Which teams should the 'Odds' favor?
5-on-5 Roundtable: Debating noteworthy findings in Hollinger's '11-12 Playoff Odds
The NBA season is only a month old, but the postseason picture is already beginning to take shape. (Yep, already.)
John Hollinger's Playoff Odds predict the most likely outcomes based solely on the numbers. Now our non-automated panelists weigh in on the early predictions.
1. Fact or Fiction: The Bulls are the current title favorites.According to the Playoff Odds, the Bulls have the best chance to win the NBA title (27.8%).
Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: Fiction, but only because they're likely to draw a tougher conference finals matchup in the Miami Heat than the presumptive favorite in the West, Oklahoma City, will have.
Hayes Davenport, Celtics Hub: Fiction. If the top four teams in Hollinger's Power Rankings are in the East, doesn't that hurt Chicago's chances of even getting to the Finals? The Bulls are currently projected to face the league's fourth-best team in the second round. Feels like the odds favor the Thunder, just because their path to the NBA Finals is a lot clearer.
Graydon Gordian, 48 Minutes of Hell: Fiction. Until the Bulls beat Miami in a playoff series, the Heat are my pick to come out of the East and win it all. The Bulls have improved this season, but Dwyane Wade's injury has masked the fact that Miami has as well. If both teams are 100 percent come playoff time, Miami is my title favorite.
Kyle Weidie, Truth About It: Fiction. But just because Chicago isn't the favorite doesn't mean I wouldn't bet on it. I wouldn't take any pleasure putting money on the real favorites, the Miami Heat (if I were a betting person).
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: Fiction. It's a bit too early to start altering season predictions and I felt pretty good about picking the Heat. So just because the Bulls have sort of steamrolled to the league's best record and the Heat have limped around a bit because of injuries to Wade and LeBron James doesn't mean Miami has been knocked down as the title favorite.
2. More likely to win the West: The Thunder or the field.Oklahoma City has at a 25.2% chance of winning the West, according to the Playoff Odds.
Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: My pick is the Thunder, but in a straight-up bet, I'll take the field. There are enough menacing foes and plenty of room for randomness in a season less predictable than a round of Plinko.
Hayes Davenport, Celtics Hub: The Thunder. It definitely feels stupid not to bet the field. But looking down the conference, OKC is the only team with depth, a legitimate star in Kevin Durant, and minimal potential for their season to be torpedoed by injury. Who's passing them with fewer than 50 games to go? Keep in mind they don't have to play the Wizards again.
Graydon Gordian, 48 Minutes of Hell: The Thunder. The West is still the deeper conference, and like last year it feels as if eight or even nine teams in the West are equally good. But unlike last year, those teams aren't in spots 1 through 8. They're 2 through 9. Oklahoma City is and will remain firmly ahead of the pack.
Kyle Weidie, Truth About It: The Thunder. They have the highest combination of playoff experience and stability. A significant injury could be around the corner for any team, young or old, but a bet on OKC comes with less risk than one on any other team in the West.
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: The Thunder. Who is there to really challenge them? What team do you feel confident in that could beat Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden in a seven-game series? The Nuggets? Grizzlies? Clippers, Lakers, Spurs? They don't seem to be getting the same respect as the Bulls or Heat, but the Thunder have proven that they're the best in the West and it's not all that close right now.
3. Fact or Fiction: The Celtics will make the playoffs.Boston has a 59.5% chance, according to the Playoff Odds, seventh-highest in the East.
Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: Fact. In this Eastern Conference? The Celtics could run the ghost of Greg Kite out on the parquet in the frontcourt and still secure a spot.
Hayes Davenport, Celtics Hub: Fact. With their current roster, anyway. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are gradually playing off the rust, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen are coming back from injury, and Doc Rivers won't be forced to start Sasha Pavlovic forever. Somehow they'd make the playoffs if the season ended today, and the signs point toward improvement. Of course, much of the current roster might not be around much longer.
Graydon Gordian, 48 Minutes of Hell: Fact. Rather than being a top-three seed in the first round, Boston will be facing one, but they'll still make the playoffs. Look at teams 9 through 16 in the East -- Cleveland and Milwaukee are currently 9 and 10 -- and tell me which one you honestly think will end the season with a better record than Boston?
Kyle Weidie, Truth About It: Fiction. Danny Ainge should appreciate the one championship that fell into his lap and start calling a green clover a spade. Boston is going nowhere. Start the rebuild now.
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: Fact. As usual, the East is a mess at the bottom. A sub-.500 team will likely make it as a the No. 7 or 8-seed. I don't think one of those teams will be the Celtics, who will likely get healthy and put together a strong February or March and solidify a spot in the playoffs.
4. Fact or Fiction: The Knicks will make the playoffs.New York has a 41.2% chance, according to the Playoff Odds, ninth-best in the East.
Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: Fact, but that's a greater statement on the bottom of the East than it is about my faith in the Knicks. They've been a disappointment, and I don't sense they'll make a full 180-degree turn ... but maybe 125.
Hayes Davenport, Celtics Hub: Fact. They'd make it if the season ended today, but their playoff potential is more a testament to the scorched earth at the bottom of the East than to their own strength. If the choice is between New York, Cleveland or Milwaukee, I'd pick New York, which also has the best chance of adding a valuable piece by the trade deadline.
Graydon Gordian, 48 Minutes of Hell: Fact. The Knicks are a mess, and there's no doubt in my mind they'll get bounced in the first round. But for the same reasons the Celtics will make the playoffs -- in other words, the genuine lack of playoff-caliber teams in the East -- the Knicks will make the postseason as well.
Kyle Weidie, Truth About It: Fact. The Knicks have issues, but I have a feeling that something will come together eventually ... a trade, a coaching change, ectoplasm left over from 1984's "Ghostbusters" channeling to sway the chances of Baron Davis and his bad back making a difference. You know, normal stuff.
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: Fact. But that's not said with a lot of confidence, because a lot hinges on the productivity of Baron Davis. That's a terrifying thought. The Knicks have exchanged one problem (defense) for a new one (offense) this season, but they have too much talent to not finish in the top eight of the East. They might be one of those sub-.500 teams that slip into the playoffs.
5. More likely to miss the playoffs: The Clippers or Lakers?Odds' take: Clippers have a 6.1.6% chance to make the playoffs (10th in West); Lakers a 72.2% chance (seventh).
Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: Neither, but forced to choose, I'll say the Clippers -- but only for this reason: Chris Paul is less durable than any of the Lakers stars. Kobe Bryant can apparently play through a coma and if the Clippers were to lose Paul for any significant period of time, they'd be in serious trouble.
Hayes Davenport, Celtics Hub: The Lakers. Their fans are currently paying hundreds of dollars for mediocre seats to watch Steve Blake, Jason Kapono, Metta World Peace, Troy Murphy and Andrew Bynum all play basketball at the same time. That's the third most-used Laker unit this season, even though Blake has missed the past six games. Depth is an issue.
Graydon Gordian, 48 Minutes of Hell: The Clippers. The Lakers are struggling mightily at the offensive end, but their defense has been terrific, despite the fact that they've played one of the toughest schedules of any team so far. The Clippers, meanwhile, have a mediocre defense, and while the Lakers' offensive woes can be solved, I'm not sure the Clippers' defensive struggles can be this season.
Kyle Weidie, Truth About It: The Clippers. Not because I don't think they have it, but because the Kobe System might go the way of Skynet if Bryant doesn't make the playoffs, so he's going to make sure his Lakers are there.
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: I want to say neither, but that's not the question. If either were going to miss the postseason, I think it's got to be the Lakers. Simply because one injury could destroy them. There's not much depth on that team and for an older group that's already stretched a bit thin, the Lakers don't have much room for error.