Playoff Seed Odds for All Potential NBA Playoff Teams
Over the river and through the woods, to Jeanie Buss's house we go! While Kobe's away, the fans will pray for Steve Blake to somehow grooooow...
Most of the intrigue centers around those Lakers, who could finish anywhere from seventh to ninth in the West. However, that isn't the only race we're watching tonight; seven different games have playoff seeding implications. If Christmas Day in the NBA is, well, Christmas, then consider this a modified New Year's party before the calendar turns over to playoff time.
We've run the odds for each potential seeding possibility, with help from our numberFire analytics and Chief Analyst Keith Goldner. And Lakers fans may be spending tonight celebrating, while Jazz fans have a good chance of being left out in the cold.
Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Lakers - West 7 Seed
Let's start with the easy one - the winner of the Rockets/Lakers game tonight gets the higher seed. And if you're either one of these teams, you should be scratching and clawing for that opportunity. Especially when according to our numberFire team rankings, the Thunder aren't just the strongest team, the Thunder have the Spurs Texas BBQ'd.
The Thunder's 80.3 nERD rating sits first in the entire NBA; the Spurs are a bit down at No. 4 with a 67.9 nERD score. The Thunder hold the league's No. 1 offense, No. 4 defense, and a league-leading 10 points per 100 possessions difference between what they score and what they allow. The Spurs are No. 7 and No. 3 respectively, and they only hold a seven points per 100 possessions difference (behind OKC, Miami, and the Clippers).
Luckily for the Lakers, they sit in the driver's seat. Our odds currently give the Lakers a 57.2 percent chance at the seven seed. The Rockets actually only hold a 23.0 percent chance at the seven seed, since they can finish anywhere between No. 6 and No. 8 tonight.
The Lakers' main weakness may be forcing turnovers (No. 29 defensive turnover rate), but that's balanced tonight by Houston's own dead-last offensive turnover rate. Houston may have Los Angeles beaten in both overall offensive rating (No. 6 to No. 9) and defensive rating (No. 16 to No. 20) this season, but the Lakers do get a slight bump from playing at home and recent strong play.
Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets - West 6 Seed
Of course, avoiding the Spurs in the first round could be better all together for the Rockets (unless they would play the Clippers, but we'll get to that later). For that to happen, however, they would need to beat the Lakers and the Warriors would need to lose to the Blazers.
And honestly, there's just not too good of a chance of that happening. The Warriors hold an 80.2 percent chance at the six seed, while the Rockets only hold 19.8 percent odds of stealing away that spot. Consequently, that also means the Warriors hold 19.4 percent odds of dropping to the seven seed line.
By the numbers, beating the Blazers should be fairly easy for the Warriors. The Golden State side may have only scored 0.5 more points per 100 possessions, but defensively, they have allowed 3.7 points per 100 possessions less than Portland. Golden State also holds big advantages on defense with opponents' effective field goal percentage (No. 8 vs. No. 26 in the NBA) and defensive rebound percentage (No. 1 vs. No. 21).
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Utah Jazz - West 8 Seed
This one's right for the world to see on our team rankings page, but in case you don't feel like clicking over, the Lakers only hold a 14.8 percent chance at missing the playoffs. The Jazz would need to win and the Lakers lose to make all of their dreams come true.
Playing Memphis makes that task easier said than done. The Grizzlies' insane defense, second-most efficient in the NBA, has allowed 6.4 fewer points per 100 possessions than their Utah counterparts this season. And while Utah may have the slightly more efficient offense, the gap isn't nearly as large - they have Memphis beat by 2.0 points per 100 possessions.
With Memphis still having something to play for, we don't expect these odds to change that much by gametime. It was a valiant effort, Utah, but you look to be the weakest link.
Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Clippers - West 3 Seed
Remember how I mentioned up there that the Warriors and Rockets would likely have an easier time facing the three seed than the two seed? That's because the Denver Nuggets are likely to grab that third slot, but nothing is currently set in stone.
For the Clippers to overtake the Nuggets for the third seed, they would need to beat the Kings (easy) while the Nuggets would need to lose to the Suns (not so easy). As it stands, we give the Nuggets a 90.3 percent chance at securing the three seed tonight when all is said and done.
That likely means great tidings for the Warriors/Rockets and a sad story for the Grizzlies. The Nuggets aren't bad in the least; their 67.5 nERD score places them as the fifth-best team in the entire NBA. It's just that the Clippers' 70.6 nERD places them as the third-best team in the NBA, and their 7.0-point differential between points scored and points allowed per 100 possessions sits much higher than Denver's 5.1 point net difference.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Memphis Grizzlies - First Round Home Court
The Memphis Grizzlies will officially be the five seed. That's set in stone. Since the Clippers have already clinched a division championship, then they are locked into at least the four slot. And since the Nuggets won the season series with Memphis, then the Grizzlies can't overtake them, either. What isn't set in stone, though, is home court advantage for the Clippers.
You see, the NBA has this fun rule that the team with the better record will always have home court. That rule is in place in case there is a weaker division champion in the four slot... just like the Los Angeles Clippers. If the Grizzlies win tonight and the Clippers lose, then, Memphis will have home court advantage in the first round over the four-seed Clippers.
However, it's not likely the Grizzlies' home-court advantage will occur. The Clippers hold an 81 percent chance at home-court, while the Grizzlies are staring at greater than 5:1 odds at gaining both a victory and a Clippers loss tonight.
According to our analytics, though, it may not matter than much for Memphis. The Grizzlies would hold only a 39.8 percent chance of beating the Clippers even with home court. If the Clippers won home court, those series win odds would fall to 35.0 percent.
Atlanta Hawks vs. Chicago Bulls - East 5 Seed
I already went over this race in detail yesterday, but it's worth mentioning that the Hawks did the unthinkable: they lost to the Raptors. Now, an already tough task becomes monumental, as the Hawks would need to beat the Knicks and have the Wizards beat the Bulls in order to gain the five seed.
It's just not that likely. The Bulls hold an 87.5 percent chance at gaining the five seed after last night's Raptors victory. And as I've noted a few times already this run, that could spell doom for the Hawks.
1 Seed: Oklahoma City Thunder (100%)
2 Seed: San Antonio Spurs (100%)
3 Seed: Denver Nuggets (90.4%), Los Angeles Clippers (9.6%)
4 Seed: Los Angeles Clippers (90.4%), Denver Nuggets (9.6%)
5 Seed: Memphis Grizzlies (100%, 19.0% for home-court over Clippers)
6 Seed: Golden State Warriors (80.2%), Houston Rockets (19.8%)
7 Seed: Los Angeles Lakers (57.2%), Houston Rockets (23.0%), Golden State Warriors (19.8%)
8 Seed: Houston Rockets (57.2%), Los Angeles Lakers (28.0%), Utah Jazz (14.8%)
Missed the Cut: Utah Jazz (85.2%), Los Angeles Lakers (14.8%)
1 Seed: Miami Heat (100%)
2 Seed: New York Knicks (100%)
3 Seed: Indiana Pacers (100%)
4 Seed: Brooklyn Nets (100%)
5 Seed: Chicago Bulls (87.5%), Atlanta Hawks (12.5%)
6 Seed: Atlanta Hawks (87.5%), Chicago Bulls (12.5%)
7 Seed: Boston Celtics (100%)
8 Seed: Milwaukee Bucks (100%)