By: Denery Noone, Scott Brock-Wilson, and Justin Lynch
Denery: Over -- The Celtics are a team that will continue to work hard throughout the entire season, just like they did in the past. The only difference, they actually have talent up and down the roster. This is no longer the adorable, overachieving bunch headlined by Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, and Jae Crowder. Look for them to beat teams with effort and talent.
Scott: Under -- There are four returning players on this Celtics roster from Eastern Conference finals team from last year. The two best players are both new to the team so naturally we expect some time to get adjusted. Brown and Tatum will both need to be productive, above average role players for this team to come close to 57 wins. They have shown great promise, but I am not sure they are ready to be heavy contributors on a championship level team. The Celtics will improve upon their 53 wins from last year but expect them to hover around 55.
Lynch: Under -- Here are the teams that have won 57 games the last two seasons: 2015-16 and 16-17 Warriors and Spurs and 2015-16 Cavs. That’s it. Are the Celtics on that level? Maybe. But it takes time to gel. Aron Baynes and Marcus Morris are already injured. They are relying on Tatum for big minutes, and let’s not forgot about Kyrie’s shaky injury history. The Celtics are going to be awesome, and super fun, but it may take some time, and it’s really hard to win that many games. I think it’s close, but I’ll take a very slight under.
Denery: Over -- Super talented. Their bench could qualify as a starting lineup for some teams in the NBA, and when they get Isaiah Thomas back, they will be able to score at will. They also have the ability to hide Thomas much better on defense than the Celtics were able to with their length and size.
Scott: Under -- The Cavs are coming off a 51 win season. They replaced Kyrie with half a season of IT, added Crowder, Wade, Rose and Calderon (Jeff Green should not be on an NBA team), and this line is calling for three more wins. I agree their depth is better, which is better for the regular season win total; however, don’t expect a big contribution from Wade before the playoffs. This team knows it has nothing to prove in the regular season, so I don’t see a 54-win season coming to Cleveland.
Lynch: Over -- The East is just awful, and the Cavs will be able to roll through a lot of games without breaking a sweat. They still have LeBron, and if Isaiah is back by New Year’s, we will really start to see how good they are. Putting Love at center will bolster an already nearly unstoppable offense. 53 wins is too low.
Denery: Under-- It seems like the Raptors are simply moving past their prime. They paid Lowry and Derozan a ton of money despite their proven lack of championship pedigree, and eventually it’s going to click that they are just not that talented.
Scott: Under -- The Raptors resigned Lowry and Ibaka, letting Tucker, Carroll, Patterson and Joseph all change team this offseason. As much as I want the Raptors to blow it up, which would start with a disappointing season this year, I think they have at least one more year in them. Is that year include 49 wins though? I don’t think so. The weakened East should help, but the Raptors are the 5th best team behind both the Bucks and Wizards in my mind.
Lynch: Under-- The Raptors are stale, Lowry and Derozan both got their money, and everyone they're competing with is better. Sure, they will feast on bad teams, but they just aren’t that good. One mistimed injury and they are in trouble. All I keep hearing about is all their young guys becoming real players. Bruno Caboclo, Jakob Poeltl, Bebê Nogueira, Delon Wright...Show me something. Under.
Denery: Over-- I truly believe Giannis will win the MVP this year. Should he develop a jump shot, which it looks like he’s on that path, it’s over. On top of that, they have a really young, fun, and talented roster. Brogdon and Maker should continue to come into their own this year, Middleton will be healthy and more comfortable on the court, and should Jabari come back they are going to be a dangerous team in the East.
Scott: Over -- Fear. The. Deer.
Lynch: Over-- I’m not super into this pick, but we’re rolling with Milwaukee. They will be solid defensively, and have found a nice place for Greg Monroe. If Giannis takes another step towards the elite of the elite, they should get close to 50 wins.
Denery: Over-- We saw what the Wizards were capable of in the second half of last season into the playoffs. They are absolutely dominant at home, and should they figure out how to win on the road, they have more than enough talent to win 50+ games.
Scott: Over -- After losing Bojan, the Wizards have returned to the problem they had at the beginning of last year: their depth. Their second unit is awful, lacking any scoring punch. Tim Frazier will provide a more viable backup PG (sorry Trey), but will not be enough to come close to covering the bench’s weaknesses.
Lynch: Over-- The Wizards are good and have something to prove. If Bradley Beal keeps doing what he did to the Celtics in the playoffs last season, he could be an All-NBA candidate. John Wall may be the best point guard in the conference, and Otto Porter is even better. Things would have to really go off the rails for them to regress in a weaker Eastern Conference.
Denery: Over-- I like the Heat a lot this year. Spoelstra is an awesome coach, Dragic continues to improve and looked dominant in the FIBA World Championships. Whiteside is finally learning how to become the leader representative of his paycheck, and their depth looks to have improved with addition of Kelly Olynyk. They made a big run at the end of last season and I could see them winning around 46 games in a weak East.
Scott: Over -- They brought back the whole gang after having an impressive comeback season last year that fell just short. After adding a several pieces, along with the absolute mediocrity at the bottom of the East, the Heat should improve by 3 wins this season.
Lynch: Over--I’m not super into the Heat, and this feels a bit Trail Blazers-y, but they play hard, have a great coach, and added some pieces. Olynyk will help stretch the floor around Whiteside, and will give them different looks in perimeter-oriented lineups. Dion Waiters might actually be pretty good, and Dragic is one of the NBA’s most underrated. They have decent depth, and a hunger for the postseason. I don’t think they go over by much, by I think they can do it.
Denery: Under-- Quite possibly the most boring team in the NBA. Outside of Kemba Walker, they have no spark. They added the locker room cancer known as Dwight Howard, and they’re going to have to rely heavily on rookie Malik Monk while Batum sits with an injury.
Scott: Under -- As the lone person at the Breakdown who semi-roots for the Hornets, I almost feel obligated to take the over but 43 is asking a lot. The Hornets will be one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the history of the NBA this year with Howard added to the mix. Even though Howard is slated to start now, I expect Zeller to step back into the starting role in the near future. Last year the team fell apart when Zeller was hurt. Now, Howard provides them insurance. With all of this said, they aren’t winning 7 more games this year.
Lynch: Under--I don’t want to root for the Hornets.
Denery: Under-- I couldn’t agree with Lynch more. That is simply way too high. Embiid is not going to play enough games for them to win that many games. Markelle Fultz seems like much more of a project than people anticipated, and if he can’t shoot than they’re going to have trouble scoring when Embiid is off the court. Plus, it doesn’t seem like they have much depth, and that starting lineup is not quite good enough yet to carry them to the playoffs.
Scott: Under -- Patience. Next year will be Philly’s big jump. I do expect Embiid to play around 70 games with year. With Embiid on the court last season, the Sixers were a different team. They Sixers added many players but all with glaring weaknesses: Simmons (shooting), Fultz (shooting), Redick (defense), Korkmaz (defense, NBA readiness), and Amir Johnson (everything on the court).
Lynch: Under--This is way too high. If Embiid was going to suit up for even 65 games, this may be reasonable. But if Embiid misses a ton of games (30-40) they are a tad lost. None of Simmons, Fultz, and Okafor can shoot, meaning they need Embiid, Covington, and Redick to be on the court as much as possible. Simmons is already one of the league’s best passers, and Fultz is crafty getting to the rim, but neither are winning you very many games this season. Defensively, without Embiid, they are a mess. This team is going to be super fun. I can’t contain my excitement for Simmons. But this isn’t their year.
Denery: Over-- The East is really weird this year, and I don’t know how I feel about this, but I’m going to ride with the over. The East is awful this year, and although they lost KCP, I like the addition of Avery Bradley. He will strengthen their defense in the backcourt, and add a touch of outside shooting that they have lacked over the past few years. I also think he will be a great mentor for Luke Kennard, who has every offensive skill in the world, but could certainly learn a few things about defense. I am worried about Reggie Jackson, but hopefully their talent across the board will overcome that.
Scott: Under -- The Pistons were better and happier when Jackson was out of the lineup. I don’t understand how he is still on the team. On top of the Jackson debacle, Drummond is an all-star center for whom no team wants to trade. I like Kennard and Bradley (look for him to become the leader of the team), but they lost KCP, Morris, and Baynes. The Pistons will battle for the 8th spot in the playoffs.
Lynch: Under-- I just don’t feel good about a team led by Drummond and Jackson. They are relying on Stanley Johnson to be a real player, and are always one decent trade offer away from blowing it up. Aron Baynes is gone, and that will hurt. Bradley will help, but I’m not sure they will use him to the best of his ability. The Pistons have disappointed me before, I’m not picking them.
Denery: Under-- They really just aren’t very good. I am certainly excited to watch Jonathan Isaac and his progression, but other than that they really don’t have much worth talking about.
Scott: Over -- I cannot believe I am saying this because the Magic are awful, but they didn’t lose anyone of importance while adding Afflalo and Simmons. I liked both their picks in Isaac and Iwundu, who I expect to contribute immediately. While the rest of the East got worst, the Magic are still just eh, which may be good enough for 34 wins.
Lynch: Over-- 34 wins is doable. They have some talent and continuity. Aaron Gordon is back to playing as a big. Biyombo is good, despite the contract, and maybe they just bench Vucevic. If Fournier can take on more ball-handling responsibilities, they can sit Payton for longer stretches and open up a spot for more shooting. It’s not great in Orlando, but maybe they can squeak out 34 wins.
Denery: Under-- They are terrible. They are building around Myles Turner and Victor Oladipo, and the best thing they could do for themselves is lose 60 games and add one of the transcendent talents in the upcoming draft.
Scott: Under -- The Pacers just have Myles Turner. I am excited to see Sabonis and Oladipo with more touches, but that is if I can force myself to watch the Pacers play.
Lynch: Under--This is a pretty generous number. The Pacers may have won 42 games last season, but they gave away their best player, and now toil just above the league’s cellar. Turner, Oladipo, and Collison will lead them, but they have a glaring lack of spacing and depth. Unless Myles Turner becomes an All-NBA talent this season, the Pacers are one well-timed injury from being a bottom-5 team.
New York Knicks--30.5
Denery: Under-- The Knicks are a mess, but they are starting to work it out. They shipped Melo out of town, canned Phil Jackson, and drafted a young stud in Frank Ntilikina. The contract they gave to Tim Hardaway Jr. makes absolutely no sense, and they need to add another superstar piece to go with Frank and Kristaps. I think they know that, thus resulting in many more losses than wins.
Scott: Under -- The Knicks are still awful. I’m glad it is finally Porzingis’ team, but that will not solve all of the issues. Frank does not appear to be NBA-ready right now. I expect the Knicks to start tanking again by mid-season, hoping to pair KP and Frank with another high pick.
Lynch: Over-- This feels like a dumb pick. But they will have more ball movement and on-court chemistry without Melo. Kanter, McDermott, and Hardaway can pick up the scoring slack while adding more shooting. Courtney Lee is solid. I like Frank Ntilikina, and if he is solid defensively, they could have a slightly below average defense. I expect a new offense, more shooting, and maybe something from Joakim Noah and Michael Beasley. The East stinks. Barring a Kristaps injury, why can’t they get to 31 wins?
Denery: Over-- The no reason to tank argument is irrelevant in my opinion, because they’ve had no reason to tank the last three years, and they have still been terrible despite that. I think this year is different because I think they actually have more talent. I love the addition of D’Angelo Russell, Tim Mozgov should keep a presence in the paint, Caris Levert and RHJ are improving. Plus, the Nets won 14 of their 21 games when Jeremy Lin was in the lineup, despite the fact he only played in 38 games, so should he stay healthy they will have more success.
Scott: Over -- The Nets are low key a fun team to watch now with about eight guys on their roster who have at least have some upside. The Nets had a great offseason, and with no incentive to tank, they’ll come out fighting every night.
Lynch: Over--There’s too much blatant tanking in the East to pick against an improved team that might actually try in April. This offseason they picked up D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll, and Timofey Mozgov. They also will have Jeremy Lin full-time, after an injury-marred campaign. They have some sneaky depth, great chemistry, and a good coach. I also wouldn’t underestimate how much their players have to prove. Mozgov, Crabbe, and Carroll were traded because they weren’t living up to their contracts. The Lakers dealt Russell to open up room for someone who hasn’t played a minute of NBA basketball. These guys will be hungry to prove everyone wrong.
Denery: Over-- I don’t think the Hawks will be very good at tanking, it’s just not in their DNA. Now, I’m not saying they will be good, because they won’t. But, they have just enough talent and coaching to win around 30-35 games.
Scott: Under -- I think the Hawks are the worst team in the league. Bazemore is grossly overpaid considering he just isn’t that good at basketball and can’t shoot, Schroeder is a head case, and their bench is awful. I’m all in on Prince, but when that is the only positive. It isn’t a good sign.
Lynch: Under-- The Hawks may be the most sneaky-terrible team in the NBA. No one is expecting them to be good, but they are even worse than you think. A projected starting lineup of Schroeder-Bazemore-Prince-Ilyasova-Dedmon is truly awful. Dennis Schroeder is their best player, by far. This may be the worst team in the NBA.
Denery: Under-- Their starting lineup is Michael Carter-Williams, Justin Holiday, Paul Zipser, Nikola Mirotic, and Robin Lopez. That is all.
Scott: Over -- 21 is so low, especially in a conference like this. Maybe Portis takes a leap. Maybe Markkanen shows real promise. Maybe Dunn and LaVine add a boost to this lineup when they each return.
Lynch: Under--I picked a Sixers over a couple years ago around this number. That was a bad idea. This Bulls team isn’t as bad, but it’s close. Even with Kris Dunn, and Zach LaVine in January, this team is simply bad. Lopez will likely be traded, and they will lose a ton of games. Even in the East, betting on awful teams is rarely a good idea.