Addition by subtraction. They made big headlines dealing Joe Johnson (and his atrocious contract) to Brooklyn. With a healthy Al Horford, and Josh Smith playing for a new contract, I think this team does even better than last season. The loss of Marvin Williams is of no concern, and at worst is an even swap since they got a serviceable Devin Harris in the deal to manage the point alongside Jeff Teague. Danny Ferry deserves a lot of credit for the work he's done this offseason--STEALING Kyle Korver from Chicago and finding a hidden gem in Anthony Morrow. Quite frankly, I think Atlanta's rotation at SG will prove to be statistically more productive than Joe Johnson, for a fraction of the cost. I think this team goes way over and could realistically finish as the 3 seed. They're in the same group as Brooklyn, New York, and Indiana.
Pick: Over (LOCK)
Boston Celtics- o/u 50.5 Wins
Getting a healthy Jeff Green back. Adding Jason Terry and Courtney Lee. Drafting Jared Sullinger. Plus a half-decent Darko. The only loss? Ray Allen to Miami. Honestly, Jason Terry > Ray Allen. Plain and simple. KG and Pierce will play less minutes; but the depth on their bench will help keep the vets healthy. This team's MVP is Rondo. It's his team, no questions about it. The one hole is a back up PG, a position Doc Rivers has said will be filled by a committee of capable ball handling SGs. 51-31 I'd go way higher if it wasn't for the fact that Boston will probably be able to rest guys often and secure the #2 seed fairly early. What draws me to the over is that in the likely scenario that another team emerges from the 2nd tier to battle them for the second seed, Boston will have to go all-out down the stretch. In that case, along with the "Ray Allen extra motivation factor" which will give them a few extra wins that they probably don't deserve, the number creeps up to 54. This is the first of my 3 jinxes. I pray this goes under, in the hopes New York makes a play for the division title and a top 4 seed.
Brooklyn Nets- o/u 44.5 Wins (-130 on the over)
The big move to Brooklyn is finally complete. We saw the fancy new arena and "classy" jersey styles. After acquiring Joe Johnson and resigning Derron Williams, this team really does look like a fantasy team. The biggest issue with this team will be can they stop anybody? Where is the defense going to come from. Brook Lopez is not a force down low. I suppose Gerald Wallace is still an elite defender, but that's about it. As seen by the -130 juice, clearly the public is betting the over. Quite frankly, I think the new city, new arena, new owner, new jerseys, new fan base will all factor together to give Brooklyn a few extra wins. I put this team at around 45 wins though, so it's a close call (and if the public keeps it up we could see this increase to upwards of 45).
Charlotte Bobcats- o/u 19.5 Wins
In all honestly, I think 19 wins is the exact number. This is a BAD team. They'll be in the hunt for the #1 pick again this season. The only way you could get me to watch the Bobcats play in person is if you promise me a seat next to MJ. Charlotte will somehow manage 12-18 wins, no more.
Chicago Bulls- o/u 48 Wins
WAY too high. No D.Rose until when? January? February? That's the biggest question mark going into this NBA season. Plus the front office completely destroyed the "bench mob" which will make filling in for Rose even harder. I think they sneak into the playoffs and once they get healthy, no one is going to want to see them in the first round.
Pick: Under (LOCK)
Cleveland Cavaliers- o/u 31.5 Wins
I think Kyrie will be an MVP candidate this season. Unfortunately, I really dislike the selection of Dion Waiters. This team will go as far as Irving can take them. Maybe Varejo can help teach Tristan Thompson mature into what scouts though he could be.
Detroit Pistons- o/u 32.5 Wins
I think this team gets upwards of 35 wins. I'm a big fan of their young nucleus. They were almost a .500 team in the 2nd half of last season. Detroit only needs to improve by 2 games from last season's pace to get over this total, I definitely think they've gotten at least "2 wins" better.
Pick: Over (LOCK)
Indiana Pacers- o/u 50.5 Wins (-130 on the over)
I don't think this team is as good as last year. I think they get to 45-50 wins. Indiana doesn't have a real superstar. Just look at the Atlanta Hawks (who traded away a max. player), they have TWO players better than ANYONE on the Pacers roster.
Miami Heat- o/u 61.5 Wins
Injuries could obviously derail this number. Another issue could be if they decide to "cruise" through the season (a la San Antonio) and take nights off, knowing they can shift gears in the playoffs. With all that being said, I think this goes over easily. LeBron is embracing playing power forward and Erik Spoelstra is vehement about this "position-less" basketball. It's scary to imagine the possibilities after adding Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen--2 DEADLY shooters. Throw in a healthy Wade, 65-17 is my guess. You can't predict injuries, and to hit 62-20 you can't have any significant injuries--that's the only thing preventing them from being one of my "locks." As a Knick fan, this is also (hopefully) a jinx. I'd gladly take the hit to my wallet if it means seeing this team fall apart.
Milwaukee Bucks- o/u 37.5 Wins
I think Ilyasova is a stud. Resigning him was one of the most underrated "moves" of the offseason. 5 years, $40 million? Compare that to Amare Stoudemaire... Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis are electric, fun to watch guards; but their lack of defense will be the downfall of this team being anything but average. They have about $20 million coming off the books this summer, not counting Jennings and Ellis who are also in contract years, so it looks like they're rebuilding around Ilyasova and a young group consisting of Tobias Harris, John Henson, and Doron Lamb. I watched Tobias A LOT every since he was a Long Island prodigy from Half Hollow Hills. His size and skills allow him to shift between SF/PF, making him an ideal tweener to play alongside Ilyasova and Henson. Personally, I think they should've drafted Tyler Zeller, a bigger body who can play the center position in a fairly "small" Eastern Conference. I can't really see them attracting big name players, despite their cap room, and wouldn't reccommend giving big money to Jennings or Ellis. Things will get worse before they get better in Milwaukee. I think 37 is the perfect number.
P.S This will be the most I/anyone else writes about Milwaukee until 2013 Mock Drafts start springing up.
New York Knicks- o/u 46.5 Wins (**DROPPED to 45.5 Wins**)
Can I be unbiased here? To start off, anything less than an ECF appearance will be unacceptable to Dolan and Knicks fans alike. To be honest, I was quite disappointed when we let Lin walk. For a team that's had NO issue throwing around money to guys like Jerome James and Eddy Curry, how do you let Lin walk when you can have him for $5 million a season for the next two years. Worry about the back end of the contract in 2015--when you can use him as a trade chip (or better yet, dangle him to LA for CP3 at the deadline this year) or waive him to spread out the cap hit and avoid luxury tax penalties. Larry Coon did a wonderful job outlining the options back in July. But this rant is better suited for another piece. Now I think Amare's injury will really give us a look at how this team could play with him out of the starting lineup. Throw Carmelo at the 4 against smaller lineups, and Thomas or Camby in there versus bigger teams. I think the starting 5, when at full strength, should be: Felton-Shumpert-Brewer-Melo-Chandler. With J.R Smith as the 6th man, Kidd splitting time at PG, and Amare coming in with the second unit. But bench a guy on a max contract? I guess that's why they pay Mike Woodson the big bucks to make decisions like this. Given the injuries (Shumpert out until January, Amare and Brewer out to start the season) and the unprecedented age of this team, I'll put my fandom aside and be object in saying: under. Not by much though. Like mentioned earlier, I put them in the 2nd tier- Brooklyn, Atlanta, Indiana group. That gives the ability to finish anywhere from 3rd to 6th in the East (and means they will most likely have a 1st round matchup with one of those 3 teams). At worst, a slight improvement in seeding over last year. Everything has to go right for this team to reach 50 wins; and a record that's closer to .500 is more likely. This is another instance where I'd happily trade lossing the money for being wrong on this pick. Again, I'm going for the jinx. 45-37.
Side Note (for Knick fans): If you happen to find a $5 bill on the floor I recommend wagering it on the Knicks at +5000 to win the NBA Championship. Why? For the hell of it. I can't even begin to imagine how gratifying it would be to call the Knicks NBA Champions; but the only thing that could make it better would be realizing I won $250 all because I blindly threw down $5 back in October. Now you'll already have the money set aside to preorder that iPhone 6 coming out in September 2013.
Orlando Magic- o/u 24.5 Wins
At first glance, it seems a little high. Obviously we all know about the Dwight saga; but what's astonishing is how they didn't get back Gasol or Bynum or even Houston's plethora of picks and young assets. Instead they come away with a trio of rotation/average players. Makes no sense. I even think the Ryan Anderson for Gustavo Ayon is a poor tradeoff. I think they're tanking, BIG time. Any potential impacts guys left on this roster will be dealt to strengthen their fight for the #1 pick. Jameer Nelson is going to be the only guy left, a pretty good player; but he just got paid--Any incentive left to perform? Frankly, it doesn't even matter what he does. Orlando is going to be selling its fans on the 2013 draft (not the best draft class to be tanking for). I think their the worst team in the East. Anywhere from 21-26 wins is where I see this team finishing. For whatever reason, I think their recent trend to screw everything up will continue as the finish towards the bottoms of the standings, rather than right at the bottom. Slightly hurting their lottery odds in the process. The possibility that Glen Davis can have a breakout season makes me less inclined to make the under here a "lock." In fact, I almost talked myself into the over by re-reading the last couple sentences I wrote. I better end this now.
Philadelphia 76ers- o/u 47 Wins
35-47. I could make a case for that to be Philly's 2012-2013 record. The losses of Lou Williams and Jodie Meeks will be greater than everyone thinks. I don't like the addition of Nick Young, who really just chucks up 3 pointers at a high enough frequency that he's now considered a "scorer" and really doesn't much defense. Speaking of defense, 76ers fans are going to miss Iguadola. I loved his game. The front office HAD to do this trade as soon as they got the call saying they could get Andrew Bynum. But Bynum is already dealing with injuries and seems out of shape. Combine that with his history of missing CHUNKS of games at a time and blatant immaturity, I don't see this team gelling with a nucleus of Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner. The advanced statistics back me up on that notion. They have the best center in the Eastern Conference, but I think they finish 4th in the Atlantic Division and sneak out the 6 seed. I'll make it easy: 42-42, a .500 team (assuming Bynum plays 70 games, if he plays 60 I go back to my 35 wins pick). Let this sit in for a while: this is Andrew Bynum's team...
Toronto Raptors- o/u 33 Wins (-125 on the over) (**UP TO 33.5 WINS**)
There's good reason why this is seeing some action (as noted by the -125 juice). I'm a fan of this over. Interesting team, headed in the right direction.The Atlantic Division is going to make for some GREAT basketball. Losing out Nash (the hometown guy) gives this team a little big of extra motivation in my mind. I think Lowry is better than Nash is. That young, versatile front-line is going to create tough matchups for most teams. Demar Derozen is fun to watch. The Landry Field signings was purely out of spite/a blockade to New York trading for Nash. It backfired in their face that they came away without Nash and their stuck overpaying Fields. But as a Knick fan, I can attest to how scrappy this kid plays. His offensive game has been hard to watch at times; but he's an outstanding rebounder for a wing player (up their with LeBron in that realm) and has a high basketball IQ. 37-45--I think they have a shot at catching Philadelphia for the 4th spot in the Atlantic (meaning they could sneak into the playoffs).
Side Note: Ed Davis over Greg Monroe will haunt this team.
Pick: Over (LOCK)
Washington Wizards- o/u 28.5 Wins
This opened in the 32-33 win range (congrats to anyone who got the under on that total). After the recent injuries to John Wall and Nene, also known as the 2 most important players on this roster, it correctly dropped by a few wins. I don't think this team fits well together. I like the collection of young talent and think highly of Bradley Beal; but John Wall has regressed in my eyes and Ariza/Okafor are a waste of space. Not much to say about this team going forward. It looks like an ugly season is on the horizon for Wizards fans.