Stats Insider NBA 20/21 Championship Rankings
The Stats Insider Futures Model has crunched the numbers to give us every team's championship percentages at roughly the season's two-month mark.
Despite sleepwalking through games and now losing Anthony Davis to injury, the Los Angeles Lakers remain the team to beat. The LA Clippers and Utah Jazz are hot on their heels in the Western Conference, though.
In the East, the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks lead the way, but the futures model just can't shake its love for the Boston Celtics.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
NBA Championship Win: 24.6%
The Los Angeles Lakers are still in cruise control but may need to start to touch the gas just a little bit.
Anthony Davis has reaggravated his Achilles and will be out 3-4 weeks.
The Lakers can largely make-do without Davis. LeBron James is among the favourites for MVPand is playing at an incredible level. Father Time isn't touching James' 25.5 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists and 56.7 eFG any time soon.
2. Brooklyn Nets
NBA Championship Win: 14.6%
The Brooklyn Nets remain at 2nd in the Championship Standings but their 18.4% shortly after the James Harden tradehas dropped to 14.6%.
Defence was mentioned as an issue for the Nets early on, and it's getting worse. At 13th conceding 109.5 points per 100 possessions a month ago, Brooklyn now ranks 23rd in the NBA at 114.2 per Cleaning The Glass.
While lethal on the offensive end (3rd - 119.5), no team ranking in the bottom ten in the league defensively is winning the championship this season. We need to see a significant improvement in this area before Brooklyn's championship win percentage begins to rise again.
3. LA Clippers
NBA Championship Win: 11.6%
The LA Clippers have jumped from 4th to 3rd in the last month, increasing their chances by 1.5% in the process.
Just half a game back of the Lakers and winners of four games on the bounce, the Clippers are keeping pace at the top of the standings while Paul George and Kawhi Leonard work through injury issues.
They have the best offence in the NBA and a defence sitting inside the Top 10. The Clippers are a better team this year than last. The biggest difference, though? They're not telling everybody about it.
This group is locked in and coming for their Staples Center flatmates.
4. Milwaukee Bucks
NBA Championship Win: 11.1%
A three-game losing streak has seen the Milwaukee Bucks lose 0.3% and drop to 4th in the Championship Standings. But it isn't panic stations. By taking a step back and looking at their performances over the last month, they're among the top teams in the NBA in net rating. It's unlikely that this losing streak is anything more than a blip on an otherwise championship-contending season.
5. Boston Celtics
The Stats Insider Futures Model refuses to disembark the Boston Celtics bandwagon despite the storied franchise's 13-13 record. As if playing .500 basketball doesn't look bad enough, that record wouldn't even have them in the playoff picture in the Western Conference.
They've won just one of their last five games while their depth has been exposed despite multiple opportunities to draft productive rotation players in recent years.
But Kemba Walker is getting better. His importance to the Celtics and their championship chances is clear. Now, after a slow start to the season following an injury, Walker has dropped 20+ points in back-to-back games while shooting a combined 9-15 from beyond the arc.
The Celtics don't look very good right now, but there is still hope.
6. Philadelphia 76ers
The process is starting to play out as planned. Joel Embiid is playing at an MVP level averaging 29.6 points and 10.8 rebounds while shooting 54.3% from the field and 40% on three attempts per game from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Ben Simmonsjust dropped 42 points in a game Embiid missed - albeit a loss.
A top the Eastern Conference with an 18-10 record, it's worth noting Philly's schedule to date. According to Basketball-Reference, the 76ers have played the sixth easiest schedule of the season to date. They've won just one of their six games against playoff teams in the West. Their three-game losing streak (POR, PHO, UTA) accounts for three of them.
The 76ers are good, but maybe not 18-10 for the top seed in the East good.
ALSO READ: The Philadelphia 76ers Are A Legitimate Championship Threat
7. Utah Jazz
Unlike the 76ers, the Utah Jazz occupy the #1 seed in the West and look like a team that should be there. They've won eight in a row and 19 of their last 20, and now, have a real chance at creating some breathing room between themselves and the two LA franchises chasing them to the top.
With Davis out for the Lakers and George and Leonard missing time for the Clippers, the Jazz can add to their current two-game lead in the West.
No team is playing better right now. Their 119.4 offensive rating ranks 4th in the NBA, their 107.0 defensive rating is good for 2nd, and their +12.4 points differential per 100 possessions is 1st and four points higher than the Bucks at 2nd.
8. Denver Nuggets
Five-game winning streak here.
Four losses in five games there.
Three-game losing streak here.
Three-game winning streak there.
The Denver Nuggets are looking a lot better than they did earlier in the season, but consistency still eludes them.
Michael Porter Jr. came into the season as a key piece for Denver. Since his return from health and safety protocols on Jan 22, the Nuggets are 6-0 when he scores in double figures.
Meanwhile, Nikola Jokic has planted himself in the MVP conversation with 26.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 8.7 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He leads the NBA in WS/48 at 0.293 and offensive box plus-minus at +8.8. Jokic's third-ranked 2.3 defensive plus-minus also gives him an NBA-best +11.1 box plus-minus. The Serbian's MVP bid hinged on W's a month ago. With the Nuggets now 15-11 for 7th in the West and climbing, he's a genuine chance at the award.
9. Dallas Mavericks
Beating the Golden State Warriors is a positive sign for the Dallas Mavericks. So too is a four-game winning streak before dropping a close one to Portland.
Wins over the Timberwolves (7-20), Hawks (11-16) and Pelicans (11-15)?
They put the Mavericks on the right path, but they've hardly cleared the sort of hurdles that inspire confidence in their return to relevance. They're still 13-15 for 10th in the West and two games back on the Warriors for 8th.
This team shouldn't need a franchise record 25 made threes and a career-high 46 points from Luka Doncic to beat the Pelicans by only 13 points.
10. Miami Heat
At 11-16 for 10th in a relatively poor Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat appear to be this far up the list on reputation. They're certainly not a very good basketball team right now.
11. Phoenix Suns
"The Phoenix Suns have won 25 of their past 34 games, and along with the Utah Jazz, are one of just two teams in the league boasting both a top-ten offence and defence." - How The Phoenix Suns Have Returned To Prominence
The Suns haven't finished a season with their offence or defence ranking inside the Top 10 in the NBA since 2013-14. To have both feature highlights their improvement in 2020-21 with their 14-9 record inching them closer to championship smokey potential.
Added depth and experience have taken the burden off Devin Booker. His counting stats are down on last season, but the Suns are still 9.3 points better per 100 possessions which puts Booker in the 93rd percentile in Pts/Poss.
For a team just starting to play their way out of a lengthy rebuild, the signs are good early.
12. Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers are a middling NBA team, which in the East, means they're towards the top of the conference...
Indy's 14-14 record is good for the 4th seed alongside the 13-13 Celtics. However, there is one reason to be hopeful that the Pacers can lift themselves off the treadmill of mediocrity. Unlike every other playoff team in the conference, the Pacers have an above .500 record on the road at 7-5.
13. Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors are slowly clawing their way up the standings in the East. They're 11-15 for the 8th seed but have been a Pascal Siakam make or two away from a .500 record with the 26-year-old starting to build an unwanted reputation with the game on the line.
The Raptors play the Bucks and 76ers twice, Heat and Celtics in their next ten games. The upcoming schedule will give us a good idea of Toronto's ceiling this season. Sneaking into the playoffs might be it...
14. Portland Trail Blazers
Jusuf Nurkic - Out
CJ McCollum - Out
Zach Collins - Out
Portland Trail Blazers - W, W, W, W
Damian Lillard isn't being mentioned as a possible MVP very often, but he should be at this point. He has the numbers, the wins are piling up, and the narrative of doing it all himself right now suits just fine.
15. Golden State Warriors
Steph Curry...My word.
The Golden State Warriors are 15-13 and currently occupy the 8th seed in the West. They won only 15 of their 65 games last season for the worst record in the league.
How many wins does Curry need, averaging 30.1 points, 5.9 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 43.6 3P%, to be a chance at MVP?
16. New Orleans Pelicans
We highlighted the New Orleans Pelicans' "just below average" -1.14 simple rating here a month ago. It's better now, but still decidedly average at -0.73.
We also highlighted their 115.2 defensive rating two weeks ago. Despite Stan Van Gundy firing a rocket up his side and demanding an improvement on that end of the floor, the Pelicans have played with the fourth-worst defence in the league (122.9) over the last fortnight.
In positive news, their 126.5 offensive rating in the same span is the best in the NBA.
RELATED: Zion Is Everything We Hoped For, So Why Aren't The Pelicans?
17. Atlanta Hawks
Hope for a high-powered Atlanta Hawks offence is diminishing. Constructing their team with the view of piling up points and hoping to keep the opposition to less, Atlanta is a bog-standard 15th in offence scoring 112.6 points per 100 possessions so far this season.
The shooting just isn't there for the Hawks to get deep into the playoff seeds right now.
18. Houston Rockets
The post-Harden glow has worn off the Houston Rockets.
They have lost seven of their last eight with their current six-game losing streak the first of more than five since January 2013.
John Wall's return to the court does keep them interesting, though.
19. San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs deserve better here. They are 16-11 and 6th in the Western Conference. Little is being made of their rather surprising rise up the standings.
It's the balance and consistency that has seen the Spurs start the season so well. Eight players are averaging double-digits in scoring while San Antonio's fifth-ranked 109.7 defensive rating keeps them in games every night.
Dejounte Murray, in particular, has been a standout. He played relatively well in 2019-20 after tearing his ACL the season prior. But it typically takes another season after the injury before a player returns to their best. In 2020-21, Murray is putting up 15.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. He's the perfect Gregg Popovich guy and is starting to find his feet as a leader at the franchise.
20. Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies held a 22-2 lead over the Lakers and eventually lost the game by ten. They're one of the youngest teams in the NBA. It shows in their fluctuating performances.
But Jaren Jackson Jr. and Justise Winslow are yet to take the floor this season. Having both available can change the dynamic of this team. However, neither have a timetable for their return. Memphis will struggle to get above .500 (currently 11-11) without the duo.
They still have games to make up after missing time due to health and safety protocols too.
21. Orlando Magic
A 6-2 start to the season is now a distant memory for the Orlando Magic.
They've lost 16 of their last 20.
22. Washington Wizards
Russell Westbrook is averaging 19.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.
The problem is that he's in the 16th percentile in both effective field goal percentage (44.2%) and assists percentage (16%).
Bradley Beal is doing everything he can to keep the Washington Wizards in the game by leading the league in scoring with 33.1 points a night.
23. New York Knicks
They're calling him LeJulius Randle in The Big Apple.
He has continued to tear through the league and has the New York Knicks in the playoff seeds approaching the season's halfway point.
24.Oklahoma City Thunder
How about Al Horford?
He has taken the lead with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the sidelines and is throwing it back to the good ol' days. His numbers aren't translating into W's, but the Oklahoma City Thunder front office will be pleased with that, too.
25. Sacramento Kings
Same old, same old for the Sacramento Kings. They've backed a four-game winning streak up with four defeats to remain on the outside and looking in at the playoff seeds. Just as they have done for the last 15 years...
26. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers were the flavour of the month last time we did this.
Now, they've lost 10 of their last 11 and rubbed Andre Drummond out of the lineup with the intention of trading the big man as soon as possible.
Their brief period of relevance was fun while it lasted.
27. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves are the youngest team in the NBA, and right now, their 7-20 record is the worst of all 30 teams.
D'Angelo Russell is set for a four-to-six week stint on the sidelines now as well.
The lone positive is the improvement of Anthony Edwards. He has looked a lot better since joining the starting lineup after a less-than-stellar start to the season.
28. Charlotte Hornets
The Futures Model doesn't have a lot of love for the 13-15 Charlotte Hornets.
While they're not the winningest team in the NBA, the Hornets are one of the most fun to watch when healthy. Gordon Hayward is back to playing well, Terry Rozier is scoring 20+ per game, and LaMelo Ballis contributing 6.1 assists to Charlotte's 27.5 assists per game - second-most in the league.
29. Chicago Bulls
There has been a significant push for Zach LaVine to be part of the NBA's controversial All-Star game. The 25-year-old deserves consideration.
Averaging career-highs in points (28.2), rebounds (5.5), assists (5.2), FG% (51.5%) and 3P% (43.1%), LaVine is keeping the Chicago Bulls within touching distance of the playoffs at 11-15.
30. Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons are so bad that Blake Griffin has packed it in. Like Drummond, Griffin won't set foot on the court until the Pistons and his reps work through a resolution on his playing future.
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