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

  • By John Comey, Day 145, 2022

Las Vegas Scorpions (53-18)

Why they could win the thing: The Scorps (or pions, pronounced peons, depending on one’s position regarding this team) are the best defensive team in the West. They rate first in defensive rating, and second in oPPG. That goes a long way. They are also first in offensive rebounds, and second in defensive rebounds. Their top three lineups all have DRtg’s under 101.6, which is an incredible feat. They produce the most steals, the fifth-most blocks, and eighth-most assists. Omar Grant has been a one-man wrecking crew on defense, playing to a ridiculous 5.9 DWS and 98.9 DRtg. What was said about Isaiah Clarkson is true; he might be the best defensive postman in basketball. But Grant has the strongest case to that claim. The Scorps have four players who have at least 3.7 DWS, which is incredible. Weslery Sherman has been close to Grant’s equal at PF, while Derrick Griffin is one of the best perimeter guards in the league. He’s the rare small forward who can guard four positions; he also happens to be averaging a career-high 16.4 points per game. He may be the biggest X-factor in the playoffs. Oh, and Lamar Francis. But that’s a given. We would wager that Francis, not Hawes, is the MVP frontrunner.

Why they won’t win the thing: Mehdy Brown has been okay, but he is a clear enough deficiency at the point that could bring what Vegas does well to a halt. Tex Ireland has not been any better in place of Brown. Their depth is shaky at best; Sherman could be best served in a rotation with Grant for the first three quarters, but he does not bring enough offense to lead the second unit. Despite Francis’ presence, the Scorps are 17th in the league in PPG, and 18th in oRTG. They are 22nd in effective field goal percentage, and 23rd in turnover percentage. If the Scorps go down, it’ll be depth and shaky point play that gets them. That, and that they have difficulty with both the Knights and Lightning.

Seattle Thunder (54-17)

Why they could win the thing: The Thunder are 2nd in the league, offensively, seventh defensively, and first in overall net rating. They are first in both field goals made and attempted. They come at you in waves. They are third in the league in rebounds, fourth in offensive boards. They rank first in assists, sixth in steals, seventh in blocks, tenth in turnovers. Andre Phifer is having his most efficient season in his fantastic career, and is a legit MVP candidate. Ainsley Tucker has continued his rise as a star, and may be a superstar at this point. His 22.5 PER is the best of his career, and he already has a career-best 112 ORtg, and 7.8 win shares (4.3 defensive). Antoine Hall has been quite solid.

Why they won’t win the thing: They could get the top seed and not be the favorites to win a series against the Lightning, Knights, or Scorpions. They’re 20th in SOS, worse than any contender. Aaron Rowland and DeAngelo Tarver are not positives in the starting lineup, neither have been efficient in the slightest. The team is very below average from three, ranking 23rd in three-point percentage. Yet they are eighth in makes, and sixth in attempts. They do not get to the line very often, ranking 22nd in free throw attempts. They are 22nd in FT/FGA, and 25th in free throw rate. The parts around the Big Three are not that efficient. Devan Carroll is shooting 42.9% on 12 attempts a game. He is just 27.4% from three. And yet, he is counted upon to score. This may be the hottest take possible…but Seattle might be nothing more than a great regular season team.