NBA

# Calculating Every NBA Team's Chances of Winning the Title in the Next Five Years

Kelly ScalettaFeatured ColumnistApril 9, 2013

## Calculating Every NBA Team's Chances of Winning the Title in the Next Five Years

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In calculating the chance of every team to win the NBA title over the next five years, a lot needs to be taken into consideration. Where a team is now, where they are in the building process and how well they are coached and managed all need to be weighed.

Here is how the rankings were determined.

Playoff Probabilities Report

Basketball-Reference has a “Playoff Probability Report” which uses objective statistical analysis to determine the percentage chance each team has of winning the title. The percentage listed for each team, as of April 7, was used as a starting point.  That accounts for this season, and totals to a 100 percent chance of winning (because there is one championship).

For the following four years, I ranked the teams in each of the following categories and scored them so that the top team received a score of 30, the second-best team received a 29 and so on. I then added those totals together, and weighted them to come up with another 400 percent, i.e. the other four championships.

I then added the two percentages together, coming up with a 500 percent chance of winning the five titles. Each team's respective score is listed as the "Total Percent Chance of Winning" which is listed after the team name in the slide title as well as on the slide.

Here are all the matters considered.

Healthy Roster

Many teams, such as the Minnesota Timberwolves, Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics are experiencing major injury issues.  As a result, their current record and their chance of winning are lower than their talent suggests. This is a ranking based on how the rosters would look if every player in the NBA were healthy.

Roster Outlook

The next thing that was taken into account was the five-year roster outlook. If teams had critical players locked up into long-term deals, they scored high. If they had their roster emptying out next year, or had bad contracts, they scored low.

Star Power

It’s generally considered NBA gospel that you need stars to win in the NBA. Teams were raked according to how they stacked up in terms of star power. Teams having multiple superstars in their prime were scored high. Teams without superstars were scored low. It was also taken into account that some players will "fade out" while some will also grow into superstars.

Salary Management

How much salary flexibility a team has was also taken into consideration. Teams that have flexibility this year were given a higher score. Teams with little to no flexibility over the next five years were given the lowest scores. Big, long-term, low-yield contracts were also taken into account, as were the teams who still have their amnesty to use. A third factor involved here was whether emerging stars were restricted or unrestricted free agents.

Assets

Mostly the assets considered here are draft choices. Teams that are worse right now were scored higher, good teams were scored lower. However also there are teams that owe picks and teams that are owed picks. Those were factored in as well. Finally, draft-and-stash players (players whose draft rights teams own, but who are playing in another league) were also considered.

Organization

Having money to sign free agents and having great draft picks doesn’t guarantee getting great free agents, or drafting great players. Management makes a huge difference, as does coaching. Even if you get the right players, if you don’t have the right coach, it won’t win you a title (see the Los Angeles Lakers). Other teams, with inferior rosters, have competed above their talent because of coaching. Both management and coaching were considered in scoring.

X-Factor

This was not a score or ranking but rather a synthesis of the information. It is the pivotal thing that will make the team's chance of winning a title go up or down.

## 30. Orlando Magic: 6.45 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 0.0 percent

Healthy Roster: 2

Roster Outlook: 2

Star Power: 2

Salary Management: 9

Assets: 26

Organization: 5

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 6.45 percent

X-Factor: The Magic are ripe with young talent, running out a roster of almost exclusive first and second year players since the All-Star break. They have a bevy of assorted draft picks due them as well, with conditions too numerous to recount here.

If they can draft well, and develop the talent, the Magic could be back in the playoff hunt in the next few years, but a title is still more than five years away.

For the next couple of years though, until they mature, expect to see more muggle than magic in Orlando.

## 29. Philadelphia 76ers: 7.46 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 0.0 percent

Healthy Roster: 11

Roster Outlook: 12

Star Power: 3

Salary Management: 16

Assets: 6

Organization: 4

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 7.46 percent

X-Factor: The Philadelphia 76ers are in a really rough spot. They traded to get Andrew Bynum, who will be an unrestricted free agent after an entire season of not playing for them. The Sixer's future depends almost exclusively on what happens with Bynum.

If they can keep him, and if he can stay healthy, then they would be an immediate  contender. But those are two gargantuan ifs. The worst case scenario is signing Bynum to a max deal, and then he's not able to ever be a consistent member of the rotation.

The Sixer's future is as delicate as Bynum's knees.

## 28. Toronto Raptors: 7.74 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 0.0 percent

Healthy Roster: 9

Roster Outlook: 6

Star Power: 6

Salary Management: 5

Assets: 19

Organization: 9

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 7.74 percent

X-Factor Toronto traded to get Rudy Gay, hoping that he could be the superstar they needed to put them into the championship hunt or at the very least, the playoff hunt.

It might have been a reach, but it's possible that the move will pay off and Gay was just lost amid all the other talent. If after a preseason he gels with DeMar DeRozan, and they both improve their efficiency, the Raptors could have a one-two punch worth fearing.

If that doesn't work out, and it likely won't since inefficient scorers don't tend to help one another out much, then the Raptors really need to reassess their front office situation. Whoever told Bryan Colangelo that building a team around players who love to take and miss gobs of long-twos did a very mean thing.

## 27. Sacramento Kings: 8.03 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 0.0 percent

Healthy Roster: 7

Roster Outlook: 3

Star Power: 11

Salary Management: 10

Assets: 23

Organization: 2

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 8.03 percent

X-Factor Whether it's coaching or the uncertainty of whether they will stay in Sacramento, the Kings have been underachieving. Genuine talent has not matured or developed the way it should. Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas all have promise.

If the Kings could find a way to get their talent to work, and perhaps send Cousins to charm school, they could be a team on the precipice of a breakout season.

It they don't, Seattle and Sacramento might be arguing over who has to take the Kings in five years.

## 26. Milwaukee Bucks: 9.03 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 0.0 percent

Healthy Roster: 12

Roster Outlook: 11

Star Power: 5

Salary Management: 15

Assets: 12

Organization: 8

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 9.03 percent

X-Factor: The Milwaukee Bucks have a lot of nice role players. They have a great defensive player in Larry Sanders. They have bona fide scoring threats in Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings.

What they lack is cohesiveness, a coach, a long-term plan and a true superstar. General Manager John Hammond seems to be in a perpetual state of "winging it"  and not putting together a plan. You might be familiar with the expression, "Be proactive, not reactive."

Hammond isn't.

For the Bucks to win a title, they're going to have make a change at the top.

## 25. Charlotte Bobcats: 9.75 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 0.0 percent

Healthy Roster: 1

Roster Outlook: 7

Star Power: 8

Salary Management: 23

Assets: 28

Organization: 1

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 9.75 percent

X-Factor: If there's ever been proof needed that being a great player doesn't guarantee success on other levels of the NBA, look no further than Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Bobcats. The greatest player of all time is the currently the worst owner.

If the Bobcats are ever going to get out of the basement sludge, Jordan is going to have to stop meddling. With the young talent they have, where their salary situation is at, and with the draft assets they have, Charlotte should be able to break out in the next two years.

But if Jordan keeps "fixing" them, they'll be just as broken in five years as they are now.

## 24. Phoenix Suns: 9.89 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 0.0 percent

Healthy Roster: 3

Roster Outlook: 11

Star Power: 5

Salary Management: 15

Assets: 12

Organization: 8

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 9.89 percent

X-Factor: Not to pile on, but I have to pile on. What would be even funnier than the Lakers missing the playoffs is if the Suns won the lottery with the Lakers draft pick.

Pretty much, that's what it's going to take for the Suns to move into the title hunt over the next few years, a huge stroke of luck. The best player on the team currently is Goran Dragic, and Dragic is a long way from being a superstar.

The Suns are a bad team which is going to get worse before it gets better, unless it just lucks into the next surprise superstar.

## 23. Detroit Pistons: 10.47 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 0.0 percent

Healthy Roster: 4

Roster Outlook: 4

Star Power: 12

Salary Management: 26

Assets: 24

Organization: 3

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 10.47 percent

X-Factor: The Pistons have been waiting for this summer for a long, long time. They'll finally free up enough cap space to actually pursue a free agent that could vault them into contention. With young talent like Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe already on the team, the Pistons have something to build on.

Who they sign, and who they pick in this draft, will determine the next five years for Detroit.

Where they need to be careful is in not doing something ridiculously moronic, like giving another "Ben Gordon" an unseemly contract.

## 22. Dallas Mavericks: 10.75 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 0.0 percent

Healthy Roster: 8

Roster Outlook: 1

Star Power: 4

Salary Management: 29

Assets: 18

Organization: 15

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 10.75 percent

X-Factor: The Mavericks have a lot of cap space this summer. How they spend it will determine their future.

They could have as much as \$30 million to spend in free agency.

Who they sign will determine if Dirk Nowitzki sticks around. He's indicated while he would love to finish his career in Dallas, he's not inclined to finish his career competing for last playoff spot. Landing a player like Josh Smith, or even better, Dwight Howard is an absolute must for Dallas.

Of course, Mark Cuban is Mark Cuban and he usually finds a way to get things done.

## 21. Utah Jazz: 11.18 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 0.0 percent

Healthy Roster: 10

Roster Outlook: 10

Star Power: 10

Salary Management: 25

Assets: 17

Organization: 6

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 11.18 percent

X-Factor: The Utah Jazz have been planning for this summer for a couple of years now as Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap both hit the free agent market. It's likely they keep one and let the other walk. The reason is that they have two remarkable young big men in waiting, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.

They'll also have some money to spend in free agency and a need for a quality point guard. Jeff Teague and Tyreke Evans would make interesting targets. The draft is another option, but a rookie point guard on a team where all the other players are entering their prime might not be the best option.

The X-factor for the Jazz is how well they fill out their roster. They have the frontcourt talent to contend. They just need to flesh out the backcourt.

## 20. Portland Trail Blazers: 12.33 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 0.0 percent

Healthy Roster: 23

Roster Outlook: 8

Star Power: 19

Salary Management: 13

Assets: 11

Organization: 12

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 12.33 percent

X-Factor: Sometimes the NBA is all about luck, and the Portland Trail Blazers got lucky this draft. Damian Lillard was projected as the best point guard available, and no one ahead of them really has the position as their number one need. So Portland got the presumptive Rookie of the Year.

Fortunately for them, Lillard is an absolute stud. He's paired with the best two-way power forward in the league. Having a star pairing is a big part of winning championships, but it's not all of it. Portland looks like they'll fail to make the postseason this year, and they will probably lose the services of J.J. Hickson this summer.

The X-Factor for them is what role players can they add to their star tandem to elevate them to the next level. Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum are nice, but if they were the answer, Portland would be in the playoffs this year.

## 19. New Orleans Pelicans: 12.47 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 0.0 percent

Healthy Roster: 6

Roster Outlook: 5

Star Power: 18

Salary Management: 20

Assets: 27

Organization: 11

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 12.47 percent

X-Factor: When the New Orleans Hornets traded Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers, the big prize they got in return was Eric Gordon. It is apt that New Orleans' name is changing with the change of an era. How the Pelicans do will be determined by Gordon, one way or another.

Ether he must bring back a star in a trade, or he must be a star in New Orleans. Next year will be his first full year back from his knee issues.  If he shows the promise he once did, he and Anthony Davis should have the team in playoff contention within a couple of years.

## 18. Boston Celtics: 13.00 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 0.1 percent

Healthy Roster: 16

Roster Outlook: 18

Star Power: 9

Salary Management: 8

Assets: 14

Organization: 25

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 12.9 percent

X-Factor: The question surrounding the Boston Celtics for the last several years has been whether Rajon Rondo, their superstar point guard, can lead a team that isn't composed of superstars. At some point in the next five years, we'll find out.

If I drove Jimmy Johnson's NASCAR and he drove my Dodge Caravan, I'd beat him in a race. No matter how good of a driver you are, if you depend on the car, ultimately you're constrained by the quality of it.

The difference between Rondo and the elite point guards who are also great scorers is that they can be the car when they need to.

What happens to Rajon Rondo when you downgrade him from a NASCAR race car to a Dodge Caravan? Jeff Green and others just aren't the same thing as Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. If Rondo can prove he's not "car-dependent" then the Celtics will stay contenders. If not, they'll be headed for mediocrity.

## 17. Houston Rockets: 13.70 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 0.8 percent

Healthy Roster: 18

Roster Outlook: 17

Star Power: 16

Salary Management: 12

Assets: 9

Organization: 18

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 13.70 percent

X-Factor: Daryl Morey completely emptied out two bags of tricks this summer, first in trying to acquire Dwight Howard and then in successfully landing James Harden.

In between, he managed to drop not one, but two poison pills to land Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin.

The question for the Rockets is how many more tricks can Morey pull off. Most of his gambles have paid off, and only one, Royce White, looks like it might not pan out.

If Morey can keep playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers, the Rockets might win a title before anyone is the wiser.

## 16. Brooklyn Nets: 13.9 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 1.0 percent

Healthy Roster: 19

Roster Outlook: 25

Star Power: 26

Salary Management: 1

Assets: 2

Organization: 17

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 12.90 percent

X-Factor: Deron Williams and Brook Lopez have the potential to be a superstar duo who could win a title. Since the All-Star break the duo have averaged 43 points per game. The problem is that Joe Johnson hasn't been the same, with his scoring dropping off to 14 points since the break.

The Nets have the making of a "Big Three" here if they can get everything clicking together. How much the chemistry between them grows is the X-factor for Brooklyn.

Much depends on what happens with their head coaching situation, and it's kind of hard to understand why P.J. Carlesimo hasn't been given the permanent job yet.

## 15. Los Angeles Lakers: 14.01 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 0.1 percent

Healthy Roster: 20

Roster Outlook: 13

Star Power: 23

Salary Management: 17

Assets: 1

Organization: 23

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 14.01 percent

X-Factor: The Lakers entire future is summed up in two words: "Dwight Howard." It is not by any stretch a guarantee that he will be come back to the Lakers next season. He could just as easily bolt. That's the thing about unrestricted free agents—they're unrestricted.

Between real or perceived conflicts with Kobe Bryant, a lack of chemistry with Pau Gasol, the failure of Mike D'Antoni to work as a coach, and the potential failure of the team to miss the playoffs entirely the chance Howard goes elsewhere grows daily.

If he does, the Lakers future is in jeopardy. Earl Clark is nice, but you're not going to build a future around him. And the Lakers gave up every draft pick they legally could in trades the last couple of years.

They will have cap space in two years when Gasol's and Bryant's contracts expire, but they will only have a shell of a team and the past glory of the purple and gold to entice free agents. That may not be enough.

## 14. Washington Wizards: 14.48 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 0.0 percent

Healthy Roster: 14

Roster Outlook: 14

Star Power: 17

Salary Management: 24

Assets: 22

Organization: 10

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 14.48 percent

X-Factor: The Washington Wizards are 24-20 since John Wall rejoined the team, suggesting they have a playoff ready team right now if they could be healthy for a full season. Where it gets even more interesting is that they are 16-4 in home games when Wall started.

The biggest difference between playing on the road and playing at home is mental. That the Wizards are becoming a dominant home team suggests that they are primed to break out.  Their X-factor is just to continue to mature in the right way.

The Wizards have made some good moves over the last few years, but they made a number of what can only be described as "lunkhead" moves prior  to that.

Ernie Grunfeld is still at the helm, and he's responsible for much of the said lunkheadery, including Gilbert Arenas. And honestly, the Arenas years, and all that came with them, can't be erased by a couple of good moves.

As long as Grumfeld doesn't go lunkhead, the Wizards should be in the playoffs next year, and building towards a title run within five.

## 13. Atlanta Hawks: 14.88 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 0.4 percent

Healthy Roster: 17

Roster Outlook: 19

Star Power: 7

Salary Management: 30

Assets: 15

Organization: 13

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 14.48 percent

X-Factor: The Atlanta Hawks have to bite the bullet and let Josh Smith walk. This has more to do with the type of player than the quality of player that Smith is. Horford makes an undersized center and Smith makes for an undersized power forward, and that's never worked out right.

When they've tried playing Horford at center and Smith at small forward Smith starts believing he's been magically imbued with ability to make jump shots, and that's certainly not the case.

Peanut butter is great, and so is ketchup. But you don't want a peanut butter and ketchup sandwich. Smith and Horford are a peanut butter and ketchup sandwich.

Ideally, they would be able to attract Dwight Howard to come back to his hometown. Failing that they could pursue Al Jefferson. Either way, they are better off with a true center, and having Horford play power forward, giving them a truly imposing front court.

## 12. Memphis Grizzlies: 15.25 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 1.2 percent

Healthy Roster: 24

Roster Outlook: 24

Star Power: 21

Salary Management: 6

Assets: 4

Organization: 19

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 14.05 percent

X-Factor: The Memphis Grizzlies have been a nice story over the last few years, as an example of a small-market team making good. But have they peaked?

It's hard to look at this team and see where the room to grow is. Most of their key rotation players are in their late 20s or early 30s. Mike Conley is 25 and might have a bit of room to grow but that's it.

They don't have a lot of cap flexibility either. Nor do they have any extra picks coming to them.

It seems the only way the Grizzlies are going to get better is to make a trade but when you're this close, the tendency is to shrink form making that move. Either this group has to break through and get to the next level, or the organization has to recognize they can't and won't make a trade.

## 11. Minnesota Timberwolves: 16.34 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 0.0 percent

Healthy Roster: 13

Roster Outlook: 22

Star Power: 22

Salary Management: 18

Assets: 25

Organization: 14

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 16.34 percent

X-Factor: The Minnesota Timberwolves could keep the Mayo Clinic working overtime with the plethora of injuries they've experienced this year. I would say give them a big hand just for getting it through the season, but I'm afraid Kevin Love would break it.

But injuries, surprisingly, are not their X-factor. It's because of the injuries that we know what it is though. It's Derrick Williams, who has begun to blossom in the place of the injured Love. He is averaging 15.4 points and 6.4 rebounds in just 30 minutes since the All-Star game.

The 'Wolves haven't figured out how to use Williams and Love together yet. They are a -11.0 points per 100 possessions when the duo play together.

They either need to work this out, or they need to trade Williams and use the fact that his trade value has gone up to get something back. The brittle Andrei Kirilenko is not going to be a full-time solution at small forward for the next four years.

## 10. Golden State Warriors: 16.92 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 0.0 percent

Healthy Roster: 15

Roster Outlook: 20

Star Power: 24

Salary Management: 27

Assets: 10

Organization: 22

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 16.92 percent

X-Factor: The Warriors have seemingly everything they need to build a title run. In Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson they have an outstanding backcourt. With David Lee and Harrison Barnes, they have the makings of an outstanding frontcout, which might be even better if Andrew Bogut could ever stay healthy.

This is a team which has the players to win, and a coach in Mark Jackson who can lead them.

For the Warriors the X-factor is an issue of changing the culture. The pieces are in place, but do they believe in themselves?

The team has a legacy of losing. They've been in the postseason just one time it the last 20 seasons. Just getting to the playoffs this year would be huge. Getting there next year would be even bigger.

In fact getting there in consecutive seasons is bigger than winning a series. Getting there two seasons in a row means the first year wasn't a fluke. A team can't win a championship unless they believe they can win a championship, and they can't do that unless they expect to get into the playoffs.

## 9. New York Knicks: 16.99 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 3.8 percent

Healthy Roster: 22

Roster Outlook: 23

Star Power: 25

Salary Management: 3

Assets: 3

Organization: 16

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 16.99 percent

X-Factor: At present, the New York Knicks are on a nice 12 game winning streak. They are also having their best season since 2000. That's when they lost the Eastern Conference Finals with Jeff Van Gundy as their head coach and Patrick Ewing was their starting center.

This is as good it's gotten in the Big Apple in a long time, but they might be at their peak. They have nine players on their roster who are over 30, two whom are over 40, and only one who is under 25. In other words, they are old. Old like they remember when the Empire State Building was built old.

The Knicks don't have a lot in the way of assets, and they're going to have a hard time getting younger without draft picks or cap space to work with, but clearly, players in their 40s aren't going to be helping much five years from now. The Knicks X-factor is they must find a way to get younger.

## 8. Cleveland Cavaliers: 18.78 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 0.0 percent

Healthy Roster: 5

Roster Outlook: 27

Star Power: 20

Salary Management: 28

Assets: 30

Organization: 21

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 18.78 percent

X-Factor: The Cleveland Cavaliers are projected to make the biggest jump over the next five years. This has a lot to do with "Uncle Drew," a.k.a. Kyrie Irving, who is one of the most exciting and electric young players in the game today. Tristan Thompson is also breaking out, and Dion Waiters is looking like a promising young player. The Cavs have some nice young players.

Furthermore, in addition to their own picks, they have a bevy of other draft picks that are coming their way that will trickle out over the next five years. There is a lot to build with, and it keeps the talent flowing in over time.

And they've managed to acquire all these players and picks while keeping all kinds of freedom in regards to the cap.

In short, since LeBron James left, the Cavaliers have done a simply masterful job of changing their fortune.

Having said that they have the feel of a juggler falling down the stairs and somehow keeping the pins in the air. You wonder how he's doing it, and you're amazed by it, but you can't help but believe there's a crash coming soon.

The Cavs X-factor is to stay out of their own way, and to not let something like a coaching controversy screw everything up.

## 7. Denver Nuggets: 20.23 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 4.6 percent

Healthy Roster: 21

Roster Outlook: 26

Star Power: 13

Salary Management: 7

Assets: 16

Organization: 26

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 20.23 percent

X-Factor: The conventional wisdom has always been that you need superstars to win a title. George Karl seems determined to defy that conventional wisdom.

To be fair he doesn't have much of a choice. It's not like free agents are beating a path to Denver, so much as out of it (though you have to wonder if a couple of former stars might come back after the last election results).

Karl has been doing his best to win a title with a deep rotation of very good players instead of a couple of great players and a bunch of ho-hum role players. The Detroit Pistons accomplished that back in 2004. If the Nuggets strike gold and find the right combination of players, they could be the next.

## 6. Indiana Pacers: 20.34 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 4.0 percent

Healthy Roster: 25

Roster Outlook: 16

Star Power: 15

Salary Management: 21

Assets: 13

Organization: 24

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 20.34 percent

X-Factor: I have two teams ranked in the top 10 in both the roster and salary areas—the Indiana Pacers and the San Antonio Spurs.

The Pacers have younger stars than the Spurs though, so beyond this year their chances of wining a title are better.

However, even though those are two of their strengths, it's also their X-factor. Roy Hibbert is the Pacers tipping point. He's an outstanding defensive player. He averages 11.9 points and shoots .449, which isn't so bad when you're a shooting guard.

But he's not a shooting guard.

When you're 7'2" and hitting at that rate, it makes you one of the worst shooting giants in the history of the game. Hibbert needs to work on his post game.

On a max contract, he is making too much money, and is way too big to not be an offensive threat. If he becomes one, it's going to be hard to stop Indiana from winning a title. If he doesn't, it's going to be hard for them to win one.

## 5. Los Angeles Clippers: 21.24 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 5.9 percent

Healthy Roster: 26

Roster Outlook: 15

Star Power: 28

Salary Management: 11

Assets: 7

Organization: 20

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 21.24 percent

X-Factor: Vinny Del Negro is finally determined to learn the X's and O's, so he mastered tic-tac-toe.

He is not the brightest bulb in the box, and the Clippers' biggest problem is that the team knows it. Don't believe they've won because of him. It is in spite of him.

His crowing achievement was getting past Memphis last year, something he would not have accomplished had his starting point guard Chris Paul talked him into not quitting. Paul is fully aware that his "coach" is not a coach.

(Why did Vinny Del Negro cross the road? He didn't. He got three-quarters of the way and then Chris Paul carried him to the other side).

Del Negro's contract ends this summer, and it cannot be emphasized enough that the Clippers absolutely cannot sign him. In fact, I would venture to say that there is a definitive corollary, bordering on scientific law, that if Del Negro signs, the equal and opposite reaction will be Paul leaving.

## 4. Chicago Bulls: 21.43 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 0.5 percent

Healthy Roster: 27

Roster Outlook: 30

Star Power: 27

Salary Management: 14

Assets: 20

Organization: 28

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 21.43 percent

X-Factor: After LeBron James, the biggest signing of 2011 was Tom Thibodeau. You could probably grab five girls from the eighth grade YMCA team and he'd have them defending NBA teams in two months.

You could make the argument that no coach in history has had as successful a first three seasons as he has.

Yet, at the same time, the Chicago Bulls have had so many injuries over the last three years, there's rumors that Walking Dead creator Frank Darabont is planning on filming at the United Center next season. They've had 32 starting lineups in the three seasons that Thibodeau has been coach, which is nearly as many games as they've played with their actual starting five, 40.

If the Bulls are going to win a title, the X-factor is staying healthy, and a big part of that is Thibodeau learning to balance winning with minutes.

## 3. San Antonio Spurs: 33.20 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 16 percent

Healthy Roster: 28

Roster Outlook: 21

Star Power: 14

Salary Management: 22

Assets: 5

Organization: 30

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 33.20 percent

X-Factor: To put things in perspective, the last time the San Antonio Spurs failed to win 50 games in a season, no one knew who Monica Lewinsky was, Seinfeld was the top rated comedy on TV and Shaquille O'Neal was still with the Orlando Magic.

That's not winning seasons, that's 50-win seasons in strike-shortened seasons.

What that means is organizationally, the Spurs know what they're doing. Gregg Popovich is the best coach in basketball. He is to player development as his buddy, Craig Sager, is to bad dressing. Time after time, year after year, the Spurs take end-of-the-round draft picks and other team's waiver wire fodder, churn them through the system and make things work.

The Spurs have no X-factor other than to keep doing what they've been doing for the last 15 years. When you're the best run organization in North American professional sports, you don't change things.

## 2. Miami Heat: 46.91 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 28.7 percent

Healthy Roster: 30

Roster Outlook: 28

Star Power: 30

Salary Management: 4

Assets: 8

Organization: 27

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 46.91 percent

X-Factor: If it were just the next two seasons the Heat would be at the top of this list, but there's a major hurdle that they have to face after the end of the next season. Because of the new collective bargaining agreement, they will be looking at a massive luxury tax situation.

Depending on what else they do, just the tax could be hitting close to \$40 million in 2015-16 alone. That's an awful lot of money even if you're a major market team, and Miami really isn't a large market.

Dwyane Wade will be the oldest of the big three, but Chris Bosh will be perceived as the most expendable. How the Heat handle that situation could determine how may more titles they win.

Then again. LeBron James. LeBron James. And LeBron James.

## 1. Oklahoma City Thunder: 52.83 Percent

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Playoff Probabilities Report: 32.9 percent

Healthy Roster: 29

Roster Outlook: 29

Star Power: 29

Salary Management: 2

Assets: 21

Organization: 29

Total Percent Chance of Winning: 52.83 percent

X-Factor: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook love each other. If you don't believe me, just look at the picture.

The controversy of how they don't get along, don't play together and can't win together is a bunch of hooey. They've won the third most games in the league over the last three years, been to the Western Conference finals, and to the NBA Finals, which is literally as close as you can come to winning without actually winning.

The eventual NBA Champion beat them in the postseason in each of the last three years.

The Thunder don't need to worry about working out chemistry between Durant and Westbrook. They need to worry about cutting down on turnovers and playing better as a team.

Over that same period that they've been winning all those games they've also been turning the ball over a lot. In fact, only the Minnesota Timberwolves and Washington Wizards have more

Meanwhile the Miami Heat, the team which is their biggest obstacle to a title, thrives off of forcing turnovers and scoring on those turnovers. Point blank, the Thunder will not beat the Heat turning the ball over the way they do. Last season Miami outscored them on turnovers by 2.2 points per game in the Finals.

Which brings up the real issue that gets almost no consideration whatsoever, Scott Brooks. At what point do the Thunder question whether he's the right coach to lead them to the promised land?

Eventually all the Thunder's issues come down to coaching. Their X-factor is Brooks. Things like chemistry issues and turnovers are more a product of coaching than anything else.

Eric Spoelstra gets dismissed as a quality coach because he has superstars, but Brooks gets a free pass. If the Thunder don't win a title this year, and in particular if it's because of a failure to improve on the factors that caused them to lose last year, then it's time to question whether he should be the Thunder coach going forward.

Where can I comment?