Last season I decided to share my season predictions on opening night. The results? 18 out of 30 over/under predictions were correct. That’s 60 percent. An F in grade school, but a net positive outcome in gambling. The conference standings and playoff predictions were slightly better with 14 of 16 playoff teams predicted correctly and the Conference Finals and NBA Finals nailed. The baseline has been set, but last season was last season. This season the goal is 20 correct over/under predictions, 15 playoff teams, and I really should get the conference finalists, finalists, and champions right again. Westgate knows what it is doing when it sets the lines so I’ve been looking forward to the challenge. If you still have an appetite left after getting through the predictions I’m going to provide a quick recap of each of my X-Factor’s for all 30 teams. Let’s get right into it.
Philadelphia 76ers 54 – OVER – Same core and Fultz redemption tour
Boston Celtics – 59 – PUSH – Slower start and better finish ends with 59 wins
Brooklyn Nets – 32 – OVER – Jarrett Allen propels them to five more wins
New York Knicks – 28 – UNDER – Unicorn’s knee more important than wins
Toronto Raptors – 55.5 – OVER – Kawhi klaws his new conference apart
Chicago Bulls – 30 – UNDER – Without Mirotic expect a slower start
Cleveland Cavaliers – 31 – UNDER – No love from me for this misfit bunch
Detroit Pistons – 38.5 – OVER – Seems like a 41-41 season to me
Indiana Pacers – 48 – OVER – Don’t sleep on this gritty bunch
Milwaukee Bucks – 48.5 – OVER – 50+ wins and Giannis win MVP
Miami Heat – 43.5 – OVER – Butler trade would make this easy money
Charlotte Hornets – 35.5 – OVER – Should be a bounce back season
Washington Wizards – 45.5 – UNDER – Don’t think they really improved
Atlanta Hawks – 22.5 – OVER – Won’t go over by much but the line is so low
Orlando Magic – 31 – UNDER – If only they had a point guard
Golden State Warriors – 62 – OVER – Will they really lose 20+ games again?
Sacramento Kings – 26 – UNDER – I’m excited to see a healthy Giles
Los Angeles Lakers – 47.5 – UNDER – LeBron gets them 45 wins
Los Angeles Clippers – 37.5 – OVER – Healthy Clippers can crush this line
Phoenix Suns – 29 – UNDER – Ayton’s progress more important than wins
Dallas Mavericks – 35 – OVER – Doncic and Smith will impress
Houston Rockets – 56.5 – OVER – They won’t win 65 again but 60 in reach
New Orleans Pelicans – 45.5 – OVER – A healthy Davis wins MVP
San Antonio Spurs – 43.5 – OVER – They won 47 without Kawhi
Memphis Grizzlies – 33.5 – OVER – Assuming decent health and no trades
Denver Nuggets – 47.5 – OVER – Should make the playoffs this year
Utah Jazz – 50 – PUSH – I expect 2 more wins from last year
Oklahoma City Thunder – 48.5 – UNDER – Hedging for Westbrook injury
Minnesota Timberwolves – 41.5 – UNDER – Too many concerns
Portland Trail Blazers – 42 – OVER – Blazers too good in regular season
Eastern Conference Standings
- Boston Celtics
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Toronto Raptors
- Indiana Pacers
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Miami Heat
- Charlotte Hornets
- Washington Wizards
- Detroit Pistons
- Brooklyn Nets
- Chicago Bulls
- Orlando Magic
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- New York Knicks
- Atlanta Hawks
Western Conference Standings
- Golden State Warriors
- Houston Rockets
- Utah Jazz
- Denver Nuggets
- New Orleans Pelicans
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- San Antonio Spurs
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Portland Trail Blazers
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Dallas Mavericks
- Phoenix Suns
- Sacramento Kings
Celtics beat Wizards in 5, 76ers beat Hornets in 5, Raptors beat Heat in 7, Pacers beat Bucks in 7, Warriors beat Lakers in 5, Rockets beat Spurs in 4, Jazz beat Thunder in 6, Pelicans beat Nuggets in 7
Celtics beat Pacers in 5, 76ers beat Raptors in 5, Warriors beat Pelicans in 6, Rockets beat Jazz in 5
76ers beat Celtics in 6, Warriors beat Rockets in 7
Warriors beat 76ers in 7
MVP: Anthony Davis
DPOY: Joel Embiid
ROY: Luka Doncic
Executive: Kevin Pritchard
Sixth Man: J.J. Redick
Most Improved: Jonathan Isaac
Coach of the Year: Mike Malone
Sportsmanship: Pau Gasol
NBA Cares Award: JaVale McGee
Atlanta Hawks: Trae Young – The Hawks handed the keys to the offense to Trae. Young is a fantastic passer and his ability to run pick and rolls with ease should help him get decent looks. That 35-foot game winner in preseason oozed the swagger that scouts fell in love with early in his college career. Young skill-based point guards like Nash and Curry can take a few years to reach their shooting potential so it will be a learning process and expect some shooting inconsistency early on.
Boston Celtics: Kyrie Irving – The Celtics are expecting big things this season with LeBron moving to the west coast. Kyrie now has the opportunity health permitting to lead a team to the Finals and his shot making will prove pivotal for their postseason run. The Celtics will rely on their wing depth for the regular season but when push comes to shove expect Kyrie to be the difference maker late in big games.
Brooklyn Nets: Jarrett Allen – Allen is an explosive athlete that surprised many with his aggressive finishing and rim protection in the 2nd half of last season. Expect more playing time and opportunity to put up big numbers on a Nets team looking to develop their young players. Coach Atkinson has given Allen the green light to shoot 3’s in the preseason and expanding his jump shot range will be the difference between Jarrett becoming a career NBA starter or possibly an All-Star.
Charlotte Hornets: Miles Bridges – The Hornets will be pushing for the playoffs as long as the highly competitive Kemba Walker is running the show. This should be a solid bounce back season for the team and yet their biggest long term determining factor for success is finding out if Bridges can be a stud in the league. Early returns in the preseason have been eye-opening as his athleticism stands out amongst the men. Continued improvement on defense and with his shooting consistency will go a long way.
Chicago Bulls: Wendell Carter Jr. – With Markannen’s injury Carter will feel more urgency to produce with a starting position on the line. Thankfully, Carter comes into this season with a polished post game and above average two-way play. The Bulls will get him all of the playing time and scoring opportunity that he can handle and it will be fun to see how assertive he is shooting the rock.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Collin Sexton – Sexton is a fierce competitor and the Cavs will need him to supplant George Hill as the starting point guard this season if they want to make a playoff push. Love should be a due for a huge season with a bigger role and higher usage which means they will need a secondary playmaker and scorer to alleviate some of the defensive attention. Hill is an effective defender but Sexton’s offense will be key.
Dallas Mavericks: Luka Doncic – The Wonder Boy has been a favorite of yours truly for some time so this comes as no surprise. Neither did his highly productive play in the preseason. The Doncic-Smith backcourt is must watch league pass viewing. Expect Luka to play 30+ minutes a game as a rookie and make a push for individual awards while keeping the Mavs in touching distance of a playoff spot. His step back jump shot is looking smooth and confident and he has translated his passing seamlessly to the NBA. The defense has been solid too.
Denver Nuggets: Jamal Murray – The Nuggets expect to make the playoffs this season. After last season’s heartbreak final overtime loss to the Timberwolves they will need to ensure a fast start. That responsibility falls on Murray as their point guard, best shooter, and most explosive scorer. Harris and Barton will spread the floor and play a pivotal role and we already know Jokic’s stellar passing out of the post will be key to Malone’s offense.
Detroit Pistons: Andre Drummond – It feels like we have spent the last several summers predicting Drummond’s ascension towards superstardom due to his monstrous defensive potential and improved offensive skill. If the Pistons want to get the most of their curious front court combination Andre will have to make another leap with his offensive output. Blake Griffin notoriously struggles staying healthy so Andre should be prepared to carry the offense when the time comes.
Golden State Warriors: Steph Curry – Simply put.
Houston Rockets: Chris Paul’s health – Up 3-2 against the Warriors and CP3 has to watch his season end from the bench helplessly ruing another unfortunate injury. This has been the story of his career. The only way to flip the script and see the Rockets dethrone the Warriors from their perch atop the Western Conference is a healthy Paul in the Conference Finals. Integrating Carmelo into the offense coming off the bench will be a curiosity during the regular season with possible dividends come the postseason.
Indiana Pacers: Myles Turner – The post hype season. Last year everyone expect Turner to make a major jump and he struggled with injuries and disappointed. The Pacers have an opportunity this season to surprise everyone and snag home court advantage in the playoffs. Turner’s improvement protecting the rim, rebounding, and seeking scoring opportunities will be the biggest determining factor in their playoff slot.
Los Angeles Clippers: Tobias Harris – Tobias has spent most of his career quietly putting up impressive numbers. This season there will be more of a spotlight on him in Los Angeles with coach Rivers adding the responsibility of Tobias to be the Clippers primary scorer and playmaker. The Clippers have a deep roster if they can stay healthy with effective scorers in Lou and Gallinari, but Harris should see the offense run through him for the majority of the time that he is on the floor.
Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram – Ingram will be LeBron’s favorite teammate this season and should expect to see his efficiency improve. This preseason has invigorated Ingram, who is showing a ton of aggressiveness attacking the rim and living at the free throw line. With his length it will be important to see progress defensively.
Memphis Grizzlies: Jaren Jackson Jr. – Gasol and Conley are proven stars. The Grizzlies will hope to find out if they found their 3rd star this season in the rookie JJJ. Jackson has a propensity to deliver rim protection and 3pt shooting. Those are the basic tenants of modern basketball.
Miami Heat: Josh Richardson if he doesn’t get traded – Richardson is an elite defensive wing. Spoelstra will look to improve his offensive efficiency and shooting consistency. If he gets traded then my cop-out x-factor is Whiteside who will have to figure out how to fit in or he will end up fitting out.
Milwaukee Bucks: Khris Middleton – Middleton was fantastic in the playoffs. That was his coming out party to the masses but nerds were already aware of Khris’s value. Offensively he should continue to serve as a secondary scorer spacing the floor for superstar Giannis. The Bucks need his continued defensive effort locking down opposing primary scorers.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns – This preseason has had plenty of drama overshadowing the obvious x-factor for the Timberwolves: Towns improvement on defense. Towns is a savant on offense and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in contention for the scoring title if Butler gets traded. Thibs will be much more satisfied if KAT shows improved focus in the team defensive principles.
New Orleans Pelicans: Jrue Holiday – I thought Jrue was the best player in the playoffs last season through 2 rounds. His ceiling defensively is elite and playing off of Davis has allowed him to take advantage of easier scoring opportunities. Davis should be an MVP candidate this season and Jrue’s consistency offensively will determine how far the Pelicans can go this season.
New York Knicks: Kevin Knox – Rookies that are handed starting spots on rebuilding teams face a double-edged sword: an opportunity to play comes with the responsibility to learn from mistakes. Knox is a very confident shot taker and expect the Knicks to give him freedom to shoot his shot. Ideally he takes advantage of the opportunity to learn on the fly and makes huge strides like another confident rookie did last year in Utah.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Paul George – With the Westbrook injury looming over the Thunder, PG13 will be handed more responsibility as a playmaker. Last season George was an all-defensive stud that settled into a more off-ball role on offense with Westbrook running the show. His talent is unquestionable, but it will be exciting to see if he can take his game to MVP levels if Russ misses an extended portion of the season — because the Thunder will need it to make a deep playoff run.
Orlando Magic: Jonathan Isaac – Another ankle injury limited his playing time in the preseason. When he’s on the court the Magic are so much better. Continued improvement with the ball in his hands running the offense as a secondary playmaker will be the key this season. The defensive value is unquestionable. Isaac should be an elite defender in all phases on defense: at the point of attack or off the ball.
Philadelphia 76ers: Markelle Fultz – The redemption tour for the top overall prospect in last season’s draft class. Fultz spent a lot of time in the gym with Drew Hanlen changing his shooting form and early returns have been mixed results. He has looked confident shooting in the midrange but continues to force the issue, over-penetrating instead of pulling up for jump shots. As a starter his ball-handling skills will be valuable in exploiting holes in the defense as long as he shows willingness to take available 3pt shots.
Phoenix Suns: DeAndre Ayton – When you draft someone with the 1st pick ahead of a professionally proven prospect in Luka Doncic you should expect some immediate return on investment. Ayton has been impressive scoring the ball in the preseason and isn’t shy. The Suns will be running their offense through him and Devin Booker and it will be interesting to see if Ayton can produce efficiently without elite point guard play.
Portland Trail Blazers: Jusuf Nurkic – The Lillard-McCollum backcourt is proven. The Blazers need production on the wing and in the post. The wing rotation remains unchanged from last year and coach Stotts will continue to rotate them depending on form and matchups. Nurkic is the guy that they need to step up with consistent effort. When motivated he can bang with the best bigs in the league so his fitness and stamina will be important to get through 82 games if they want to make a playoff push in a deeper conference race.
Sacramento Kings: Harry Giles – The Kings are clearly in rebuilding mode this season and Giles is the perfect embodiment of rebuilding his body and career. At one point the top high school prospect in the nation Giles has gone through a myriad of injuries and finally looks healthy. Early signs in the preseason were promising with Harry bringing value on both ends of the floor.
San Antonio Spurs: DeMar DeRozan – The Spurs consistently bring out the best of their players with a system that adjusts to talent while staying true to its core concepts. This makes DeMar’s first season in San Antonio extremely intriguing. Will Popovich take DeRozan’s playmaking game to another level? If the answer is “Yes”, expect another Spurs postseason push.
Toronto Raptors: Kawhi Leonard – A healthy Kawhi would give the Raptors the best player in the conference if he returns to his MVP level form, or as some would put it “the best two-way player in the league”. I’m curious to see how the offense adjusts to Kawhi with Lowry spending more time off the ball. This could pay major dividends when it comes to the playoffs.
Utah Jazz: Donovan Mitchell – Mitchell is not a rookie anymore. So his Adidas sweaters with dictionary definitions will have to stay in the closet. The Jazz will expect him to continue to bring his ferocity to the court and reach a new level of efficiency with the ball in his hands. Mitchell can become an elite pick & roll threat with Rudy rolling for lobs or Ingles and Rubio hanging out for corner 3’s.
Washington Wizards: Dwight Howard – 7 of the past 8 years the team that Dwight howard has been on has hit the under. The one outlier was the year in Houston where he missed half the season. So the big question is will the Wizards be able to incorporate Dwight on the floor and in the locker room or will he extend his streak of hitting the under to 8 out of the last 9 years?