How the Warriors eliminated the best prediction model in the NBA


The Warriors entered this postseason as an unknown. Klay Thompson only played once as the schedule changed to 2022, Draymond Green dealt with an injury that kept him out for two months and then Steph Curry missed the final 12 games of the regular season with a foot injury.

All told, the Warriors were a sub-.500 team after the All-Star Game and entered the postseason without a fixed rotation, momentum or any sort of continuity on either end of the floor.

So of course they made it to the NBA Finals.


Now that Golden State is through its sixth NBA Finals in eight years and four wins away from a fourth title, there are plenty of believers in the Warriors once again.

The wise guys in the desert — or, more accurately, the bookmakers who send odds to your phone in certain states — love the Warriors to win the title, regardless of the opponent.

In fact, after Boston lost a deciding game at home to Miami on Friday night, pushing the Western Conference Finals to a Game 7, it seems everyone, not just the punters, is on Dubs.

But computers remain skeptical.

Ok, I only know of one computer, but there could be more out there. Cyberspace is vast.

By now, you may have seen a screenshot or heard of the FiveThirtyEight website’s NBA predictive model. They call it RAPTOR, who cares why? – and as of Saturday morning, he says that the Warriors, despite being in the NBA Finals and being the favorites to win the title, have only a 29 percent chance of winning the series.

Twenty nine percent?

Surely they must be kidding.

(Did I do a good job of feigning outrage there?)

That Golden State title percentage, which has risen from a low of 7 percent in recent weeks, has become an Internet meme. It’s been so discussed, along with the necessary outrage, of course (it’s the internet, after all), that it might lead someone to believe that these Warriors are the second coming of the We Believe team.

Well, I’m sorry to say that these dubs are not losers.

No, Golden State was instead a team that had only played to its full potential for a few moments, a few games at most, this season.

And now it’s fair to say the Warriors are playing close to that level as they await their opponent in the NBA Finals. Things have changed for the Warriors.

The model remained the same.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – MAY 26: Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson (11) celebrates after winning the NBA Western Conference Finals at the Chase Center in San Francisco, California on Thursday, May 26, 2022. Los Golden State Warriors defeated the Dallas Mavericks 120-110. (José Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)