When it comes to comparing teams, I like raw stats, like the Points per game and the number surendered to the other team. The scoring differential, over time usually points out who the best team really is. Of course, these numbers aren't the end all and be all of evaluation. It's one thing to beat up on NBA rank and file teams, and another to be able to take out Elite teams. Further the numbers are in constant flux as no team is the same or employees the same strategy all the time, not to mention injuries, vagaries of the schedule and so on.
So how do you evaluate a team that is moving up in these rankings? In the case of the Sixers only two weeks ago their scoring differential had them ranked 16th. A pure, middling team, not playoff worthy. But as of today, the Sixers are now ranked 11th in scoring differential, which means that they are in the top 3rd in the NBA.
Above is a list from NBA.com ordered by the scoring differential. As can easilly be seen, the Sixers are in a dead heat with Memphis and Atlanta in the rankings, and their is a fairly large gap between them and Oklahoma City. Winning their games by an average of 1.33 should start to translate into more wins a team with a scoring differential of 0 is about a .500 team.
Still there is an even clearer difference between the Sixers and the real Elite teams, which typically win by a margin of 5 points or better. Of these San Antonio is 2nd, with a differential of 7.25 points. When a team like this, which typically beats the teams beneath them by a good margin, it demonstrates their prowess on both ends of the floor. But when a team with a lower ranking beats them, and actually outplays them in a game, it's time to take notice.
A win over an elite team like the Spurs suggests the Sixers are better than their current ranking. The numbers are always trying to catch up to the reality as the team improves over time.
So how good are the Sixers right now? It's impossible to say, but they are better than the 11th best team. The win over Atlanta which is virtually equal in scoring differential showed that. The scoring differential predicted a relatively close contest, not the blowout win by the Sixers.
It is relatively easy to see a teams flaws, more so when other teams continue to exploit them game after game, but in these past few weeks the Sixers have changed. They don't make the same mistakes they used to, and they have learned how to maintain their composure when the games get tough.
It's nice to see the Sixers become relevant again, and the numbers show it's not just a subjective view. This is a great turnaround from last season and Collins should be in the running for COY, because he has done it with a lot of hard work and with a little less size in the middle since Dalembert for all his faults is better than anyone on the current roster.
Keep paying attention to this scoring differential and tell the sportwriters who create power rankings that their opinions don't jibe with the facts. The Sixers are better than their record and are improving rapidly at time when many teams are taking it easy cruising into All-Star weekend. The teams that are winning now are the ones to watch out for, and that includes the Sixers.