Monday, February 18, 2013

Who will make the Playoffs?

The All-Star weekend is a nice break in the middle of the regular season. Dunk contest, three-point contest, rising stars game and naturally the All Star game itself. A good break indeed from the intense regular season schedule.

But for me it offered a unique opportunity: no games for four consecutive nights! The perfect opportunity to run simulations. Many simulations.

A. Downpour. Of. Simulations.

You be the judge: the outcome of over 2 BILLION games were simulated.

I previously worked on some code to forecast the outcome of the rest of the season based on each team's latest performance, code which I have already used to look at the Lakers probability of making the Playoffs, and whether Dallas or LA (Lakers) had a better chance of making the Playoffs. But I was eagerly waiting for the All Star weekend to run the code for all days starting on December 1st 2012, in order to look at the trends and shifts in each team's probability of making the Playoffs, and each team's expected final standing.

Here are the results by conference.

Eastern Conference

Let's start by looking at the evolution of team standings:

And now for the evolution of the probability of making it to the Playoffs:

The last values as of February 15th 2013 give the following values:

Team Position Playoff Probability
MIA 1.196 100%
NYK 3.157 100%
BRK 4.455 99.8%
IND 4.076 99.8%
CHI 4.445 99.7%
ATL 4.942 99.6%
BOS 6.706 95.4%
MIL 7.230 91.4%
PHI 9.666 8.2%
TOR 10.195 4.2%
DET 10.588 1.8%
WAS 13.069 0.1%
CHA 14.470 0%
CLE 12.564 0%
ORL 13.241 0%

Although Philadelphia still has a glimmer of hope of making the Playoffs provided Milwaukee runs into a very bad stretch, the eastern teams making the Playoffs seem decided. The huge uncertainty however lies around positions 3-6 where all teams are extremely close. With the Brooklyn Nets facing Chicago and Indiana in the last two weeks of the regular season, the eastern final brackets will not be decided until the very end.

Western Conference

Similarly to what we did for the Eastern Conference, let's start by looking at the standings evolution:

And now for the "Playoff Probability" evolution:

The last values as of February 15th 2013 give the following values:

Team Position Playoff Probability
LAC 2.749 100%
OKC 2.371 100%
SAS 1.329 100%
DEN 4.899 99.9%
MEM 4.682 99.5%
GSW 5.824 97.5%
UTA 7.190 86.9%
HOU 7.550 80.7%
POR 9.752 14.8%
LAL 9.877 12.1%
DAL 10.376 8.1%
MIN 12.519 0.4%
NOH 12.870 0.1%
PHO 14.224 0%
SAC 13.788 0%

The story is a little different on the western front, where suspense is not around the center 3-6 positions and the final Playoff bracket but on the final eight spot. Houston has a good chance of keeping that spot which it currently holds, but Portland and Los Angeles (Lakers of course!) are on their heels from a safe-but-not-THAT-safe distance. Any slip and the two will pounce on the position!

I will provide updated probabilities as the season progresses!

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