How the New NBA Schedule Affects Each Playoff Race


The NBA continues to plan a reboot on July 30, most recently releasing a schedule of eight “league games” for each team expected to make it to Orlando. Using the new schedule and taking into account the announced absences of LaMarcus Aldridge, Davis Bertans, Bojan Bogdanovic and others, we have simulated an eight-game streak for each team in Orlando, as well as possible matches, 2500 times to determine where the 22 teams making the trip are usually likely to end.

These odds are not necessarily the final odds that the teams will hold for the eight games, not least because the lists themselves are not finalized: more players can opt out before Wednesday – the new deadline for doing so, for ESPN—And others may suffer from injury or illness before or after the July 30 start date. Florida continues to break records for positive COVID-19 tests, and the wisdom of returning from the league remains unclear. But if the NBA is able to come back and play, here are the current odds for each team to finish at various points inside and outside the playoffs.

Western games contenders

Teams: Memphis, Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio, Phoenix

This table summarizes the ratings of the different finishing possibilities of each team. Two notes: First, the 9-seed column only counts the times when the team was close enough to force a round, and second, the strength of the calendar ranking goes from the most difficult to the easiest (so the Pelicans , at n ° 22). , have the simplest schedule of any team in Orlando). The Qualifying column for the playoffs also includes the results of the simulated play-in games if not. 8 and no. 9 seeds are close enough to justify them.

Western games contenders

Team Calendar strength 8 seeds 9 seeds with Play-in Playoff qualification
Team Calendar strength 8 seeds 9 seeds with Play-in Playoff qualification
Grizzlies 7 87% 11% 71%
Trail Blazers 3 2% 14% 5%
Pelicans 22 8% 34% 14%
kings 19 3% 20% 7%
Spurs 18 1% 11% 3%
Suns 6 0% 1% 0.2%

Grizzlies fans can complain that their team has to compete for the no. 8 seeds at all. But Memphis still has plenty of reason to be optimistic. With their 3.5 game lead entering the game in Orlando, the Grizzlies are clearly favored to finish in the no. 8 place, and about 10 percent of the time, they finish more than four games without the no. 9 seeds, avoiding a play-in match.

The other 90 percent of the time, the West hosts a game round, in which the no. The seed 8 has a distinct advantage because it only needs to win a single match to advance against the no. 9 seeds of two. If Memphis is the obvious candidate for the no. 8 seeds, no. 9 is more like a free for everyone: Pelicans, Kings, Trail Blazers and Spurs all carry realistic hopes. (Poor Phoenix, with four teams to jump in the standings and a difficult schedule in the meantime, has only a fractional chance to advance.)

New Orleans leads the way because the Pelicans have both the highest ranked team in the peloton with advanced stats and by far the simplest schedule. After opening the eight-game streak against the Jazz and Clippers, New Orleans ends with six straight games against teams under 0.500.

The Kings aren’t outdone, however, with a manageable schedule and the same record as New Orleans. Portland sits in percentage points ahead of these two clubs, but the Blazers’ calendar is brutally tough, with the Celtics, Rockets, Nuggets, Clippers, 76ers and Mavericks all in one. Even with the fat men Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins returning to give Portland a boost, this slate could be too difficult to overcome. And finally, the Spurs can’t complain too much about their opponents, with games against the Kings, Grizzlies and Pelicans to catch up, but the absence of Aldridge hurts a team that already has a lower statistical CV to that of some of its competitors.

Dallas, currently seven games from Memphis, could also fall back on the technical side. 8. However, this is extremely unlikely, given both this gap and the talent of the Mavericks, and it did not happen once in our simulations. More on Dallas later.

The contenders for Eastern play-ins

Teams: Brooklyn, Orlando, Washington

The contenders for Eastern play-ins

Team Calendar strength 7 seeds 8 seeds 9 seeds with Play-in Playoff qualification
Team Calendar strength 7 seeds 8 seeds 9 seeds with Play-in Playoff qualification
Nets 17 56% 44% 0% 99%
Magic 16 44% 56% 0% 99%
Assistants 9 0% 0% 12% 2%

The oriental game scenario is much less gnarly than the western version. In the next eight games, Washington must win at least two more games than Brooklyn or Orlando to force a play-in match.

However, because the Wizards rank among the worst of the 22 teams by a fairly wide margin, they will not be favored in a single game, and will therefore find it difficult to close this gap. It doesn’t help that they have the toughest schedule in this group of three teams, or that Bertans withdraws from the rest of the season. On average, Washington has won only 2.1 games in simulations, the lowest total for any team, and the only way to force a game while going from 2 to 6 is if the Nets or Magic go from 0 to 8.

It is much more likely that East will go without a round: Washington only has a 12% chance of closing in all four games. 8 seeds. Technically, assistants could also pass the no. 7 or 8 spots, but none of the scenarios took place in a single simulation.

Brooklyn and Orlando are also fighting for the no. 7 seeded – this is important to avoid both the potential game against the Wizards and the Bucks in the first round. (Last year, Milwaukee rolled the No. 8 East seed Pistons with an almost record margin.) The Nets have a half-game advantage in the standings, so they have a chance slightly better to catch the no. 7th place, but the teams are close enough that it is almost a draw.

The rest of the West

Teams: Los Angeles x 2, Denver, Utah, Oklahoma City, Houston, Dallas

The rest of the West

Team Calendar strength 1 seed 2 seeds 3 seeds 4 seeds 5 seeds 6 seeds 7 seeds
Team Calendar strength 1 seed 2 seeds 3 seeds 4 seeds 5 seeds 6 seeds 7 seeds
Lakers 4 99.8% 0.2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Clippers 13 0.2% 88% ten% 2% 0.3% 0% 0%
Nuggets 5 0% ten% 56% 21% 9% 3% 1%
Jazz 15 0% 1% 20% 33% 22% 15% 8%
Thunder 12 0% 1% 7% 17% 26% 29% 21%
Rockets 8 0% 0.2% 6% 18% 27% 26% 22%
Mavericks 11 0% 0% 1% 9% 16% 27% 47%

Let’s start at the bottom of this group. I’ve written several times to praise these mavericks, whose true black horses start with their elite point differential. The two Los Angeles teams are the only Western teams to outperform the Dallas regular season.

So even if the Mavericks go into the eight game streak in seventh in the West, they are actually a little more likely to go up than to go without. 7. Such a move would be crucial, possibly allowing Dallas to avoid the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs. But much remains outstanding for the Mavericks, who have a wide range of potential results that put them between the third and the seventh in our simulations.

This perception in the air is true for the entire conference community; this disorder of the classification, where 2.5 games separate the third from the sixth seed, is highly confused. The Nuggets, Jazz, Thunder and Rockets landed from second seventh in the ranking. It’s hard to make sense of this group, because in addition to being so closely grouped, teams seem to combine good news with bad news.

Denver, for example, has at least 1.5 games on each non-L.A. team. Good news! But the Nuggets have the toughest schedule in the whole group (and while that doesn’t affect their calculated playoff odds, star Nikola Jokic has already tested positive for coronavirus). Bad news! Or look at Utah, which has the simplest schedule in the group. Good news! Except that Bogdanovic is away for the rest of the season, which might not hurt the Jazz as much as people think – they have natural options to replace his score – but still comes at a cost. Bad news!

Continue to climb the Western rankings and the drama becomes less convincing. Less than 1% of the time in our simulations, the Clippers caught the Lakers for the first seed. Clips are most likely to stay in second place, but with only a 1.5 game advantage over the Nuggets, there is a chance that they will fall. Oh, the irony of the Mavericks if they make their way to the no. 6 seeds and still have to face the Clippers.

Finally, with a 5.5 game lead and only eight games left, the Lakers should reach the seed and a first round opponent much easier than any other team in the West, given the depth of the conference. from 1 to 7.

The rest of the East

Teams: Milwaukee, Toronto, Boston, Miami, Indiana, Philadelphia

The rest of the East

Team Calendar strength 1 seed 2 seeds 3 seeds 4 seeds 5 seeds 6 seeds
Team Calendar strength 1 seed 2 seeds 3 seeds 4 seeds 5 seeds 6 seeds
Bucks ten 100% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Raptors 2 0% 87% 13% 0% 0% 0%
Celtics 20 0% 13% 83% 3% 0.1% 0%
Heat 1 0% 0% 3% 59% 26% 12%
Pacers 14 0% 0% 0.1% 16% 31% 52%
76ers 21 0% 0% 0.3% 21% 43% 35%

The top six teams in the East are essentially contested in two triads. In section 4-5-6 of the installment, the Heat are strongly favored to stay in the match 4-5. (Exact order doesn’t matter in particular, as the 4-5 series has no home considerations this year.) Although the Heat have the most difficult opponent list of the 22 teams ‘Orlando, their two game advantage over the Pacers and 76ers is enough to keep them afloat most of the time.

Of these three teams, the Pacers are the most likely to be resigned to the no. 6 seeded, largely due to the 76ers calendar, which is the easiest in the league except the Pelicans.

In the top three, the Bucks have yet to win the best seeded seed in the East, just 6.5 games away from the Raptors in second place. But for all practical purposes, no. 1 seed is Milwaukee: the Bucks held up in each simulation, due to both their high base performance – they won an average of six games in the simulations, the best for any team – and the imposing calendar of Raptors.

The Celtics could take advantage of this last factor in the fight for no. 2 seeds, which would give them a much easier enemy in the first round: Brooklyn or Orlando instead of Indiana, Philadelphia or Miami. Boston trails Toronto by three games, a significant gap with so few players to play, but the Celtics’ easy schedule gives them a real chance to catch Toronto. They’re actually half a game closer to the Miami standings than Toronto, and this brings with them significant disadvantages: if they fall in the 4-5 game, they would be forced to play for the Bucks. The timing, however, should help them avoid such concerns – and make it more likely that they will look ahead in the standings rather than watching over their shoulders.


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