fb-pixel Skip to main content
2015-16 NBA PREVIEW

A team-by-team look at the NBA this season

Atlantic Division

BOSTON CELTICS

Last season: 40-42, lost in first round.

Coach: Brad Stevens.

Starting five: Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, David Lee, Tyler Zeller.

Outlook: The Celtics will beat teams with depth and relentlessness, and there are some players in the locker room (Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Smart, Lee) who want to prove they are emerging stars or have something left. The Celtics were one of the NBA’s better teams in the second half of last season, and they should continue that momentum.

Projected wins: 48.

TORONTO RAPTORS

Last season: 49-33, lost in first round.

Coach: Dwane Casey.

Starting five: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll, Patrick Patterson, Jonas Valanciunas.

Advertisement



Outlook: The Raptors decided to make some changes with their defensive approach after the playoff drubbing by Washington. Carroll is a solid addition but not worth $15 million. Valanciunas will have to improve dramatically for Toronto to be better.

Projected wins: 45.

BROOKLYN NETS

Last season: 38-44, lost in first round.

Coach: Lionel Hollins.

Starting five: Jarrett Jack, Joe Johnson, Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young, Brook Lopez.

Outlook: GM Billy King gave so many picks to the Celtics that the Nets have to stick with their older core and wait for contracts to expire. Jack has his moments but he is not a starting point guard on a good team. Brooklyn will be a tough opponent, but it just don’t have enough to beat good teams most nights.

Projected wins: 35.

NEW YORK KNICKS

Last season: 17-65, lost in first round.

Coach: Derek Fisher.

Starting five: Jose Calderon, Arron Afflalo, Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, Robin Lopez.

Outlook: The Knicks improved, especially defensively. They will be a factor in the playoff race and they are beginning to learn the complexities of the triangle offense. The question is whether Anthony can become a true leader and do more than score. Afflalo can’t wilt under the New York pressure.

Advertisement



Projected wins: 31.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Last season: 18-64, did not qualify for playoffs.

Coach: Brett Brown.

Starting five: Tony Wroten, Hollis Thompson, Robert Covington, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor.

Outlook: The 76ers are in the same stages as they were before but added Okafor, who could win Rookie of the Year with the playing time he’ll receive. No one outside of Philadelphia knows what the long-term plan is, and as long as the 76ers don’t bring in accomplished veterans, they’ll stay the same.

Projected wins: 17.

Southeast Division

MIAMI HEAT

Last season: 37-45, missed playoffs.

Coach: Erik Spoelstra.

Starting five: Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh, Hassan Whiteside.

Outlook: The Heat needed a season to reset after LeBron James’s departure, but they are loaded after adding Amar’e Stoudemire, Gerald Green, and rookie Justise Winslow. Bosh and Wade are now healthy and Dragic is now comfortable after coming over in midseason from Phoenix. No reason why Miami can’t compete with Cleveland.

Projected wins: 51.

ATLANTA HAWKS

Last season: 60-22, lost in conference finals.

Coach: Mike Budenholzer.

Starting five: Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, Al Horford, Kent Bazemore.

Outlook: Not much changed in the offseason. They lost DeMarre Carroll and added Tim Hardaway Jr. and Tiago Splitter. They will remain consistent, but it’s hard to believe they’ll come close to matching last season. Look out for Horford, who will be a free agent next summer.

Projected wins: 44.

Advertisement



WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Last season: 46-36, lost in conference semifinals.

Coach: Randy Wittman.

Starting five: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Jared Dudley, Marcin Gortat.

Outlook: It seems that losing Paul Pierce has taken this team down a notch. The Wizards are still talented but it’s hard to believe Dudley can fill Pierce’s role or that free agent Alan Anderson will make that much of a difference. Washington is waiting for next summer, when a certain forward from Oklahoma City will be available.

Projected wins: 41.

ORLANDO MAGIC

Last season: 25-57, did not qualify for playoffs.

Coach: Scott Skiles.

Starting five: Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Channing Frye, Nikola Vucevic.

Outlook: The Magic are very young, but they are impressive and could be a team to reckon with in the coming years. They added Skiles to mentor an ailing defense, and the young core should take a major step forward and make a push at the eighth playoff spot. Times are good in Orlando.

Projected wins: 34.

CHARLOTTE HORNETS

Last season: 33-49, did not qualify for playoffs.

Coach: Steve Clifford.

Starting five: Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lin, Nicolas Batum, Cody Zeller, Al Jefferson.

Outlook: Jefferson reported to camp 20 pounds lighter, but the Hornets really didn’t get better over the summer, unless you believe Batum will become a standout. Charlotte will be solid but the expectations should be lowered considering the personnel.

Projected wins: 30.

Central Division

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

Last season: 53-29, lost in NBA Finals.

Coach: David Blatt.

Starting five: Mo Williams, J.R. Smith, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Timofey Mozgov.

Advertisement



Outlook: The Cavaliers won’t be whole until near midseason when Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert return, and that could cost them a couple of wins. But Cleveland will be ready for the big prize once April arrives. James remains the best player in the game and Love is now secure and healthy. Cleveland is a favorite to play in June.

Projected wins: 54.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS

Last season: 41-41, lost in first round.

Coach: Jason Kidd.

Starting five: Michael Carter-Williams, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Greg Monroe.

Outlook: The Bucks nabbed the second-most coveted free agent in Monroe, and now they are ready for the big time. Milwaukee already was one of the better defensive teams in the NBA, and now it is more experienced and deeper. It could be a special season in Wisconsin as the Bucks have built themselves into a contender.

Projected wins: 48.

CHICAGO BULLS

Last season: 50-32, lost in conference semifinals.

Coach: Fred Hoiberg.

Starting five: Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah.

Outlook: The Bulls were supposed to make the Finals last season but they wilted against the Cavaliers. So we’re supposed to expect the same team, a year older and with a banged-up Rose, to be improved? Can Hoiberg make that much of a difference? The window is closing, and the Bulls may not have enough to make it past the second round.

Projected wins: 47.

INDIANA PACERS

Last season: 38-44, did not qualify for playoffs.

Advertisement



Coach: Frank Vogel.

Starting five: George Hill, Monta Ellis, C.J. Miles, Paul George, Ian Mahinmi.

Outlook: The Pacers felt they needed changes, so they rid themselves of Roy Hibbert and Luis Scola. But they will struggle against teams with skilled centers since George is now playing power forward. The Pacers aren’t as talented as in recent years.

Projected wins: 37.

DETROIT PISTONS

Last season: 32-50, did not qualify for playoffs.

Coach: Stan Van Gundy.

Starting five: Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Ersan Ilyasova, Marcus Morris, Andre Drummond.

Outlook: It’s time the Pistons approached significance again, and this season will be the first step. Jackson was well-compensated despite never making an All-Star team and he will be depended on to lead. Drummond is an improving beast in the middle, while Caldwell-Pope is a pure shooter. The Pistons will be better.
Projected wins: 35.

Northwest Division

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Last season: 45-37, did not qualify for playoffs.

Coach: Billy Donovan.

Starting five: Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Enes Kanter.

Outlook: It’s payback time for the Thunder, who are fully healthy and have a new coach in Donovan, who has spent a decade preparing for this opportunity. It could be the last go-round for Durant, who will be a free agent next summer. The key is whether Kanter can improve defensively and Westbrook stays healthy.

Projected wins: 56.

UTAH JAZZ

Last season: 38-44, did not qualify for playoffs.

Coach: Quin Snyder.

Starting five: Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert.

Outlook: It’s about time the Jazz make some noise, but their road is going to be tougher without Dante Exum, who tore an ACL playing for Team Australia. Still, the Jazz are talented, with the underrated Burks returning from a shoulder injury. The pressure is on for Snyder after years of stacking first-round picks. The Jazz should make the playoffs, or there could be changes.

Projected wins: 43.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

Last season: 16-66, did not qualify for playoffs.

Coach: Sam Mitchell.

Starting five: Ricky Rubio, Zack LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Kevin Garnett, Karl-Anthony Towns.

Outlook: The Timberwolves are too talented to remain in last place. They are among the league’s most exciting teams, led by graybeard Garnett. Wiggins is primed for an All-Star season, LaVine could be special, and Towns could be a franchise player. The question is whether Rubio can finally fulfill his potential. If he can, Minnesota will be a tough out.

Projected wins: 33.

DENVER NUGGETS

Last season: 30-52, did not qualify for playoffs.

Coach: Mike Malone.

Starting five: Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, Joffrey Lauvergne.

Outlook: What to make of these Nuggets? They are talented underachievers led by a man who coached the same type of players to success in Sacramento. The highlight will be the development of Mudiay, who takes over for the troubled Ty Lawson. Denver has a lot of players who appear close to breakout seasons. We’ll still be waiting.

Projected wins: 28.

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

Last season: 51-31, lost in first round.

Coach: Terry Stotts.

Starting five: Damian Lillard, Gerald Henderson, Al-Farouq Aminu, Ed Davis, Mason Plumlee.

Outlook: It’s going to be a long season in Portland, which lost four of its starters in the offseason, including LaMarcus Aldridge. Lillard, 25, becomes the team’s franchise leader, and he’ll be surrounded by even younger players, including Haverhill native Noah Vonleh and former first-round pick Maurice Harkless. The Blazers will be young but exciting.

Projected wins: 23.

Southwest Division

SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Last season: 55-27, lost in first round.

Coach: Gregg Popovich.

Starting five: Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan.

Outlook: The Spurs scored big by dipping into the free agent market and getting Aldridge. So now there are no excuses for another title run, and this should be one of the better San Antonio teams in recent memory because of depth, including the addition of David West. Health is the only issue. It could be one final title for Duncan.

Projected wins: 58.

HOUSTON ROCKETS

Last season: 56-26, lost in conference finals.

Coach: Kevin McHale.

Starting five: Ty Lawson, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Dwight Howard.

Outlook: Can the Rockets rely on Lawson? Is Howard still a premium defender and in his prime? Can Harden repeat his MVP-type season? The Rockets have the potential to reach the Finals, but can they avoid their past flakiness to get there? There are a lot of questions in Houston.

Projected wins: 53.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

Last season: 55-27, lost in conference semifinals

Coach: Dave Joerger.

Starting five: Mike Conley, Courtney Lee, Jeff Green, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol.

Outlook: It’s pretty much the same formula here in Memphis with the additions of Matt Barnes and former Celtic Brandan Wright to supplement an already strong defense. The question is whether the Grizzlies can score with the rest of the West.

Projected wins: 48.

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS

Last season: 45-37, lost in first round.

Coach: Alvin Gentry.

Starting five: Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Quincy Pondexter, Anthony Davis, Omer Asik.

Outlook: It’s time for the Pelicans to take a major step forward, but injuries to their big men won’t help in the early going. And can Jrue Holiday last a full season? Davis will carry this franchise to the playoffs but the Pelicans need an unexpected season from Gordon or Evans to become a major factor.

Projected wins: 44.

DALLAS MAVERICKS

Last season: 50-32, lost in first round.

Coach: Rick Carlisle.

Starting five: Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki, Zaza Pachulia.

Outlook: Well, the Mavericks tried remaining competitive by signing Dallas native Williams and overpaying for Matthews, but it likely won’t work in the difficult West. Dallas will take a Texas-sized step back this season but will prepare for another offseason of chasing another superstar.

Projected wins: 38

Pacific Division

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

Last season: 67-15, won NBA title.

Coach: Steve Kerr (Luke Walton interim as Kerr recovers from back surgery).

Starting five: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut.

Outlook: The Warriors are playing with an attitude because they spent the offseason hearing tha their title wasn’t earned. So essentially the same team returns (with big man Jason Thompson added to the mix) with something to prove. The question is whether Walton can take on such a large responsibility replacing Kerr for at least a few weeks.

Projected wins: 57.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

Last season: 56-26, lost in conference semifinals.

Coach: Doc Rivers.

Starting five: Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Paul Pierce, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan.

Outlook: Rivers made the necessary changes to his roster, including bringing back Jordan in the league’s biggest summer story line. The time is now for the Clippers. Another choke job in the playoffs could mean a major house-cleaning. The Clippers have enough talent and savvy from Pierce to push the Warriors.

Projected wins: 54.

SACRAMENTO KINGS

Last season: 29-53, did not qualify for playoffs.

Coach: George Karl.

Starting five: Rajon Rondo, Ben McLemore, Rudy Gay, DeMarcus Cousins, Kosta Koufos.

Outlook: Well, the Kings will be entertaining if nothing else. They will be better, Cousins will behave and Rondo will return to form. But it likely won’t be good enough for the eighth seed. Remember, this is the West.

Projected wins: 35.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Last season: 21-61, did not qualify for playoffs.

Coach: Byron Scott.

Starting five: D’Angelo Russell, Kobe Bryant, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Roy Hibbert.

Outlook: The Lakers will be a season-long soap opera, especially if Metta World Peace makes the team. Bryant will have to humble himself a touch to work with Russell, but the Lakers are rising, maybe not high enough to reach the playoffs in Bryant’s final season as a Laker.

Projected wins: 33.

PHOENIX SUNS

Last season: 39-43, did not qualify for playoffs.

Coach: Jeff Hornacek

Starting five: Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Markieff Morris, P.J. Tucker, Tyson Chandler.

Outlook: The Suns went hard after LaMarcus Aldridge, and it cost them in the short run because they only added the aging Chandler (now 33). Phoenix will play hard, but things don’t seem harmonious with Morris demanding a trade. The Suns once were considered one of the league’s rising teams, but they plateaued even before reaching the postseason.

Projected wins: 30.


Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.