Heres a good read about the topic.
Numbers put Spurs at No. 1
by: John Hollinger
posted: Sunday, February 25, 2007 | Feedback | Print Entry
filed under: San Antonio Spurs
One of the nice things about the blog is it gives me a chance to respond to the topics that are filling up my in-box.
And at the moment, the top question by an overwhelming margin is, to paraphrase, "How the @#%$ are the Spurs ranked No. 1 in the Hollinger Power Rankings?"
At first glance, I understand how this seems totally illogical. San Antonio has lost twice as many games as Dallas, for crying out loud, and the Mavs are currently riding an 11-game winning streak -- their third double-digit win streak this year. They're 46-5 since an 0-4 start and haven't lost consecutive games in more than three months.
But the key word here is "first glance." One of the biggest reasons I created this ranking is to force people to look beyond the superficial first impression. In this case, it involves looking past won-loss record at the elements that go into it.
On its face this sounds absurd, I realize -- isn't winning the whole point? But as I've been trying to beat into people's heads over and over again, point differential is a better indicator of future success than won-loss record. In other words, if you were trying to pick a game between the Mavs and Spurs tomorrow, you'd be better off ignoring the standings and looking just at point differential.
And if you took that route, you'd be surprised to learn that San Antonio, not Dallas, has the best point differential in the league, at +7.9 points per game. (Actually, Dallas is third at +7.7 -- Phoenix also noses in ahead of them). That difference looms even larger once you consider only two teams have played more road games than the Spurs' 30 -- so the Spurs should be able to improve their mark during a home-laden final two months.
Additionally, the Spurs don't appear to be losing any steam. In the last three weeks they've won games by 27, 25 and 31, helping contribute to their strong victory margin in recent play -- another major determinant in the Hollinger rankings.
Because of the Spurs' place in the standings, this has been perhaps the single biggest misunderstanding of the current season. Columnists are looking at the Spurs' won-loss record and falling all over themselves to write "What's Wrong with the Spurs?" columns.
Reality check: San Antonio won a team-record 63 games last season with a point differential of +6.8. This year they're more than a point per game better (They need to be, too: Those 63 wins didn't do them any good in the playoffs); they just haven't been as fortunate in close games (more on that in a minute).
And while the Spurs are disappointed because they're "only" third in defensive efficiency instead of their usual perch at No. 1 (they've been there five of the past six seasons), this is the best offensive team of the Popovich era. San Antonio ranks sixth in the league in offensive efficiency, just 2.8 points per 100 possessions behind the Mavs. With their defensive advantage being as big as it is (3.0 points per 100 trips), San Antonio is still well-equipped to rule the West.
By the way -- they're doing this while playing their scrubs for much of the game. No Spur is playing more than 35 minutes per game; Tim Duncan leads the team at 34.6. Tony Parker is playing only 33.0 minutes, Manu Ginobili a measly 27.8. No team is playing their starters less, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the Spurs' big three will see a lot more action during the playoffs, making San Antonio even tougher.
In other words, not only is there nothing "wrong" with the Spurs, this actually might be San Antonio's best team since its 1999 championship squad. The Spurs' problem isn't age or a lack of fire or any of the other ideas trotted out in recent weeks. It's that they're 5-10 in games decided by five points or less, while the Mavs are 12-2. That's the main reason the teams are 8½ games apart in the standings, not any difference in the quality of their play.
I realize this is hard to swallow when one looks at the standings, but that's the whole point here -- I'm trying to get you to look beyond them. Once you do, it immediately becomes apparent that the Spurs are a major threat to win the championship, and that they're No. 1 in the rankings because, as heretical as this may sound, they're playing better than everyone else right now. Dallas included.