9. Oklahoma City Thunder (51-31): Last time: 9th
Although they downed the Lakers in convincing fashion, the Thunder are on the verge of being passed by the Phoenix Suns, a more experienced team with a better record. The win over the Lakers helped their numbers against elite teams, but OKC has still failed to win even 45% of their games vs. Playoff and Elite opponents.
Chances of winning: 5.7%
8. Utah Jazz (53-29): Last time: 7th
The Jazz have done well against playoff teams (winning 56% of those games), but have not done well against elite teams (44% wins), and have not been amazing even when putting their five best on the court (just 56% wins).
Chances of winning: 5.8%
7. Boston Celtics (54-28): Last time: 8th
Boston has been a good team in a weak conference. They have taken 53% of their games against playoff teams, have absolutely destroyed non playoff teams, but have won just one third of their games against Elite opponents. That won't get it done.
Chances of winning: 6.2%
6. Atlanta Hawks (52-30): Last time: 6th
One thing Atlanta has that the Celtics do not is stability in the lineup. Another thing they have is a nearly .500 record against elite teams. That suggests that it will be the Hawks, not the Celtics, fighting for a shot in the ECF.
Chances of winning: 6.6%
5. Dallas Mavericks (54-28): Last time: 3rd
Dallas falls back to earth just a bit. The Mavs have still won at least 56% of their games against Playoff and Elite teams. They have been nearly .700 with their best lineup on the floor. While they are very good, they are probably not good enough to beat either of the top two teams in the West.
Chances of winning: 9.4%
4. Denver Nuggets (54-28): Last time: 2nd
K-Mart is going to have to hurry back. The Nuggets have dropped two spots without him. Denver relinquished the best Elite and Playoff records to Cleveland, but the Nuggets have still won 59% of their games against Playoff teams and 65% against Elite teams. Coupled with an .800 record in games featuring their best lineup, Denver is destined to appear in the WCF if they do not run into the Lakers earlier.
Chances of winning: 13.2%
3. Orlando Magic (57-25): Last time: 4th
The Magic have won 57% of their games against Elite teams and 62% against Playoff teams. They have hovered around .700 all year. They have the playoff experience to win on the biggest stage in the East. They close the gap between themselves and Cleveland.
Chances of winning: 14.3%
2. Los Angeles Lakers (61-21): Last time: 5th
The Lakers go on a roll, Bynum goes down, and the Lakers keep rolling. LA has finally established solid numbers against Elite teams (58% wins, 3rd best) and against Playoff teams (59%, 4th best). They have clinched a playoff spot, have beaten the best in the West, and are at 76% wins with their best unit on the floor. They will need Bynum to win it all.
Chances of winning: 14.5%
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (64-18): Last time: 1st
Cleveland keeps on rolling. Without Shaq, they still boast the best record against Playoff and Elite teams, winning more than 2/3 of such games. A .781 team with their best group on the floor, the Cavs remain the top team during the regular season.
Chances of winning: 24.3%