The NBA Playoffs are approaching and we have examined seeding trends for the first round. Here are the results for each seeding matchup over the last 14 seasons.
The 2015 NBA Playoffs are about to begin next Saturday, April 18th, and that means it is time for our annual look at seeding matchup trends for the first round in an attempt to assist you with your NBA picks.
And even at this late stage, no first round matchup is set in stone as of yet for this season, although what is now know is the top seed in each conference with the Golden State Warriors topping the Western Conference with the best record in the NBA and the Atlanta Hawks topping the Eastern Conference, and we also know the second seed in the East as that would be LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
No other seeding spots have been clinched as of yet however, but once they are and the first round matchups have been set, you can then refer back to these seeding trends as we have gone back to the 2001 NBA playoffs and analyzed the results for each seeding matchup.
So with no further ado, here are the results from the first round from those last 14 playoff seasons.
One-Seed vs. Eight-Seed
First of all, looking at these series in totality, the one-seeds have been victorious in 25 of the 28 matchups the last 14 years. The three eight-seeds to pull the first round stunners were the Golden State Warriors over the Dallas Mavericks in 2007, the Memphis Grizzlies over the San Antonio Spurs in 2011 and the Philadelphia 76ers over the Chicago Bulls in 2012, with all three of those series being decided in six games.
Shifting our focus to ATS records, the one-seeds are a nondescript 70-68-6 ATS over the eight-seeds in all first round games since 2001 overall, but the breakdown is interesting as the one-seeds are 42-32-3 for a good 56.8 percent ATS at home, but it is the eight-seeds that are 36-28-3, 56.2 percent ATS when they are home. In other words, if you merely took the home teams in every games of this one vs. eight matchup the last 14 years, you would be 78-60-6, 56.5 percent ATS.
As mentioned, the Golden State Warriors own the best record in the NBA right now and they will face whoever wins the race for the eighth seed in the West between the New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder. The Atlanta Hawks top the East, but there are four teams within 1½ games of each other between the seventh and 10th spots in the East as of this writing, so keep an eye out for who their opponent will be.
Two-Seed vs. Seven-Seed
Believe it or not, the two-seeds have done better in terms of series wins over the seven-seeds than the one-seeds have done over the eight-seeds, although just barely with the two-seeds winning 26 of the 28 first-round series since 2001. The two seven-seeds to prevail were the 2007 New Jersey Nets over the Toronto Raptors and the 2010 San Antonio Spurs over the Dallas Mavericks.
And just like the three eight-seeds that have sprung first round upsets, both seven-seeds that won wrapped up their series at home in Game 6.
The two-seeds have been much better bets on an individual game basis the last 14 years though going 80-57-8 for a fat 58.4 percent ATS! And the venue has not really mattered wither, as the two seeds are 45-32-3, 58.4 percent ATS at home and 35-25-5, 58.3 percent ATS when playing on the road.
That certainly bodes well for LeBron James and the Cavaliers as the two-seeds in the Eastern Conference this season, with the first round opponents being either the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers or Miami Heat with those four teams battling for the seventh and eight spots.
Things are not as clear in regards to the two-seed in the Western Conference with just one-half game separating the second seeded Houston Rockets from the sixth seeded Spurs as of this writing. One thing that is certain is that the Dallas Mavericks will be the seventh seed in the West, and a potentially dangerous one at that.
Three-Seed vs. Six-Seed
There have been a few more upsets in this three-seed vs. six-seed matchup, but the three-seeds have still won at a good clip going 20-8 on an overall series basis since 2001.A couple of the six-seeds to prevail did so in the last two years as the Brooklyn Nets beat the third seeded Toronto Raptors in seven games last season after the Golden State Warriors had upset the third seeded Denver Nuggets in six games in 2013.
The Nets last season became the first team seeded sixth or higher to wrap up it first round upset on the road in the last 14 years as they did it in Game 7 in Toronto, while all the other upsets during the course of this study were ended at home by the respective lower seeds in Game 6.
The six-seeds have also been decent bets on a game-by-game basis at 77-72-3 ATS, although that is not enough to turn a profit overall at -110 odds at 51.7 percent. That percentage has been steadily increasing though as the six-seeds are 12-9, 57.1 percent vs. the three-seeds since 2013.
The battle for the three-seed in the East this year comes down to the Chicago Bulls or the Toronto Raptors, and if recent history holds true, whoever ends up getting the nod will have to be leery of the sixth seed, which will almost certainly be the Milwaukee Bucks, a team that had a nice turnaround season after finishing with the worst record in the NBA last year.
As mentioned earlier, the Western Conference is wide open for the most part with four teams that can finish anywhere between second and sixth in the conference. The one exception in that group is the Portland Trail Blazers, who seem locked into the fourth seed, so as of now it is virtually impossible to predict who will participate in this three vs. six series.
Four-Seed vs. Five Seed
Now, one would logically think that the four-seed vs. five-seed matchup would be the tightest of the first round and that has indeed been the case with the four-seeds winning 16 series the last 14 years and the five-seeds winning 12 of them. Furthermore the five-seeds have closed the gap by winning all four first-round series the last two years over the four-seeds!
Last season the fifth seeded Washington Wizards beat the fourth seeded Bulls and the fifth seeded Trail Blazers beat the fourth seeded Rockets, and that was after the Memphis Grizzlies beat the Los Angeles Clippers and the Bulls beat the Nets in five vs. four upsets two seasons ago.
There is not much separation between these two seeds on an individual game basis either with the five-seeds being 77-76-5 ATS since 2001, obviously not enough to turn a profit either way. However, one slightly profitable approach has been to play the road teams in this four vs. five matchup as the visitors are 82-71-5, 53.6 percent ATS.
The Wizards look like they will get a chance to repeat their win as a five-seed last year as they are locked into that same seed again this season, and they will face either the Bulls or Raptors. Over in the Western Conference, the Trail Blazers look locked into the fourth seed as Northwest Division Champions even though they actually have the sixth best record in the conference currently. Their opponent is yet to be determined with the conference so tight.