NBA Playoff Probabilities (03/02/15)

By John Ewing Director of Research and Analytics @johnewing
NBA Playoff Probabilities – Odds to win the NBA Championship

We are coming down the stretch of the NBA regular season. The league is separating itself into contenders and pretenders. As teams sprint to the finish line, is your favorite squad in position to win the title?

Each week, we will simulate the rest of the regular season and playoffs 50,000 times with updated player and team statistical information to provide up-to-date projected records, standings, playoff probabilities and odds to win the Larry O'Brien Trophy for each team in the NBA.

Top storylines:

James Harden, a leading MVP candidate, scored 33 points and LeBron James missed two free throws with 4.2 seconds left in overtime to help Houston win 105-103 on Sunday. The loss may have been a kick in the groin for LeBron and the Cavs, but Cleveland is still the most likely champion. The Cavaliers title odds have increased to 23%. Cleveland has won 18 of its last 22 games including wins over the Clippers, Thunder, Warriors and Bulls – four of the top six title contenders.

Speaking of the Bulls, Derrick Rose was back at the Chicago training facility, one day after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Bulls' general manager Gar Forman said Friday that the organization expects Rose to be back in four to six weeks. Rose's injury has cut Chicago's title odds nearly in half but if the 2011 MVP comes back healthy, the Bulls won't be a team anyone wants to face in the East.

A month ago, Golden State was our favorite to win the NBA Championship. The Warriors are tops in our Power Rankings yet are narrowly behind the Cavs in our updated playoff probabilities. Why? The Splash Brothers lead the most balanced team in the league but the West is brutal. The Warriors path to the finals is far more difficult than the Cavs, thus Cleveland's advantage in our simulations.

Oklahoma City is without superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, though both players could be back as early as this week. The Thunder are greater than 90% likely to make the playoffs despite holding just a half game lead over New Orleans for the last playoff spot in the West. The eighth seed seems like a drawback but with home-court advantage on the decline in the NBA, the Thunder have the sixth best odds to win it all.

Miami and Indiana, the seventh and eighth seeds respectively in the East, are just 57% and 46% likely to make the playoffs. There is no clear challenger to bump the Heat or Pacers out of the postseason. Brooklyn, Charlotte, Boston and Detroit are all within two games of the final seed in the East but no team is greater than 32% likely to win enough games to continue playing after the regular season.

The Pelicans and Suns are within two games of a playoff spot in the West; however, the teams have less than a 10% chance of reaching the playoffs combined.

NBA Playoff Probabilities

Team Playoff Odds Championship Odds
Cleveland Cavaliers 100.0 22.8
Golden State Warriors 100.0 22.0
Atlanta Hawks 100.0 12.4
Los Angeles Clippers 100.0 8.1
Chicago Bulls 100.0 6.7
Oklahoma City Thunder 91.9 5.5
Toronto Raptors 100.0 5.0
Portland Trail Blazers 100.0 4.8
Dallas Mavericks 99.7 4.3
Memphis Grizzlies 100.0 3.1
San Antonio Spurs 99.0 2.7
Houston Rockets 100.0 1.5
Washington Wizards 100.0 1.0
Milwaukee Bucks 100.0 0.2
Indiana Pacers 56.9 0.0
Miami Heat 45.8 0.0
Boston Celtics 31.9 0.0
Charlotte Hornets 25.5 0.0
Detroit Pistons 21.7 0.0
Brooklyn Nets 18.3 0.0
Phoenix Suns 6.0 0.0
New Orleans Pelicans 3.4 0.0
Denver Nuggets 0.0 0.0
Los Angeles Lakers 0.0 0.0
Minnesota Timberwolves 0.0 0.0
New York Knicks 0.0 0.0
Orlando Magic 0.0 0.0
Philadelphia 76ers 0.0 0.0
Sacramento Kings 0.0 0.0
Utah Jazz 0.0 0.0