FanShot

Ranking NBA teams by tiers [ESPN]

Playoff contenders [3rd tier] (Teams that won less than 1 percent of the simulations but made the playoffs at least 15 percent of the time, ordered by playoff probability)

Golden State Warriors (44.2), New York Knicks (38.6), Dallas Mavericks (43.7), Washington Wizards (38.5), Cleveland Cavaliers (38.4), Toronto Raptors (36.7), Portland Trail Blazers (40.4), New Orleans Pelicans (39.8)

The controversial teams in this group are easy to spot. We covered disconnect between objective-based projections and those of the subjective variety for the Warriors and Knicks the other day, so I urge you to check that out. What's interesting to me about this group is that a number of teams commonly bandied about as "sleeper" squads are included. Chances are, the one or two biggest surprise teams of the season are going to emerge from the up-and-coming teams in Cleveland, Toronto, Portland, New Orleans and Washington.

If you are a fan of one of these teams and dare to dream, consider this: All of them except for the Wizards won the title in at least one of the simulations. Hey, a non-zero chance at a title is better than nothing.

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