Prediction model rates Warriors higher than Clippers for 2019-20

Nobody is expecting much from the Warriors next season due to the loss of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, but the stat wizards at FiveThirtyEight say their fans could be pleasantly surprised.

In its “way too early” projections for 2019-20, the sports and politics analysis site rates the Warriors as the fourth-best team in the Western Conference, ahead of the much ballyhooed Los Angeles Clippers, the new home of superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

The Warriors are projected to finish 50-32. According to FiveThirtyEight’s algorithms, they have an 84 percent chance of making the playoffs, 16 percent chance of reaching the finals and 10 percent chance of winning it all. Of the three teams ranked ahead of the Dubs, the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Lakers are each expected to win 51 games, only one better than Golden State. Eleven of the 15 teams are projected to end the season with a .500 record or better.

In other words, the West is going to be a junkyard dogfight.

Houston, newly fortified with Russell Westbrook triple-double goodness, is expected to be the No. 1 seed in the West. The Philadelphia 76ers claim that honor in the East. Perhaps Ben Simmons is projected developing a jump shot.

FiveThirtyEight determines its forecast from a complicated system that uses an array of metrics to predict player’s contribution down to the expected number of points he’ll improve a team per 100 possessions on offense and defense, relative to an average player. Other factors include load management — when teams reduce minutes for key players to save them for the playoffs — and player performance history in the playoffs. You can read more about methodology here.

Anyone can make predictions. What matters is how those predictions turned out. FiveThirtyEight’s crystal ball for last season was pretty darn accurate, as least in picking the finalists.

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The system foresaw Warriors and Raptors having the best chances to reach the finals, and both teams did. The Warriors were 42 percent favorites to win another title; the Raptors had a 9 percent chance of a championship.

Of course, baked into Golden State’s chances was the expectation that its three best scorers — Steph Curry, Durant and Thompson — would finish the series. As we know, that turned out to be overly optimistic.

The forecasting model stumbled in a strong season for the Timberwolves (88 percent chance of reaching the playoffs) and missed the boat in estimating the number of wins for the Milwaukee Bucks, Portland Blazers and Nuggets. It was mostly on target in predicting the totals for the Boston Celtics, Utah Jazz and Sixers.

Mike Moffitt is an SFGATE Digital Reporter. Email: moffitt@sfgate.com. Twitter: @Mike_at_SFGate.

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/warriors/article/warriors-2019-2020-predictions-steph-curry-14117811.php.

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