Power Rankings: Week 8 (All-Star Break) & Mid-Season Review - Part 1

  • By Bedouin, Day 56, 2020


1. Las Vegas Scorpions (Last Week #3, + 2)

Key Statistics
Record: 18-7 (.720)
Net Rating: + 10.0 (1st)
Offensive Rating: 115.1 (1st)
Defensive Rating: 104.4 (T-2nd)
PPG Leader: Dontay Sowder - 19.5 (26th)
RPG Leader: Omar Grant - 13.5 (T-7th)
APG Leader: Dontay Sowder/Hilton Phillips - 7.2 (T-17th)
Season Overview
The defending champions started the season strongly with a 6-game win streak but proceeded to lose their next 4 games prompting a public callout by their coach Rowland McLain. They responded with a quick 7 game winning streak before the GM traded Lucious Barclay and Lorenzo Charles for veteran PG Mark Robertson. The team was a little inconsistent over the next 2 weeks, dropping games to the Warriors and Kings, but righted the ship and entered the all-star break on a 4-game win streak.
Strengths
The team has the best starting five in the league and runs a slow paced and egalitarian offensive system with all five starters averaging between 15 and 20 ppg. This means that opposing teams struggle to generate turnovers and cannot key in on any one offensive player. The starting five's height also provides a significant rebounding advantage with the team ranking 2nd in offensive rebounds and 1st in total rebound.
Weaknesses
Whilst the team is exceptionally efficient on offensive their ceiling is capped by their weakness from behind the arc. Currently ranked 16th in 3P% the team has only two above average 3-point shooters and this leaves the team susceptible to being overrun if the opposition gets hot from outside. The second weakness if the team's bench. It doesn't currently feature a quality 6th man style player on the bench and whilst there are competent backups at each position their age precludes them from playing larger roles in the case of injury.
Summary
The team wanted to reduce its starter's minutes whilst staying in the race for home court advantage in the JBL Finals. It has done both.

Final Rating
MET EXPECTATIONS

2. Nashville Stars (16-7, + 5.3) (Last Week #1, - 1)

Key Statistics
Record: 20-8 (.714)
Net Rating: + 5.1 (2nd)
Offensive Rating: 109.9 (4th)
Defensive Rating: 104.4 (T-2nd)
PPG Leader: Tezale Craig - 29.6 (4th)
RPG Leader: Simon Hartford - 14.1 (3rd)
APG Leader: Mohammed Shakur - 9.8 (3rd)
Season Overview
The team started the season on a 4-game win streak and would ultimately go onto win 8 of their first ten games. A 2-game Kaiser injury contributed to a week in which the team lost 2 games but they quickly rebounded with a 5-game streak. They would go on to lose 4 more games before the break but given that all were road losses to quality teams this is hardly a significant concern.
Strengths
The team's greatest strength is the presence of Tezale Craig, the current MVP favourite. Craig is a dominant scorer, currently 4th in the league, but also excels at the defensive end where he ranks 12th in D rating. His ability to produce at both ends allows the team to successfully blend a mix of offensive and defensive minded players in the starting line-up without negatively impacting the team's performance at each end. At this point of their careers Andersen, and surprisingly Hartford, are no longer offensive focal points, but both are top 10 defensive players. On the other end of the spectrum Peeler is a gifted scorer and Shakur, whilst not a scorer, is a gifted distributor who doesn't turn it over.
Weaknesses
This team has no practical weakness when healthy and Craig is firing. However, if Craig can be contained both Hartford and Peeler have been inconsistent offensively which could cause problems. Shakur's lack of scoring could exacerbate this, but the team does have a more offensively minded PG in Layton, who has been productive in a bench role. The team also has insurance against injury to the evergreen Anderson in the form of Crooks, who has been highly efficient since his demotion. However due to the team's imbalanced construction (so many centers) the team has little to no bench depth at the wing positions. An injury to Craig or Peeler would devastate this team.
Summary
The team entered the season as the NS favourite after the offseason acquisition of Kaiser Andersen. Andersen has integrated well with the existing team and Peeler has elevated his game in his second season with the franchise. The team enters the midseason in a tie for 1st in the conference.
Final Rating
MET EXPECTATIONS

3. Seattle Thunder (17-7, + 2.1) (Last Week #3, + 2)

Key Statistics
Record: 20-8 (.714)
Net Rating: + 2.4 (4th)
Offensive Rating: 105.5 (17th)
Defensive Rating: 103.0 (1st)
PPG Leader: Andre Phifer - 28.5 (7th)
RPG Leader: Ainsley Tucker - 9.4 (27th)
APG Leader: Devante Parker - 8.6 (12th)
Season Overview
The Thunder surprised out of the gate with a 6-game win streak. Over the following weeks they proceeded to run at about .500, losing games to a succession of NS playoff teams. It was during this period that the team elevated rookie Aaron Rowland to starting SF and installed Devan Carroll as 6th man. The team picked up its game as the break approached with 3 and 5-game win streaks. Despite their success their performance in close games is worthy of note as the team has outstripped its expected win total by 4, and could be a sign of potential regression in the second half of the season.
Strengths
The team's primary strength is its defence which is 1st in d-rating. The Thunder have 5 of the top 20 players by d-rating with Ainsley Tucker the highest ranked at 3rd. This allows the team to mitigate the weaknesses of its star Andre Phifer, who is not yet a two-way player. The team's other strength is its depth and positional versatility. The team plays the 4th highest pace in the league and they would not be able to do so efficiently without their quality bench. The team plays an 11-man rotation which features many players, such as Devan Carroll, who can perform across multiple positions. This depth also means that everyone on the team plays less than 30mpg except for Andre Phifer. Finally, the team is extremely young and as such most of its key contributors likely have further development in them.
Weaknesses
This team's primary weakness is their mediocre performance on offense. The team currently ranks 12th in ppg, but this is largely due to the team's pace as the team ranks only 17th in o-rating. Their o-rating is heavily impacted by their high turnovers, 2nd in the league, but whilst this may change as the team becomes more adept running a high pace system the team still lacks a strong second option on offense. As a result the team can struggle offensively when Andre Phifer doesn't perform.
Summary
Heading into the season optimistic projections would have seen the team outside the playoffs. Despite their improvement last year, the team had hired a new coach with a new game plan and had several incoming rookies. Some short-term pain would have been a reasonable consequence however they are currently tied for the best record in the NS. Nobody has surpassed expectations more.
Final Rating
WILDLY EXCEEDED EXPECTATION

4. Chicago Jailbirds (15-8, + 0.6) (Last Week #4, - 1)

Key Statistics
Record: 17-8 (.680)
Net Rating: + 1.5 (6th)
Offensive Rating: 107.3 (11th)
Defensive Rating: 105.8 (6th)
PPG Leader: Keydren Carter - 30.0 (2nd)
RPG Leader: Dameon Clarke - 14.0 (4th)
APG Leader: Jason Cheaney - 9.1 (6th)
Season Overview
The season started poorly with a 4-game losing streak that saw the team at the bottom of the power rankings. But the team rebounded exceptionally with an 11-game win streak, the longest of any team this season, eventually hitting the top of the rankings. Since the streak they have gone 6-4 and they enter the midseason break 3rd in the North South.
Strengths
The Jailbirds main strength is the championship winning trio of Carter, Cheaney and Clarke. This trio is the equal of any star grouping in the league. All three are capable two ways players, though Clarke has struggled shooting the ball a little, which gives the team some leeway in games where one of the group struggles. Cheaney is worthy of praise for the way in which he has seamlessly adjusted to the primary playmaker role this season, recording a career high in assists. Beyond their big three their main strength on offense is that they play the 5th highest pace in the league but don't commit the high number of turnovers that most high pace teams fall victim to (they rank 15th in turnovers). Defensively the team leads the league in steals led by Cheaney who is the individual leader.
Weaknesses
Because so much of their salary cap has been invested in the big 3 the team doesn't have a great deal of quality depth. Excluding the 3 Cs only Cedric Brisby averages over 10ppg. This leads the team incredibly susceptible to injuries, which is what derailed the team's playoff run last season when Carter went down. As currently constructed the team cannot withstand an injury to any of their big 3. They do have a little depth at the center position (Dupree, Obradovic and Stone) and should consider a trade for additional support on the wings.
Summary
After missing the playoffs last season much of the league had ruled the Jailbirds out of contention this year rating them a fringe playoff team at best. However, the team showed during their win streak that they are very much in the race.
Final Rating
EXCEEDED EXPECTATIONS

5. Kansas City Knights (15-7, + 1.8) (Last Week #5, + 1)

Key Statistics
Record: 16-10 (.615)
Net Rating: + 1.2 (7th)
Offensive Rating: 106.0 (15th)
Defensive Rating: 104.8 (5th)
PPG Leader: Kelvin Hawes - 26.3 (9th)
RPG Leader: Kelvin Hawes - 13.7 (5th)
APG Leader: Curtis Price - 7.9 (14th)
Season Overview
The season started poorly with a loss to the Huskies and a smashing by the Renegades but the team quickly started to put some wins on the board and had a strong 4 game streak beating the Scorpions, Renegades and Knights. The team would go on to have additional 3 and 4 game streaks and enter the midseason break holding the 4th and final playoff spot. However, with the Renegades only just behind them they may rue several losses to lower ranked teams throughout the first half of the season.
Strengths
The team has a strong defense which ranks 5th in the league by d-rating. Their defensive performance is driven by two key statistics. They rank 4th in the league in steals per game and hold their opponents to the 3rd lowest fg%. The second of these can be heavily attributed to the team's primary strength, the presence of Kelvin Hawes, who ranks 7th in the league in individual d-rating. This year Hawes has finally taken the mantle of best center in the league, ranking 9th in ppg and 5th in rpg. With Hawes as the centrepiece the Knights have a bright future.
Weaknesses
Despite the presence of Hawes as a focal point the team has been disappointing on the offensive end of the floor, ranking 15th in O rating. The team plays the 7th highest pace in the league, which is an odd match for a center dominated team, and the team ranks 6th in turnovers per game, with Hawes and Honeycutt the primary offenders, with 3.6 each. They are also a weak rebounding team, finishing 16th in rpg, which should not happen with Hawes on the team, but does point to their weakness at the PF spot, where their options are Norwood or McWilliams who is a tall SF.
Summary
After a surprising playoff run last year the Knights were expected to once again compete for the fourth and final playoff spot in the NS conference. At the midseason break they are exactly where they had hoped to be.
Final Rating
MET EXPECTATIONS