Using a number of advanced statistics, the Wages of Wins Journal has determined that Portland is the best team in the Western Conference right now:
Who is the best team in the West? If we consider preseason hype, it’s the Lakers. If we consider won-loss record, it’s the surprising Phoenix Suns. But if we consider efficiency differential (offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency), the top team is the Portland Trail Blazers. Yes, the Phoenix Suns have the best record (9-2). The Suns’ differential, though, is only 3.90 (the Lakers without Pau Gasol have a 2.02 mark). The Trail Blazers, with a mark of 7.89, clearly lead the conference (second is the Dallas Mavericks with a mark of 6.76).
With so many productive players on the roster, it seems like Portland is probably going to remain one of the top teams – if not the top team – in the West. So, all those people who expect the Lakers to automatically return to the NBA Finals might want to think again. The Blazers are a legitimate contender to win the West. And given the age of many of their most productive players, Portland should (barring injury) remain a contender beyond 2009-10.
Give the whole story a read since it’s hard to summarize a lot of the raw data they use. Keep in mind the relatively soft schedule they played in the week pre-Atlanta, but the individual progressions are very interesting.