We’ve made it to the quarter pole of the 2021-22 season. Through Sunday, 304 (24.7%) of 1,230 games are in the books, with teams having averaged a little more than 20 games played.
Before the 2019-20 season, we broke down what a team’s record through 20 games says about the likelihood it makes the playoffs in a full, 82-game season. Basically, 86% of the teams that won at least 11 of their first 20 games went on to make the playoffs, while 87% of the teams that won fewer than nine of their first 20 did not.
We haven’t had an 82-game season since that breakdown, and things are different with the Play-In Tournament. But the Play-In still heavily favors the teams that finish seventh and eighth in the standings.
Another thing that could be different this year: It might be more difficult to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference than it is in the West. The West has had a better record than the East in 22 of the last 23 seasons, but the East is off to a strong start this year (see below). Through Sunday, nine of the 14 teams that have winning records are in the East.
Of course, the teams with the two best records are in the West. They’re the top two in the Power Rankings, and they’re playing each other twice this week. Christmas has come early.
(The Suns and Warriors are playing each other on Christmas, too.)
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
- Right Way: Jrue Holiday (MIL) was a plus-117 in four games last week.
- Wrong Way: R.J. Hampton and Terrence Ross (ORL) were both a minus-59 last week.
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: Warriors (3-0) — The Warriors played three solid teams and beat them all by at least 15 points.
- Something Just Ain’t Right: Orlando (0-4) — The Magic trailed the Bucks by as many as 51 points and the Bulls by as many as 38.
East vs. West
- The East is 55-49 (.529) against the West in interconference games, though the West was 13-11 last week.
Schedule strength through Week 6
- Toughest: 1. New Orleans, 2. Cleveland, 3. Houston
- Easiest: 1. Utah, 2. Phoenix, 3. Golden State
- Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.
Movement in the Rankings
- High jumps of the week: Dallas (+5), Milwaukee (+5), Minnesota (+4), New York (+4)
- Free falls of the week: Denver (-8), Chicago (-3), Cleveland (-3)
Week 7 Team to Watch
- Charlotte — The Hornets are 7-2 at home, but have had some stumbles on the road, and they’re coming off an overtime loss in Houston on Saturday. The rest of their current trip is three big games within the Eastern Conference. They’re in Chicago on Monday, in Milwaukee on Wednesday and in Atlanta on Sunday.
Previous Power Rankings
- Last week: Suns, Heat rise but Warriors stay at No. 1
- Most recent Notebook: On the Nets’ lack of scoring inside
- The archive: NBA.com Power Rankings
Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)
The league has averaged 99.1 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 107.5 points scored per 100 possessions this season.
NBA.com’s Power Rankings, released every Monday during the season, are just one man’s opinion. If you have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail or contact him via Twitter.