Injuries and pure chance always play a major role in how well a team ends up doing in the regular season. When all is said and done, I think we will have a repeat of last year's Final's matchup, with Miami once again being victorious. Like I mentioned a few weeks ago, the West is much better than the East this year. Projected regular season records, with brief comments:
1. Miami Heat 58-24
It's hard to imagine the Heat not finishing with the best record in the East unless LeBron gets seriously hurt. With Rose injured, there is a major gap between them and every other team.
2. Boston Celtics 49-33
Depth and veteran star leadership might make the Celtics still the second best team in the conference. While the defense is great, people do not realize how terrible Boston's offense was last year. Offensive weakness will likely derail them again come playoff time.
3. Indiana Pacers 47-35
A team that most people are a little too excited about. Hibbert, Granger and George are a nice core, but nothing truly scary.
4. Chicago Bulls 46-36
Probably Miami's biggest threat if Rose can come back 100% by the playoffs. I have my doubts that will happen.
5. Atlanta Hawks 45-37
This team could surprise people. If Horford and Josh Smith have big years we might be looking at the second best team in the East.
6. Brooklyn Nets 45-37
An expensive team with overrated stars. Deron Williams will probably need to have a MVP-type season for this team to top 50 wins.
7. New York Knicks 43-39
I don't expect the dysfunction to stop with Lin's departure. The pieces have never fit together here, and there is no reason to think they will now.
8. Philadelphia 76ers 40-42
Not really sure why people are high on this team. Bynum is already hurt, and the rest of the offense is pretty bad. It could be a disappointing year in Philly.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers 36-46
Byron Scott probably will get his young team to play hard, and Irving seems likely to break out this year. The Cavs could surprise, or experience growing pains.
10. Detroit Pistons 36-46
The Pistons could easily make a run for the playoffs if the talented young players click with the veterans. Those things are easier said than done.
11. Milwaukee Bucks 35-47
The Bucks seem to be stuck in limbo. A youth movement might be in order.
12. Toronto Raptors 31-51
I am not sure if the Raptors are consciously trying to rebuild, or if they seriously think they can be a decent team with this weak roster. Casey will be a COY candidate if Toronto makes a serious run for the postseason.
13. Washington Wizards 29-53
Inept management and coaching have made the Wizards a joke the last few years. Unless Wall has an incredible year when he returns from injury, don't expect this team to even sniff the playoffs.
14. Charlotte Bobcats 23-59
Mike Dunlap could make the Bobcats fun to watch, and if all things click this team could be significantly better than expected. But again, things rarely end up all clicking.
15. Orlando Magic 18-64
Probably the worst team in the league. The goal this year will just be to develop young talent.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder 59-23
A loaded and deep team with a chip on their shoulder after a Finals loss. That makes them the best bet to win the most games.
2. Los Angeles Lakers 57-25
If injuries are not a major concern, and the chemistry is strong, nobody might touch the Lakers. I doubt that happens.
3. San Antonio Spurs 56-26
They were great for a long stretch last year, and their offense is maybe the best in the league.
4. Los Angeles Clippers 53-29
A team no one will want to play come the playoffs, questionable coaching aside. Keeping Paul and Griffin healthy is the most important thing.
5. Denver Nuggets 51-31
Young, talented and ready to run. Denver might not live up to expectations, but they have so much depth for the regular season.
6. Memphis Grizzlies 50-32
Gasol and Randolph are still a load down low, and this team gets after it night in and night out.
7. Utah Jazz 44-38
A big team with some youthful talent, the Jazz play in the wrong Conference. In the East, they might be the second best regular season team.
8. Dallas Mavericks 42-40
Nowitzki's injury just underscores the fact Dallas is getting old, but they still probably will make the playoffs.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves 41-41
Love and Rubio's injuries put a real damper on the start of the season. However there might be enough depth to make it into the playoffs.
10. Golden State Warriors 33-49
Questionable coaching and constant injury concerns means it will be difficult for this team to make the playoffs.
11. Houston Rockets 32-50
A ton of the youth here is unproven, but if Lin and Martin play well, this team could be pretty good.
12. New Orleans Hornets 31-51
The Anthony Davis effect should mean something positive. It will be interesting how Anderson and Gordon play after both getting paid over the Summer.
13. Sacramento Kings 31-51
Chemistry, as usual, seems bad here. But the talent is good; if Cousins and Evans break out this team can make the playoffs.
14. Portland Trailblazers 30-52
Not a lot of depth here - at all. If Aldridge goes down again, this team could be very bad.
15. Phoenix Suns 29-53
The departure of Nash makes this Suns team rudderless. They have some decent players, but it's hard to see them competing for the playoffs.