Reviewing ESPN’s 2012-13 Western Conference Projections

Published: August 21, 2012

Mason gives his take in regards to ESPN’s projections for the NBA Western Conference standings in 2012-13. What did they get right, and where did they go wrong?

In case you haven’t seen them yet, ESPN published their Western Conference projections for the 2012-13 season this morning. If you remember, I did my own variation of these projections on Hornets247, focusing around the 7th-13th seeds, earlier this month. Below, I go over how well I think the many great basketball minds who took part in this forecasting fared with their predictions.

Three things they got right:

  • The top six seeds. The order of these six teams is questionable, but the Thunder, Lakers, Spurs, Clippers, Nuggets, and Grizzlies should be the top six teams in the West this season (largely thanks to Rubio’s recovering ACL). Specifically, my order looks like this – OKC, LA Lakers, Denver, San Antonio, LA Clippers, Memphis.
  • Utah and Golden State’s rank. Their projected records both look low (the Jazz should win around 45 games and Golden State should approach .500), but they do look like the 8th and 10th best teams in the conference right now.
  • The bottom. The Kings should finish at the bottom of the conference this season, but not by much, as indicated by the rankings.

Three things they got wrong:

  • The record of the 8th playoff seed. The notion that the 8th seed in a deep Western Conference will only finish with a .500 record seems quite conservative. Two years ago, it took 46 wins to make the playoffs in the West, which is around what it should take this season.
  • Dallas and Minnesota’s rank and record. With a projection of 46 wins, it almost seems like future mid-season transactions by Mark Cuban are already a foregone conclusion. I’m not buying; they’ll be around a .500 team this year, but that won’t be enough. Conversely, Minnesota is well-positioned to earn a postseason berth this year even with Rubio out for the first month or two. Brad Doolittle of Basketball Prospectus projects the T-Wolves as the 4th seed, and that includes the expectation that Rubio will miss between 30-40 games.
  • Portland, Houston, and New Orleans’ order. There is very little chance that The Blazers win 35 games this season. Behind Aldridge, Batum, and Matthews, their team is very young and inexperienced, and they will go through some growing pains this year. Similarly, the Rockets have four rookies (Lamb, Jones, Patterson, White, Motiejunas) who all stand to get significant minutes, something that will likely limit their ceiling. The Hornets have what is easily the best shooting guard (when healthy) as well as the strongest front court rotation of the three teams, which should propel New Orleans to the 11th best record in the conference, with Portland coming in behind them but ahead of Houston.

How do you think ESPN’s panel of 100 basketball writers did? Hell, where did I mess up? Share your thoughts below!


  1. Zombian

    August 21, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Overall I totally agree Mason.
    I hope the Grizzlies put up a good fight but its possible they fall off hard.
    I think Blazers’ and Hornet’s records will be similar. Aldridge was statistically one of the best players in the league last season (and consistent too). Batum is overpaid but he is a really good player (thanks in no small part to a one Tavares Montgomery Williams Junior) especially on the defensive side of the ball. Its hard to say who I think would win out with the better record but at least we all know that Nolan Smith will be dishing out full court lobs
    So watch out for that!

  2. Michael McNamara

    August 21, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Also check out Bradford Doolittle’s projections using his system. They are quite different:

    Doolittle has written several great articles on the Hornets this offseason and we are excited to have him on the podcast next week.

    • Mason Ginsberg

      August 21, 2012 at 2:55 pm

      Agreed, definitely check it out if you have ESPN Insider. I linked it in my “Three things they got wrong” section as well.

      Really awesome that he’ll be on next week’s podcast; everyone should absolutely give it a listen when it comes out!

  3. ADubs

    August 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    I think both projections are at least a few wins low on the Hornets. While I don’t necessarily think we’ll reach the playoffs, I do think we could get close to .500 if Gordon is healthy. Despite having some holes (especially at the 1 and 3 “positions”), I think we’ll have a team that is focused on defense first (which always produces wins over a long season) with some potentially explosive scoring (Gordon, Anderson, and possibly even Davis).

    I’m not seeing how Phoenix, Houston, Sacramento, or Golden State come in above us, and I think Memphis and Dallas might regress quite a bit this year.

    • Mason Ginsberg

      August 21, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      Don’t sleep on Golden State – that roster is pretty deep. I don’t think they’ll make the playoffs, but if healthy, a starting lineup of Curry Thompson Barnes Lee Bogut with a second unit of Jack Rush Jefferson Landry Ezeli is formidable.

      • ADubs

        August 22, 2012 at 7:51 am

        You’re right about Golden State being a solid team, but I don’t think they have the defensive mindset or personel (especially if Bogut is slow to come back) to win consistently throughout the course of the season. That’s where I give the Hornets the edge, despite less depth across the board. Overall, great analysis, Mason.

  4. NOS-3RD GEN

    August 21, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    I don’t think people should sleep on the Hornets, we are very formidable ourselves. Especially if Gordon stays healthy. I’ll even say if Gordon stays healthy we’ll even make the playoffs. The think is and the truth is nobody not even myself knows who will/won’t make the playoffs this season because anything could happen to tip the balance of power in any teams favor! !

  5. 504ever

    August 21, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Below is the table from the article. You can see there were some ties.

    I don’t see the Hornets going 31-51 as ESPN projects. If you project last year’s winning percentage over 82 games, the ESPN projected Hornets 2012-13 record is only 5 wins better. We went 6-3 when Gordon played last year. Assuming 5-5 is more realistic, if Gordon plays in 10 more games in 2012-13 we win 5 more games. That doesn’t consider the addition of Anderson or Davis, or that two starters we lost (Okafor and Ariza) each sat out about half the season. I think 36-46 is more realistic, but you have to remember that we will likely lose 90% of the games we play against the top 10-12 teams in the league in 2012-13. So we can only win so many games in 2012-13, even with our new talent.

    By the way, 36 wins puts us around 11th, or 10th if we get lucky, in the Western Conference. That sounds about right to me.

    CONF TEAM W L PCT ’12 W ’12 L ’12 PCT

    Okla. City Thunder*
    59 23 .720 47 19 .712

    Los Angeles Lakers*
    59 23 .720 41 25 .621

    San Antonio Spurs
    54 28 .659 50 16 .758

    Los Angeles Clippers*
    50 32 .610 40 26 .606

    Denver Nuggets*
    50 32 .610 38 28 .576

    Memphis Grizzlies
    48 34 .586 41 25 .621

    Dallas Mavericks
    46 36 .561 36 30 .545

    Utah Jazz*
    41 41 .500 36 30 .545

    Minn. Timberwolves*
    41 41 .500 26 40 .394

    G.S. Warriors
    38 44 .463 23 43 .348

    Portland Trail Blazers
    35 47 .427 28 38 .424

    Houston Rockets
    33 49 .402 34 32 .515

    New Orleans Hornets
    31 51 .383 21 45 .318

    Phoenix Suns
    30 52 .366 33 33 .500

    Sacramento Kings
    29 53 .354 22 44 .333

    • Nate

      August 22, 2012 at 9:49 am

      Wow! They think the ROCKETS will finish with a better record???

  6. Nate

    August 22, 2012 at 10:09 am


    Anthony Davis AND Austin Rivers were on First Take yesterday!!!

  7. Josh

    August 23, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    I think they definitely underrated us and the Timberwolves.

  8. Brandon

    August 25, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    When the nets come I say arena dj plays jay z-hello Brooklyn

    But on a serious note I say once this team gets in sync we can will be 6-8 seed and will challenge our first round opponent to the final game
    I say 43-48 wins this season
    They will give mr benson something to dance about for sure
    The unibrow will take the nba by storm averaging 16-18 ppg 4-5 assists 8-12 rebounds 2-4 blocks and just under-1.5 steals
    Being the underdog is something that will motivate them to push harder. Monty will instill the defensive approach and they will take advantage of turnovers

    Now if we could just get the jazz out of Utah things would be complete

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