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October 30, 2012
SCHOENE on 2012-13
Final Projections

by Kevin Pelton

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Since we published Pro Basketball Prospectus 2012-13, a handful of factors have significantly altered the team projections found in the book. Injuries to Kevin Love and Dirk Nowitzki changed the Western Conference playoff picture, which was irreparably rocked on Saturday night when the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Olympian James Harden to the Houston Rockets.

So SCHOENE's final projections, published here, mark a departure from what you'll find in the book in several places. Note also that, like the version of SCHOENE's projections that appeared in ESPN the Magazine's 2012-13 preview, these are the raw projections filtered through 1,000 simulations of the actual schedule for the upcoming season. At one point, that difference was enough to lift Denver ahead of Oklahoma City in the West. With the Harden trade, the Nuggets are now atop the conference by either method.

At the same time, a key part of the mindset that led Nate Silver of 538 fame to create the PECOTA projection system in baseball was the desire to emphasize the uncertainty inherent in trying to project 30 teams over six months. The same is true in basketball. So while Denver may lead the West rankings, our simulations show five different teams winning the Western Conference Finals at least 9.5 percent of the time. To give a better sense of the uncertainty, especially in the middle of the East pack, after going through the projections you'll find a table with each team's simulated chances of finishing in each spot in the playoffs, as well as the simulated chances of various draft picks entering the lottery.

For more on what goes into these forecasts, see our FAQ on SCHOENE.

EAST PLAYOFFS

Team            Win%    W     Play     Div    Conf     NBA      ORtg         DRtg
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Miami          .708   58.0   100.0    93.7    52.4    31.1   112.7 ( 3)   104.7 ( 1)
Atlanta        .599   49.1    97.0     6.3    14.3     4.7   110.4 (11)   107.0 ( 9)
Boston         .588   48.2    95.8    44.3     8.6     3.0   107.6 (20)   104.7 ( 2)
Chicago        .567   46.5    92.1    65.0     7.6     1.7   108.2 (16)   105.0 ( 3)
Philadelphia   .559   45.8    88.5    20.6     7.0     2.1   107.7 (19)   105.1 ( 4)
New York       .554   45.5    86.8    18.3     4.5     0.8   107.8 (18)   106.1 ( 6)
Brooklyn       .543   44.5    81.6    13.4     2.7     0.7   110.8 (10)   109.9 (21)
Indiana        .535   43.9    77.7    30.9     2.2     0.7   110.8 ( 9)   109.0 (14)

The projected gap between the Miami Heat and the second-place Atlanta Hawks is larger than the projected gap between the Hawks and the ninth-place Toronto Raptors, which should give a sense both of the Heat's likely dominance of the conference and the free-for-all for the rest of the playoff spots in the East. At the same time, Miami barely reaches the NBA Finals in half the simulations and wins the championship less than a third of the time. The Heat is our most likely projected champions, but the field is the winner before the season begins.

EAST LOTTERY

Team            Win%    W     Play     Div    Conf     NBA      ORtg         DRtg
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Toronto        .498   40.9    48.2     3.4     0.5     0.0   108.5 (15)   109.1 (16)
Milwaukee      .467   38.3    28.9     3.8     0.2     0.0   106.9 (24)   109.2 (17)
Cleveland      .392   32.1     2.7     0.3     0.0     0.0   107.9 (17)   112.5 (30)
Detroit        .377   30.9     0.6     0.0     0.0     0.0   105.3 (26)   111.1 (26)
Orlando        .336   27.6     0.1     0.0     0.0     0.0   104.2 (27)   110.5 (23)
Washington     .327   26.8     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0   103.3 (29)   109.5 (18)
Charlotte      .251   20.5     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0   102.1 (30)   111.3 (27)

The Raptors make the playoffs in nearly half of simulations, but the odds of avoiding the lottery drop quickly after 10th-place Milwaukee. Neither Washington nor Charlotte made it any of our runs, which is a significantly more depressing projection for Wizards fans than Bobcats fans.

WEST PLAYOFFS

Team            Win%    W     Play     Div    Conf     NBA      ORtg         DRtg
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Denver         .674   55.3    98.7    56.7    26.6    16.4   115.3 ( 1)   108.4 (13)
L.A. Lakers    .662   54.3    99.8    81.7    23.2    12.9   111.1 ( 8)   105.2 ( 5)
San Antonio    .648   53.2    99.8    89.1    17.0     8.8   111.7 ( 6)   106.4 ( 8)
Minnesota      .627   51.4    96.2    20.0     9.5     5.5   114.5 ( 2)   109.1 (15)
Oklahoma City  .623   51.1    97.4    21.6    10.4     4.5   111.9 ( 5)   107.2 (10)
L.A. Clippers  .599   49.2    96.2    18.3     6.0     2.4   112.6 ( 4)   108.3 (12)
Memphis        .552   45.2    81.1     9.7     1.3     0.4   109.1 (12)   108.2 (11)
Utah           .545   44.7    76.2     1.7     1.7     0.3   111.7 ( 7)   109.5 (19)

The Harden trade cost the Thunder about four projected wins this season. Add in the projected strength of the top of the Western Conference and that makes a huge difference to Oklahoma City's chances of winning the division, reaching the NBA Finals and even getting home-court advantage. The West is close enough that the differences between teams in terms of winning the conference and the championship largely reflect noise within 1,000 simulations rather than meaningful differences.

WEST LOTTERY

Team            Win%    W     Play     Div    Conf     NBA      ORtg         DRtg
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dallas         .500   41.0    42.0     1.0     0.3     0.0   107.5 (22)   106.3 ( 7)
New Orleans    .436   35.7     5.8     0.2     0.0     0.0   108.9 (13)   110.5 (24)
Sacramento     .389   31.9     1.0     0.0     0.0     0.0   108.9 (14)   112.3 (29)
Portland       .382   31.3     0.8     0.0     0.0     0.0   107.3 (23)   110.6 (25)
Houston        .361   29.6     0.5     0.0     0.0     0.0   104.1 (28)   109.8 (20)
Golden State   .357   29.2     0.4     0.0     0.0     0.0   107.6 (21)   111.7 (28)
Phoenix        .345   28.3     0.1     0.0     0.0     0.0   105.3 (25)   110.4 (22)

Conversely, the Harden trade improved the Rockets' projection by about eight wins, pushing Houston ahead of both Phoenix and Golden State. The reason the trade could be better for the Rockets than it is bad for the Thunder is that Houston figures to play Harden more minutes than he got in Oklahoma City. Besides the eight teams projected to make the playoffs, Dallas is the only other team SCHOENE sees as a legitimate contender, and even with Nowitzki sitting out at the start of the season the Mavericks still reach the postseason nearly half the time. Very West team made it in at least one run; I'd love to know more about that simulation where the Suns were a playoff team.

SEEDING

Team              1       2       3       4       5       6       7       8
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Miami           87.0     9.1     2.1     1.1     0.5     0.1     0.0     0.1
Atlanta          5.1    24.0    21.2     9.8    17.1    10.5     4.8     4.5
Boston           3.2    20.4    20.8     9.8    16.0    13.1     7.7     4.8
Chicago          2.0    13.3    14.2    37.6     5.6     6.1     7.4     5.9
Philadelphia     0.8    10.1    12.5     7.3    15.8    17.2    14.2    10.6
New York         0.9    10.1    11.2     4.7    16.3    16.9    14.9    11.8
Brooklyn         0.6     5.7     8.0     5.1    13.8    15.9    16.6    15.9
Indiana          0.3     6.0     6.7    19.8     7.6     8.5    13.7    15.1
Toronto          0.1     0.9     2.1     1.8     5.2     8.6    12.5    17.0
Milwaukee        0.0     0.4     1.2     2.7     1.8     3.0     7.5    12.3
Cleveland        0.0     0.0     0.0     0.3     0.2     0.1     0.6     1.5
Detroit          0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.1     0.5
Orlando          0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.1     0.0     0.0     0.0
Washington       0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0
Charlotte        0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0

Team              1       2       3       4       5       6       7       8
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Denver          33.0    22.2    16.9     7.4    11.0     5.0     2.1     1.1
L.A. Lakers     24.1    22.7    21.8    18.3     5.5     3.9     2.4     1.1
San Antonio     19.5    17.5    20.6    32.9     1.8     2.7     3.4     1.4
Minnesota        9.6    13.7    13.4    10.3    19.1    16.8     9.1     4.2
Oklahoma City    9.7    13.3    12.9    10.3    22.8    16.2     9.5     2.7
L.A. Clippers    3.6     7.1    10.0     9.8    18.1    24.0    14.0     9.6
Memphis          0.2     2.0     2.7     7.8     8.0    12.3    22.0    26.1
Utah             0.3     1.3     1.3     1.9     8.0    14.2    24.4    24.8
Dallas           0.0     0.2     0.4     1.1     1.9     4.4    11.4    22.6
New Orleans      0.0     0.0     0.0     0.2     0.1     0.2     1.3     4.0
Sacramento       0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.1     0.9
Portland         0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.2     0.6
Houston          0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.1     0.4
Golden State     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.4
Phoenix          0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0     0.1

PRE-LOTTERY POSITIONING

Team              1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9    10    11    12    13    14
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Charlotte       68.8  17.0   7.1   4.4   1.4   0.5   0.5   0.2   0.1   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0
Washington       9.8  19.6  16.7  13.3  10.0   9.5   7.8   5.4   3.8   1.7   1.6   0.7   0.1   0.0
Orlando          6.4  15.6  12.9  15.1  13.4  11.5   8.2   6.3   4.1   3.5   2.1   0.6   0.1   0.1
Phoenix          4.7  13.1  13.8  14.1  11.4   9.5  10.1   8.7   6.2   3.5   2.5   1.5   0.8   0.0
Golden State     3.3   9.5  11.4  13.0  11.8   9.9  10.4   8.6   7.3   6.2   4.1   2.6   1.3   0.2
Houston          2.9   7.8  12.0  10.7  11.1  11.1  10.4   8.4   9.4   6.6   5.1   2.3   1.3   0.4
Detroit          1.6   5.5   6.5   8.4  10.1  11.9  11.0  11.4  10.4   8.9   7.0   4.4   1.4   0.9
Portland         1.3   4.3   6.9   6.9   9.1  12.2   9.2  11.7  10.0  10.4   9.3   4.1   2.4   1.4
Sacramento       0.7   3.3   5.7   6.4   8.5   7.8  11.5  12.7  11.9  13.1   7.3   5.1   3.7   1.3
Cleveland        0.4   3.4   5.9   5.3   8.0   9.2  10.3  12.8  13.2  10.4   7.4   5.6   3.4   2.0
New Orleans      0.1   0.7   0.8   1.8   3.4   3.9   6.1   5.6  10.1  13.3  15.0  14.0  10.5   8.9
Milwaukee        0.0   0.2   0.3   0.4   0.9   1.9   2.6   3.6   6.2   7.2  11.3  15.5  13.2   7.8
Toronto          0.0   0.0   0.0   0.1   0.4   0.5   0.9   1.5   2.1   4.3   7.5   9.9  13.0  11.6
Dallas           0.0   0.0   0.0   0.1   0.5   0.4   0.5   1.9   2.9   4.1   7.5  11.0  11.5  17.6
Indiana          0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.1   0.0   0.3   0.6   2.0   3.0   3.9   6.4   6.0
Brooklyn         0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.3   0.1   0.3   1.4   1.9   3.6   5.7   5.1
Utah             0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.4   0.6   0.7   1.6   3.9   5.4  11.0
Memphis          0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.1   0.2   0.3   0.9   1.7   3.4   4.3   8.0
New York         0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.1   0.0   0.1   0.3   0.6   1.2   2.9   4.2   3.8
Philadelphia     0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.1   0.1   0.1   0.7   1.2   1.7   3.8   3.8
Chicago          0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.2   1.0   1.9   2.2   2.6
Boston           0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.1   0.4   2.1   1.6
Atlanta          0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.1   0.2   0.5   1.3   0.9
L.A. Clippers    0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.1   0.1   0.2   0.4   0.9   2.1
Oklahoma City    0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.1   0.1   0.0   0.4   0.9
Minnesota        0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.1   0.1   0.6   1.4
San Antonio      0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.2
L.A. Lakers      0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.2
Denver           0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.2
Miami            0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0

For a comprehensive preview of the 2012-13 season, check out Pro Basketball Prospectus 2011-12, now available in .PDF and paperback formats.

Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Kevin by clicking here or click here to see Kevin's other articles.

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