NBA 30 Team Preview
The NBA season has begun. All 30 teams have their projected win totals but these bets are always tough to justify making because they tie up your money for the whole season and are gambling, so they come with massive unpredictability. Injuries can derail even a sure thing, just ask the Thunder. Last season the western conference won 653 games total while the eastern conference had just 557. Eventually these conferences might balance out, but for now the west is still where all the best teams eat.
Philadelphia 76ers (21.5) Projected Win Total (18-64) Last Season's Record
Well, Embid is hurt, again, and with other assets still buried in the deep freeze this should once again resemble a team that is rebuilding, so hard. Jahlil Okafor is the odds on favorite to win rookie of the year because of a perceived situation where he will have free reign to hoist shots at his fancy. Meanwhile, Nerlens Noel is thrust into a predicament where too much will be needed from him defensively every night for this team to have any success. To help them cruise past the short lived Michael Carter-Williams rookie of the year era there are a few bargain bin point guards to turn to with Isaiah Cannon appearing to be firing the first shot. Robert Covington is probably their best player right now and if a few more pieces start to come together then maybe Sam Hinkie will finally have something encouraging to show the fans. Coach Brett Brown did prove last season that his teams compete every night so they are going to win some games that no one expects them to, but the east is stronger and they also want to finish in last, 18-64.
Los Angeles Lakers (29) (21-61)
The Lakers have still captured their share of the spotlight despite trotting out one of the worst teams the last few seasons. This year is no different as they welcome home Meta World Peace, Kobe Bryant is also back in the fold too. Perhaps more importantly though is their first round pick from last year Julius Randle returning healthy as he is a valuable piece that offers a touch of versatility offensively. Behind Randle, Brandon Bass offers some stabilization to the front line and Roy Hibbert could end up being a smart gamble if he’s able to recapture just some of his old magic. Jordan Clarkson and the rookie D’Angelo Russell should get substantial run in the backcourt but will need to be effective offensively to validate their playing time together as they should be exposed on the defensive end playing besides Kobe. This could be a talented offensive team if Mike D’Antoni were still around, but with their defensive negligence they are assured to finish near the tail end of the league regardless of who coaches, 22-60.
Brooklyn Nets (28.5) (38-44)
The Titanic of the NBA the past few seasons has seen its exuberant spending squandered and now they’re fully submerged as the present is looking nearly as grim as their future at the bottom of the ocean. They were a playoff team the past few years and actually gave the number one seeded Hawks a bit of trouble in the first round last season but the team has really thinned out this year. They are relying on veteran Jarret Jack to lead the way with aging Joe Johnson likely remaining the main crunch time surgeon. Brook Lopez is still young though and hopes to sustain his momentum after a flurry of great performances down the stretch that lifted the team into the post season. Lionel Hollins has had success as a head coach, but he has his work really cut out for him this season with the Nets hoping to avoid a total collapse. A team with depth issues and the stench of impending doom, their season defining game will be December 4th at Madison Square Garden for Lopez V. Lopez, 22-60.
Denver Nuggets (27.5) (30-52)
Ever since the Nuggets fired the reigning coach of the year George Karl in 2013 they have been on a downward slide that might finally reach the bottom this season. The organization is hoping this latest firing of a coach has the inverse effect, but with the exciting young talent Emmanuel Mudiay jumping in head first, the team should go through some major ups and downs. Mudiay will have the ball in his hands an ample amount of time to accumulate enough stats to possibly contend for rookie of the year and the team is still loaded with shooters on the perimeter to support him. Kenneth Faried has a chance to play a re-inspired brand of basketball this season and it will be needed as their young crop of big men will struggle to bring the consistency required to tread water in the west. This will end up being a fun situation to watch as Danillo Gallinari will seek to build on his late season scoring outbursts and lead them on the offensive end, but with defensive red flags all over the court, they should be among the leagues’ worst teams, 23-59.
Portland Trail Blazers (26.5) (51-31)
A sad reminder that NBA rosters are far too fluid, the extremely cohesive starting five that the Blazers constructed was demolished with just the one “pillard” remaining. A team that was chastised for their lack of a bench two seasons ago is now ready to turn to it with the anticipated maturity of two key players in Meyers Leonard and C.J. McCollum. Damian Lillard will have the stats to ensure his all-star spot this time around, unless of course they decide that this is the year where winning is valued at a higher premium. While they won’t be as fun to watch as last year’s regular season killers, they still should be feisty enough to offer up some entertaining games. They are taking a chance on the young Noah Vonleh that he ends up being a factor down the road as well as Mason Plumlee, who along with athletic Al-Farouq Aminu have flashed some bits of dependability. They are the team likely sliding the most from last year, but losing eighty percent of a starting lineup can do that, 24-58.
New York Knicks (30.5) (17-65)
After a year in which Phil Jackson let newbie coach Derek Fisher take the helm, the team won a franchise worst 17 games, but with the unquestioned starting of the unpolished Latvian forward Kristaps Porzingis this year, it suggests that Fisher may not have complete control over lineup decisions. Even if the rook struggles, the Knicks are more set up for success this season because they added ex Blazer players Aaron Afflalo and Robin Lopez to their starting lineup. Langston Galloway signed late and made a real impact last season, but he was thrust into trying to lead the team with Carmelo Anthony down; now that he has solidified himself he could be a vital sixth man combo guard for them to back up the weathered Jose Calderon. Kyle O’Quinn should show his value as a backup as well and having both Kevin Seraphin and Derrick Williams will be important to provide a little front court depth behind P-Zings. While they could certainly double last season’s win total, a playoff berth should still be considered an extreme longshot, 27-55.
Charlotte Hornets (32.5) (33-49)
“Take a chance on Lance,” Somebody had to have said that and now they are either fired or Jordan. Just a year removed from buzzing around the playoffs, the new look Hornets really took a step back last season and now with an injury to their best defender in Michael Kidd Gilchrist, they are off to a rough start yet again. They can field an interesting lineup though with big Al Jefferson on the post and playmakers Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum on the perimeter, but the other front line position remains a question mark. Frank Kaminsky maybe down the line fills this role perfectly with the combination of playmaking and shooting but for now it looks like Cody Zeller will get first crack at it. The bench is below average with players like Spencer Hawes and Jeremy Lin hoping that this team is a better fit and young guys still trying to find themselves. Their defense takes an even further step back and there has been no proof yet that this core operates efficiently on offense together, so overall they might struggle, 27-55
Dallas Mavericks (38.5) (50-32)
After DeAndre Jordan dine and dashed on Mark Cuban, they were left to pick up the pieces to surround Dirk Nowitzki for his final years. They bought Wesley Matthews for a boatload and brought back hometown veteran Deron Williams. Unfortunately Wes is recovering from a torn achilles and Deron, who has teased about coming home to play here previously, really doesn’t have a lot of options left at his current production level. Chandler Parsons will need to have a transcendent season for them to have a shot at the eight seed, but he’s starting off hobbled and might struggle as a number one option. One of the better offenses a season ago, this team will struggle mightily on defense now without Tyson Chandler but should remain an effective offense under Rick Carlisle. Hopefully Dirk can hold out another year so that they can maybe have him in a better situation because this year could be a struggle, 33-49.
Minnesota Timberwolves (25.5) (16-66)
Top pick Karl-Anthony Towns has the potential to have an immediate impact with the Timberwolves and should help lead a young roster that is brimming with talent. Ricky Rubio will be essential to any youthful development as he is by far the best facilitator on the squad. Towns is good enough that he will leap frog other capable players in Gorgui DIeng and Nikola Pekovic into substantial amounts of playing time and should win rookie of the year despite not being the favorite. Because the year is all about development, there should be plenty of slam dunk champion Zach LaVine playing both guard positions as well as Shabazz Muhammed carving out a role. Kevin Garnett will be around to guide Towns through the low points of the season and with reigning rookie of the year Andrew Wiggins looking to add to his own arsenal, they could win a lot more games than people think, 30-52.
Orlando Magic (33) (25-57)
This team receives multiple bumps to the roster this season but perhaps most significant is the change at head coach to Scott Skiles. Skiles will be tough on this young crew and improve their defensive schemes as well as mine their untapped offensive capability. He may stifle players by benching them if they aren’t working hard on defense, but should overall be a positive influence on this team for a few years. If the Magic are going to lunge towards postseason aspirations, then Victor Oladipo will to need to continue to progress at a speedy rate and backcourt mate Elfrid Payton will need to take a big jump forward in running the offense. Skiles won’t hesitate to turn to his bench if he needs to and with C.J. Watson, Channing Frye, and Mario Hezonja there is plenty of shooting. They should be one of the better surprises this year but may still be a season away from competing for the playoffs, 35-47.
Sacramento Kings (33) (29-53)
With such a diverse collection of personalities bubbling inside the Kings cauldron it should produce a year cutting with intrigue. George Karl’s pedigree suggests that this team could contend for the playoffs, but the King’s dysfunctional track record almost guarantees that they come up short. Perhaps Rajon Rondo of all people is the one to lead the Kings into the second season and have a fantastic flashback campaign, and then leave because he is on a one year deal. DeMarcus Cousins is a monster, Rudy Gay can ball, and there are good role players on this team with Marco Bellinelli providing lift off the bench for Ben McLemore and the rookie Willie Cauley-Stein potentially being a defensive factor out of the gates. They should win more games than last year and might be better than expected, 35-47.
Phoenix Suns (36.5) (39-43)
Gone are the days of the tri-headed serpent simultaneously shifting itself in three different directions, as the most aggressive point Eric Bledsoe cannibalized the other two with the help of Brandon Knight. The two now represent a better defensive pairing, but it has still yet to be seen whether another point guard can properly occupy the air space besides stunt man Bledsoe, who has become a more reliable offensive weapon recently to match his chaotic defense style. The loss of Goran Dragic should still be felt on this team and Markieff Morris lost his special twin power so now he’s practically useless, but Tyson Chandler serves as a nice mentor to the young Alex Len and may help their shaky defense hold their ground. This team still has loads of talent with T.J. Warren hungry to hoist shots as well as a deep guard rotation again with rookie microwave Devin Booker and Archie Goodwin now representing the third head. With the west suddenly weaker at the bottom of the playoff picture, there is seemingly a chance they could contend for the spot but their timing still feels off and they may be in for a bit of a letdown, 37-45.
Detroit Pistons (34.5) (32-50)
Stan Van Gundy cleaned house in year one and now he’s shifting his focus towards making the playoffs. He’s unleashing Andre Drummond this season while dreaming of days of Dwight Howard back in Orlando and hopes to have found an excellent point guard pairing in Reggie Jackson. Van Gundy has loaded the roster with better shooting by entrapping the other Morris twin as well as perennial wildcard Ersan Ilyasova. Brandon Jennings will be an interesting mid-season addition that could offer support to a bench that has gotten better with upgrades at each position. The team should still struggle defensively though, but Drummond should perform adequately trying to anchor it and if Kentavious Caldwell-Pope can take another step forward, then maybe they can sneak into the playoffs, 38-44.
Boston Celtics (43.5) (40-42)
Brad Stevens worked his wizardry last season but it may be hard pressed to duplicate the feat this season despite a more talented roster. His frontline was strengthened by adding David Lee who can provide a necessary scoring punch and Amir Johnson immediately steps in as the team’s best rim protector. Whether he starts or comes of the bench, Isaiah Thomas will offer them the best production at the point guard position and if he comes off the bench he should be the favorite for sixth man of the year. Marcus Smart will continue to make strides in his development and Stevens should have plenty of rotations available at his disposal. This team will win games despite their lack of a superstar on the roster because they have enough talent for Stevens to work his magic, 38-44.
Toronto Raptors (45.5) (49-33)
After two straight strong regular seasons they sure have fizzled out quick in the playoffs. They are hoping Jonas Valanciunas becomes a more reliable asset as well as Kyle Lowry, who is now famously in the best shape of his career. DeMarre Carroll strengthens their defense and will be a big part of their success along with DeMar DeRozan who seems to improve every year. The frontline could be in trouble with the likes of Patrick Patterson Luis Scola and Bismack Biyombo to support the lumbering Valanciunas. Terrence Ross must reemerge and along with Corey Joseph will have to replace the lost backcourt production from Greivis Vasquez and Lou Williams. Overall the loss of Amir Johnson hurts their defense and Lou and Vasquez leaving stifles their bench scoring which could lead to a rocky season despite having great pieces in their starting lineup, 39-43.
Utah Jazz (40.5) (38-44)
A combination of a coaching upgrade and roster development left Jazz fans with something to be excited about as the season wound down and Gordon Hayward was leading them to a 19-10 record. The seven-foot Rudy Gobert can no longer hide over on the bench as he was discovered and is now one of the game’s premiere rim protectors. Gobert shifted the dynamics of the team immediately, which led to the quick departure of Enes Kanter. After Gobert became a starter the Jazz did so well that many are expecting playoffs this year and with such elevated expectations it’s imperative for point guard Trey Burke to step up his game to a better level. The bench is thinner now and too much may be needed from the starters to realistically make it to the postseason, but they should be hovering around there, 40-42.
Indiana Pacers (42) (38-44)
Frank Vogel has a completely revamped team from his days in the conference finals but he still has his ace, Paul George. George will have one of the league’s highest burdens both on and off the court as he will look to reestablish himself amongst the league’s elite while carrying this below average team back into the postseason. Monta Ellis will help and with George Hill and Rodney Stuckey they have enough scoring in the backcourt to parlay Paul George into a stretch four. The question marks for this team are all about the front line and especially if George at power forward doesn’t work out. They have middling guys in Jordan Hill and Ian Mahimi to potentially anchor the defense but young rookie Myles Turner is oozing with talent and might be able to have staying power sooner rather than later. Vogel will find ways to win games and Paul George is one of the ten best players in the league, 42-40.
Washington Wizards (45.5) (46-36)
A team that nearly found itself in the conference finals last season will look to keep taking steps in the right direction. The loss of Paul Pierce opens up some time for Otto Porter to make an impact and for Bradley Beal to take on a larger scoring duty as well. John Wall has progressed each year and his leadership will need to be elevated to expect a better finish this time. Jared Dudley will fill a leadership void and will be a vital on court asset as well if he can remain healthy. Ultimately this team will go as far as Wall takes them. Since they are so reliant on Wall and Beal, they could struggle at times during the regular season but should be a tough out come playoff time, 43-39.
Milwaukee Bucks (44.5) (41-41)
Jason Kidd did a fantastic job with the young bucks in his first year even extending into the postseason with some impressive wins against the Bulls. The team is extremely long with Michael Carter-Williams, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jabari Parker. Greg Monroe will offer a needed post presence scoring the basketball while John Henson will try and carve out a shot blocking role behind him. Greivis Vasquez now heads a bench that has some major scoring artists in Jerryd Bayless, O.J. Mayo, and Chris Copeland. The biggest doubt is whether the drop from Brandon Knight to MCW will be too severe, but with Giannis and Vasquez acting as ball handling proxies, this team should still be able to be better on that end of the floor. What they get from Jabari will be a bonus and in time he should be a great source of points for them. The team will rely on its defense to win games but don’t sleep on their potential as an offense either, 45-37.
Miami Heat (45.5) (37-45)
Expectations were low last year following the Kings Betrayal but missing the playoffs was not supposed to be a possibility. Now the standards in south beach have risen yet again with a suddenly loaded roster. Last season served as a useful gauge for Hasaan Whiteside as he was given generous amounts of time to establish himself and flash his extreme potential. They were also able to acquire Goran Dragic and somehow circumstances still allowed them to slip into the lottery, beginning Justise Winslow’s apprenticeship to Dwayne Wade. Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts come back healthy to join newcomer Amare Stoudemire on their improved and diverse front line. With one of the deeper rosters in the conference, a run to the finals is not out of the realm of possibility, 46-36.
New Orleans Pelicans (47.5) (45-37)
With a preseason injury to their best playmaker Tyreke Evans, it adds even more of a burden on Anthony Davis, who looks to make a second straight appearance in the postseason. Jrue Holliday will be on a strict minutes limit to start the season and the offense will be forced to flow even more through Davis until all the pieces get right. Ryan Anderson should be able to have value if they go small with Davis at center and Eric Gordon will be vital to get them through the rough patch as their go to playmaker and perimeter floor spacer. Alvin Gentry will look to establish a defense to fall back on with Davis and Omer Asik and that should be able to carry them through any early season woes. Davis will need to have an MVP caliber season for them to have success though, and that seems likely to happen with Gentry promising to feature him in new ways, 48-34.
Atlanta Hawks (49.5) (60-22)
Amidst the power shift in the east the Hawks seized the top spot and were the surprise team of the regular season, but once they reached the postseason they stumbled their way to the conference finals where they were simply erased from memory by the one true king LeBron James. Their significant departure was DeMarre Carroll but they added Tiago Splitter to make up for a different deficiency. Among Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kent Bazemore they’ll need to get some decent scoring production to counter Thabo Sefolosha who joins the power packed starting lineup. Paul Millsap and Al Horford continue to be an underrated front line duo and with Jeff Teague now having the confidence of making an all-star game, his decision making should improve. The Hawks should once again be an elite eastern conference team that will win its share of games, 50-32.
Chicago Bulls (50) (50-32)
Moving on from Tom Thibideau is easy because they still have a stacked roster with championship aspirations. The Mayor Fred Hoiberg promises a faster flowing offense which may or not benefit the personnel of this team, but regardless of what they run there have talented scorers that will find a way. In the playoffs Jimmy Butler went toe to toe with LeBron James and held his own, to a degree, and he will continue to work at his craft in order to lead this team forward into the new era of Bulls basketball. Derrick Rose showed flashes in the playoffs and certainly put up stats as he continues to fight his way back into top form. Joakim Noah is coming off the bench now with Taj Gibson in what may become an offense defense rotation between the bigs with Nikola Mirotic and Pau Gasol as the starters. Tony Snell must elevate his game while Mike Dunlevy recovers and Doug McDermott and Bobby Portis will at least get chances to show if they belong. They should be better on offense and worse on defense but in the east they are still a strong contender to make it out alive, 52-30.
Houston Rockets (54.5) (56-26)
A surprising surge to the conference finals was a nice cap to James Hardens’ MVP worthy season, and now the team comes back reloaded and healthy. Dwight Howard should manage his body during the regular season in a Shaq-like attempt to be preserved for the postseason as the team showed they are good enough to win without him during the regular season. Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas are intriguing prospects at the forward position and the development of Clint Capella behind Dwight is important for their long term goals as well. They picked up a perceived trouble maker in Ty Lawson but he has never had trouble producing on a basketball court and should feast on open three pointers playing with Harden. They have to be considered a candidate to win it all, but navigating their conference will be tricky. They’ll shoot tons of threes again and win lots of games in the process, 55-27.
Memphis Grizzlies (50.5) (55-27)
The Grizzlies have fought and clawed their way to being one of the better regular season teams and never seem to get their proper respect. Their trio of Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol has been solid and has battled hard with every team in the conference during their tenure. The rest of the west contenders reloaded with big name signings but the signings of Matt Barnes and Brandon Wright were underrated additions that should help this team in the playoffs. Jeff Green will need to have more of an impact offensively playing off of Gasol than he did last season and Tony Allen will need to continue to stay thirsty on the defensive end. Gasol had a career scoring year and is finally getting greedier with his shot attempts which is what they need. They’ll grit and grind then spit and shine their way to a solid year, 55-27.
Los Angeles Clippers (56.5) (56-26)
The Clippers are looming large this year. With a horde of talent this team is more primed than ever for a deep run. They survived a death match seven game series against the Spurs in the first round last season only to then fell flat on their face against the Rockets in the next round. Weak bench play certainly hampered their cause and now they have re-strengthened their bench but may have over-solidified their guards and wings and failed to find a reliable DeAndre Jordan backup, but at least they were able to retain DeAndre after that brief scare of losing him in the parking lot. They added Paul Pierce and Wes Johnson to replace Matt Barnes in the starting lineup and both guys should offer better three point efficiency and playmaking. They still have knockdown shooter J.J. Reddick and instant offense Jamal Crawford that can both get hot at any minute. Blake Griffin was a runaway train in the postseason and will carry over his momentum into some great commercials this season, as well several wins, 56-26.
San Antonio Spurs (58.5) (55-27)
After a rough seeding they were bounced in the first round last season, but perhaps that mercy kill by Chris Paul spared their old legs some pain and suffering. LeMarcus Aldridge comes aboard and should step right in to a lead scoring role, while immediately alleviating the load on the ageless Tim Duncan, except that Tim will be playing a lot more center now. Tony Parker and Emmanuel Ginobili are the two that seem the most worn down and will likely be managed carefully along the year for a strong final push. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green need to continue to be lock down defenders that stretch the floor and Kawhi and Aldridge should be able to provide a nice one two scoring combination. Their bench is certainly thinner this year with losses across the board, but they should be fine with still a wealth of talent highlighted by Patty Mills, David West, and Boris Diaw. They may not win the most games, but they’ll be feared as much as anyone in a seven game series, 57-25.
Cleveland Cavaliers (57.5) (53-29)
LeBron James will be down a few super friends to start the year but it shouldn’t matter much in the regular season as he will continue to be the best basketball player in the world. Kevin Love will look to “fit in” this year, but even if he just offers what he did last year it will be pivotal to their success. Love will continue to be an underrated passer and he as well as LeBron should shoot a higher percentage this year. Until Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert come back the team will not be complete, but Mo Williams will do his part in impacting the game on the offensive side of the floor and will be a great sixth man down the road. Their front line is stuffed with talent as Anderson Varejao starts off fresh again and Timofey Mozgov and Tristian Thompson will demand minutes as well. They might accidentally turn on the cruise control at some point, but they should still vault to the top spot in the conference, 56-26.
Oklahoma City Thunder (57.5) (45-37)
Kevin Durant is mad. After a frustrating season of injury he will come out and lay his vengeance upon the western conference. Russell Westbrook was in the MVP discussion last spring and he’ll look to continue to grab triple doubles while allowing Durant enough room to thrive as well. Serge Ibaka is a top tier third banana and he will continue to show his versatility by connecting on three pointers and defensive stops. Anthony Morrow should show his true value this year especially if he’s sharing court time with the starting lineup and taking advantage of his incredible shooting touch. Between Enes Kanter and Steven Adams there is one good center and Dion Waiters may have better success playing aside a star like Durant as opposed to the demanding LeBron James. After missing the playoffs it’s now championship or bust, 59-23.
Golden State Warriors (60.5) (67-15)
Stephen Curry’s championship capped off an amazing year for him and his Warriors as he was able to snag the MVP honors while the team had a historically great regular season where they were tops in offensive and defensive efficiency categories. There’s nowhere to go but down for this team, but they can still go out and have the best record again, but the problem is the conference is at full strength and all the contenders are as loaded as ever. They still have youthful star players that are going to continue to get better though. It’s hard to imagine the MVP Curry getting any better but he will be. Klay Thompson and Draymond Green will continue their rise and with Harrison Barnes in a contract year, this might be the last year this core is together If he’s able to over-perform and collect a huge contract. They are as big a threat as anyone to win the title, 60-22.