STATS Watchability Ratings: How Do These NBA Conference Finals Compare to Years Past?

By: Henry Ettinger | May 15, 2019

Now that LeBron James’ eight-year run through the Eastern Conference with Miami and Cleveland has ended, and Kevin Durant’s injury has casted some doubt about the Warriors chances to make it to the NBA finals out of the Western Conference, these conference finals matchups feel more intriguing than previous years. But are they really? Of course, we at STATS try to measure that.

Enter STATS’ NBA Watchability Ratings. STATS judges how entertaining – or boring – each NBA game will be on a 1-10 scale using a proprietary model of predictive metrics. Statistics from the previous two weeks factor in most, but other things like Las Vegas spreads and injuries are also among the dozens of other variables taken into account.

Let’s take a look at how, according to STATS, these conference finals matchups compare to the other conference finals series over the last five years.

First, let’s use our standard rating system with everything weighted equally.



Year Away Home Watchability
2018 Warriors Rockets 10.00
2016 Thunder Warriors 9.25
2017 Cavaliers Celtics 8.42
2017 Spurs Warriors 8.33
2019 Raptors Bucks 8.22
2015 Cavaliers Hawks 8.09
2019 Trail Blazers Warriors 7.99
2018 Cavaliers Celtics 7.77
2015 Rockets Warriors 7.38
2016 Raptors Cavaliers 5.63

Those seem about right except for maybe that Cavaliers-Celtics series in 2017. Those top two series were all-time great matchups while the ones at the bottom were pretty much duds. Keep in mind that our predictions could not factor in things like the Kawhi Leonard ankle injury in 2017 that was made significantly during Game 1 of that series.

But the STATS Watchability Ratings go well beyond just one standard measurement. Scores are also populated for three specific types of game styles, so if you know that you like to watch a certain type of basketball, these will tell you which series should interest you most. Our three other main categories are as follows:

Pace and Space – A lot of 3-pointers, plenty of passing and up-tempo play

High-Flying – Teams with speed, potential for dunks and drive-to-the-hoop excitement

Ball-Dominant Star – High-usage players who possess the ball and score at a high rate

STATS customizes these by grouping our statistics into nine ratings categories based on what the viewer absolutely wants the most when watching the game all the way to what he or she could not care less about seeing.

Let’s see what the custom categories have to say about the 2019 matchups. First, we will start with Pace and Space, where we bumped up categories like passing, three-point shooting, and pace of play.

Year Away Home Watchability
2018 Warriors Rockets 9.86
2016 Thunder Warriors 8.77
2017 Cavaliers Celtics 5.84
2017 Spurs Warriors 8.14
2019 Raptors Bucks 9.23
2015 Cavaliers Hawks 6.20
2019 Trail Blazers Warriors 7.69
2018 Cavaliers Celtics 5.77
2015 Rockets Warriors 7.60
2016 Raptors Cavaliers 4.51

Overall, both of the series end up in the middle of the pack. However, the series rank first and second in pace over the last five years. What drags the Bucks-Raptors rating down is that it is rated as the worst passing series over the last five years. That is not shocking considering Kawhi Leonard is not known for his playmaking. Leonard averaged just 3.3 assists despite 30.3% usage during the regular season.

The Warriors-Trail Blazers series features some electric three-point shooters like Dame Lillard, Klay Thompson, and of course, Steph Curry, but neither team attempts a ridiculous number of three pointers as a whole. This series ranks fifth out of ten in the three-point metric if you look at the last five years while the Bucks-Raptors series actually rank ahead of them at 3rd.

But hey, you might not want a ton of threes. Maybe instead you want tons of buckets and tons of highlights. Well, let’s look at how these series do in the high flying metric that emphasizes things like dunks and scoring.

Year Away Home Watchability
2018 Warriors Rockets 10.00
2019 Raptors Bucks 8.89
2017 Cavaliers Celtics 8.78
2019 Trail Blazers Warriors 8.56
2017 Spurs Warriors 8.08
2016 Thunder Warriors 8.05
2015 Rockets Warriors 7.66
2018 Cavaliers Celtics 7.03
2015 Rockets Hawks 6.77
2016 Raptors Cavaliers 4.88

If you want high scoring games and memorable dunks, these series should have you salivating. Giannis was second in the league in dunks this season with 273, trailing only Rudy Gobert’s record-setting 292. The Warriors and Bucks also led the league in shooting percentage on shots within five feet of the rim. Both of these series should have fast-paced games and rim-rocking jams galore.

But maybe you don’t necessarily care about threes or dunks. Maybe you care more about who scores rather than how they do it. That would fall under our Ball Dominant Star category.

Year Away Home Watchability
2018 Warriors Rockets 10.00
2016 Thunder Warriors 9.71
2017 Cavaliers Celtics 9.09
2019 Trail Blazers Warriors 9.07
2019 Raptors Bucks 8.53
2017 Spurs Warriors 8.39
2018 Cavaliers Celtics 7.99
2015 Cavaliers Hawks 7.58
2015 Rockets Warriors 7.39
2016 Raptors Cavaliers 7.24

With Kevin Durant and Rodney Hood potentially missing games in the series, the star power of Warriors-Trail Blazers is significantly diminished (yes, that was a Rodney Hood joke). The Bucks have Giannis and the Raptors have Kawhi, but both teams lack recognizable sidekicks for the casual NBA fan. Even so, both of these series have above-average star power for a conference finals. That should get you excited.

The only other thing missing from these series? Whistles. They project to have the least amount of free throws of any conference finals round in the last five years. Personally, I cannot wait for that.

If you like what the STATS Watchability ratings have to say about this year’s matchups, then I suggest you take some advice from the great Terrell Owens and “get your popcorn ready.”