NBA Preseason Rankings 2013: Evaluating Challengers To The Throne

The 2013-14 NBA season is just around the corner and one topic will dominate the season:  a possible ring number three for the Big Three. LeBron and The Heat pulled in their second straight title last year and are primed for another run. Teams around the league are gearing up to take them down, however, including big moves by the Rockets, the Clippers, the Warriors, and the Nets.

While only time will really tell this season’s story, we at have crunched the numbers to create our preseason ratings, giving us a bit of data-driven insight. These preseason ratings are based on a variety of factors, including:

  • Previous season success
  • Player value statistics like Win Shares
  • Coaching change metrics

All of the factors we use in our system have been evaluated for their predictiveness in earlier years. These ratings will be used in updating our NBA New Ratings (note: that page will update to show our 2013-14 season ratings beginning on Wednesday morning, the preseason ratings are listed in this post). As a result, they will also drive our NBA season projections, which also will be updated every single day throughout the season.

Disclaimer: It’s important to note that while these ratings have improved again this year, we don’t expect them to live up to the (albeit brief, but pretty solid for the first few years) historical accuracy standards of our NFL preseason ratings or our college basketball preseason ratings. We still tend to underestimate good teams, and overestimate bad ones.

We can certainly work to improve some of these known issues in years ahead, but it wasn’t our top priority this season. We focused most of our NBA preseason related time on researching improvements to our spread and over/under prediction models for NBA.

So keep that in mind while you look over the projections below. We enjoy debating these ratings and they typically highlight some useful tidbits, but we don’t recommend placing NBA futures wagers solely based on these numbers.

Below are our full ratings, and some explanation on teams we feel are over or underrated.

The 2013 TeamRankings NBA Preseason Rankings

RankTeamRatingExpected Wins
1Miami Heat7.3260.4
2Los Angeles Clippers5.5855.7
3San Antonio Spurs5.4255.3
4Oklahoma City Thunder4.7153.3
5Chicago Bulls4.5753.8
6Indiana Pacers4.5253.6
7Houston Rockets4.0951.5
8Memphis Grizzlies3.9651.2
9Brooklyn Nets3.8552.2
10Golden State Warriors3.2149.6
11New York Knicks2.2447.7
12Denver Nuggets2.1946.7
13Dallas Mavericks0.7042.2
14Atlanta Hawks-0.4839.9
15Minnesota Timberwolves-0.5538.9
16Washington Wizards-0.9339.5
17Cleveland Cavaliers-0.9638.9
18Detroit Pistons-1.0638.2
19New Orleans Pelicans-1.5036.4
20Los Angeles Lakers-1.7135.6
21Portland Trailblazers-1.7635.7
22Toronto Raptors-1.9235.8
23Sacramento Kings-3.6130.6
24Milwaukee Bucks-3.6531.5
25Boston Celtics-3.8231.3
26Charlotte Bobcats-4.5029.1
27Utah Jazz-5.4126
28Orlando Magic-5.9525.6
29Phoenix Suns-6.6722.9
30Philadelphia 76ers-7.8920.9


Portland Trailblazers

The Blazers were noted in the off-season for some quality moves to improve their bench, and are catching some attention as a possible playoff team. While we don’t dispute that Portland added a lot of depth, they were well short of the postseason last year with only 33 wins, and had a worse scoring margin than lottery teams like the Wizards, Timberwolves, and Raptors. Barring a huge sophomore year from Damian Lillard the Playoffs will be tough to reach in a stacked West.

New York Knicks

The Knicks had one of their most successful regular seasons in a long time last year. Carmelo Anthony led the team on a charge to the East’s two seed. Unfortunately for them, it was more filling a vacuum than being a genuine contender. The Pacers proved to be a superior foe in the second round, and both Brooklyn and Chicago now have more talent on the floor. New York will probably struggle to get first round home court advantage.

Golden State Warriors

Steph Curry and the Warriors became fan favorites last May due to an exciting style of play and some well timed wins. They added Andre Iguodala over the summer, and are seen by many as a potential dark horse contender. Despite postseason success in 2013, however, they ended just 10th in our end-of-season New Ratings, the same place they hold in our preseason ratings for this season. Their early defensive improvement didn’t hold throughout the year, and there are legitimate health concerns that will always surround Curry and Andrew Bogut.


Washington Wizards

Washington has spent a while as a league laughingstock. That might be about to end. The return of John Wall halfway through last year brought not just exciting fast breaks, but wins also. Otto Porter and the recent trade for Marcin Gortat bring some talent in much needed areas. The Wiz are 7th in the East in our preseason New Ratings and are out to give Eastern contenders a first round scare.

Brooklyn Nets

Brooklyn disappointed in the first round last year, and then traded away most of its future draft selections early in the summer. Their new coach Jason Kidd has no coaching experience, and will start the season suspended for a DUI. Those negative factors quickly get drowned out, though, because new additions Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko are really stinkin’ good. The Nets may not be well positioned for the long haul, but starting potential All-Stars at every position will give them a good opportunity to play deep into next June.

San Antonio Spurs

All summer the story has rightly been about the greatness of Lebron and Miami. It’s so easy to forget how close the Spurs came to being the team with the rings. San Antonio got a year older, and didn’t make any flashy off-season moves, but that’s been the story ever since Tim Duncan arrived in 1997. While this always could be the year they fade away, the data don’t show any obvious reason why that is likely be the case. We see San Antonio in a position to be right back at the top.