2012 NBA Playoff Predictions | Our Champ May Surprise You

The NBA Playoff seeding was set last night, with the Chicago Bulls clinching home court advantage throughout the playoffs, even in a potential Bulls-Spurs series, and both Memphis and Atlanta securing a home playoff series in round one.

Today is the only day of rest, and the playoffs get underway Saturday afternoon with the Sixers taking on the Bulls in Chicago. That means it’s time to get our official 2012 NBA playoff predictions recorded here on the blog for posterity.

As we detailed in a post last week, we have an extensive NBA playoff projection section up on the site.

The heart of our playoff coverage is our 2012 NBA Playoff Odds page, which displays the latest series win odds for all current matchups, plus overall playoff round-by-round survival odds and overall championship odds. The series win odds update every morning, and the round-by-round odds update after each round is completed.

While that’s your best bet for a playoffs overview, the coolest new feature is our NBA Playoffs Matchup Predictor, which lets you choose any two playoff teams and get a series forecast as well as player matchup stats and a team rating & stat comparison. Here is Miami Heat vs. OKC Thunder as an example.

The predictions below are all taken from our playoff section. Be sure to check back as the playoffs progress for up to date odds and projections.

NBA Championship Odds

Here are our current 2012 NBA Playoff Odds, which show the chance for each NBA team to make it to each round of the playoffs. These are based on our NBA predictive power ratings. Using our ratings, we simulate the playoffs thousands of times, and the frequency a team advances to each round is recorded and shown here.

W1San Antonio87.6%71.1%49.4%33.0%
W2Okla City81.0%63.4%31.7%18.9%
W5LA Clippers49.2%12.3%4.5%1.6%
W3LA Lakers50.4%13.9%3.5%1.1%
E7New York23.7%10.0%2.6%0.5%

The championship odds show that there is only about a 1 in 8 chance that a team outside the big four takes home the title. The Spurs and Bulls are significant favorites, thanks in large part to their home court advantage in any matchups against the Thunder or Heat.

First Round Projections

Here are our current first round projections, in graphic form, taken directly from our 2012 NBA Playoff Projections page. Each chart lists the projected chances for each team to win the series, as well as the chance of winning in any particular number of games.

(click to enlarge)

The top two seeds in each conference are very solid favorites, with Miami having the toughest first round test at “only” 77% win odds. The #3 team in the East, Indiana, is about a 2-to-1 favorite over the Magic by our reckoning, and the remaining three series — Lakers-Nuggets, Celtics-Hawks, and Grizzlies-Clippers — are all essentially toss ups.

Those toss up series are so close that you’ll notice something interesting if you compare the overall series win odds to the chances of any particular outcome (like “Clippers in 6”) occurring. The most likely single outcome is actually the team without home court advantage winning in 6 games, even though the team with home court advantage is favored to win the series. That’s because IF the team without HCA wins, it’s very likely that they’ll do so by closing out the series at home in game 6. On the other hand, the team with HCA has a reasonable chance to close out the series at home in either game 5 or game 7.

Of course, these odds can swing wildly if a road underdog pulls off an upset in one of the first couple games of the series. Be sure to check our 2012 NBA Playoff Odds page for updates.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For the record, we’re going to be playing alongside the Truehoop’s Stat Geek Smackdown again this year. Last year, our unofficial picks would have finished third. Our picks for the first round this year are simply the projected winners of each series above, in the number of games which is most likely for that team. So, for example, we’ll take the Lakers in 7 over Denver, even though Nuggets in 6 is ever so slightly more likely. The higher series win odds for LA are more important than the higher specific length odds for Denver, given the scoring system of the Smackdown.]