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Fans Predicted 13 of 16 NBA Playoff Teams Before the Season


NBA Playoffs Blog Coverage, Schedule and Scores - SB Nation


In case you haven't been reading Rufus on Fire from the beginning, I have a pet theory that I'd wanted to test for a few years, and this year, I finally got around to testing it. I call it the 14/16 Hypothesis.

Back in July, I asked visitors to the site to vote on which teams would make the NBA playoffs. Note that 16/30 NBA teams make the playoffs, so if you were to randomly guess teams, you'd expect to get a little more than half of them correct, say 9/16. I hypothesized that consensus of the crowd would correctly pick 14 of the 16 NBA playoff teams before the season. How did the crowd do?

By early September, the results of the voting were clear.


LA Lakers
New Orleans
San Antonio



Amazingly, fans correctly chose 13 of the 16 playoff teams. In the East, they missed on Atlanta and Chicago, choosing Toronto and Washington to make the playoffs instead, and in the West, they missed on Denver, choosing Phoenix to make the postseason.

Keep in mind this prognostication was done mostly in July and August. That's while the Summer League is in full swing.

I guess my motivation in testing this was to get a better feel for how predictable the NBA really is. Let's face it: sports are no good to us if we know the outcomes in advance. There's plenty of uncertainty built in to the NBA, but in a certain light there's also an alarming amount of certainty. At what point should the league be concerned that fans know with pretty darn good accuracy which teams will make the playoffs before an exhibition game is played?

Every team has at least an outside hope of making the playoffs. If everything breaks just so, even the Kings can do it. But when prompted to actually choose the playoff teams, no one will predict it, because it's completely unreasonable. And that's something Kings fans will consider when they decide whether or not to pony up for season tickets.

I'm going to do this again at the start of next season, well after the draft, much closer to the first games. And the name will remain the same because, even if the fans don't actually achieve 14/16, it's a provocative title.