NBA Playoffs: Tale of the Tape

The NBA Playoffs start this afternoon. How about we start with a Tale of the Tape overview. What follows is meant to be a simple statistical snapshot of each team. The following stats are listed:

*Offensive Efficiency:
*Defensive Efficiency:
*3-Point Shooting:
*3-Point Defense:
*Recent Playoff History:

Right below this snapshot, we’ll list the core stats of the most prominent individual players, using the traditional points/rebounds/assists slash line. I’m also listing the decidedly non-traditional Adjusted Field Goal Percentage. This is based on adjusting for three-point shot attempts, where making one of three is equivalent to making one of two from inside the arc. Essentially, Adjusted Field Goal Percentage equalizes things for three-point shooters.

The efficiency rankings are based on results per 100 possessions, rather than per-game. I use these, because I think they better show what matters—a team’s ability to get a score or a stop when they really need it. Otherwise, raw points scored/points against can just be the byproduct of pace.

Speaking of pace—that ranking is simply the number of possessions per game. A low ranking isn’t bad, it just means a team plays more of a half-court game.

I ‘ll conclude with a brief comment, but the snapshot is ultimately for every reader to just have in their own mind—a schema, if you will, to quickly grasp the strengths and weaknesses of each team as manifested during the regular season.

Let’s get into it. The teams are organized by their betting odds to win the championship:

Boston (64-18, +160)
Offense:: 1st
Defense: 3rd
Rebounding: 1st
Pace: 20th
3-Point Shooting: 2nd
3-Point Defense: 6th
Jayson Tatum: 27/8/5 – 55%
Jaylen Brown: 29/6/4 – 56%
Jrue Holiday: 13/5/5 – 55%
Derrick White: 15/4/5 – 55%
Kristap Porzingis: 20/7 – 59%

Recent Playoff History: Since 2017, the Celtics have reached the conference finals five times, but only made the NBA Finals once. And the search for the coveted 18th banner continues.

Comment: What else is there to say, but they better win? At minimum, anything short of at least making the NBA Finals is going to be a major disaster. Even that might be generous. There’s a lot of pressure on head coach Joe Mazzulla to translate this phenomenal regular season into a title.

Denver (57-25, +300)
Defense: 8th
Rebounding: 7th
Pace: 4th
3-Point Shooting: 9th
3-Piont Defense: 8th
Nikola Jokic: 26/12/9 – 61%
Jamal Murray: 21/4/7: 55%
Michael Porter Jr: 17/7 – 59%
Kentavius Caldwell-Pope: 10ppg – 57%
Aaron Gordon: 14/7/4 – 5%

Recent Playoff History: The defending champions, last year’s title was the consummation of several years of consistent advancement in the Jokic era.

Comment: The champs do everything well. They are the odds-on favorite to win the West. It is worth noting that they are the 2-seed. If homecourt ends up being decisive in the conference finals, a hidden one-point loss to San Antonio in the final week will be something for future historians to uncover.


Betting markets see Boston and Denver as head-and-shoulders above the field, destined for a showdown in the NBA Finals. We now pick up with the most prominent challengers.

Dallas (50-32, +1100)
Offense: 9th
Defense: 18th
Rebounds: 21st
Pace: 5th
3-Point Shooting: 14th
3-Point Defense: 18th
Luka Doncic: 34/9/10 – 57%
Kyrie Irving: 26/5/5 – 57%
P.J. Washington: 12/6 – 51%
Tim Hardaway: 14ppg – 51%

Recent Playoff History: Dallas reached the conference finals in 2022 after ousting top-seeded Phoenix. That’s the only year they’ve won a playoff round since Dirk Nowitizki led them to the title in 2010.

Comment: The Mavs are the 5-seed in the West, and I have no idea what elevates them so high in market estimation. Yes, Doncic is explosive and could dominate a series. That’s if Kyrie will let him have the ball enough. I’m really not as down on Dallas as this makes it sound. I just don’t see how a team going on the road in the first round is regarded this strongly.

Oklahoma City (57-25, +1200)
Offense: 3rd
Defense: 4th
Rebounding: 27th
Pace: 23rd
3-Point Shooting: 1st
3-Point Defense: 12th
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: 30/6/6 – 58%
Jalen Williams: 19/4/5 – 59%
Chet Holmgren: 17//7 – 61%
Luguentz Dort: 11/4 – 56%
Josh Giddey: 12/6/5: 52%

Recent Playoff History: Remember when the Thunder of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook had a record-setting Golden State team in a 3-1 hole in the 2016 Western Conference Finals before losing three straight? That was the last time an OKC team advanced in the postseason.

Comment: Oklahoma City is the top seed in the West, although that rebounding scares me. Maybe it’s anecdotal, but how many times do we see a big playoff game decided because a team didn’t close out a possession with the defensive board?

LA Clippers (51-31, +1200)
Offense: 4th
Defense: 17th
Rebounding: 19th
Pace: 8th
3-Point Shooting: 6th
3-Point Defense: 14th
Kawhi Leonard: 24/6/4 – 59%
James Harden: 17/5/9 – 54%
Paul George: 23/5/4 – 57%
Ivica Zubac: 12/9 – 65%

Recent Playoff History: The only time the Clips have survived the second round was 2021 when they reached the conference finals.

Comment: Kawhi Leonard is one of my favorite players. But how seriously can we take a team that has Harden and George, and their notorious playoff failings? Or that ranks in the bottom half of the league for defense and rebounding?

Milwaukee (49-33, +1400)
Offense: 6th
Defense: 19th
Rebounding: 16th
Pace: 7th
3-Point Shooting: 11th
3-Point Defense: 9th
Giannis: 30/12/7 – 62%
Damian Lilliard: 24/4/7 – 51%
Brook Lopez: 13/5 – 58%
Khris Middleton: 15/5/5 – 57%
Malik Beasley – 11ppg – 60%
Bobby Portis – 14/7 – 56%

Playoff History: Since the breakthrough championship of 2021, the Bucks have failed to reach the conference finals. It got Mike Budenholzer fired.

Comment: The 3-seed, Milwaukee’s hopes for getting a crack at Boston in this year’s Eastern Conference Finals are up in the air, pending the status of Giannis’ calf. He’ll be on the sidelines for the start of their first-round matchup with Indiana. If he gets healthy, the question will be whether the Bucks can tighten up their defense.

Philadelphia (47-35, +1400)
Offense: 14th
Defense: 11th
Rebounding: 17th
Pace: 18th
3-Point Shooting: 18th
3-Point Defense: 11th
Joel Embid: 35/11 – 56%
Tyrese Maxey: 26/4/6 – 52%
Tobias Harris: 17/7/3 – 54%
Kelly Oubre: 15/5 – 50%

Playoff History: With serious star power, the 76ers have been in the conversation for several years now. Where they have not been, at least since the days of Allan Iverson back in 2001, is the Eastern Conference Finals.

Comment: Every mode of statistical analysis and portraits have their shortcomings and Philly is the prime example of this one. With Embid finally healthy, how much do these mediocre numbers tell us? I concur with the betting markets that, record and 7-seed aside, the Sixers are a major darkhorse.

Minnesota (56-26, +1800)
Offense: 16th
Defense: 1st
Rebounding: 15th
Pace: 7th
3-Point Shooting: 3rd
3-Point Defense: 7th
Anthony Edwards: 26/5/5 – 52%
Rudy Gobert: 14/13 – 66%
Karl Anthony-Towns: 22/8 – 58%
Jaden McDaniels: 11ppg – 59%
Mike Conley: 11/6 assists – 61%

Recent Playoff History: Kevin Garnett took the Timberwolves to the conference finals in 2004 before losing to Kobe and Shaq. That’s the only year Minnesota has won a playoff series.

Comment: One of the most intriguing teams. With the league’s best defense, and the ability to pound people down low with Gobert and Anthony-Towns, Minnesota is a major threat. The downside? As the 3-seed, they are on Denver’s side of the bracket.

Phoenix (49-33, +1800)
Offense: 10th
Defense: 13th
Rebounding: 10th
Pace: 16th
3-Point Shooting: 5th
3-Point Defense: 15th
Kevin Durant: 27/5/5 – 57%
Devin Booker: 27/5/7 – 55%
Grayson Allen: 14/4/3 – 65%
Bradley Beal: 18/4/5 – 58%
Jursuf Nurkic: 11/11 – 53%

Recent Playoff History: In 2021, the Suns took the first two games over the Bucks in the NBA Finals and were on their way to a title. That was followed by four straight losses and underperformance as the 1-seed in 2022.

Comments: Does Kevin Durant have enough left in the tank? At age 35, the Suns will go as far as he can carry them. All credit to Devin Booker, but Phoenix isn’t making a big postseason run unless Durant wakes up the echoes.

LA Lakers (47-35, +2500)
Offense: 15th
Defense: 16th
Rebounding: 18th
Pace: 4th
3-Point Shooting: 18th
3-Point Defense: 25th
LeBron: 26/7/9 –  59%
Anthony Davis: 25/13 – 57%
D’Angelo Russell: 18/3/6: 56%
Austin Reaves: 16/4/5: 57%

Recent Playoff Performance: The Lakers won that 2020 title in the Disney bubble, and they came out of the play-in tournament last year to reach the conference finals. It’s hard to see this short era with LeBron as a major success, but they’ve got some high points.

Comments: Have we reached a surreal stage in NBA history where LeBron James is actually underappreciated? He’s really not in the MVP conversation even though the numbers justify it and he carries the Lakers when A.D. is injured. And there’s not a lot in the way of depth.


We’re at another drop-off point in the betting odds. The remaining six teams are seen as longshots by the market:

New York (50-32, +3300)
Offense: 7th
Defense: 9th
Rebounding: 2nd
Pace: 30th
3-Point Shooting: 13th
3-Point Defense: 17th
Jalen Brunson: 29/5 – 54%
OG Anunoby: 14/4 – 57%
Josh Hart: 10/8/4 – 49%

Recent Playoff History: Last year, the Knicks knocked off Cleveland in the first round. That was their first playoff series win in a decade. They are looking for their first trips to the NBA Finals since 1999, and first Eastern Conference Finals appearance since 2000—both of which happened when Jeff Van Gundy was still on the sidelines.

Comment: Talk about disrespect. New York is the 2-seed in the East and still stuck all the way down here in public estimation. They are an old-school team, built more on success from inside the arc than beyond it.

Cleveland (48-34, +5000)
Offense: 18th
Defense: 6th
Rebounding: 12th
Pace: 22nd
3-Point Shooting: 15th
3-Point Defense: 21st
Donovan Mitchell: 27/5/6 – 55%
Darius Garland: 18/3/7 – 52%
Jarrett Allen: 17/10 – 63%
Evan Mobley: 16/9 – 60%
Max Strus: 12/5/4 – 53%

Recent Playoff History: Without LeBron James, the Cavs haven’t gotten out of the first round since 1993.

Comment: That tormented, LeBron-less playoff history aside, Cleveland continues to be a team on the rise. Now, they have to show they can win a playoff round. That’s a well-balanced lineup and failure to cash in a 4-seed with a first-round victory would be a major disappointment.

Indiana (47-35, 60-1)
Offense: 2nd
Defense: 24th
Rebounding: 29th
Pace: 2nd
3-Point Shooting: 10th
3-Point Defense: 16th
Tyrese Haliburton: 20/4/10 – 57%
Pascal Siakam: 21/8/4 – 58%
Bruce Brown: 12/5/3 – 53%
Myles Turner: 17/7 – 59%
Aaron Nesmith: 12ppg – 61%

Recent Playoff History: The Pacers reached the conference finals in 2013 and in 2014. That era got Roy Hibbert a cameo spot on the Amy Poehler sitcom Park and Rec, based in Indiana. Not much since.

Comment: I want to dismiss a team that doesn’t rebound or play defense well…but they did get a favorable draw, against a similar team in Milwaukee.

New Orleans (49-33, 60-1)
Offense: 11th
Defense: 7th
Rebounding: 21st
Pace: 17th
3-Point Shooting: 4th
3-Point Defense: 2nd|
Zion Williamson: 23/6/5 – 57%
Brandon Ingram: 21/5/6 – 53%
CJ McCollum : 20/4/5 – 57%
Herb Jones: 11/4/3: 57%

Recent Playoff History: The Pelicans have never made the conference finals in their comparative short history (since 2003) and not advanced since 2018.

Comment: Zion isn’t ready to go, after to having to leave late in the first play-in game against the Lakers, when he put on an electric performance. But New Orleans, with their ability to score and defend from behind the arc, could be uniquely suited to overperform in the postseason. They’ll be the contrasting case study to New York.

Miami (46-36, 100-1)
Offense: 21st
Defense: 5th
Rebounding: 18th
Pace: 29th
3-Point Shooting: 12th
3-Point Defense: 5th
Jimmy Butler: 21/5/5 – 52%
Bam Adebayo: 19/10/4 – 53%
Tyler Herro: 21/5/5 – 53%

Recent Playoff History: No team has punched above their weight in recent years like the Heat. They reached the NBA Finals last year out of the play-in tournament and the 8-seed—just where they’re sitting this year. They made the Finals in the bubble in 2020 and reached Game 7 of the conference finals in 2022.

Comment: Jimmy Butler is out, which takes considerable steam out of any underdog hopes this year. Miami is well-balanced, with contributors that go well beyond what’s listed here. Erik Spoelstra does a great job blending all the pieces together. But that depends on a star to hold it all together and without Butler, how much can Miami really do?

Orlando (47-35, 150-1)
Offense: 22nd
Defense: 2nd
Rebounding: 20th
Pace: 25th
3-Point Shooting: 24th
3-Point Defense: 10th
Paolo Banchero: 23/7/5 – 50%
Franz Wagner 20/5/4 – 53%

Recent Playoff History: Not since Dwight Howard was playing center and Stan Van Gundy was coaching have the Magic done anything in the playoffs. That would be their 2009 trip to the NBA Finals and follow-up return to the conference finals in 2010.

Comment: Why is a team that plays good defense and has a couple legit scorers the last team on the list—and by a lot? It’s all about youth. Orlando’s key players, including Banchero and Wagner are 22-years-old or younger. The NBA Playoffs are the time for old men (comparatively speaking). Orlando’s coming, but that’s a lot of youth for postseason play.

And that’s our starting point. Will this data prove relevant or will playoff basketball produce something entirely different? There are plenty of historical precedents on either side. We’ll start finding out at 1 PM EST this afternoon.