. They are really just an average team on offense. While they do not give up points, they do not get turnovers. Realistically, the Warriors can force teams to play their game…but also be beaten by it. The inverse is not true.