The more I consider the victory over the Pacers last night, the more I realize that while Indy is a great team, they likely aren't elite.
Much has been made of the Blazers playing a soft schedule, and indeed nearly every tough opponent they have faced has been a home game. The things that make their accomplishments more head-turning is their road record (regardless of opponent), their record in back-to-backs, and their margin of victory.
Below is a ranking of teams in 5 tiers. The rankings assume the team is healthy (which pushed Brooklyn up 2 tiers, and Chicago 1 tier), and it gives some credit to past performance.
An argument could be made for pushing the Lakers up a tier for the same reason as the Bulls and the Nets, but it really isn't clear whether Kobe will add to what the team has going or disrupt it. Certainly they have a better go-to scorer in close games, but part of the team's success has come from team-oriented ball which has allowed other players to shoot at a much higher volume and much freer than they will be able to when Kobe returns.
Also, Boston, Cleveland, and Milwaukee have had pretty important players injured (Rondo, Knight/Sanders, Bynum). If we assume that all players are healthy, those teams could move up one tier.
Here is my results:
The question the Blazers are forcing upon the NBA community is where should they fall in this structure. If this tier structure was based on current records, it would look much different. However, the point of this post is to ask pose the question of how much we should value current records. Other teams are forcing the same question as the Blazers, but in ways that less significantly impact the landscape of the league. The Blazers current record suggests they are a Tier 1 team, but last year they were likely Tier 4. Not many teams have that broad of a reasonable range. When adding past success to the equation (they haven't done it in the playoffs), you could only put Portland as high as Tier 2.
Weigh in, where do the Blazers fit?
What other teams are ranked incorrectly?
Interestingly, this also illustrates the complaints others have had about the Blazers soft schedule so far. The Blazers have punished teams in Tier 5 for half their current win total.