NBA Preseason Rankings For The 2017-18 Season

With the NBA season kicking off Tuesday, here is our annual post outlining our 2017-18 NBA preseason rankings and ratings, with our season projections added for good measure.

Below the data table is more information on how we rank and project teams. (For more information, including conference- and division-based projected final standings, you can also see our NBA preseason predictions post.)

Editors Note: You can sign up for algorithmic NBA picks and predictions (game winner, point spread, over/under, and money line) for all 2017-18 games on our signup page.

NBA Preseason Rankings Highlights

  • Golden State, and then the rest. The Warriors are overwhelming favorites to win it all. Going into the season, we rank Golden State as slightly more than 12 points better than an average team on a neutral court (hence their preseason predictive rating of 12.1). That’s more than six points better than the second-ranked Rockets (5.8 rating), and over 18 points better than the 30th ranked Bulls. … Put another way, the difference between the Warriors and the 2nd-best Rockets (6.3 points) is larger than the difference between the 2nd-best Rockets and the 17th-best Pelicans (5.4 points)
  • Underrated teams. While it’s not a true apples-to-apples situation, compared to “Vegas rankings” implied by recent NBA championship futures odds at a leading sportsbook, our NBA preseason rankings seem most optimistic on the Hornets (#12 TR vs. #20 Vegas), Magic (#23 vs. #29), and Clippers (#7 vs. #12).
  • Overrated teams. On the flip side, compared to “Vegas” our preseason rankings seem most pessimistic on the Lakers (#24 TR vs. #17 Vegas), Bucks (#13 vs. #8), and 76ers (#18 vs. #14).

 2017-18 NBA Preseason Rankings & Projections

TR RankTeamTR RatingWinsLossesPlayoffsDivision1 SeedNBA Champs
1Golden State12.168.113.9100.0%95.6%75.2%58.5%
3San Antonio5.554.427.692.7%43.2%7.4%6.3%
5Okla City4.050.931.185.7%42.0%3.5%3.1%
7LA Clippers3.148.433.679.1%4.2%1.9%1.9%
17New Orleans0.140.341.745.5%4.2%0.3%0.3%
24LA Lakers-3.830.551.512.0%0.0%0.0%0.0%
25New York-4.629.952.118.7%1.5%0.2%0.0%


  • Team ratings (“TR Rating”) are expressed as points better (a positive rating) or worse (a negative rating) than the average team in the NBA, when playing on a neutral court
  • “Playoffs” is odds to make the playoffs; “Division” is odds to win the division; “1 Seed” is odds to be the #1 seed in the conference; “NBA Champs” is odds to win the 2017-18 NBA title

3 Details About Our NBA Preseason Rankings

Before you make a comment about where we’ve ranked your favorite team and call us a bunch of no good bleepety-bleeps, please keep a couple things in mind:

  • We’re using a systematic approach to rank all 30 teams. Because our approach generalizes predictive factors, it’s going to get plenty of individual teams wrong, and a few of them very wrong, for many different reasons. The goal here is overall accuracy across the entire system of 30 teams, and to be right more than we are wrong when a projection of ours deviates the most from consensus opinion. If we wanted to maximize our odds of making the most accurate projection for only your specific favorite team, we’d likely take a very different approach.
  • Look at ratings, not just rankings. For example, this year only about three quarters of a point separates our preseason #6 team (Boston) from the #9 team (Minnesota). Those four teams are all close to being equal. Often times, the distinction between two or three closely ranked teams is essentially negligible from a ratings perspective, so it’s not even worth debating.
  • Making futures bets requires more information. Payout odds for futures bets make a huge impact on your expected returns. In short, hunting for value in current futures odds based on our projections is a more involved process than is covered in this post.