I’m not even sure if that win count mathematically makes sense, but it’s my approximation anyway.
This is assuming every team is healthy. I’ve listed how the playoff teams will perform in brackets.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers 56 win (lose Finals)
The Cavs are still top in the East. They have great depth – they are 3 deep at every position. This means that Thomas’s hip injuries won’t be a huge problem. I think moving Kevin Love to center will allow LeBron to use his defensive and athletic abilities more. The Celtics got the number one seed last year, but with the Irving trade they have less continuity and will take time to gel.
2. Boston Celtics 54 win (lose EC finals)
3. Toronto Raptors 53 win (lose in first round)
They have great continuity but a severe lack of shooting, which is vital in winning playoff games. They lose to the Hornets, as they don’t have enough space for DeRozan to go to work.
4. Washington Wizards 53 win (lose in second round)
They’ll narrowly beat the Bucks in the first round, but can’t beat the Celtics, who have much greater depth.
5. Milwaukee 48 win (lose in first round)
Antetokounmpo is stoppable – without a reliable outside shot, he won’t have the space to win games in the clutch. Same goes for Parker.
6. Charlotte Hornets 45 win (lose in second round)
I think Dwight will help this team make a surprise playoff run.
7. Miami Heat 44 win (lose in first round)
This team is the same as last year, so they’ll improve with another year together.
8. Philadelphia Sixers 40 win (lose in first round).
Even with injuries, this team is too talented to miss the playoffs again. Fultz will be a go to guy, while Simmons and Embiid can create as well. Saric can step up offensively when any starters go down. I think theyll take a game or two from Cleveland in the playoffs.
9. Detroit Pistons 35 win
They haven’t been able to solve their power forward problems. I have them starting Tolliver next to Drummond, as he is a shooter who can help protect the rim somewhat, but their lack of cap space has hamstrung them in making a more cohesive team. Most of their best players are still under 25 though, so they still have a few years to figure it out.
10. New York Knicks 33 win
I think the Melo trade won’t change much record-wise. This is suddenly an up and coming team – Ntilikina, Porzingis, Kanter and Hefnangomez are still 25 and under. They can add a wing in the draft next year and bring some optimism to New York for the first time in years.
11. Chicago Bulls 32 win
They’ll miss the playoffs, but they won’t be as bad as people suspect. They have proven playoff performers in Lopez and Mirotic, young bigs in Portis and Felicio, and a talented backcourt rotation if everyone is healthy. The biggest X factor for me is how they use Lauri Markennen and Paul Zipser. As I wrote about here, they have the potential to be like Ray Allen and Paul Pierce of the ’08 Celtics respectively. Markennen is an elite shooter, while Zipser has a crafty slashing and mid range game. Bringing Dunn and LaVine off the bench will make this a fun team.
12. Brooklyn Nets 26 win
13. Indiana Pacers 26 win
14. Orlando Magic 23 win
Ive hated this team for a while, but if they use their rotations correctly, they can be a playoff team within a few years. A frontcourt of Isaac, Gordon and Biyombo would be the most athletic in the league, and Fournier and Payton can help run the show. Bringing Vucevic off the bench will make other teams hurt with his offensive rebounding ability.
15. Atlanta Hawks 16 win
They tank, but they do so wisely if they play their young guys, as I wrote here.
1. Golden State Warriors 68 win (champs)
2. San Antonio Spurs 56 win (lose in first round)
They’ll win a lot of regular season games, but their best players are ageing outside of Leonard and are devoid of depth in the frontcourt, which will kill them against the physical dominance of the Clippers.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder 56 win (lose in second round)
They’ll win heaps of games on talent alone, where each All-Star can handle the offensive load on any night, but against a more balanced team like the Timberwolves, they’ll struggle to defend Butler, Wiggins and Towns.
4. Rockets 53 win (lose in first round)
They’ll have the same growing pains as the ’12 Miami Heat and ’16 Warriors who brought in ball dominant scorers, except I don’t think they’ll fix it to win it all. They can improve their starting lineup by playing Tucker and Nene whose sole job is to stretch the floor and rebound respectively. Ariza and Capela are too talented to be sidekicks, so they can bring a spark off the bench. I think they’ll lose to the TWolves though, as they share the Thunders problem in that they don’t have a designated go-to guy in the clutch.
5. Timberwolves 52 win (lose WC finals)
They have bad depth in the backcourt, but that doesn’t matter with an elite starting group. They have the perfect team to challenge the Warriors – every starter can crash the glass, which the ’16 Thunder proved to be the Achilles heel of Golden State in the WC Finals before Klay went off and Durant left.
6. Denver Nuggets 46 win (lose in first round)
Getting Millsap makes them a playoff team, but I hate the moves they made before this – trading Nurkic just because he was whining is as stupid as trading Irving for the same reason. They could’ve been contending in two years time while being three deep at every position – now they have an ageing veteran in Millsap who will take the ball away from potential stars in Jamal Murray and Kenneth Faried, whose shooting and rebounding respectively are almost generational.
7. LA Clippers 44 win (lose WC semis)
If they go for a supersized lineup with Wes Johnson at SG, Beverley at PG, and Teodosic and Williams providing offense off the bench, they can pass the first round of the playoffs.
8. Phoenix Suns 43 win (lose WC prelims).
If they start Bledsoe, Booker, Josh Jackson, Chriss and Bender, they’ll have the fastest, most athletic young team in the league.
9. Memphis Grizzlies 38 win
Outside of Gasol and Conley, they will struggle to score. Parsons’s injury issues kill the team in this regard. The Conley-Gasol duo are so good however that they’ll challenge for a playoff spot.
10. Portland Trail Blazers 38 win
While everyone else improved, the Blazers stayed put. They have a strange roster – Harkless and Aminu have been great at the forward spots, but don’t space the floor enough for Nurkic to go to work. They either bench the former and start the latter, or vice versa.
11. New Orleans Pelicans 36 win
They could’ve been great if they hadn’t have signed ball dominant guards. Davis and Cousins are talented enough to carry a team if no-one else is in their way, but Rondo and Holiday will only take the ball away. I would’ve signed Calderon and Korver on much cheaper deals.
12. Dallas Mavericks 34 win
If they give the offensive responsibilities to Barnes, Smith and Matthews, while Nowitzki spaces the floor and Noel hustles, they can be effective. The West is too tough for them to make a great impact though.
13. Sacramento Kings 28 win
I like this team if they start their young guys. Labissiere can be a go to option with his elite mid range game, while Hield and Cauley-Stein provide great playmaking and rim running respectively. Bringing Hill, Bogdanovic, Carter and Randolph off the bench will make them a much more even team, while giving the young guys more reps for the future.
14. LA Lakers 28 win
They have a strange identity – Ball and Caldwell-Pope are suited to playing fast, but Ingram and Lopez are better with a half-court set up. I would’ve kept Russell and had Ball come off the bench.
15. Utah Jazz 22 win
Everyone sees them as playoff contenders, but no-one on this roster is a go-to scorer. Hood is an ok shooter off mid range, but too weak to drive and finish. Gobert is improving in the post but isn’t unstoppable. Ingles is a Swiss army knife but is guard able, and Rubio is a passer first. I’d tank, as Gobert, Hood and Burks are still young, and they can wait another year for Exum.