NBA Playoff Predictions

Brody Sodon, Staff Writer

I will be completely honest: I know almost nothing about basketball. Likewise, the general population knows almost nothing about basketball. That does not mean, however, that I cannot write a captivating article about the National Basketball Association (NBA) with surprisingly accurate results. For example, by just week four of the 2019 NFL season, I was able to accurately predict that the San Francisco 49ers would lose the Super Bowl to a team that had not yet hit their stride, and of course, that team would go on to be the Kansas City Chiefs. Therefore, using the powers of statistical analysis I will provide the most unbiased prediction in NBA playoff history.

Topping off the Eastern Conference is the 17-7 Philadelphia 76ers, with the next teams being Milwaukee at 15-8, Brooklyn at 14-11, Boston at 12-10, and Indiana rounding out the top five with a .500 record at 12-12. While the 76ers have the lead over the Bucks in the conference, the Bucks are the hottest team with a four-game winning streak, and just as importantly the Bucks currently hold a clean sweep over their divisional opponents at 8-0, which looks very good for them come playoff time. No other teams in the conference possess a winning streak of more than one game except the Charlotte Hornets with a two-game winning streak and the Miami Heat who also have a two-game winning streak. The Eastern Division is very bottom-loaded, with 11 of 15 teams holding a record of .500 or less.

The Western Conference is a very different story. The top team in the Western Division is the Utah Jazz boasting a 19-5 record, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers at 18-6, the Los Angeles Clippers at 17-8, the Phoenix Suns at 13-9, and the San Antonio Spurs at 13-10. Unlike the Eastern Conference, the Western conference has several hot teams right now with multiple game-winning streaks: those teams being the Jazz, the Lakers, and Kings with four-game winning streaks, the Pelicans with a three-game winning streak, and the Suns and Spurs have each won their last two contests. While the Eastern Conference has 11 teams at or under .500, the Western conference boasts an insane ten teams with a record of .500 or better.

Diving further into the numbers, it becomes increasingly clear the advantages that the Western Conference teams hold over the Eastern Conference teams. For example, the first place Bucks from the East would only be the fourth-best team in the Western Conference. Collectively, the Eastern Conference has won 161 games while losing 190 games, giving them a win percentage of just .459. The Western Conference has fared much better, winning 184 games while losing 156, for a combined record of .541. Note that the Eastern conference has played a total of 351 games though, compared to the Western Conference’s 340 games played at the time of writing this article. 

Now, for some way too early unbiased predictions. I will start with the Eastern conference as I feel much more confident deciding between these teams. Typically, after about a quarter of the way through the season teams with winning records will continue to have a winning record, and teams with losing records will continue to lose. Because the Bucks both have a winning record and are tied for the longest winning streak in the NBA, they are my favorites from the Eastern to go to Conference Finals. Because the Western division is so much more stacked, the Jazz seems to be the obvious favorites because they also hold one of the longest winning streaks in the league, while also boasting a 10-3 conference record, the best in the league. Despite that, I firmly believe that the Spurs can be a dark horse candidate as they do not have as good of a record as Utah but they do have more conference wins, which is important as the Western Conference is significantly stronger than the Eastern Conference.

That being said my pick to win the NBA Finals has to go to the Bucks, as their wins against teams in an easier conference will have them more energetic going deep into the playoffs, and although they might not be the better team their energy advantage could make all the difference.

*This article reflects stats as of Feb. 8th, 2021.

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