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

In Los Angeles, it’s showtime for LeBron James. harry how/Getty

(in predicted order of finish)


Boston Celtics

Last season: 55-27, lost in Eastern Conference finals.

Coach: Brad Stevens.

Starting five: Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford.

Outlook: It will take time for the Celtics to integrate Hayward back into the rotation, but they have no obvious weaknesses and could be the one team keeping Golden State from winning a third consecutive title. Irving will play more at ease because his contract situation is settled. Brown and Tatum are itching to prove they are ready for prime time. And Horford remains the steady leader. It may take a handful of games, but this could be the best Celtics team in 11 years.


Projected wins: 57.

Philadelphia 76ers

Last season: 52-30, lost in second round.

Coach: Brett Brown.

Starting five: Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Joel Embiid.

Outlook: The 76ers are hoping that Fultz will be like a free agent acquisition, because he gave them nothing during his rookie season. Losing Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli hurts the perimeter shooting, but Simmons and Embiid along with the underrated Saric could make Philadelphia an elite team. The 76ers could be ready for the next step.

Projected wins: 51.

Toronto Raptors

Last season: 59-23, lost in second round.

Coach: Nick Nurse.

Starting five: Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas.

Outlook: Tough to predict how the Raptors will fare, because so little is known about Nurse as a coach and Leonard is with a new team after nearly an entire year off. Toronto has always been good defensively, but Lowry is 32 and may be a step slower. Ibaka is an older 29, while Green will have to flourish in his increased role. Toronto could bump the Celtics off their pedestal or slip. It all depends on Leonard.


Projected wins: 50.

New Raptor Kawhi Leonard played only nine games last season with the Spurs because of a quad injury.jonathan hayward/AP

Brooklyn Nets

Last season: 28-54, missed playoffs.

Coach: Kenny Atkinson.

Starting five: D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, DeMarre Carroll, Jarrett Allen.

Outlook: The Nets will be better as they continue to accumulate talent and then try to nab a major free agent next summer. Until then, they will play hard under the motivating Atkinson and improve. Russell is the key, as he is an immensely talented player when healthy and motivated. And finally, the Nets have their own first-round pick next summer, having finally paid off their debt to the Celtics.

Projected wins: 33.

New York Knicks

Last season: 29-53, missed playoffs.

Coach: David Fizdale.

Starting five: Frank Ntilikina, Tim Hardaway Jr., Kevin Knox, Lance Thomas, Enes Kanter.

Outlook: The Knicks are saving their money for next summer, when they can chase perhaps two maximum free agents, so they are going take this year to polish their young players and get ready for that and the draft lottery. Fizdale will change the culture and the work ethic, but without Kristaps Porzingis (knee), the Knicks just don’t have the talent to win many games.

Projected wins: 17.


Washington Wizards

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

Coach: Scott Brooks.

Starting five: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, Dwight Howard.

Outlook: With Howard and Austin Rivers now in Washington, things could blossom or implode. The Wizards have been known as a team that doesn’t like each other much, but if they don’t make a deep playoff run this season, you figure ownership will consider breaking up Wall and Beal. This could be the last chance for Brooks and this current crew.


Projected wins: 48.

Miami Heat

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

Coach: Erik Spoelstra.

Starting five: Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, James Johnson, Hassan Whiteside.

Outlook: Injuries have become a major issue for the Heat, who will begin the season without Dion Waiters. Still, Spoelstra will make the best of his roster, and Whiteside is the key to Miami making a playoff run. If he can become steadier and more of a defensive factor, and if Winslow plays like the guy Danny Ainge wanted to give up five picks for, then the Heat could be a contender.

Projected wins: 45.

Justise Winslow averaged 7.8 points last season, his third with Miami.brynn anderson/AP

Charlotte Hornets

Last season: 36-46, missed playoffs.

Coach: James Borrego.

Starting five: Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller.

Outlook: Borrego inherits a roster will little star power besides Walker, so the Hornets are going to have to play hard every night and hope players such as Lamb, Zeller, and rookie Miles Bridges have breakthrough seasons. But it’s about time Batum play up to the level of his contract and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist become a factor. If all of that can happen, the Hornets can return to the playoffs.

Projected wins: 37.

Orlando Magic

Last season: 25-57, missed playoffs.

Coach: Steve Clifford.

Starting five: D.J. Augustin, Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac.

Outlook: So the Magic fired Frank Vogel and hired Clifford? It’s a strange hire at best, and Clifford will have to tutor the Magic’s young talent without a front-line point guard. There is talent here in Gordon, Vucevic, Issac, and Mo Bamba, but they are so inexperienced. Orlando is an example of a team that has missed in the draft and can’t sign a major free agent. So it’s rebuild mode yet again.


Projected wins: 28.

Atlanta Hawks

Last season: 24-58, missed playoffs.

Coach: Lloyd Pierce.

Starting five: Trae Young, Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince, John Collins, Dewayne Dedmon.

Outlook: Speaking of rebuilding mode, the Hawks are a far cry from the team that won 60 games three years ago. They are in the beginning stages of a youth movement, so this year will be about developing Young into a Steph Curry-type point guard, watching Collins and Prince continue to grow, and getting ready for another lottery pick under a bright young coach in Pierce.

Projected wins: 19.


Indiana Pacers

Last season: 48-34, lost in first round.

Coach: Nate McMillan.

Starting five: Darren Collison, Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, Thaddeus Young, Myles Turner.

Outlook: The Pacers could be a serious contender in the East, bringing back the same team that nearly beat Cleveland in the first round and then adding Tyreke Evans, Kyle O’Quinn, and Doug McDermott. But they won’t be sneaking up on anyone this time. And will their complementary players to Oladipo play as well as they did last season? If that happens and Turner becomes more consistent, the Pacers could win the East.

Projected wins: 48.

Milwaukee Bucks

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


Coach: Mike Budenholzer.

Starting five: Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez.

Outlook: The Bucks did little to address their issues at point guard, as Bledsoe was completely outplayed by Terry Rozier in the first-round playoff series. Lopez will be more stable at center, but he doesn’t rebound or protect the rim. Middleton is in the final year of his contract, so a big season could mean a lucrative deal. The only certainty is Antetokounmpo, who is as dominant a player the league has next to LeBron James.

Projected wins: 46.

At 6 feet 11 inches, Giannis Antetokounmpo is an intimidating presence for the Bucks.mike roemer/AP

Detroit Pistons

Last season: 39-43, missed playoffs.

Coach: Dwane Casey.

Starting five: Reggie Jackson, Reggie Bullock, Stanley Johnson, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond.

Outlook: We’ve said this before, but the Pistons could be a factor in the East. They arguably have one of the best power forward/center combos in the NBA. The question is whether Jackson can be consistent and unselfish. Johnson, a physical beast, lost his confidence under Stan Van Gundy. Can Casey get it back? Nobody is talking about Detroit, and that’s a good thing, because the Pistons haven’t fared well with high expectations.

Projected wins: 44.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Last season: 50-32, lost in NBA Finals.

Coach: Tyronn Lue.

Starting five: George Hill, J.R. Smith, Cedi Osman, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson.

Outlook: Don’t feel too bad for the Cavaliers; they will be a dramatically different but decent team without LeBron James. Lue plans to center his offense around Love, as in the Minnesota days, and bank that Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., and Rodney Hood take significant steps forward. Cleveland also will defend like crazy with its athleticism.

Projected wins: 41.

Chicago Bulls

Last season: 27-55, missed playoffs.

Coach: Fred Hoiberg.

Starting five: Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Bobby Portis, Robin Lopez.

Outlook: The Bulls are an intriguing team because of their young talent. LaVine just signed a long-term extension and is now the face of the franchise. Wendell Carter will be a defensive difference-maker. Markkanen, though he will miss the first eight weeks with a bad elbow, is another star in the making. The Baby Bulls will be fun to watch but will take their lumps.

Projected wins: 30.


Houston Rockets

Last season: 65-17, lost in Western Conference finals.

Coach: Mike D’Antoni.

Starting five: Chris Paul, James Harden, James Ennis, P.J. Tucker, Clint Capela.

Outlook: The Rockets were hurt by free agency, losing Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, which will hurt their defense. They hope that adding Carmelo Anthony will boost the offense and that Marquese Chriss will help the defense. The Rockets have hopes of finally overtaking the Warriors, and they have enough depth to do it.

Projected wins: 56.

Carmelo Anthony joins the Rockets, his third team in the last three seasons.butch dill/AP

New Orleans Pelicans

Last season: 48-34, lost in second round.

Coach: Alvin Gentry.

Starting five: Elfrid Payton, Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore, Julius Randle, Anthony Davis.

Outlook: The Pelicans saved Gentry’s job by reaching the conference semifinals last year, and they did so without the injured DeMarcus Cousins. Randle will make a major difference, while Payton tries to replace Rajon Rondo. New Orleans is a team no one is talking about, but Davis has MVP aspirations and some decent talent around him.

Projected wins: 43.

Memphis Grizzlies

Last season: 22-60, missed playoffs.

Coach: J.B. Bickerstaff.

Starting five: Mike Conley, Dillon Brooks, Chandler Parsons, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol.

Outlook: The Grizzlies are healthy, and that means even Parsons. The problem is they are aging and are still a few steps behind in the West. Conley returns to lead the team, and so does Gasol, but how much does he have left? Jaren Jackson Jr. will be one of the more exciting rookies to watch. Memphis will be building for the future but still tough at home.

Projected wins: 37.

Dallas Mavericks

Last season: 24-58, missed playoffs.

Coach: Rick Carlisle.

Starting five: Dennis Smith Jr., Luka Doncic, Harrison Barnes, Wesley Matthews, DeAndre Jordan.

Outlook: With Dirk Nowitzki fading, the Mavericks retooled with Doncic and Jordan to go with the emerging Smith and Barnes. Dallas has been down for a few years, but this will be the first year in its bounce-back. Nowitzki will have a lesser role, while Doncic could be Rookie of the Year. The Mavericks have a shot to grab a playoff spot.

Projected wins: 42.

San Antonio Spurs

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

Coach: Gregg Popovich.

Starting five: Bryn Forbes, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol.

Outlook: The Spurs were actually going to be a quality club after they traded Kawhi Leonard for DeRozan, but injuries to Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Lonnie Walker damaged their backcourt. Forbes, known as a long-range shooter, now becomes the starting point guard, and the Spurs will struggle because of a lack of depth.

Projected wins: 36.


Utah Jazz

Last season: 48-34, lost in Western Conference semifinals.

Coach: Quin Snyder.

Starting five: Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert.

Outlook: The Jazz won’t be sneaking up on anybody this year, with the entire team that reached the conference semifinals back. What could make them even better is the development of former lottery pick Dante Exum to join the sparkling Mitchell. Bringing back Favors was an overshadowed move that will help keep Utah one of the league’s better defensive teams.

Projected wins: 50.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Last season: 48-34, lost in first round.

Coach: Billy Donovan.

Starting five: Russell Westbrook, Terrance Ferguson, Paul George, Patrick Patterson, Steven Adams.

Outlook: The Thunder’s biggest offseason score was getting George to return on a three-year contract. But whether they take the next step will depend on good health and the improvement of players such as Ferguson and Jerami Grant. Carmelo Anthony is gone and so are his issues, but the Thunder can’t depend just on Westbrook and George to score.

Projected wins: 46.

Paul George averaged 21.9 points last season for the Thunder.jim mone/AP

Denver Nuggets

Last season: 46-36, missed playoffs.

Coach: Mike Malone.

Starting five: Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic.

Outlook: The pressure is on Malone to make the playoffs after finishing one game short last season. He blamed the three-month-long injury to Millsap as one reason, but the Nuggets have been gathering lottery picks and underachieving for a few years. This team has the talent to make a playoff run and perhaps adding former Celtic Isaiah Thomas will put them over the top.

Projected wins: 46.

Portland Trail Blazers

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

Coach: Terry Stotts.

Starting five: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Jake Layman, Al-Farouq Aminu, Jusuf Nurkic.

Outlook: The Trail Blazers spent so much on salaries the past few years that they haven’t had much of a chance to add talent. So they were swept in the first round last year and essentially bring back the same team. Norwood native Layman will get his chance with increased minutes. Despite a dynamic backcourt, it’s hard to imagine the Blazers doing anything different from last year.

Projected wins: 41.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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

Coach: Tim Thibodeau.

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

Outlook: There’s major drama with Butler wanting out and accusing Towns and Wiggins of failing to meet expectations. The Wolves have underachieved the past few years, and with Butler reluctantly returning (until he gets traded), the team will suffer. What was once a rising franchise is now a mess.

Projected wins: 38.


Golden State Warriors

Last season: 58-24, won NBA Finals.

Coach: Steve Kerr.

Starting five: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Damian Jones.

Outlook: It could be the final run for this dynasty as Durant is again a free agent next summer and may have his eyes on the Knicks. The Warriors could get even better when DeMarcus Cousins returns from injury in the spring, but Kerr will have to deal with bouts of boredom during the regular season. It’s understandable given their past success and ability to ignite in the playoffs.

Projected wins: 57.

Los Angeles Lakers

Last season: 35-47, missed playoffs.

Coach: Luke Walton.

Starting five: Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, LeBron James, JaVale McGee.

Outlook: LeBron immediately makes the Lakers a contender, and there is enough talent around him to at least give the Warriors a scare. Rondo has turned into a veteran sage, while Ingram could become a star. It will take time for the Lakers to mesh, but they will be a difficult opponent every night, especially with a motivated LeBron leading the way.

Projected wins: 47

Los Angeles Clippers

Last season: 42-40, missed playoffs.

Coach: Doc Rivers.

Starting five: Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Montrezl Harrell, Marcin Gortat.

Outlook: Believe it or not, the Clippers may have more overall talent now than in their Lob City years because of an improved bench. The backcourt of Beverley and Bradley could be the NBA’s best defensively, while Harris is a steady scorer at small forward. The Clippers lack the star power of previous years but they’ll play hard under Rivers and make the playoffs.

Projected wins: 42.

Igor Kokoskov, a longtime NBA assistant, takes the reins for the Suns.Rick Scuteri/AP

Phoenix Suns

Last season: 21-61, missed playoffs.

Coach: Igor Kokoskov.

Starting five: Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren, Dragan Bender, Deandre Ayton.

Outlook: The Suns seemingly were on the way up until ownership fired general manager Ryan McDonough. Who knows what to expect under Kokoskov, the former Jazz assistant? Booker is the franchise cornerstone, but Phoenix has been waiting for some of its other lottery picks to flourish. Bender, Warren, and Jackson have to take steps forward. But it still won’t be good enough for the playoffs.

Projected wins: 30.

Sacramento Kings

Last season: 27-55, missed playoffs.

Coach: Dave Joerger.

Starting five: De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Marvin Bagley, Willie Cauley-Stein.

Outlook: The Kings remain in rebuilding mode as they continue to add younger players after trying to add experience last year, which backfired. Sacramento will be young and exciting, but it will be tough to take any major steps in the West. Eventually the Kings will have to add a major free agent to their lot of young players.

Projected wins: 25.

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