EASTERN CONFERENCE PROJECTIONS:
- CAVALIERS 60-22 The champs bring back the whole gang, and barring injury (certainly possible with Irving and Love) a return to the finals is a foregone conclusion.
- CELTICS 54-28 Horford provides the missing piece to a young, talented, deep team.
- PACERS 53-29 People are overlooking a talented Pacers team that got better with additions of Teague and Young.
- RAPTORS 51-31 Air Canada will fly high again with the core intact, but Celtics and Pacers got better while Raptors stayed the same.
- PISTONS 47-35 Drummond is the most dichotomous player in basketball: The best rebounder (14.8 per game) and the worst free-throw shooter ever…literally (35.5% last season)
- HAWKS 43-39 A healthy Howard is a defensive upgrade over departed Horford, but an offensive downgrade. Schroder is promising, but losing Teague still hurts.
- WIZARDS 43-39 This is shooting the middle: Assuming Beal/Wall/Porter miss only 25% of games with injury. Depending on health, win total could skyrocket or plunge.
- HORNETS 41-41 Batum is a stud, but I’m not as hot on these guys as some. Front court is extremely unproven.
- BULLS 40-42 Different cast same result; Bulls miss the playoffs again. Why sign odd assortment of non-shooting veterans, instead of launching full rebuild?
- KNICKS 37-45 Bulls 2.0: Another bizarre arrangement of past-their-prime players when they should clearly be rebuilding youth around Porzingis.
- BUCKS 33-49 Loss of Middleton KILLER for an ultra-athletic young team that struggles to score.
- HEAT 31-51 The Big 3 are all officially gone and so are the Heat’s chances of being competitive.
- MAGIC 29-53 When you are trying to build around your talented young power forward and center you pick up…another power forward and center?
- NETS 22-60 The Nets have the longest, slowest rebuild of any team: no control over their top pick until 2019.
- 76ERS 14-68 Loss of Simmons is a heartbreaker. The front court is stack—the back court not so much.
WESTERN CONFERENCE PROJECTIONS:
- WARRIORS 69-13 Weird quirk where a team is actually better but has a worse record than the previous year. Statistics say some of those close games bounce the other way.
- SPURS 64-18 Duncan was still valuable but rapidly fading—they won’t miss him as much as you think. It’s the Leonard/Aldridge show now.
- CLIPPERS 56-26 This team has a punchers chance of surprising anyone if they can stay healthy come playoff time.
- JAZZ 45-37 New PG Hill carries youthful Jazz to the playoffs—and then some.
- BLAZERS 43-39 Great guard tandem raining from outside would suggest the Warriors mold…but they lack the Draymond Green part of the blue print.
- GRIZZLES 43-39 There is no possible way they can be as injured as last year…can they?
- THUNDER 42-40 Westbrook and Co. are better than you realize…just not quite good enough.
- TIMBERWOLVES 40-42 Super-talented young ‘wolves get first taste of playoffs. Unfortunately it’s against the Warriors.
- ROCKETS 39-43 Injury-prone additions do little to help Harden from their place in street clothes at the end of the bench.
- MAVERICKS 38-44 I get it—it’s hard to know when to hang it up and start rebuilding, but seriously the core of this team is eligible for the AARP.
- PELICANS 37-45 Davis is so good it’s terrifying, but management just can’t seem to cobble together the right pieces around him.
- SUNS 28-54 Talented guards aside, this is a very incomplete team. They should probably deal Knight for some front court help.
- NUGGETS 26-56 There are pieces to like here, but just not enough of them. Who will carry the torch when Gallinari goes down?
- KINGS 26-56 Through all the disfunction that is the Kings, there is some talent here (even beyond Cousins), but not nearly enough to field a competent team.
- LAKERS 23-59 They gave Timofey Mozgov 64 million dollars for some reason. Anyone got an answer for that?
Cavaliers def. Celtics in 6
Warriors def. Clippers in 5
Warrios def. Cavaliers in 6