Vegas and advanced-analytics at odds over Phoenix Suns championship chances

Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /
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Kevin Durant #35 celebrates with Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns
(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /

While Phoenix is the third most likely team to win according to odds-makers, we get a different story if we look at super-computing and advanced analytics site FiveThirtyEight. According to the FiveThirtyEight algorithm, Phoenix is the seventh most likely team to win the title, and worse, the Suns only have a three percent chance to win it all.

Advanced analytics down on the Suns’ chances of a championship

Before you break your phone, we must remember that gambling odds are influenced by what gamblers are doing, and analytics are not. Furthermore, when it comes to gambling odds, you are betting simply on that team, and with analytics, the three percent represents the Suns’ chances out of 100 to win.

If it makes you feel any better, the Warriors are only one percent more likely to win at 4%, and the Celtics are the computer favorites with a 26% chance of winning the finals. The 76ers, Bucks, Grizzles, and Nuggets join the Warriors and C’s as teams more likely to win the Championship than Phoenix.

Sample size the limitation on analytics in this instance for Phoenix

Ultimately, until there are only two teams, and the Suns are one of them, the odds are the supercomputer will never make Phoenix the favorite. Unlike Vegas and human bookmakers who take the immediacy of something like the Durant trade fully into account, for an algorithm, it takes time for the data to catch up.

Phoenix has played 77 games this season, and while Durant has been on the team for almost 20 of those games, he has only played in five. That means the data regarding the impact of KD on the Suns is buried behind 72  other games Phoenix has played this season without KD.

Of course, knowing this flaw exists, the algorithm can be updated, and the computer may eventually recognize the reality of the shift in chances the Suns have to win a championship. Or we, the fans and the gamblers may be flawed in thinking the Suns will win, and the computer will have been right all along. If you ask me, nobody beats Vegas, even a supercomputer, so I like the Suns’ chances.

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