The NBA regular season starts tomorrow! But it’s not tomorrow yet, which means we’re still in NBA preseason rankings season.
The beautiful minds at FiveThirtyEight are the latest to join the wave, and as is typical with FiveThirtyEight, their rankings are less subjective and more data-based.
Rather than explain their methodology, I’ll jump right to the important part:
FiveThirtyEight ranks the Toronto Raptors as the likely Eastern Conference champions, with the best chance at the best record in the East, and the second-best chance of any team to make the NBA Finals.
Thus they also have the second-best chance to win the title, behind only the Golden State Warriors.
Our NBA predictions are ready! Which is a probably a good thing, since the season starts tomorrow. According to #Analytics, the Warriors are good. https://t.co/AOrx3xBIJi pic.twitter.com/JWr3tzGsYy— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) October 15, 2018
Listen, people, these numbers and rankings may not ultimately mean much, but you can rest assured the Toronto Raptors have never, ever ranked as the second-most likely team to win the NBA title, ever, so stop reading this, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and just... enjoy this feeling.
. . .
Feels pretty damn good, right?
FiveThirtyEight has the Raptors finishing at 56-26 (hey, that’s the record I predicted a month ago!), and their closest Eastern Conference competitor, the Boston Celtics, finishing a couple games behind at 54-28.
They’ve also pegged the Raptors’ point differential at +6.0, which is down from last year’s actual differential of +7.8. That +7.8 was a pretty damn high number, so drop-off isn’t entirely surprising. And yet, this team did add two plus-defenders who are also excellent three-point shooters (and subtracted a minus defender who isn’t a three-point shooter) so couldn’t that number actually go in the other direction?
Well, far be it from me to argue with FiveThirtyEight. Check out this post for the complete ranking, and hit this one for a more detailed breakdown by conference as well as their methodology. And then pause, once again, and just look at the rankings.
Second-best chance to win the NBA title. I never thought I’d live to see the day, man.