FiveThirtyEight sees Boston Celtics tied for best title odds in 2020-21

Justin Quinn
·2 min read

The data wizards over at FiveThirtyEight have made their preseason assessment of NBA championship odds, and they see the Boston Celtics in a very favorable light despite significant departures in free agency and multiple injuries of note.

The perennial exercise — really, exercises — are based off of the statistical analysis outfit’s two primary projection models, which create slightly different outcomes based on which statistical modeling approach is used. Their so-called RAPTOR and ELO projections each generate 100,000 simulations of the season based on their respective criteria, which vary slightly from one another in how they estimate what’s left of the season — in this case, all of it.

“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,” they explain.

“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,” you ask, “what did they see the Celtics doing in the playoffs, then?”

In one model, they won it all more than any other franchise — 16% odds, edging their longtime rival Los Angeles Lakers with 15% — while in another, those percentages flipped with the Lakers coming out on top.

The ELO model likes Boston ever-so-slightly more, while the RAPTOR model is evidently leaning Los Angeles.

This of course assumes a fully-healthy roster including recuperating All-Star point guard Kemba Walker; without his presence as an active player, the team’s winning percentages would presumably drop considerably.

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