NBA Playoffs Simulation 2022 | Simulating the NBA Playoffs

Posted: Jun 2, 2022Last updated: Jun 2, 2022

The NBA Finals are finally here, and after a long season and playoffs, we get to find out who will be the champion.

The Western Conference Champion Golden State Warriors will face off against the Eastern Conference Champion Boston Celtics.

Below, I explain how I simulated the NBA Finals and the result of my simulations.

All NBA gameday odds and lines are current as of Monday, May 31, at 7:00 p.m. ET.

How The NBA Playoffs Simulation Works

Each team in the NBA Playoffs is assigned a power rating. I can then simulate a team’s chances of winning based on the ratings between the two teams in a given matchup.

How does this NBA Playoff simulator work?

  • By finding the difference between the two teams, you’ll get the number of points that one team should be favored by.
  • To account for home-court advantage, I add four points to the home team. This is worth significantly more than it is during the regular season, where homecourt advantage is worth only 2.5 points. I base this off the 2016-19 seasons where home-court advantage in the playoffs was worth 4.11 points according to Dr. Ed Feng from The Power Rank.
  • For example, if one team has a power rating of 22 and their opponent sits at 25, they should be a three-point underdog in a neutral matchup. At home, that team will be favored by one-point, but on the road, they will be seven-point underdogs.

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How do I make these NBA playoffs power ratings? 

Just like my NCAA projections, I chose not to reinvent the wheel. The dirty secret in sports betting is that most sports bettors copy the work of other sports bettors or non-betting analysts.

For my NBA Playoffs model, I looked on to see which public handicappers have had the best track record this season against the spread and have given their power ratings more weight in my model.

Most importantly, I have given the betting markets the most weight in my power ratings, as they have been more accurate than any of the public handicappers this season.

Once I compiled my power ratings, I then have my own power ratings that I can use to simulate the Playoffs.

After simulating the NBA Playoffs 25,000 times in Microsoft Excel, I tabulate how often each team won the NBA Finals, in addition to the number of simulations where each team won the Eastern and Western Conference championships.

I bet on a team to win the NBA Finals if their odds are greater than my breakeven odds.

  • Breakeven odds are how often a bet needs to hit for you to break even. To be a profitable long-term bettor, you should be making bets where the payoff is better than the breakeven odds.
  • For example, let’s say my model gives a team a 12.5% chance of winning the NBA Finals for a breakeven price of (+700). If a sportsbook offers (+800) on that bet, I take it. Otherwise, it’s not a good bet to take.

Essentially, this is all to help bettors figure out when to make a bet.

NBA Playoffs 2022 Simulation

NBA Finals

Boston got to the NBA Finals by defeating the Brooklyn Nets 4-0 in the first round, Milwaukee Bucks 4-3 in the second round, and then the Miami Heat 4-3 in the Eastern Conference Finals. Despite having a great team, the Celtics narrowly made the finals after beating tough Bucks and Heat teams.

Golden State had a noticeably easier path to making the Finals. They topped 2021-22 MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets 4-1 in the first round, a tough Memphis Grizzlies team 4-2 in the second round, and then beat Dallas 4-1 in the Western Conference finals.

TeamChampionship WinnerChampionship Winner Breakeven Odds

Since the beginning of the second round, Golden State has been the market favorite to win the NBA Finals. Up until the NBA Finals, I thought that the Warriors were a bad bet, and that the Celtics were one of the best bets.

Now that the NBA Finals are about to start, my model surprisingly is more bullish on the Warriors than the betting markets. Even though they are a juicy series favorite at (-150), my model believes they should be priced closer to (-200), as they win in 67% of my simulations.

Best NBA Playoffs Bet

Golden State Warriors Win NBA Finals (-150) at Betway Sportsbook

In the NBA Playoffs, home-court advantage is king. For the Finals, even though the Celtics are a 2-seed and the Warriors are a 3-seed, the Warriors have home-court advantage. That is because home-court advantage is decided by regular-season record, and the Warriors topped the Celtics by two wins.

I am not a fan of hedging, as bettors lose money long term by taking a negative expected value position to reduce the risk of a potential loss or to guarantee a profit. The occasional instance where I am a fan of hedging is when the hedge on its own individual merit is a good bet.

I recommended Boston (+1000) to win the Finals in this column when the Playoffs began, and now I am taking them off the board. Based on Golden State being a better team and having home-court advantage, they should be favored by more than (-150) to win the title.


Kevin Davis

Kevin Davis is a Betting Analyst at The Game Day residing in Hoboken, NJ. Previously a Bronx resident, Kevin got his start betting on sports at his local Bronx barbershop. When sports betting was legalized across the river in Jersey, Kevin was there on the ground floor making regular trips to the Hoboken PATH station or for soup dumplings in Fort Lee. Previously, Kevin has written for The Action Network, and Vegas Insider.

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