2011-12 NBA Preseason Projections: Bulls, Heat, and Thunder Neck And Neck For Best Record

The NBA season finally kicks into gear Sunday with a 5 great NBA Christmas games. Which means it’s time to get our preseason projections up, before the name no longer applies.

The main purpose of these ratings is to provide a data-driven starting point for our NBA projected standings page, which we rolled out this morning. This will automatically update every day this season, to reflect the latest results and the most up to date power ratings.

We’ve had a lot of fun tracking our 2011 college football preseason projections, 2011 NFL preseason projections, and 2011-12 college basketball preseason projections. We especially enjoyed evaluating how our NCAA pigskin projections fared, and finding that they could have been quite profitable. The other two sports look like they could be headed that way as well, but it’s too soon to hand out grades.

So You’re Saying I Should Go Bet These?

Umm, sorry, no. Unfortunately, we’re not nearly as confident in these NBA projections as we were in the projections from other sports. Why not? Because the numbers tell us not to be. In our preseason research, we didn’t find as many good predictors for the NBA as we did for the other sports.

[For you statistics nerds, we created these ratings via a regression on past years’ final ratings. The R^2 of these ratings is only 0.38, compared to 0.65 for our preseason college football ratings, for example.]

We still think the ordering of teams should be fairly accurate, even though the actual probabilities and projected wins are likely a bit too conservative. The best teams will be better, and the worst teams will be worse, we’re just not sure by how much.

Here”s what we take away from them:

  • The Clippers are now the biggest threat to the Lakers in the Pacific.
  • The Heat don’t seem to be enormous favorites here, like they are at some sports books.
  • The Bulls have an edge in the race for home court advantage because their division gives them an easier schedule.
  • The Thunder may be on par with the Bulls and Heat.
  • The Southwest should be the most exciting division, with a virtual 3-way tie for first place in the projections, and all 5 teams having a shot at the playoffs.

At any rate, we wanted to post these here on the blog for posterity’s sake. If nothing else, you guys should have fun critiquing them!

2011-12 NBA Season Projections
Eastern Conference
AtlanticSOSWLPlayoffsWin Div1 SeedNBA Champs
New York-0.336.129.970.3%26.4%6.9%3.4%
New Jersey-0.226.839.228.7%4.8%0.7%0.3%
CentralSOSWLPlayoffsWin Div1 SeedNBA Champs
SoutheastSOSWLPlayoffsWin Div1 SeedNBA Champs
Western Conference
NorthwestSOSWLPlayoffsWin Div1 SeedNBA Champs
Okla City0.242.223.885.7%50.2%25.3%13.1%
PacificSOSWLPlayoffsWin Div1 SeedNBA Champs
LA Lakers0.235.930.164.1%36.6%8.8%3.9%
LA Clippers0.132.933.150.9%23.3%3.9%1.8%
Golden State0.230.735.341.8%18.2%3.3%1.3%
SouthwestSOSWLPlayoffsWin Div1 SeedNBA Champs
San Antonio0.137.228.868.5%24.7%9.4%4.6%
New Orleans0.331.634.444.4%10.1%3.5%1.4%