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FiveThirtyEight projects Rockets fourth in Western Conference

Now we’re cookin’ with gas, baby.

NBA: Preseason-San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Now that’s more like it. Less than a week after ESPN released their season predictions that had our Houston Rockets languishing in 11th place in the Western Conference, FiveThirtyEight released their more analytical approach to the same exercise, and they have the Rockets finishing fourth overall in the Western Conference with a final record of 43-29.

Now this is a prediction I can get behind, as I also picked the Rockets to finish fourth in the West in the SB Nation NBA season preview that was also released earlier this week.

Sounds like ESPN basically uses the opinions of it’s “experts”, while FiveThirtyEight utilizes a statistical model based on their proprietary player RAPTOR rankings and team ELO ratings. Here’s the full explanation:

These forecasts are based on 100,000 simulations of the rest of the season. Our player-based RAPTOR forecast doesn’t account for wins and losses; it is based entirely on our NBA player projections, which estimate each player’s future performance based on the trajectory of similar NBA players. These are combined with up-to-date depth charts — tracking injuries, trades and other player transactions — to generate talent estimates for each team. A team’s full-strength rating assumes all of its key players are in the lineup. A team’s current rating reflects any injuries and rest days in effect at the moment of the team’s next game. Elo ratings — which power the pure Elo forecast — are a measure of team strength based on head-to-head results, margin of victory and quality of opponent.

So there’s some real statistical analysis behind these projections, not just the opinion of some talking head with an agenda (ESPN) or some writing hand with a pro-Rockets bias (me).

Anyway, here are the full Western Conference Projections courtesy of FiveThirtyEight, along with each team’s corresponding ELO score in parantheses.

  1. Los Angeles Lakers 48-24 (1658)
  2. Los Angeles Clippers 45-27 (1637)
  3. Denver Nuggets 45-27 (1613)
  4. Houston Rockets 43-29 (1595)
  5. Phoenix Suns 42-30 (1604)
  6. Dallas Mavericks 42-30 (1584)
  7. Utah Jazz 41-31 (1585)
  8. Portland Trail Blazers 40-32 (1561)
  9. New Orleans Pelicans 36-36 (1552)
  10. Minnesota Timberwolves 35-37 (1521)
  11. San Antonio Spurs 35-37 (1524)
  12. Memphis Grizzlies 34-38 (1518)
  13. Sacramento Kings 31-41 (1503)
  14. Golden State Warriors 31-41 (1483)
  15. Oklahoma City Thunder 27-45 (1466)