Ranking NBA teams by tiers

Breaking down title contenders, playoff contenders and bottom-feeders

Updated: August 27, 2014, 12:36 PM ET
By Bradford Doolittle | ESPN Insider

Blake GriffinRobert Hanashiro/USA TODAY SportsAnderson Varejao and Blake Griffin are expected to tangle again, this time in the 2015 NBA finals.

Change might be the way of the world, but that's not always readily apparent in the NBA.

It can often feel like the same teams keep generating the same results year after year. The Chicago Bulls of the 1990s won six of eight titles, and had Michael Jordan not retired, it might have been eight of eight. The Bill Russell-led Boston Celtics won 11 titles in 13 years. The Spurs have won at least 50 games (including prorated strike seasons) in 17 straight seasons. You get the idea.

Change does come, even in the NBA, and this summer it feels like we had our fair share of movement on the team hierarchy ladder. It starts in Cleveland, where LeBron James and Kevin Love hope to super-charge the Cavaliers, and the outlook has changed drastically for a few other teams as well.

Just before the start of the 2014-15 season, we sorted teams into tiers based on projections, and we're repeating the process today to see where teams stand after a tumultuous offseason. Team baseline win projections have been formulated by combining early SCHOENE forecasts with team projections generated by the same RPM-based methodology we used last week to rank players.

The hope is to balance out any inherent biases within the two systems and, in reality, the forecasts are pretty close for all but a couple of teams. Baseline wins were plugged into a Monte Carlo-style simulator of the 2014-15 schedule that accounted for home-court advantage and other scheduling factors. Finally, the top eight players on each team were used to calculate a postseason baseline, and using the seeds from each simulated regular season, the playoffs were played out. This process was repeated 1,000 times.

The results of all those probabilities and random numbers serve as the basis for separating the teams in tiers below. A lot has changed since last season. (To see just how much, just click on the final version of last spring's Hollinger Playoff Odds.) Each team's average win total in the 1,000 simulations is listed in parenthesis.