Using All-Star games to predict which conference will take the Championship title

For some readers, this post may no longer be relevant due to the fact that, since the 2017-18 season, the All-Star games will no longer feature East versus West matchups. Instead, in the new format, two captains create their teams by drafting from a pool of players, regardless of conference affiliation.

However, up until the 2016-17 season, the All-Star games were always matchups between East vs West Conference. And I had this wild idea that whichever conference that wins the season’s All-Star game is also the winning conference of the NBA championship playoffs.

As we all know it, All-Star games are more about entertainment than about winning. No player takes the game seriously enough to play all his might and risk getting injured.

However, as frivolous and nonchalant All-Star games are, I thought they might reflect the overall difference in strengths between teams in the Eastern Conference vs. those in the West.

There have been many articles and studies that demonstrated this cross-conference imbalance in talents, such as these:

So I decided to test this idea: Whichever conference that wins the All-Star game would also go on to win the NBA playoffs championship.

It turns out, 60% of the times, the All-Star winning conferences and the Playoffs winning conferences are the same.

  • East as All-Star Game Winner & Championship Winning Conference: 24
  • West as All-Star Game Winner & Championship Winning Conference: 16
  • East as All-Star Game Winner & West as Championship Winning Conference: 13
  • West as All-Star Game Winner & East as Championship Winning Conference: 13

I thought it was very interesting to see how such a simplistic model can predict the correct playoffs champion conference 60% of the times.

Of course, this method is no longer applicable due to the aforementioned new All-Star game format. However, it does serve as a reminder to consider East-vs-West talent difference when making predictions.

season All-Star Winning Conference Playoffs Champion Conference
2016-17 West West
2015-16 West East
2014-15 West West
2013-14 East West
2012-13 West East
2011-12 West East
2010-11 West West
2009-10 East West
2008-09 West West
2007-08 East East
2006-07 West West
2005-06 East East
2004-05 East West
2003-04 West East
2002-03 West West
2001-02 West West
2000-01 East West
1999-00 West West
1998-99 NA West
1997-98 East East
1996-97 East East
1995-96 East East
1994-95 West West
1993-94 East West
1992-93 West East
1991-92 West East
1990-91 East East
1989-90 East East
1988-89 West East
1987-88 East West
1986-87 West West
1985-86 East East
1984-85 West West
1983-84 East East
1982-83 East East
1981-82 East West
1980-81 East East
1979-80 East West
1978-79 West West
1977-78 East East
1976-77 West West
1975-76 East East
1974-75 East West
1973-74 West East
1972-73 East East
1971-72 West West
1970-71 West West
1969-70 East East
1968-69 East East
1967-68 East East
1966-67 West East
1965-66 East East
1964-65 East East
1963-64 East East
1962-63 East East
1961-62 West East
1960-61 West East
1959-60 East East
1958-59 West East
1957-58 East West
1956-57 East East
1955-56 West East
1954-55 East East
1953-54 East West
1952-53 West West
1951-52 East West
1950-51 East West


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About the Author: Howard Song

I’m a data practitioner by day, a web developer by night, a semi-competent swimmer, an active basketball player, a collector of cool ideas, an aspiring entrepreneur, a college dropout but a lifelong learner, and a self-professed nice guy. I love all things basketball, data, programming, and entrepreneurship.

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