NBA 2014-15 Power Rankings Previews: Recap, Division Winners, and a Playoff Bracket
It was a very eventful summer in the NBA, and now we're mere hours away from the tip-off of the 2014-15 season. All the discussions about player movement, team previews, and preseason overreaction can now get out of the way so that we can talk about real basketball. Thanks be to the basketball gods.
We here at numberFire published a team preview every weekday for the last 30, starting with the team our algorithms projected would have the worst record this year and going all the way up to the one they said would have the best last Friday.
Each individual preview contains our projections for the given team's record, where it places them within the NBA, and their conference landscapes, as well as their playoff and championship chances. We highlighted the big offseason player movement on each team, asked and answered three burning questions about the squad's season-to-be, and finished it all off with a look at the fantasy prospects of a few of their players (highlighting sleepers, busts, and breakout candidates).
Here's a look at the final results in one, easy-to-digest table. Just click on a team's name to view the preview (while keeping in mind that #30 was written about a month and a half ago compared to the top teams being released just last week).
|Rank||Team||Proj. W-L||Conf. Rank||Playoff %||Champion %|
|1||Cleveland Cavaliers||57-25||1st East||95.15%||17.89%|
|2||San Antonio Spurs||53-29||1st West||89.66%||11.04%|
|3||Houston Rockets||51-31||2nd West||89.01%||10.49%|
|4||Los Angeles Clippers||51-31||3rd West||88.41%||10.69%|
|5||Golden State Warriors*||49-33||4th West||83.46%||5.85%|
|6||Oklahoma City Thunder*||48-34||5th West||79.40%||4.70%|
|7||Toronto Raptors||48-34||2nd East||87.11%||7.35%|
|8||Chicago Bulls||47-35||3rd East||85.61%||6.30%|
|9||Indiana Pacers||46-36||4th East||80.46%||4.25%|
|10||Phoenix Suns||46-36||6th West||69.72%||3.15%|
|11||Portland Trail Blazers||45-37||7th West||67.77%||2.80%|
|12||Charlotte Hornets||43-39||5th East||77.21%||3.20%|
|13||Washington Wizards||42-40||6th East||70.51%||1.75%|
|14||Dallas Mavericks||42-40||8th West||55.22%||1.30%|
|15||Miami Heat||41-41||7th East||65.22%||1.90%|
|16||Memphis Grizzlies||41-41||9th West||52.72%||0.90%|
|17||New York Knicks||40-42||8th East||55.57%||0.55%|
|18||Atlanta Hawks||39-43||9th East||49.93%||0.75%|
|19||Detroit Pistons||39-43||10th East||49.18%||0.75%|
|20||Brooklyn Nets||39-43||11th East||47.53%||0.30%|
|21||Denver Nuggets||39-43||10th West||34.43%||0.55%|
|22||New Orleans Pelicans||37-45||11th West||25.54%||0.20%|
|23||Minnesota Timberwolves||37-45||12th West||25.89%||0.05%|
|24||Sacramento Kings||35-47||13th West||18.34%||0.10%|
|25||Orlando Magic||33-49||12th East||18.14%||0.20%|
|26||Los Angeles Lakers||31-51||14th West||7.45%||0.00%|
|27||Boston Celtics||29-53||13th East||9.15%||0.00%|
|28||Utah Jazz||29-53||15th West||4.55%||0.00%|
|29||Milwaukee Bucks||27-55||14th East||5.00%||0.00%|
|30||Philadelphia 76ers||26-56||15th East||4.25%||0.00%|
*Note: Oklahoma City's projection was altered to reflect the Kevin Durant injury, so they appear after Golden State here instead of ahead of them as our algorithms (and, therefore, rankings) initially projected.
Many subjective predictions might disagree with these projections, but if you put faith in our numbers, then some of these rankings are quite interesting.
A reminder, these projections were done a month and a half ago and then used as the basis for our previews. A few injuries and minor moves have changed things up a little since then. (We were still high on the Pacers and the chances of their defense continuing to make them relevant in the wake of the Paul George injury and Lance Stephenson departure, for instance.)
Our algorithms are run daily, and the resulting odds adjust throughout the season, so you can always get the most up-to-date projections and playoff/championship percentages over at our NBA Team Power Rankings (where you can watch the Pacers likely slip into oblivion one day at a time, if you like).
For now though, here is how we first thought the six divisions would turn out and by how many games each of the division winners would finish ahead of the pack.
|Conference||Division||Winner||W-L Record||2nd-Place Margin|
|Western||Northwest||Oklahoma City Thunder||48-34||+3|
|Western||Pacific||Los Angeles Clippers||51-31||+2|
|Western||Southwest||San Antonio Spurs||53-29||+2|
Based on our projections, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, and the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers will have the easiest path to a division title this season. With the reloaded Chicago Bulls in the same division, however, it might not be quite as easy as the algorithms seem to think.
The best bet of the bunch? The Toronto Raptors, considering we have them ranked 7th overall and the other teams in their division land at 17th, 20th, 27th, and 30th on our list. The remaining divisions should be fairly close and could honestly go either way. Don't be surprised if the Wizards, Heat, Trail Blazers, Warriors, and Rockets, for instance, all make strong cases to overtake the teams listed above and be crowned champs of their respective divisions.
Projecting More Parity
Teams bottom out each year whether they mean to do so or not, and sometimes other teams find themselves with a comfortable lead in their division by the All-Star break. But that's not how the math sees it just yet.
We essentially like the league to even out a bit this year, with the low-win teams doing a little less tanking and the better teams beating up on each other a bit more.
If that does actually happen, the idea of fewer extreme records on each end of the spectrum than last year doesn't seem so far-fetched.
According to our initial projections of team record and championship probability, here is how the NBA playoffs would shake out. I seeded the teams based on our projected records and the standard rules of playoff seeding (regarding division winners, etc.) and then chose each series winner based on who had the highest championship percentage.
|Seed||Conf. 1/4-Finals||Conf. Semi-Finals||Conf. Finals||NBA Finals||NBA Champs|
The initial numbers really do think the new-look Cavs can take down the NBA after trekking through the bottom-heavy Eastern Conference.
As the data accumulates over the regular season, our algorithms will, naturally, become more accurate, and there may end up a new favorite throughout the year if the Cavs don't quite get it right.
Regardless, it's October and, as of publishing, there have still been exactly zero quarters of regular season NBA basketball played. Things are bound to change, and we'll find out just how well the Cavs perform together, if the Pacers can hang on, and if the Spurs really can come out on top of that tough Western Conference yet again.
Speaking of which, it's October 28th. There are actually lots and lots of quarters of regular season NBA basketball about to happen. 4,920 of 'em, to be precise.
Bring. It. On.