fb-pixel Skip to main content

A team-by-team look at the NBA this season (in predicted order of finish):

ATLANTIC DIVISION

BOSTON CELTICS

Last season: 53-29, lost in conference finals.

Coach: Brad Stevens.

Starting five: Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris, Al Horford.

Outlook: Irving and Hayward make the Celtics an NBA Finals contender. But they will have to come together quickly after a roster that got the team to the Eastern Conference finals was gutted. The question is rebounding. Morris will have to become better in the paint, while Aron Baynes will be another key to the interior defense. Scoring won’t be an issue.

Projected wins: 58.

TORONTO RAPTORS

Last season: 51-31, lost in conference semifinals.

Advertisement



Coach: Dwane Casey.

Starting five: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, C.J. Miles, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas.

Outlook: You get the feeling the Raptors are on their last legs after Lowry reluctantly came back on a three-year deal and Ibaka re-signed. The main offseason addition was Miles, who has been inconsistent throughout his career. After they were spanked by Cleveland once again in the playoffs last season, you wonder how much passion the Raptors have to compete with basically the same roster.

Projected wins: 45.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Last season: 28-54, missed playoffs.

Coach: Brett Brown.

Starting five: Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Joel Embiid.

Outlook: Finally the 76ers can legitimately talk playoffs without eliciting giggles. Simmons and Embiid are healthy. Markelle Fultz has vast potential. Saric was runner-up for Rookie of the Year last season, and Redick should help with leadership. The 76ers are no longer just trying to build for the future. They are looking at now, and the league is better when Philadelphia is a factor.

Projected wins: 37.

Markelle Fultz (left) was the top pick in the draft this year.
Markelle Fultz (left) was the top pick in the draft this year.winslow townson/AP/Associated Press
BROOKLYN NETS

Last season: 20-62, missed playoffs.

Coach: Kenny Atkinson.

Starting five: D’Angelo Russell, Jeremy Lin, Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll, Timofey Mozgov.

Outlook: The Nets are steadily improving, as they brought in Russell, Carroll, Crabbe, and Mozgov in the offseason. Brooklyn has been compiling good young talent through trades, and players such as Isaiah Whitehead and Caris LeVert should take the next step. The Nets won’t be horrible, and the Celtics have no stake in their success because they traded that final first-round pick.

Advertisement



Projected wins: 29.

NEW YORK KNICKS

Last season: 31-51, missed playoffs.

Coach: Jeff Hornacek.

Starting five: Ron Baker, Tim Hardaway, Doug McDermott, Kristaps Porzingis, Enes Kanter.

Outlook: For the first time in years, the Knicks will be rather boring, as they try to rebuild around Porzingis. They spent $71 million on Hardaway, a player they disposed of just a few years ago. They will have to wait out the contracts of Courtney Lee and Joakim Noah from the previous regime, so the alternative now is just playing kids.

Projected wins: 22.

SOUTHEAST DIVISION

WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Last season: 49-33, lost in conference semifinals.

Coach: Scott Brooks.

Starting five: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Jason Smith, Marcin Gortat.

Outlook: The Wizards faltered against the Celtics last season because they lacked a bench, and they did little to improve that or give Wall a proven backup. So they will field basically the same team as last year. The key will be Porter and Beal taking major steps and Wall playing like an MVP. If not, it’s likely the same fate.

Projected wins: 50.

MIAMI HEAT

Last season: 41-41, missed playoffs.

Coach: Erik Spoelstra.

Starting five: Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Justise Winslow, Kelly Olynyk, Hassan Whiteside.

Advertisement



Outlook: Miami has moved on from the Big Three, and the Heat have a real opportunity to make the playoffs. Good health will be a must. Winslow and Waiters each missed considerable time last season. Whiteside is turning into a franchise center and Dragic is still effective. Olynyk will get a bigger role here.

Projected wins: 45.

CHARLOTTE HORNETS

Last season: 36-46, missed playoffs.

Coach: Steve Clifford.

Starting five: Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams, Dwight Howard.

Outlook: The Hornets were hoping for good health after a disastrous year with injuries in 2016-17, but Nicolas Batum will miss perhaps two months with a right elbow injury. Still, hopes are higher with the acquisition of Howard and another year of the sparkling Walker, who is the face of the franchise. Charlotte is good enough to make the playoffs in the weakened East.

Projected wins: 40.

The Hornets are Dwight Howard’s fifth NBA team.
The Hornets are Dwight Howard’s fifth NBA team.streeter lecka/Getty
ORLANDO MAGIC

Last season: 29-53, missed playoffs.

Coach: Frank Vogel.

Starting five: Elfrid Payton, Evan Fournier, Terrence Ross, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic.

Outlook: Hard to understand what’s going on in Orlando. The Magic’s rebuilding plan started the same time as the Celtics’, and they have yet to get back to the postseason. Once again the Magic have a talented starting five but nothing close to an All-Star. So it’s simply a matter of taking the next step and hoping for a playoff push in the depleted East.

Projected wins: 35.

ATLANTA HAWKS

Last season: 43-39, lost in first round of playoffs.

Coach: Mike Budenholzer.

Starting five: Dennis Schroder, Taurean Prince, Kent Bazemore, Ersan Ilyasova, Dewayne Dedmon.

Advertisement



Outlook: New ownership decided it was time for a rebuild, so the roster was stripped, and the Hawks won’t be very fun to watch over the next few years. It’s mysteriously difficult to sign major free agents in Atlanta, so the Hawks will wait for their young talent to develop. Schroder is a solid guard but needs to work on maturity issues.

Projected wins: 24.

CENTRAL DIVISION

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

Last season: 51-31, lost in NBA Finals.

Coach: Tyronn Lue.

Starting five: Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson.

Outlook: The Cavaliers went through some serious offseason changes, and the question is whether it will result in a team that can return to the Finals. They will be asking a lot from the aging Wade, the oft-injured Rose, and the mercurial Jeff Green. The story line also will be the future of James, a free agent next summer. Isaiah Thomas won’t be back until January, so the Cavs may not be themselves until April.

Projected wins: 54.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS

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

Coach: Jason Kidd.

Starting five: Malcolm Brogdon, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, John Henson.

Outlook: The Bucks would have been even more imposing last season if not for injuries. Parker returns from another torn ACL, and Middleton also is ready. The Bucks have a chance to grab that third seed in the East if they can get production from Henson and a solid sophomore season from Brogdon. Antetokounmpo is an MVP candidate.

Advertisement



Projected wins: 44.

DETROIT PISTONS

Last season: 37-45, missed playoffs.

Coach: Stan Van Gundy.

Starting five: Reggie Jackson, Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Stanley Johnson, Andre Drummond.

Outlook: Detroit should be better with the addition of Bradley, but it all depends on how Jackson, Drummond, and Johnson play. If they each take a step forward, the Pistons will reach the playoffs. But the combination of Jackson and Drummond hasn’t boosted Van Gundy’s offense. Drummond has to play with more force and Jackson has to become a better distributor.

Projected wins: 43.

Former Celtic Avery Bradley now starts in the Pistons backcourt.
Former Celtic Avery Bradley now starts in the Pistons backcourt.tom lynn/AP/Associated Press
INDIANA PACERS

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

Coach: Nate McMillan.

Starting five: Darren Collison, Victor Oladipo, Thaddeus Young, Bojan Bogdanovic, Myles Turner.

Outlook: Indiana was forced to trade Paul George and got Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, so there isn’t much reason to be excited. The Pacers still have the talented Turner and the skilled Young, but there isn’t enough depth to do anything more than perhaps make a run at the final playoff spot in the East. That would require a monster season from Oladipo and a resurrection from Lance Stephenson.

Projected wins: 28.

CHICAGO BULLS

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

Coach: Fred Hoiberg.

Starting five: Kris Dunn, Justin Holiday, Paul Zipser, Bobby Portis, Robin Lopez.

Outlook: The Bulls tore up what was supposed to be a contending squad by trading Jimmy Butler and buying out Dwyane Wade. The result is a ragtag bunch who will play for pride and try to keep games close. Dunn will get his chance to lead a team, and Zach LaVine will be a factor when he returns from a torn ACL. But it will be a long season in Chicago.

Projected wins: 20.

NORTHWEST DIVISION

OKLAHOMA CITY

Last season: 47-35, lost in first round of playoffs.

Coach: Billy Donovan.

Starting five: Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Steven Adams.

Outlook: The Thunder are back as contenders, having added George and Anthony. The major question is how they and Westbrook will share shots. George could be headed elsewhere next season but wants to be known as a winner after falling short so many times in Indiana. Westbrook remains the leader, and OKC’s success will depend on his orchestration of the offense.

Projected wins: 52

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

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

Coach: Terry Stotts.

Starting five: Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, Jusuf Nurkic.

Outlook: The key is staying healthy. Portland has the potential to take the next step in the Western Conference but needs some luck. Nurkic is also a key. He reported to camp 35 pounds lighter and should make a major impact offensively. It’s Lillard’s team but he definitely needs more help.

Projected wins: 47.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

Last season: 31-51, missed playoffs.

Coach: Tom Thibodeau.

Starting five: Jeff Teague, Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, Taj Gibson, Karl-Anthony Towns.

Outlook: Expectations are high after the Timberwolves added Butler, Teague, Gibson, and Jamal Crawford. The key is defense, where the Timberwolves struggled badly last season. In the ultra-competitive West, Thibodeau’s guys need to make a fast start and get more consistency from Wiggins. There is definitely enough talent, but the question is production.

Projected wins: 46.

Jimmy Butler joins Minnesota after being a three-time All-Star in Chicago.
Jimmy Butler joins Minnesota after being a three-time All-Star in Chicago.zhong zhi/Getty
DENVER NUGGETS

Last season: 40-42, missed playoffs.

Coach: Mike Malone.

Starting five: Emmanuel Mudiay, Wilson Chandler, Gary Harris, Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic.

Outlook: It’s about time the Nuggets do something post-Carmelo Anthony, and this has to be the year, right? They signed Millsap for leadership and a nightly double-double, while Jokic is one of the league’s rising stars. The question is at point guard, where Mudiay has been a disappointment his first two years. It’s time for him and Harris to become more dependable.

Projected wins: 44.

UTAH JAZZ

Last season: 51-31, lost in conference semifinals.

Coach: Quin Snyder.

Starting five: Ricky Rubio, Rodney Hood, Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert.

Outlook: The Jazz begin life after Gordon Hayward with essentially the same roster except Rubio is now at the point. Gobert is emerging into a standout center, but the Jazz are going to need big seasons from Hood, Favors, Alec Burks, and rookie Donovan Mitchell to make a playoff push. It’s likely another lottery appearance for the Jazz.

Projected wins: 35.

SOUTHWEST DIVISION

HOUSTON ROCKETS

Last season: 55-27, lost in conference semifinals.

Coach: Mike D’Antoni.

Starting five: Chris Paul, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, Clint Capela.

Outlook: Houston made the first major move of the summer to compete with Golden State by acquiring Paul. Harden will move to his natural shooting guard position, and the Rockets could be deeper and more cohesive than last season. They have a chance to reach the Western Conference finals, but it’s hard to believe they can go further than that.

Projected wins: 55

SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Last season: 61-21, lost in conference finals.

Coach: Gregg Popovich.

Starting five: Dejounte Murray, Rudy Gay, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol.

Outlook: Injuries are a theme so far with the Spurs. Tony Parker isn’t expected to return until December because of a quadriceps tear, while Leonard (also a quad injury) didn’t play at all during the preseason. Gay has been a scorer on bad teams for years, but this is his opportunity to be with a winner. The Spurs are running on fumes, and this season may be their last as an elite team for a few years.

Projected wins: 48

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

Last season: 43-39, lost in first round of the playoffs.

Coach: David Fizdale.

Starting five: Mike Conley, Wayne Selden, Chandler Parsons, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol.

Outlook: The Grizzlies got younger by letting go of Tony Allen and Zach Randolph, but the question is whether they are better. Memphis once again is a 7 or 8 seed, hoping Parsons can stay healthy and Gasol has something left. Fizdale wants to play more up-tempo, so it should at least be a more exciting club.

Projected wins: 43

DALLAS MAVERICKS

Last season: 33-49, missed playoffs.

Coach: Rick Carlisle.

Starting five: Dennis Smith, Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes, Dirk Nowitzki, Nerlens Noel.

Outlook: The Mavericks are stuck between rebuilding and trying to give Nowitzki one last shot at a title. There was no significant veteran addition; the biggest offseason acquisition was Josh McRoberts. Fans may want to take notice of Smith, a dynamic Rookie of the Year candidate who could be the cornerstone of a new Mavericks era.

Projected wins: 42.

Dennis Smith, 19, gives the Mavericks hope for the future.
Dennis Smith, 19, gives the Mavericks hope for the future.streeter lecka/Getty
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS

Last season: 34-48, missed playoffs.

Coach: Alvin Gentry.

Starting five: Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore, Dante Cunningham, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins.

Outlook: There is serious pressure on the Pelicans in the Big Easy. They just re-upped Holiday, who is now the 18th-highest-paid player in the league, and without a hint of an All-Star appearance. Cousins and Davis will have to work together as a dominant combo for Gentry and general manager Dell Demps to keep their jobs, because impatience is rampant. Playoffs or bust.

Projected wins: 42

PACIFIC DIVISION

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

Last season: 67-15, won NBA Finals.

Coach: Steve Kerr.

Starting five: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia.

Outlook: The Warriors’ most significant loss was Ian Clark, so that should indicate how well-equipped they are to repeat. The next quest is to repeat and build a dynasty. Unless injuries occur, the Warriors are a cinch to return to the Finals and probably beat their Eastern Conference counterpart pretty easily.

Projected wins: 66.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

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

Coach: Doc Rivers.

Starting five: Patrick Beverley, Austin Rivers, Danilo Gallinari, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan.

Outlook: Big changes in LA, with Chris Paul gone and a slew of newcomers that should make the Clippers less predictable, if not necessarily better. It all depends on whether Beverley gives the team a physical presence and Gallinari can provide the scoring punch the Clippers have not had at small forward under Rivers. Perhaps the Clippers will be better without the pushy Paul.

Projected wins: 45.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Last season: 26-56, missed playoffs.

Coach: Luke Walton.

Starting five: Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Brook Lopez.

Outlook: Times are improving. Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka are drafting well and waiting for next summer to potentially sign two maximum players. Until then, Lakers fans will have to be entertained with the development of Ball, Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Larry Nance Jr. It should be an enjoyable ride but not one that leads to the playoffs.

Projected wins: 37.

It’s showtime for Lonzo Ball in Los Angeles.
It’s showtime for Lonzo Ball in Los Angeles.sean M. Haffey/Getty
SACRAMENTO KINGS

Last season: 32-50, missed playoffs.

Coach: Dave Joerger.

Starting five: George Hill, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Zach Randolph, Willie Cauley-Stein.

Outlook: The Kings are getting younger and indeed better, but in the Western Conference, it means little. Hill will stabilize the point guard position, and Hield is developing into a pure scorer and shooter. The Kings will be a difficult opponent on most nights but their truly talented players are still too young to impact this season.

Projected wins: 31.

PHOENIX SUNS

Last season: 24-58, missed playoffs.

Coach: Earl Watson.

Starting five: Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, T.J. Warren, Marquese Chriss, Tyson Chandler.

Outlook: The Suns seemingly are stuck because they can’t attract a major free agent, so they are just waiting for their younger players to develop. The major veteran offseason addition was 3-point shooter Troy Daniels. Booker is a rising star and dropped 70 on the Celtics last season. Chriss is also a potential difference-maker, but the Suns will need time to become a contender.

Projected wins: 25.


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