By: Denery Noone, Scott Brock-Wilson, and Justin Lynch
Lynch: Under: I’m out on the Hawks. The replacement of Teague and Horford with Howard and Schroder kills their spacing, and will cramp driving lanes for Paul Millsap. Kyle Korver is another year older, and I don’t think Taurean Prince or DeAndre Bembry are up to the challenge in year one. Also, Kent Bazemore has some serious post-new contract Trevor Ariza potential. I would expect the Hawks to fall short of the postseason.
Scott: Under: The simple part is that the Hawks just got worse, but by how much? Pay up for Bazemore and Howard, while letting Horford and Teague go didn’t quite make sense. They won 48 games last year and definitely lost four more wisn worth of talent this offseason. I would’ve like to seem them go more into full rebuild mode (i.e. definitely not getting Howard) and preparing for the future by collecting assets in this upcoming draft.
Denery: Over: This was a tough one for me because the Hawks lost so much this offseason, most importantly Al Horford, but the Hawks are a regular season team and I trust the abilities of Coach Mike Budenholzer. He is one of the best and most underrated coaches in the NBA, and just like the other great NBA coaches, Budenholzer elevates talent. I am interested to see how Dennis Schroder will transition into the starting point guard role, and I am worried about the internal impact of Dwight Howard, but with the talent on this roster I would be very surprised if they won less than 44 games.
Lynch: Over: The Celtics are a regular season team. The addition of Horford finally gives the Celtics a reliable big man, and the replacement of Evan Turner with Jaylen Brown bolsters a defense that may be the league’s best. Isaiah Thomas should have even more open lanes to the rim with Horford a bigger threat to pop. Smart is a year older, Crowder and Olynyk are back healthy, and Bradley will look to become an even bigger threat offensively, with less defensive attention due to the Horford signing. After securing 48 wins last year, this Celtics team should be able to win 52.
Scott: Over: The Celtics got their ‘star’ this offseason in Horford. The young team was bound to improve upon their 48 wins last season even before this addition. The only question will be scoring on the bench unit; however, look for Smart and Rozier to control this backup unit as they both take big strides this year.
Denery: Over: Just as Lynch mentioned, the Celtics are a regular season team. Night in and night out they are going to give supreme effort on both ends of the floor, play great defense, created turnovers, get out on the break and play fast. They will finally have a presence underneath in Al Horford, and with a healthy Jae Crowder trying to bounce back from an abysmal second half, this team is going to assert its will night in and night out. The only concern is the offensive production from a bench unit that will be lead by Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, Jonas Jerebko, and Kelly Olynyk.
Lynch: Under: The Nets actually have some intriguing players. Isaiah Whitehead, Caris LeVert, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Chris McCullough will get the minutes they need to develop. Trevor Booker will need to prove himself in a bigger role, and Brook Lopez will carry them. But I’ve had a back history of taking the over on bad teams, and I have zero faith in Lopez to stay healthy for another season.
Scott: Under: The Nets won 21 games last year and very possibly could’ve gotten worse. They lost Young, while Lopez was able to remain relatively healthy last year, playing 73 games. They will also play in a much tougher and deeper East. To sum up their offseason, they overpaid a bunch of below average players. With all of this negativity though, the Nets will not be far below this line because they didn’t have much to lose to begin with.
Denery: Under: This is a no brainer. Seemingly impossible, the Nets actually got significantly worse this season. They lost Thaddeus Young and replaced him with Jeremy Lin and a large group of misfit no-names. The health of Brook Lopez could make the difference in this team winning close to 20 games and this team winning under 10 games. Lopez went through essentially the entire season with great health for the first time in his career, and for some reason I am skeptical he will be able to replicate that.
Lynch: Over: I’m not a Hornets fan. I thought last year was more or less an aberration, and no way Batum and Williams play like that again. They are also relying on Cody Zeller and Roy Hibbert to play in the middle defensively, not the most ideal scenario. But Kemba is solid and they get MKG back to help their defense and versatility. The Hornets won 48 games last season, lost Al Jefferson, and picked up Kidd-Gilchrist. It’s tough to see them being almost 10 games worse.
Scott: Over: Kidd-Gilchrist’s addition cannot be overstated defensively. He flies around the court, making up for others’ (*cough* Kemba) defensive liability. This will clog up their high paced offense last year, especially with the loss of three point assassin Courtney Lee (nearly 40% from deep with CHA last season). Overall, there is no way the Hornets will drop 9 more games this season.
Denery: Over: This is really low for a Hornets team that won 48 games last season. I know they lost Al Jefferson, Courtney Lee and Jeremy Lin, but they are returning most of their core and will be greeted with the healthy revival of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The production of Kemba Walker and Kidd-Gilchrist will be key, and the emergence of their young big men will be key, but they will be able to get to 40 wins.
Lynch: Under: The fate of the Bulls’ season comes down to Fred Hoiberg’s coaching ability, and that is the reason I switched from leaning to the over to picking the under. Personnel wise, the Bulls are a lot more interesting than they may seem. The Bulls are deep, versatile, and have just enough talent to make things difficult for the opponent. A starting lineup of Rondo-Wade-Butler-Gibson-Lopez would be a disaster, but if Hoiberg staggers his minutes so that the three alpha dogs don’t share the floor, things start to look a little brighter. Mirotic, McDermott, and Valentine will provide shooting off the bench, and will space the floor around their ball-dominant guards. Jerian Grant and Bobby Portis will have opportunities to step up, and could play valuable roles. Ditching Tony Snell for MCW may not have been the greatest move, but it protects them from injury in their backcourt and would allow them to play a Grant-MCW-Butler-Gibson-Lopez lineup that could excel defensively. Of course, that would also be a disaster offensively. Which brings me back to the original point. If Hoiberg designs a system for his personnel (pick n roll/pop heavy, good off-ball movement) and staggers minutes well, the Bulls could be good. I just don’t trust Hoiberg.
Scott: Over: Much has been made about the Bulls potential shooting woes, and that is definitely a concern. With their depth, Wade will not need to play heavy minutes preparing him for the potential of the Bulls making the postseason. I know the shooting is still an issue but it is less than has been hyped. With good bench shooters in Valentine/McDermott/Mirotic the Bulls can keep the defense honest. Rondo will try defensively because this will be his last chance to really prove if he can still be considered an above average point guard. More importantly, their defense, with him trying, will be impossible to get by, especially substituting MCW in for Wade. The fun lineups and possibilities seem endless, which is why I believe they can maneuver their way to 39 wins.
Denery: Under: This seems like it is a nightmare waiting to happen. Minutes before the NBA Draft the Bulls were seemingly going to ship Jimmy Butler out of town for a sea of draft picks and young talent. The deal never worked out, and the organization inexplicably wasted the opportunity to start over when they signed two stars years past their prime. The main problem with Chicago besides their incredibly thin bench and lack of shooting ability is their defense. Wade is not going to be able to play great defense for 82 games, Rondo won’t play defense for 82 games, McDermott and Mirotic are liabilities, and Jimmy Butler cannot guard 5 guys. The East is too strong and the Bulls are too weak, look for this situation to blow up in Chicago.
Lynch: Under: This is a big-time stay away, but after winning the title last year, I think LeBron and the Cavs will be in ultra-cruise control until May. It’s never a great idea to pick against LeBron, but the Cavs main focus is to make it through the regular season healthy and rested.
Scott: Under: Not only will Lebron coast in the regular season, but Kyrie may as well. He is coming off his first championship and should be more concerned with staying healthy for the playoffs. Unless Love decides to really carry this team during a fair amount of the regular season, the Cavs will not reach the same win total as last season.
Denery: Over: Cleveland won 57 games last year under two different coaches and a sea of uncertainty. The pressure of winning that one championship for Cleveland is now gone, and I truly believe that will improve the chemistry inside the locker room. Kevin Love is not going to repeat his career low 16 points and 10 rebounds per game numbers from a season ago. Lebron is going to be on a mission to silence the doubters already handing the Warriors the title, and Kyrie absolutely grew up during last years playoff run. This team is going to be great the entire season.
Lynch: Over: I’m hesitant after the Reggie Jackson injury, but I trust Stan Van Gundy to put the Pistons in a good spot even with Jackson out. Tobias Harris will be more comfortable in the system, and will try to build on his promising post-trade shooting. I like KCP to break out as a much more reliable offensive weapon, especially in Jackson’s absence, and Stanley Johnson will be even better.
Scott: Over: With 44 wins last season, this team is on the rise and may be something real in a few years. Yes, the Jackson injury hurts, but that is why they brought in Ish Smith as a backup. Smith proved himself last year on an otherwise awful 76ers team, even sparking them to a couple wins. This team is still centered around Drummond, but has a young developing core that is now surrounding him in KCP, Johnson, Ellenson, and Harris. As valuable as Jackson is, this team shouldn’t skip too many beats during the regular season until he comes back, and when he does we will see the true potential of this team.
Denery: OVER: Best Bet: The Pistons are one of my favorite teams in the league entering the season. They have so much young talent that continues to develop, especially as Stanley Johnson enters his second season. Look for Johnson, already a defensive master, to take a step on the offensive side of the ball. They signed Boban Marjanovic in the offseason, and drafted the scoring big Henry Ellenson. Also, expect Tobias Harris to build off of a strong output a year ago. Obviously Andre Drummond is going to be great but the fate of the Pistons lies in the performance of the rest of their core.
Lynch: Under: I don’t really get the affection for this version of the Pacers. They dumped George Hill for Jeff Teague, who falls short of Hill in shooting, defense, and basketball IQ. They picked up Thad Young just in case Monta Ellis wasn’t stealing enough shots from Paul George. And they threw out Paul George playing heavy minutes at the four in the process. They will stink defensively, and will fall into heavy iso play offensively. I’m taking the under.
Scott: Over: The loss of Hill will hurt as he seemed to be the heart of that team at times, especially defensively, but skill wise, there is a large drop off between Teague and him. Paul George singled handedly almost beat the second seeded Raptors in the playoffs last season, and would’ve if it weren’t for the Pacer’s awful second unit. They bulked up this second unit with Seraphin, Jefferson (a signing though which still doesn’t make too much sense), and Brooks to go along with the main scoring option of Stuckey. Last year the Pacers won 45 games, I don’t think they got worse, and I don’t want to bet against a top 7 player in the NBA.
Denery: Over: This is a no brainer. Myles Turner is emerging as a superstar big right before our eyes. He is a monster in the middle with premier mid-range skills. I think the loss of George Hill will hurt this team, but Jeff Teague will still be solid. Paul George and Turner are going to be the catalysts of this team and will be able to make them a prime contender in the East.
Lynch: Over: The Chris Bosh situation is a bad way to start the season, but the show must go on. With Wade out of town, Goran Dragic should finally start to live up to his big money, as he won’t need to share the ball as much and will have better spacing thanks to Josh Richardson, assuming the second half of last season was not a fluke. Justise Winslow will be better, and Tyler Johnson will be a nice combo guard off the bench. They lack shooting and frontcourt depth, but the Heat is a tough team to bet against.
Scott: Under: Under would put the Heat at their lowest total of wins in a full regular season since the 02-03 season. What if this is the year the Heat are actually just bad? I think it just may be. The Heat are lost Wade, Johnson, Deng, Green, Stoudemire and presumably, eventually Bosh. Out the door walked five of their top seven scorers. That leaves the team in the hands of Dragic. How good were the Suns when is was just Dragic? I know Whiteside and Winslow are there, and Winslow is set up for a breakout year, as he now will have the playing time and shots to shows his true skillset. That is why in an improved Eastern Conference, I am going bold and betting against Riley, Spoelstra, and the Heat.
Note: if Dragic or Winslow go down or the team gets off to a bad start, I wouldn’t be surprised if Riley started planning for a stacked draft a little early in attempt to shotput the rebuild.
Denery: Over: Don’t get me wrong, I am down on the Miami Heat this year. I think that Goran Dragic is one of the most overrated players in the NBA, and Hassan Whiteside can not be the franchise player. However, 36.5 is far too low for the Heat. As Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson enter their second season, it is time that they adopt a prominent role in the offense. This team has the talent to win some basketball games this year, there is no doubt about that. If Dragic does not try and do too much and really involves players such as Winslow and Richardson into the offense a little bit more, they are going to be a team that contends for a playoff spot in the East.
Lynch: Under: This pains me, but the loss of Khris Middleton is beyond devastating. His defense, shooting, and versatility are vital to the Bucks, and they can’t replace him. Michael Beasley and Tony Snell aren’t even good efforts, and now the Bucks will need to play big. With lineups such as Giannis-Delly-Jabari-Monroe-Henson, the Bucks may not be able to score or defend. They will struggle to space the floor, and playing two bigs will clog the middle, negating Giannis’ biggest strength. Their only hope is if Jabari breaks out in a big way, and maybe they dump Monroe for a wing a couple months into the season. I just don’t see how they are seven wins better than last year without Middleton.
Scott: Under: The Bucks struggled mightily out of the gate, playing well under the high expectations of many (including us here at the Breakdown). This set the tone for the rest of the season, but the big thing that came from last season was Giannis moving to point. This was supposed to help the spacing more, but without Middleton now, the idea of spacing will be an urban legend in Milwaukee. They will count on the combination of a quality backup Tony Snell, a well past his prime Jason Terry, and the always lurking Dellavedova. The hole at SG will haunt the Bucks’ season unless they make a move. Expect both Giannis and Jabari to have career years. I hope to see Monroe (if he stays on the team) providing a scoring boost coming off the bench behind the likes of Plumblee and Henson. They might as well go all in defensively.
Denery: Over: I have hope for the Milwaukee Bucks this year. The loss of Khris Middleton was evidently a big one, he was their premier scoring option on the wing. What that means is that it is time for Jabari Parker to step up. He was the number two overall pick three years ago coming out as a prospect that score at will. For the sake of the Bucks’ 2016-2017 season, Parker needs to become that dominant scorer that everyone envisioned he would be. We all know what Giannis is going to be able to do. Night in and night out Giannis is going to dominate, especially at the point guard position, but with another premier scoring threat and strong defensive play this team will win some games in 2016-17.
New York Knicks--38.5
Lynch: Under: The Knicks have talent, but I’m not betting on them. Porzingis, Carmelo, and Lee will provide spacing around Rose/Jennings-Noah PNR’s, and at full strength, this offense could be pretty capable. But the perimeter defense will be shaky, and the injury history of this roster is scary. I don’t trust them to stay healthy, and I worry about Kristaps development with Rose and Melo taking away so many shots.
Scott: Over: Have the offseason additions been enough to warrant a seven game improvement? Sure, why not. Rose, as much of a shell of himself as he is, is still an upgrade over Jose Calderon. Lee was arguable one of the best bargains in free agency in my mind considering the money being thrown around. Noah can be just as capable as Robin Lopez when healthy. Really this team relies around the improvement of Porzingis and health. The Knicks have very little depth (no offense to a personal favorite Mr. Hernangomez), which is never good, especially with a very injury prone starting lineup, but i’ll give it to them. I think somehow they reach 39.
Denery: Under: I do not trust this “Big 4” that the Knicks and Phil Jackson have assembled. It is only a matter of time before Derrick Rose comes down with an injury, and even after his major Olympic performance, Carmelo Anthony’s ability to be the franchise piece is still questionable. They are in a tough Eastern Conference with lacking depth and an aging core outside of Porzingis, look for them to struggle.
Lynch: Over: I don’t love this Magic team, but Frank Vogel will bring more consistency defensively, especially with his added personnel. Ibaka and Biyombo will anchor the defense as Aaron Gordon hopes to take the next step. Hezonja will need to step up and Evan Fournier will continue to play a big role. This team isn’t a threat in the playoffs at all, if they even make it. But I see at least a 2-game improvement on last year’s 35 wins.
Scott: Over: This team is still young and improving even after trading away several pieces last season. They can improve off of their 35 wins last season even with the new look.
Denery: Over: I like the additions that they made over the summer, specifically with Ibaka and Biyombo, and look for their young core to take the next step in its development. They are not going to be a playoff team, but there is absolutely no reason they shouldn’t be able to win around 40 games this season.
Lynch: Under: Lost in the 76ers shiny new toys is the fact that they still stink. They have little perimeter shooting, are overloaded up front, and lost Ben Simmons until at least January. They are young, without dynamic playmakers on the perimeter, and are more focused on development than winning games. Nerlens’ knee injury and restlessness due to the logjam at center may cause a premature trade, and thrust Jahlil Okafor into a more prominent role. They won 10 games last year, they’re not winning 28 this year.
Scott: Under: 10 wins last season...10 wins. Yes they are exciting and have the potential to be something special in the future, but they are far away from this mark. Simmons is out early, they still have a logjam with the bigs that has not been resolved, and they can’t shoot.
Denery: Under: I wish that I could give this team the over, especially as a supporter of every franchise in the NBA not named the Brooklyn Nets. However, that is not possible with the current makeup of their roster. Simmons is not slated to return until January, and until then Embiid and Saric are the only true weapons on that team. I truly believe that this team is going to be great soon, but this is not going to be that year. Trust the process.
Lynch: Over: The Raptors are a regular season team, won 56 games last year, and will presumably have a full season of DeMarre Carroll. Cory Joseph and Norman Powell are solid guards off the bench that will help the Raptors versatility. Kyle Lowry is in a contract year, and he’ll be hungry to earn his max contract.
Scott: Over: Why is this so low? The Raptors lost Bismack and added Poeltl and Sullinger. This team is just as good as last year’s team if not better. Carroll missed the majority of the season last year and even when playing wasn’t quite the same player. He had his lowest averages in many statistical categories, including shooting 10% worse from the field. With Carroll back and the rest of the team mostly intact, this team will be in the mid fifties again.
Denery: I agree with Scott, this number is absolutely too low. This team has WAY too much talent to win less than 50 games. Demar Derozan looks like an absolute monster and Kyle Lowry is no slouch either. I am also excited to see what they will be able to do with a healthy Demar Derozan and Jonas Valanciunas. These guys will have a strikingly similar regular season as they did last season.
Lynch: Over: This team won 41 games last season even with Beal missing serious time. Now with a full season of Markieff Morris and Beal healthy (for the time being) the Wizards will improve on their win total. Mahinmi will provide them with defense when Gortat sits, and Otto Porter will be more comfortable back playing the three. John Wall is one of the best guards in the league, and this seems like a team that is flying under the radar.
Scott: Over: The Wizards disappointed last season and still finished just under .500. They are too talented to finish under .500 again. They lost many veterans, most notably Jared Dudley and didn’t add much except for Mahinmi, but I expect the wizards to be in the upper end of the forties in terms of wins this year.
Denery: Over: A big dictator of the success in D.C. will be the health of Bradley Beal. If Beal can stay healthy to go along with John Wall and Markieff Morris, look for this team to contend for a playoff spot in the East.