What Does An NBA Champion Look Like?
What does The Champ look like?
Generally speaking, your average NBA champion wins 61 games, beats squads by a +6.77 margin of victory (when adjusted for strength of schedule) and goes into the playoffs with the No. 1 seed, in either East or West.
That's what titelists--more or less--look like, when you study the profiles of the past 30 NBA champions.
That said, let's be more vague for the sake of expansion and encompass more teams to discover a championship range that remains true 90-plus percent of the time.
When you do that, NBA champs tend to win 56-plus games (90 percent of the time), beat teams by a +4 margin (97 percent of the time) when you round off and account for the opposition and earn a Top 3 seed in either the West or East brackets (97 percent).
When you know all this at season's end, it gives you a good idea who can be champ ... and who cannot.
Of course, we used data since the 1983-84 season to get these numbers. We chose that season because that was when the NBA went to a 16-team, four-round NBA Playoff format, as used today.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS: B-R has the Spurs for 61.7 wins, a +7.80 SRS and a likely No. 1 seed in the West in 2013-14, fitting the perfect description of what your typical NBA champion looks like.
INDIANA PACERS: B-R predicts the Pacers winning 58.4 games, with a +5.22 SRS and a likely No. 1 seed in the East, placing Indiana in the championship range in all three categories.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: The Thunder are projected to have 59.1 victories, currently have a +6.68 SRS and are forecast as the No. 2 West seed, placing them too in championship range in all three categories.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: The Clippers are forecast for 56.9 wins, maintain a +7.40 SRS and are predicted to finish as the No. 3 West seed, definitely keeping themselves in championship range.
MIAMI HEAT: The back-to-back NBA champion HEAT are far off their 66-win pace a year ago and now have a 56.0-win projection for 2013-14, with a +4.44 SRS and forecast for the No. 2 East seed, barely keeping their three-peat aspiring selves in championship range again.
As for the rest of the NBA Playoff teams, the Houston Rockets have the best chance to play themselves into statistical contention in the remaining 23 days of the 2013-14 season. The Rockets' 55.1 win projection and No. 4 seed just barely miss the 56-win and No. 3 seeds that lead to true championship contention 90 percent of the time when it comes to wins (only three champs in the last 30 years won 55 or less: 2005-06 HEAT, 52-30; 2003-04 Pistons 54-28; 1994-95 Rockets, 47-35) or 97 percent when it comes to seeds (only the sixth-seeded 1994-95 Rockets won a championship with a non-Top 3 seeding).
The Toronto Raptors, who do have a Top 3 seed in the East, are not considered to be in title contention because their projected wins total (47.5) and current SRS (+3.04) fall well outside championship-range material.
Last but not least, the Portland Trail Blazers and the Golden State Warriors--even though both have +5 SRS scores (rounded off)--fall short because of the win projections (52.5 and 50.9) and bad seeding (No. 5 and No. 6 currently) that normally do not accompany championship teams.
NBA CHAMPIONSHIP RANGE
NOTE: Records in lockout years were prorated to 82-game seasons.