Can you summarize the NBA season in one chart? With 794 games, more than 152,000 possessions and some 372,000 plays, probably not, but we’ve given it a shot. What you see above is the 2014-15 season’s win probabilities, summarized. At any point in an NBA game, each team has a probability of winning based on the time remaining, the score and the situation (i.e. after a made shot, shooting foul, etc.). In the chart, each team’s in-game win probability is averaged over each minute of regulation time. It’s like watching a win-loss record develop in real time.
The win probability model that provides the foundation of the chart uses data from 13 NBA seasons (2000 to 2012). The model is not based on simulations, but rather it does its best to reflect how NBA games are actually played, won and lost.
One of our favorite findings: The Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks share a similar win-loss record, but they’ve taken different paths to get to that point. The Warriors have shown more dominance throughout games, often building early, insurmountable leads. The Hawks, in contrast, don’t pull away until the fourth quarter.
Let us know about your own discoveries in the comments below.