Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA Column

Logo for Diehlman at Halftime column. - Graphics Editor / Julia Quennessen

The Houston Rockets are parting ways with head coach Stephen Silas after three seasons. Detroit Pistons head coach Dwane Casey is stepping down after five seasons. Casey will move into a front-office role with Detroit. Former Celtics’ head coach Ime Udoka is expected to be a top candidate for both vacancies.

These kinds of shifts can only mean one thing: the regular season has concluded, which means it’s time for the play-in tournament and the playoffs!

This is a special edition of “Diehlman at Halftime.” I will go over my power rankings from October and compare them to the actual standings by best to worst record. The headings for each section remain the same from last time. If a team in the “Actual” section is in italics, that means they lined up in the same spot in both the predictions and actual standings.

Some teams are ahead of others because of head-to-head tiebreakers. If two teams split the season series, my next tiebreaker was combined margins of victory for each win.

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

The Elite Teams (1-10)

Original Predictions – Golden State, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, L.A. Clippers, Miami, Boston, Phoenix, Memphis, and Dallas.

Actual – Milwaukee, Boston, Philadelphia, Denver, Cleveland, Memphis, Sacramento, New York, Phoenix, and Brooklyn.

Analysis: I figured I’d guess correctly for some of these teams. Others, not so much. Brooklyn destroyed their roster back in February by shipping Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to the Western Conference. Those two trades were in the span of less than a week.

After making the Western Conference Finals last year, I thought the Mavericks would at least make the second round. Even with Irving now suiting up for them, Dallas needs to take a long look in the mirror. They got Luka Dončić help…so, where’s the results?

It will also be interesting to see how the Kings do as a home team in the first round. They’re facing a challenging first round, the reigning champion Warriors.

The Clippers and the Heat were lower in the actual rankings than I thought they’d be, but they’ll be fine. At least one team in this section lined up right in both the “Original Predictions” and “Actual!”

The “You’re Getting There, But Not Quite” Teams (11-20)

Original Predictions – L.A. Lakers, Denver, Cleveland, Minnesota, Toronto, Atlanta, New
Orleans, Chicago, Orlando, and New York Knicks.

Actual – Golden State, Miami, L.A. Clippers, L.A. Lakers, Minnesota, New Orleans, Atlanta,
Toronto, Oklahoma City, and Chicago.

Analysis: Remind me again why I put Denver in this section? And the Magic? Seriously? I had high hopes for Orlando, but I guess they’re ready for mock-draft season.

The rest of the teams were accurate, just in a different order. Like I said in the opener, I compared teams with identical records using head-to-head tiebreaker. If they split the season series, whoever won the games by the most combined points would be listed over the other team(s).

For example, take Golden State, Miami, and the L.A. Clippers. The Heat swept the Clippers, therefore making the Clippers the third team listed of the three. Golden State defeated Miami by 13 points back in October, but Miami beat Golden State by seven points in November. Hence, I gave the Warriors the slight edge.

I had a hunch that teams like New Orleans, Chicago, and Minnesota would be in here. They’re not ready for primetime just yet. And who would’ve guessed that the Thunder, of all teams, would be in this conversation? A young roster like theirs is one that will continue to grow and get better. That’s a statement I can’t say about every team listed in the final section.

Code Red! This is Not a Drill! (21-30)

Original Predictions – Washington, Indiana, Charlotte, Portland, Sacramento, Houston, Detroit,
Oklahoma City, San Antonio, and Utah.

Actual – Dallas, Utah, Washington, Indiana, Orlando, Portland, Charlotte, Houston, San Antonio,
and Detroit.

Analysis: This section could alternate between two names: “Why Are You Still Trying?” or “The
Victor Wembanyama Sweepstakes.”

The only blunders in “Original Predictions” were automatically penciling in Sacramento and Oklahoma City. Then again, who expected the Kings to be a top-three seed this season?

As previously mentioned, the Mavericks being in this section is an embarrassment. The Nets made the playoffs and skipped over the play-in tournament, but the Mavericks couldn’t even make the play-in tournament?

Remember when we all thought Utah was a legit team back in early November? That was a good laugh.

Teams like the Pacers and Wizards will continue to be bottom-feeders as long as they keep doing what they’re doing. The rest are obvious. Charlotte and Portland are stuck in mediocrity.

It’s also time for Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich to retire. The glory days are over, pal. Whoever lands Wembanyama, however, would be getting one of the greatest draft prospects of all time.

Predictions correct: 2 out of 30. Onward to the playoffs!

For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.