1. Golden State Warriors – 70-12
They probably won’t have the same slow-ish start that they did last year, and if there’s no long-time Durant injury, 70 actually seems reasonable, even with rest at the end of the season.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder – 58-24
They might have a slow start, but this team could be great, and likely would be a championship contender under almost any other circumstance. It could also totally fall apart because their three best players need the ball a lot. But, all of these guys have played with other great players and I think this will work out.
3. Houston Rockets – 55-27
Similar to the Thunder, the Rockets might need some time to get their game worked out, but should be great. The “one ball” thing, as much as it’s really just a joke, may apply to this team more than the Thunder. CP3 is certainly better than Dwight, but we have seen what happens when Harden tries to run the offense and someone else needs the ball. I think they’ll win a lot of games because they have to with this talent, but I’m not sold on them as a potential threat to the Warriors even as much as I barely am with the Thunder.
4. San Antonio Spurs – 52-30
I don’t know how, but the Spurs will figure out a way to get 50+ wins. Kawhi will be great. Maybe LaMarcus Aldridge will snap out of it. Rudy Gay will probably be decent. I can’t expect Manu, Tony, and Pau to do much, but they’ll help win a few along the way.
5. Utah Jazz – 46-36
I’m not saying anything totally controversial when I say that the Jazz haven’t lost their best player, because that’s Rudy Gobert. That’s not to say that Gordon Hayward isn’t a great player and they won’t take a step back without him. But, their identity is defensive, and Gobert is a top 3 defensive player in the league. They should be in the playoffs again.
6. New Orleans Pelicans – 45-37
We can’t take much from the few games Anthony Davis and Boogie actually got to play together. But, I realize this is a big if, IF those two and Jrue Holiday can stay on the court, they’ll be a mid-40 win team, at least.
7. Portland Trailblazers 43-39
I’m guessing the Blazers have a funky start and some time after Christmas have an unbelievable run to put themselves back in the playoff race. Just seems to be their thing.
8. Minnesota Timberwolves – 41-41
I keep mentioning rough starts because we have so many teams without real continuity. The Wolves are no exception. They’ve added some great players, but I don’t think it all works out so quick. Hopefully it will in time to get this team out of the lottery.
9. Denver Nuggets 39-43
This could totally be a breakout year, and I honestly hope it is. But, I worry this is another “almost” year. I think Mike Malone is a great coach, but there’s always something weird going on, whether it’s with Nurkic, Faried, or whoever. I just think that kind of dysfunction derails another season with potential.
10. Los Angeles Clippers – 38-44
Blake Griffin is still pretty good. But, he’s going to miss time this season. Probably a couple different stretches, and this time, Chris Paul won’t be there to hold the team together. If DeAndre, Blake, and Patrick Beverley stay healthy for 82 games, they have a shot at mid to high 40’s wins, but, I think high 30’s is more likely with the injury history.
11. Dallas Mavericks – 36-46
I know Mark Cuban has said the Mavs might tank seasons in the past, but I just don’t believe Rick Carlisle and Dirk are capable of doing that. They’ll be a mediocre team and it’ll be too bad because it could very well be Dirk’s last season.
12. Los Angeles Lakers – 33-49
They’re not making the playoffs, but if they’re not actively trying to lose, this team will be decent and actually entertaining. It’s a tough league for young guys so their core will make mistakes that cost them games, but it won’t be a recurring nightmare to watch.
13. Memphis Grizzlies – 30-52
It’s going to be rough to see this team lose a lot more than we’ve become accustomed do over the last few years. But I don’t see many of their guys being able to stay on the court much. Conley and Gasol will have nights where they find a way to beat the best teams in the league, and those will certainly be fun. But, unfortunately, those won’t be the norm.
14. Sacramento Kings – 28-54
This team should be fun to watch. No expectations, a good mix of solid young talent and great vets.
15. Phoenix Suns – 25-57
I feel like this team SHOULD improve, but for some reason I think they’ve got at least another season at the bottom before their breakout. Booker will put together a few great games though.
1. Washington Wizards – 56-26
Continuity definitely matters in the regular season. This team has that more than any of the other top Eastern Conference teams. I don’t know if that means they’re a real challenger to the Cavs in the post-season, but it’ll definitely give them a head start in the regular season.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers – 54-28
Their regular season was truly bizarre last year. This will be another slow start team because they have so many additions and Isaiah Thomas won’t be back until Christmas or later. But, it might be easier to click without Kyrie and this team should run through a terrible Eastern Conference.
3. Boston Celtics – 52-30
They have the talent of a 60+ win team, but it’ll take some time to make it work. They’ve got a great coach, so it might not take long at all though.
4. Toronto Raptors – 49-33
The Raptors can be one of the most confusing teams in the NBA. But they usually do well in the regular season. They may end up a top 3 seed, but it’s hard to predict that with the talent on the Wizards’, Celtics’, and Cavs’ rosters.
5. Miami Heat – 47-35
They had a terrible start last year but ended the season 30-11. I don’t think they’ll be a 60 win team this year, but they’ll be decent team in a terrible Eastern Conference.
6. Milwaukee Bucks – 46-36
I feel like this team should make a leap to a top 4 seed, but it feels like, despite their talent, it’s been such a slow process. An injury to one of the top 5 teams may boost the Bucks, but I think they’re headed for another 6th seed.
7. Charlotte Hornets – 40-42
They had a chance to be a mid-40’s team. Without Batum, they might barely win 40. In the Eastern Conference, that will still get you a 7th seed.
8. Detroit Pistons – 38-44
They lost KCP, who knows if Andre Drummond will finish the season there. They did add Avery Bradley. I think they’ll be bad but not terrible, again.
9. Philadelphia 76ers – 36-46
This is more a prediction about how long it takes for this team to click, and then how long Embiid stays on the court. If it takes them 20 games to find their footing and then Embiid only plays 50, they have 30 games as a great cohesive unit. They win a lot of those, lose some. They win a few on either side of that, you’re looking at mid-30’s wins.
10. New York Knicks – 35-47
Time to see if Kristaps can start to flourish on his own. Kanter will help them offensively, Michael Beasley might too. Considering how many bad teams there are in the East, and that getting the Phil-Melo drama out might be great for morale, this team might do fine. They still won’t make the playoffs, but it’ll be less depressing.
11. Brooklyn Nets – 34-48
It’s another season with no reason to tank and D’Angelo Russell might be good. I think mid-30’s is totally possible.
12. Atlanta Hawks – 32-50
Hard to know where everything went wrong, but Kent Bazemore might be their best player (don’t get me wrong, I love Baze). I don’t know if this team can bottom out on purpose, but they definitely won’t be good.
13. Indiana Pacers – 29-53
Another team with no expectations and decent young talent. I think Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner will be pretty good. But the lack of outside shooting will make it tough to win many games.
14. Orlando Magic – 24-58
It’s depressing that this team just can’t climb out of the lottery, but they might just try to bottom out this year and make another go at a top pick while they still can. I will be delighted to watch Maureese Speights on this team either way.
15. Chicago Bulls – 19-63
With Jimmy gone, I think management finally understands that this team is rebuilding. Maybe. Even though they’re trading picks for cash. But, even if they don’t, this team is going to be rough. I like Justin Holiday. I’m rooting for David Nwaba. Robin Lopez is still pretty good. I don’t know what else to say.