NBA PACE Rankings: Where All 30 Teams Stand After the All-Star Break

Mike Hallihan
Mike Hallihan February 24, 2022
Updated 2022/04/19 at 4:32 PM
Edited in Prisma app with Dolphin

While this is only the second iteration of the NBA PACE Rankings (apologies on the lack of frequency), what better time to assess where all of The Association’s teams measure up to their expectations, than at the All-Star break, which is slightly more than halfway through the regular season. The trade deadline (with plenty of movement) and All-Star Game (with plenty of threes via Steph Curry) are now in the history books.

Championship contenders like the Nets and Lakers have bottomed out in these rankings with their unexpected mediocrity on full display, while young squads like the Cavaliers, Grizzlies, and (to a slightly lesser degree) Timberwolves have excelled, both in comparison to their preseason expectations and with their overall performance within the league. The Cavs and Grizz have been particularly phenomenal, as the PACE Rankings below validate with authority.


PACE Rankings Functionality

I’ve once again included the below section, which acts as a full “tutorial” behind what the PACE Rankings represent and how they function. And here’s a direct reference to the first edition of NBA PACE Rankings for comparison of how teams have progressed or regressed over the past couple of months.

* Click on each box to expand the full details.

What exactly is “PACE?”

I’m glad you asked. PACE is an acronym for Performance Against Created Expectations. Essentially, it’s measuring the performance of each team relative to their preseason created expectations. “Created” in the sense that oddsmakers are ultimately creating the expected regular season win total of each team based on a multitude of factors, including past performance, offseason movement, current rosters, injuries, scheduling, and whether or not you have LeBron James, to name just a few. But those win totals (especially for gambling purposes) have to come from somewhere, right? And the word “pace” carries a double meaning here. Neat. For these rankings, we’re talking strictly about professional teams winning games.

P – Performance: This is the winning. Streakiness will obviously move teams up and down the spectrum, but being consistent (or slightly better) will give teams a positive and stable ranking for overall performance for the 2021-22 season.

A – Against: Ultimately, this is a comparison between the expected (preseason) win total before the season against the current pace (winning percentage) at which the team is currently winning. Of course, it’s also a comparison of teams throughout the league and the movement up and down as the season progresses.

C – Created: There are no direct statistics or magic formula that lead to the created over/under win total number set before the regular season starts. There are many factors that go into oddsmakers settling on a final number. These numbers can always move — depending on when you’re staring at them — right up until opening night tipoff. But alas, these expectations are indeed “created” by individuals and/or teams.

E – Expectations: Simply, this is how we/they feel about each of the teams and what they’re expected to do in the upcoming season. The fun part is, as you’ll notice sprinkled within the rankings, there are always surprises, both good and bad. Teams that are doing far better, or far worse, than we/they thought they would. As a hypothetical NBA example, the Orlando Magic are certainly not expected to win a 60 games and the title this season. They’re expected to suck. They’re preseason win total was set at 22.5 games. If they happen to win a few more games than expected, and carry a pace that has them winning, say 30 games, by the end of the season, they’ll show up in the more favorable part of these rankings with a PACE Factor of 7.5. Did you catch that math? 30 wins – 22.5 expected wins = 7.5. This factor will rise or fall with every single win or loss and can be measured at any point in time in the season. If the above scenario were to hold true, the Magic would have significantly outperformed their cruddy preseason expectations. On the other hand, if a title favorite like the Brooklyn Nets are tumbling along at a pace that projects 40 wins at season’s end (as opposed to their preseason expected number of 55.5), they’ll be found near the bottom, with a PACE Factor of -15.5. Make sense?

How does PACE work?

This one nugget of information is very important: The PACE Rankings are not designed to simply spell out who the league’s best overall teams are. Nor do they just list the teams with the best records from top to bottom. If you’re looking for that, head over to any website’s “NBA Standings” page. And if you’re interested in someone’s subjective perspective on the league’s most “powerful” teams, there’s plenty of those kind of rankings out there.

The PACE Rankings will illustrate each teams’ win-based performance at a moment in time, relative to their preseason expectations coming into the season.

That is the critical differentiator here. It’s Expectations vs. Reality. And while the numbers are purely based on wins, winning percentage, and win pace, it’s the oddsmakers that set that initial number and are the ultimate gatekeepers to each team’s performance within the confines of these rankings.

How is the PACE Factor calculated?

Straightforward math here. Teams are ordered #1 through #30 based on the difference between the number of games they’re projected to win at their current pace versus the number that was set as their preseason expected win total. I’m calling this the PACE Factor. Here’s a quick formula for the more visual people:

(Current Win Percentage x 82 games) – Preseason Expected Win Total

What statistics are utilized?

The abrupt answer is WINS. But here’s a quick rundown of the numbers included in each of the team capsules:

Current Record: The team’s current win-loss record at the time of publication.

Win Percentage: The team’s current percentage of games won versus number of total games played. You may also see this referred to as “pace” or “win pace.”

Projected Win Total: This is the team’s current Win Percentage multiplied by 82, which is the number of games in the NBA regular season. This number fluctuates with every win or loss and forecasts/projects out how many total wins each team should have at the end of the 2021-22 regular season.

Preseason Expected Win Total: This is the preseason over/under win total for each team that was set by the oddsmaker before the season started on October 19, 2021. For these rankings, Odds Shark was the website of choice. This is the only static number used in the rankings. Next season and beyond, an aggregate of several oddsmaking sites will be considered, as this number is critical to the exercise.

PACE Factor: This is the factor that is used to rank the teams from #1 through #30. This is the difference between the Projected Win Total (at a given time) and the Preseason Expected Win Total.

Optics & Considerations

Frequency: New editions of the PACE Rankings will be published on a weekly basis, most typically on Mondays.

Commentary: Providing commentary certainly takes work, and I’m of the ‘quality over quantity’ perspective for these rankings. The format is simple: Bolded team names include a comment within its capsule, while un-bolded will have simply the team information and statistics. Comments will range based on capacity and level of significant happenings for each team during that given week.

Floors and Ceilings: Consider that those teams with the higher win total expectations have significantly less room for error, while teams that have low expectations have much more room to perform better than they’ve been originally estimated. For example, a team like the Utah Jazz doesn’t have a lot of room to win more than their expected 53.5 games, so their ceiling is more limited. Them staying on pace (close to a 0.0 PACE Factor) is still very impressive and anything in the “green” is excellent for this team in terms of overall performance. Meanwhile, a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers, expected at only 27.5 wins, have a low floor, so in turn, have much more room to put together a surprising season and exceed expectations.


Since the NBA returns tonight after a week-long “vacation,” let’s get to the good stuff and see where the 30 teams line up.

Statistic Factor Team(s)
Biggest Rises +14 Timberwolves
  +12 Grizzlies, Spurs
  +10 Celtics
Biggest Drops -14 Nets
  -12 Knicks
  -11 Clippers
Best Record 48-10 Suns
Worst Record 13-47 Magic
Winning Streak W7 Suns
Losing Streak L7 Magic, Rockets

* Click on each box to expand the team capsule. All 30 contain current records and statistical information. Bolded teams include some fun additional commentary.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers: 22.0 ▲2

 

Previous PACE Rank: #3
Current Record: 35-23
Win Percentage: .603% / Streak: L2
Current Projected Win Total: 49.5
Preseason Expected Win Total: 27.5
PACE Factor: 22.0

  • The Cavs have been the Eastern Conference feel-good story of the season and in terms of PACE Factor, they are miles ahead of the rest of the league (they’ve already long surpassed their 27.5 expected wins total). On top of that, they just hosted an incredible All-Star weekend (minus the lame dunk contest) in which they themselves had two All-Stars and won the Skills Competition. Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen are in the Most Improved conversation, Evan Mobley is likely leading the way for Rookie of the Year, Kevin Love could get some 6th Man love, and they have the pieces to be very dangerous come playoff time. So many good stories out of Cleveland this season.
2. Phoenix Suns: 16.4 ▲2

 

Previous PACE Rank: #4
Current Record: 48-10
Win Percentage: .828% / Streak: W7
Current Projected Win Total: 67.9
Preseason Expected Win Total: 51.5
PACE Factor: 16.4

  • Every time you look up, the Suns seems to have a 6-7 game win streak going. It’s been bananas. Projected for 51.5 wins, the fact that they’re 16.4 wins ahead of that pace, is absolutely remarkable. Though, it will be interesting to see how this squad holds up with the Chris Paul thumb injury, which will sideline him for a few weeks. They’ve built up such an incredible record, it might not even matter.
3. Memphis Grizzlies: 14.5 ▲12

 

Previous PACE Rank: #15
Current Record: 41-19
Win Percentage: .683% / Streak: L1
Current Projected Win Total: 56.0
Preseason Expected Win Total: 41.5
PACE Factor: 14.5

  • Since the first edition, Memphis has skyrocketed up the PACE rankings. While Ja Morant is the most polarizing Grizzly, and certainly garners the most hype and praise, there’s a reason this team (unexpectedly) has the league’s third best record: The Grit & Grind Grizzly Way. Memphis leads the league in the major hustle stats: Rebounding (48.9 per game), Steals (10.1), and Blocks (6.3).
4. Golden State Warriors: 10.4 ▼2

 

Previous PACE Rank: #2
Current Record: 42-17
Win Percentage: .712% / Streak: L2
Current Projected Win Total: 58.4
Preseason Expected Win Total: 48
PACE Factor: 10.4

5. Toronto Raptors: 9.5 ▲7

 

Previous PACE Rank: #12
Current Record: 32-25
Win Percentage: .561% / Streak: W1
Current Projected Win Total: 46.0
Preseason Expected Win Total: 36.5
PACE Factor: 9.5

  • The Raps moved up 7 spots and have now impressively entered the PACE Top 5. Fred FanVleet just enjoyed his first All-Star appearance, while Pascal Siakam has an outside chance to make an All-NBA Team after a scorching couple of months. His numbers since January 1st are pretty wild: 23.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 50.8 FG%, 40.3 3PT%. Toronto and their versatility are starting to look dangerous, with their sights set on at least a Top 6 seed in the East. That 36.5 expected win total is looking silly right now.
6. Chicago Bulls: 9.3

 

Previous PACE Rank: #6
Current Record: 38-21
Win Percentage: .644% / Streak: W5
Current Projected Win Total: 52.8
Preseason Expected Win Total: 43.5
PACE Factor: 9.3

7. Minnesota Timberwolves: 7.6 ▲14

 

Previous PACE Rank: #21
Current Record: 31-28
Win Percentage: .525% / Streak: L1
Current Projected Win Total: 43.1
Preseason Expected Win Total: 35.5
PACE Factor: 7.6

  • The frisky Timberwolves have worked their way up to 7th place in the West (and only 4 games out of 5th). They also happen to be the PACE Rankings’ biggest riser this time around, up 14 spots from the first edition. Suddenly, the young core of (3-point champion) Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and D-Angelo Russell is looking promising. It’s about time, for a team that’s only finished above .500 once in the past 16 seasons.
8. Miami Heat: 4.8 ▲1

 

Previous PACE Rank: #9
Current Record: 38-21
Win Percentage: .644% / Streak: W1
Current Projected Win Total: 52.8
Preseason Expected Win Total: 48
PACE Factor: 4.8

9. Washington Wizards: 3.7 ▼8

 

Previous PACE Rank: #1
Current Record: 27-31
Win Percentage: .466% / Streak: W1
Current Projected Win Total: 38.2
Preseason Expected Win Total: 34.5
PACE Factor: 3.7

10. Oklahoma City Thunder: 2.5 ▼5

 

 

Previous PACE Rank: #5
Current Record: 18-40
Win Percentage: .310% / Streak: L1
Current Projected Win Total: 25.4
Preseason Expected Win Total: 23
PACE Factor: 2.5

  • It’s kind of phenomenal that the Thunder, 22 games under .500 and playing a ton of rookies, still somehow carry a positive PACE Factor of 2.5. As evidence, here is the list of Thunder players who have started the most games so far this season: Josh Giddey (53), Luguentz Dort (51), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (43), Darius Bazley (37), and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (36). This is what happens when your preseason expected win total is only 23 games.
11. San Antonio Spurs: 1.5 ▲12

 

Previous PACE Rank: #23
Current Record: 23-36
Win Percentage: .390% / Streak: W1
Current Projected Win Total: 32.0
Preseason Expected Win Total: 30.5
PACE Factor: 1.5

12. Charlotte Hornets: 1.1 ▼4

 

Previous PACE Rank: #8
Current Record: 29-31
Win Percentage: .483% / Streak: L3
Current Projected Win Total: 39.6
Preseason Expected Win Total: 38.5
PACE Factor: 1.1

13. Dallas Mavericks: 0.1 ▼2

 

Previous PACE Rank: #11
Current Record: 35-24
Win Percentage: .593% / Streak: W2
Current Projected Win Total: 48.6
Preseason Expected Win Total: 48.5
PACE Factor: 0.1

14. Boston Celtics: 0.0 ▲10

 

Previous PACE Rank: #24
Current Record: 34-26
Win Percentage: .567% / Streak: L1
Current Projected Win Total: 46.5
Preseason Expected Win Total: 46.5
PACE Factor: 0.0

  • The Celtics have been the hottest team in the league over the past couple of weeks, just recently having a 9-game win streak snapped (by the league-worst Pistons of all teams). That run got them to an even PACE ranking of 0.0 (up 10 spots), and now exactly in line with that the oddsmakers set before the season. They moved around several key parts (out with Schroder, Freedom. Richardson and in with White and Theis), at the trade deadline too, so it will be interesting to see if they can finish above or below expectations after the shuffling.
15. Philadelphia 76ers: -1.0 ▲7

 

Previous PACE Rank: #22
Current Record: 35-23
Win Percentage: .603% / Streak: W1
Current Projected Win Total: 49.5
Preseason Expected Win Total: 50.5
PACE Factor: -1.0

  • The Sixers, with MVP-leader-in-the-clubhouse Joel Embiid, have quietly climbed to within striking distance of the East’s top seed (2.5 games), while also rising up 7 spots in these rankings. And that’s before the arrival of one James Harden, who should make his debut shortly and open up even more space for Embiid to operate. Philly is going to be fun to watch down the stretch and poised to finish on the positive side of the PACE Rankings.
16. Denver Nuggets: -1.3 ▼6

 

Previous PACE Rank: #10
Current Record: 33-25
Win Percentage: .569% / Streak: W3
Current Projected Win Total: 46.7
Preseason Expected Win Total: 48
PACE Factor: -1.3

17. Utah Jazz: -2.6

 

Previous PACE Rank: #17
Current Record: 36-22
Win Percentage: .621% / Streak: L1
Current Projected Win Total: 50.9
Preseason Expected Win Total: 53.5
PACE Factor: -2.6

18. Los Angeles Clippers: -4.2 ▼11

 

Previous PACE Rank: #7
Current Record: 30-31
Win Percentage: .492% / Streak: W1
Current Projected Win Total: 40.3
Preseason Expected Win Total: 44.5
PACE Factor: -4.2

19. Orlando Magic: -4.7 ▼3

 

Previous PACE Rank: #16
Current Record: 13-47
Win Percentage: .217% / Streak: L7
Current Projected Win Total: 17.8
Preseason Expected Win Total: 22.5
PACE Factor: -4.7

  • Alright, this is where the PACE Rankings get super funky. The Magic and Rockets, the league’s worst and third worst teams by record respectively, actually rank 19th and 20th in PACE. They’re each currently in the midst of 7-game losing streaks as well. So what gives? Well, when the bar is set that dramatically low, winning a few games almost by accident can help these lowly teams keep “pace.” The Rockets, next on the list, have actually risen 9 spots since the first edition. It’s weird, but it’s still a fun, unique measurement (and even some kind of silver lining for the terrible teams until Draft day).
20. Houston Rockets: -5.3 ▲9

 

Previous PACE Rank: #29
Current Record: 15-43
Win Percentage: .259% / Streak: L7
Current Projected Win Total: 21.2
Preseason Expected Win Total: 26.5
PACE Factor: -5.3

  • See Orlando Magic directly above.
21. New Orleans Pelicans: -6.0 ▲9

 

 

Previous PACE Rank: #30
Current Record: 23-36
Win Percentage: .390% / Streak: L2
Current Projected Win Total: 32.0
Preseason Expected Win Total: 38
PACE Factor: -6.0

  • The Pelicans are intriguing (and not dead yet for a playoff berth). After starting the season 7-20, they’ve actually gone 16-16 since, bumping them from last in the PACE Rankings to 21st. The recent acquisition of C.J. McCollum will give an added offensive boost, while the “Zion Factor” might ultimately be the make-or-break element for their chance at a playoff upset. Either way, they have turned their season around after that putrid start.
22. Milwaukee Bucks: -6.3 ▲6

 

Previous PACE Rank: #28
Current Record: 36-24
Win Percentage: .600% / Streak: L1
Current Projected Win Total: 49.2
Preseason Expected Win Total: 55.5
PACE Factor: -6.3

23. Sacramento Kings: -6.4 ▼3

 

Previous PACE Rank: #20
Current Record: 22-38
Win Percentage: .367% / Streak: L2
Current Projected Win Total: 30.1
Preseason Expected Win Total: 36.5
PACE Factor: -6.4

24. Detroit Pistons: -7.1 ▼6

 

Previous PACE Rank: #18
Current Record: 13-45
Win Percentage: .224% / Streak: W1
Current Projected Win Total: 181.4
Preseason Expected Win Total: 25.5
PACE Factor: -7.1

25. New York Knicks: -7.8 ▼12

 

Previous PACE Rank: #13
Current Record: 25-34
Win Percentage: .424% / Streak: L3
Current Projected Win Total: 34.7
Preseason Expected Win Total: 42.5
PACE Factor: -7.8

  • It’s a very tight race in determining which of the New York teams has been the bigger disaster. Here’s the Knicks case: Went 5-1 in October to open the season, the team was playing defense, Julius Randle seemed poised to repeat his All-Star season, Thibs had the guys firing, the Knicks were aiming for a middle-seed in the East. Fast forward to today and they’ve gone 3-13 in their last 16 games. The body language is bad and they can’t score the ball. The offense is broken. They now rank 27th in points, 27th in FG%, 25th in FT%, and 29th in Assists. They were expected to win 42-43 games, but are now approximately 8 games behind that pace. They’ll be lucky to make a run at the play-in games (where they’re currently 3.5 games behind 10th place). Stephen A.’s rant encapsulates them completely, go look it up.
26. Atlanta Hawks: -7.9

 

Previous PACE Rank: #26
Current Record: 28-30
Win Percentage: .483% / Streak: W2
Current Projected Win Total: 39.6
Preseason Expected Win Total: 47.5
PACE Factor: -7.9

27. Portland Trail Blazers: -9.6 ▼8

 

 

Previous PACE Rank: #19
Current Record: 25-34
Win Percentage: .424% / Streak: W4
Current Projected Win Total: 34.7
Preseason Expected Win Total: 44.5
PACE Factor: -9.6

28. Brooklyn Nets: -12.4 ▼14

 

Previous PACE Rank: #14
Current Record: 31-28
Win Percentage: .525% / Streak: L1
Current Projected Win Total: 43.1
Preseason Expected Win Total: 55.5
PACE Factor: -12.4

  • On the other side of New York, the Nets have suffered an alternate measure of failure. Their record is far better than the Knicks, but expectations were also much higher. Like championship kind of higher. Overall, the “Big Three” of Durant, Harden, and Irving played only 16 games together total, for various reasons. Being only 3 games over .500 at this point makes their PACE Factor cringeworthy at -12.4. However, there’s a new threesome in town, with the arrival of Ben Simmons to replace Harden. And it also appears that Kyrie might be able to play full-time very soon. While they may not make it back to a positive FACE Factor for the season, expect the Nets to rise up the ranks when the unit is back to full strength.
29. Los Angeles Lakers: -14.3 ▼4

 

Previous PACE Rank: #25
Current Record: 27-31
Win Percentage: .466% / Streak: W1
Current Projected Win Total: 38.2
Preseason Expected Win Total: 52.5
PACE Factor: -14.3

  • The Lakers have been a mess all season. Now Anthony Davis is out (AGAIN) for a while. At 4 games under .500, if they went 24-0 the rest of the way, they still wouldn’t make it to their 52.5 expected win total. The solution to this mess of a roster is definitely not hiding in plain sight (read: there’s not buyout guy that can just “fix” things). That said, I think the Lakers make the play-in games, get to the “real playoffs” and potentially cause a stir because you know, LeBron. But as far as PACE goes, they’ll likely remain near the bottom for the rest of the regular season.
30. Indiana Pacers: -15.2 ▼3

 

Previous PACE Rank: #27
Current Record: 20-40
Win Percentage: .333% / Streak: W1
Current Projected Win Total: 27.3
Preseason Expected Win Total: 42.5
PACE Factor: -15.2


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