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ESPN projects Rockets for top record in West

ESPN has the Rockets as the one seed a month after FiveThirtyEight predicted the same.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN’s yearly NBA projections were released yesterday (ESPN Insider), in which they use their RPM (real plus-minus) model to predict the most likely outcome for the upcoming season, and the Houston Rockets are projected for the most wins in the Western Conference at 53.7 and are given a 99 percent chance of making the playoffs. Here’s what ESPN has to say about the Rockets:

Despite swapping Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook in a blockbuster deal, the Rockets still have a high degree of carryover from the team that won 53 games last season. I project more than 80% of their minutes to be played by returning players, the league’s fifth-highest mark. Add in Westbrook’s track record of playing more minutes than Paul and Houston looks likely to excel again during the regular season.

After the Rockets, the rest of the West playoff picture has the Denver Nuggets in second, with 53.3 projected wins, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers with 47.9, then the Los Angeles Clippers with 47.8, Utah Jazz with 46.8, Golden State Warriors with 46.4, Dallas Mavericks with 44, and Portland Trail Blazers with 40.2.

Notable standouts from the list are that the Clips look a little lower than some expect, while the Blazers are expected to plummet, and the Mavs are projected to make the postseason.

If you’re wondering exactly how they arrived at these predictions, ESPN’s model states:

Our RPM projections utilize the multiyear, predictive version of RPM as a starting point. They’re adjusted for typical player aging and -- new this season -- then regressed toward the player’s projected offensive rating and defensive rating from my SCHOENE projection system, based solely on box score stats. (For players without RPM projections, including rookies, the SCHOENE ratings are used instead.)

Games played are projected based on time missed over the previous three seasons. I then make a subjective guess at minutes distributions for each team. Multiplying those minutes by players’ offensive and defensive ratings yields team ratings that translate into expected wins. I used those projections to simulate the season 1,000 times and record the average number of wins as well as how often each team made the playoffs.

The projected Eastern Conference top eight goes: Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic, Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Brooklyn Nets.

It’s interesting now that two separate methodologies have forecasted that the Rockets would finish first in the West. Back in July, FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO projections had the Rockets finishing with 58 wins and at the top of the Western Conference as well.


Which Rockets projection is most accurate?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    ESPN (53.7 wins)
    (105 votes)
  • 60%
    FiveThirtyEight (58 wins)
    (333 votes)
  • 21%
    All that matters is both sources have Luka in the playoffs
    (117 votes)
555 votes total Vote Now