NBA Preseason Rankings For The 2018-19 Season

NBA Preseason Rankings For The 2018-19 Season

With the NBA season kicking off Tuesday, here is our annual post outlining our 2018-19 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 2018-19 games on our signup page.

NBA Preseason Rankings Highlights

  • Better Competition For Golden State. Last preseason, we projected the Warriors well ahead of the pack in the preseason. However, during the season the Rockets showed they can compete on near equal footing with the Dubs. Over in the East, Boston performed well, and should be healthier. And the Raptors added one of the best players in the NBA (if healthy and motivated) in Kawhi Leonard. Even the Jazz and Sixers were young, good teams that have the potential to make a leap this season. The Warriors are still clearly the best, but the gap has narrowed some.
  • LeBron Makes The Lakers A Top Ten Team. LeBron James’s move to LA doesn’t exactly put him on a loaded roster. However, there is some young talent with upside, and any team with LeBron has a chance to win every time they go on the court.
  • Underrated teams. While it’s not a true apples-to-apples situation, we can compare to “Vegas rankings” implied by recent NBA championship futures odds on 5 Dimes sportsbook to our NBA preseason rankings. We seem most optimistic on the Nuggets (#7 TR vs. #14 Vegas), Nets (#23 vs. #28), Jazz (#5 vs. #8) and Grizzlies (#22 vs. #25).
  • Overrated teams. On the flip side, compared to “Vegas” our preseason rankings seem most pessimistic on the Knicks (#28 TR vs. #20 Vegas), Lakers (#9 vs. #4), Bulls (#27 vs. #24) and Spurs (#14 vs. #11).

 2018-19 NBA Preseason Rankings & Projections

TR RankTeamTR RatingWinsLossesPlayoffsNBA Champs
1Golden State8.060.521.598.4%27.1%
8Okla City2.446.935.171.7%2.4%
9LA Lakers1.945.336.766.5%1.8%
12New Orleans1.845.037.065.8%1.7%
14San Antonio1.143.438.658.8%1.1%
19LA Clippers-1.836.046.026.5%0.1%
28New York-5.826.755.310.3%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 2018-19 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 a tenth of a point separates our preseason #9 team (LA Lakers) from the #12 team (New Orleans). The distinction between them is essentially negligible from a ratings perspective, so it’s not even worth debating which is #9 and which is #12.
  • 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. In addition, we should note that our projections do not currently account for the “shortened roster” effect seen in the NBA playoffs. This is where a team loaded with stars, like Golden State, plays those stars more minutes in the playoffs, and so outperforms their regular season rating. So playoff advancement odds, in particular should not simply be bet at face value.