The NBA is back tonight, as the Cavs host the Celtics and the Warriors host the Rockets. Those four teams figure to be featured prominently in the playoffs come May and June, and it’s very possible, if not probable, two of those four could meet in the Finals.
While June feels like a long way away, the start of the season is always a time for predictions, because we can’t help ourselves but think six months ahead knowing fully well that most of what we say is wrong. There are a lot of prediction models out there that use finely tuned statistical analysis to predict the outcome of the season, and those are great, but not very fun.
We here at Dime prefer to turn to video games, because they tend to predict chaos and chaos is way more fun than the likely truth which is another Warriors-Cavs Finals. NBA Live 18 got really crazy and called for a Wolves-Sixers NBA Finals, and NBA 2K18 also saw the Warriors going down in the Conference Finals. While those are great, I prefer to go a bit more old school and choose to base my predictions off of the tried and true method that is Oregon Trail.
For those that have read my Oregon Trail previews before, you can skip this part where I explain the process. For those that haven’t, here’s the quick and dirty on how I do these. First, the “Wagon Leader” is never an actual team because nothing happens to them until everyone else dies, therefore, it’s no fun. So, the four other spots get filled by team names in random order and sent down the trail on grueling pace and bare bones rations to create the worst health conditions and thus, kill teams off one-by-one. At rivers, I always caulk and float to, again, create the most random outcome (fording ends in death too much to even be funny).
To predict the season, we have to do a lot of simulations. First, I sent the five teams I’m confident won’t make the playoffs (or at least, have the worst odds of making the playoffs) down just to get funny screencaps of them. Those teams were the Hawks, Bulls, Nets, Knicks, and Magic in the East, and the Suns, Lakers, Kings, Mavs, and Pelicans in the West. Then, to determine playoff seeding, the four teams battling for the final two spots in each conference were sent down the trail, with the first two to die missing the playoffs.
In the West, the Clippers get the sixth seed by default, while the 2-5 seeds were determined by a run down the trail. In the East, the Cavs and Celtics get the top two seeds with the 3-6 seeds being determined by the trail. From there, it’s playoff matchups. For the sake of brevity (and my sanity), the top two seeds in each conference move on automatically in the first round, but every other playoff series is determined by the trail.