NBA Playoffs Primer

With the end of the NBA regular season and the start of the NBA playoffs, here’s a short post on some statistics about the teams who won the NBA Finals.

  • From 1950 to 2016, the Eastern Conference has won the NBA Finals 56% of the time.
  • #1 seeds have won 71.2% of the NBA Finals since 1950. #2 seeds have won 16.7% of the NBA Finals and #3 seeds have won 9.1% of the NBA Finals.
  • The Boston Celtics in 1969 are the only team to win the NBA Finals as the #4 seed.
  • The only team to win the NBA Finals seeded 5th or lower was the Houston Rockets in 1995. The Rockets, the defending champs, were the 6th seed in the West that year.
  • 62% of teams who have made the NBA Finals were the #1 seed in their respective conference.
  • The last team to make the NBA Finals seeded 5th or worse was the New York Knicks in 1999 as the 8th seed in the East. Due to a KG-induced lockout, the 1999 season did not start until February 5, 1999 and consisted of only 50 regular season games. The Knicks went 27-23 during the 1999 regular season and finished six games behind the Miami Heat, the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
  • Winning consecutive championships is actually fairly common in the NBA. In the last 66 years, a team has successfully defended its title 22 times, or 1/3 of the time.

What is the point of mentioning these fun facts? Knowing nothing about how the actual games will play out, they help to inform our Bayesian priors. For instance, it’s most likely that one of the #1 seeds, the Golden State Warriors or the Boston Celtics, will win the NBA Finals. Warriors vs. Celtics is also the most likely NBA Finals matchup.

If you were excited that your team scraped by to make the playoffs and think your team has an equal shot to win the NBA Finals as the Celtics or Warriors, then I’m sorry to burst your bubble. The likelihood of them making the Finals is not high so keep your expectations low. However, one team this year could be the 1999 New York Knicks so it’s possible that any team can win. Now it’s time to watch some fun games!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.