1. Philadelphia 76ers (59-23) – The adjustments that Philadelphia made to their team are perfect in my opinion. Adding Al Horford, Josh Richardson, and Matisse Thybulle, (and having Zhaire Smith back) to their core of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid is going to push them over the edge in the Eastern Conference.
2. Milwaukeee Bucks (55-27) – I don’t think the Bucks are going to be as good as last year, but Giannis Antetokounmpo is insane and will lead the Bucks to a 2-seed anyway. The Bucks playoff success will depend on if young players on the bench step up, or if they acquire any players at the deadline.
3. Boston Celtics (49-33) – The loss of Al Horford is going to hurt the Celtics, but I think Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward take a big step forward from last year, and rookies Grant Williams and Carsen Edwards provide solid depth. Kemba Walker will replace Kyrie Irving like nothing changed.
4. Toronto Raptors (47-35) – The Raptors returned pretty much everyone important aside from Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Those are pretty huge losses, but Pascal Siakam is going to take another huge step forward this season, and Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol are still very good starting players.
5. Miami Heat (45-37) – The Heat added Jimmy Butler in the offseason, and upgrade by a lot at center by having Bam Adebayo start this season. Erik Spoelstra always over achieves, and I also think Pat Riley makes trades to improve this team during the season.
6. Brooklyn Nets (44-38) – Without Kevin Durant, the Nets will be just above average this year, as I anticipate Kyrie Irving making just a little more of an impact in the regular season than D’Angelo Russell did last year. However, I’m banking on Caris LeVert averaging 18-19 PPG this year and becoming a reliable second scorer.
7. Indiana Pacers (43-39) – The Pacers went 16-23 without Victor Oladipo last year, and even though they added Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, and T.J Warren, I’m not sure it’s going to work. I’m not sure Brogdon can be a lead guard, and I’m not sure Lamb and Warren are good and didn’t just have their stats inflated by being on bad teams. I think this team will struggle without Oladipo at the beginning of the season, and finish worse than people think.
8. Chicago Bulls (40-42) – The collection of talent the Bulls have is extremely underrated. Satoransky, Porter Jr., and Carter Jr. are all overlooked players that fit nicely around LaVine and Markkanen. In a weak conference, this team sneaks in.
9. Orlando Magic (38-44)
10. Detroit Pistons (37-45)
11. Atlanta Hawks (35-47)
12. New York Knicks (27-55)
13. Washington Wizards (21-61)
14. Cleveland Cavaliers (19-63)
15. Charlotte Hornets (18-64)
1. Los Angeles Clippers (59-23) – The Clippers have star power in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and a ton of depth in Landry Shamet, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell and more. I love this Clippers team to be the best in the West this season.
2. Houston Rockets (56-26) – I think the James Harden-Russell Westbrook duo is going to work out in Houston. The only thing Houston needs to become a sure Championship contender is more depth.
3. Denver Nuggets (56-26) – The Nuggets have a star in Nikola Jokic, a budding star in Jamal Murray. In addition, they may be the deepest team in the NBA, and they’re going to play 10-11 productive players each game. They also improved from last year by adding Jerami Grant, and returning Michael Porter Jr. from injury.
4. Utah Jazz (53-29) – The Jazz can use some depth, but adding Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic to what was already a 50-win team is dangerous. If anything, I’m afraid I could be lowballing Utah’s win-total.
5. Los Angeles Lakers (49-33) – I’m lower on the Lakers than most. I’m not sold on the supporting cast around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Look for them to continue to explore ways to add bench pieces throughout the season.
6. Golden State Warriors (48-34) – Even without Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, the Warriors starting lineup is still going to be lethal. I love the additional of D’Angelo Russell as well. The Warriors downfall is going to be their bench, but they’ll still sneak into the playoffs.
7. Portland Trail Blazers (47-35) – Portland’s always in the playoff picture, and as long as Damian Lillard and C.J McCollum are healthy, it’s going to remain that way.
8. San Antonio Spurs (45-37) – Death, taxes, and the Spurs making the playoffs no matter what the roster is. But for real, this has a chance to be a good Spurs team. The backcourt of Dejounte Murray and Derrick White is very underrated.
9. New Orleans Pelicans (43-39)
10. Sacramento Kings (41-41)
11. Dallas Mavericks (39-43)
12. Minnesota Timberwolves (36-46)
13. Oklahoma City Thunder (32-50)
14. Phoenix Suns (27-55)
15. Memphis Grizzlies (22-60)
#1 76ers over #8 Bulls
#2 Bucks over #7 Pacers
#3 Celtics over #6 Nets
#4 Raptors over #5 Heat
#1 76ers over #4 Raptors
#2 Bucks over #3 Celtics
#1 76ers over #2 Bucks
#1 Clippers over #8 Spurs
#2 Rockets over #7 Trail Blazers
#6 Warriors over #3 Nuggets
#5 Lakers over #4 Jazz
#1 Clippers over #6 Warriors
#2 Rockets over #5 Lakers
#1 Clippers over #2 Rockets
NBA Finals: Clippers over 76ers in 7
MVP: Stephen Curry
Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Rookie of the Year: Ja Morant
Most Improved Player: Caris LeVert
Sixth Man of the Year: Lou Williams
Coach of the Year: Brett Brown