Eastern Conference Over/Under + Bold Predictions for Each Team
I don’t want to beat around the bush, so I am just going to come out and say it, the Eastern Conference in 2018 is remarkably worse than the Western Conference. The Eastern Conference saw two of its best players move to the West during the offseason, and in doing so, the East became even more top-heavy. The East is run by LeBron James and the Cavaliers, with only two or three other teams that have a chance to be competitive.
Recently, Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas swapped teams, which made the competition between the Cavaliers and the Celtics a lot closer. There is some potential for individual breakout seasons, but it is unlikely that a team will rise from the ashes and compete in the east.
That being said, let’s break down Vegas’ over/under win totals for the Eastern Conference in the 2018 NBA Season.
Chicago Bulls: 21.5
The Chicago Bulls were on the wrong end of one of the most significant moves of the offseason. The team traded Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves for cheap, which was a shock to many around the league, as it was widely speculated that he would be traded to either Cleveland or Boston. The team also lost Rajon Rondo in the offseason, and while he was not the most productive player during the regular season last year, he was incredibly effective during the Bulls’ short playoff run, and provided a veteran presence in the locker room. It is also expected that the team will buy out Dwyane Wade’s contract, and as he was the last proven impact player on the team heading into the 2018 season, it is understandable to see why Las Vegas thinks that the Bulls will be the worst team in the East in 2018. The team is projected to lose 20 more games than they won last year, which is an incredibly significant drop off. They will be in the running for a lottery pick during the next draft.
Bold Prediction: The Bulls will be the worst team in basketball next season, and will win less than the projected 21.5 games. They will also continue to sell off pieces for pennies on the dollar.
Atlanta Hawks: 25.5
Another team which saw important pieces move on during the offseason was the Atlanta Hawks. The team won 43 games last season, so they are projected to win 18 less games this year, which makes sense because of the talent that they let go. They watched as Paul Millsap went to Denver and as Tim Hardaway Jr. went to New York, and then traded Dwight Howard to Charlotte. The front office has clearly realized that they have no chance during the next few seasons, especially after seeing the moves Boston has been making this offseason.
Bold Prediction: Dennis Schroder will average more than 20 ppg before getting traded before the deadline.
Brooklyn Nets: 28.5
Ah, the Nets, the team with a team so bad that it will seem as if they are tanking, but have nothing to tank for, as they have traded away their 2018 first round pick. During the offseason, Brooklyn acted as a receptacle for bad contracts given by the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers. The team acquired D’Angelo Russell, Timofey Mozgov, and Allen Crabbe. Now, because the nets are in an interesting position of not having a need to tank, and potentially being able to damage Cleveland by overperforming, I expect the trio mentioned above, to overperform. Two of the three players the Nets acquired were given terrible contracts, and have been ridiculed for how they have not lived up to expectations, so I expect them both to overachieve and try to salvage their careers. I also expect D’Angelo Russell to attempt to refine his talents in an attempt that he can fit in today’s NBA.
Bold Prediction: D’Angelo Russell will prove he can be productive in today's NBA, and will be swapped mid-season for draft picks. The Nets will also win more than the projected 28.5 games.
New York Knicks: 30.5
The New York Knicks have not been good at basketball for quite some time now. I do not expect this fact to change over the course of the 2018 season, and neither should you. The team is currently in the midst of an identity crisis thanks to Phil Jackson’s tenure with the team. The best player on the team, Carmelo Anthony, and the front office had a rocky relationship last season, and he was being shopped throughout the offseason. I am not sure how likely it is that he is traded, especially now that the new front office is run by a well known Carmelo Anthony fan, but if he stays, the team will continue its identity crisis. The team appears to want to shift its focus to building around Kristaps Porzingis, and they appear to want to give him a chance to be the go-to guy, but there are several questions that surround his potential to be a franchise player. First off, he has not averaged more than 18 ppg in his first two seasons, so he has yet to prove that he can shoulder the offense if necessary. Secondly, there are always injury concerns with players that are taller than 7 feet. Porzingis is 7’3”, and has a very unique playing style that could put a lot of stress on his frame. I think that the Knicks are willing to take a chance and see if he can do it, but I do not think the team will be a playoff team this year.
Bold Prediction: Carmelo Anthony will be traded before the deadline to either the Houston Rockets or the Oklahoma City Thunder, and if he is traded to OKC, we will all get to witness history: 3 players whose combined usage rate is 100%.
Indiana Pacers: 31.5
The Pacers were involved in the second biggest trade of the offseason. They sent their franchise player, Paul George, to the Oklahoma City Thunder for what basically amounts to pocket change. They probably could have gotten a king's’ ransom from the Celtics or a decent return from the Cavaliers, but instead they sent him to Oklahoma City for a nickel, but hey, that's how it goes sometimes. Now, all is not lost for the pacers, they still have Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner, and “Born Ready” Lance Stephenson. Aw who am I kidding, the pacers are going to be awful next year, they will running alongside teams like the Knicks and Magic instead of the Bulls and Bucks. Who knew that trading away a franchise player for next to nothing would lead to this kind of downfall?
Bold Prediction: Team will win less than the projected 31.5 games and will likely sell off any impact players they have at the deadline, aside from Lance Stephenson.
Orlando Magic: 33.5
Last season, the Magic were the second worst three-point shooting team in the league, just ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder. During the offseason they added players like Marreese Speights, Shelvin Mack, and Jonathon Simmons in an attempt to become more competitive behind the arc in a 3-point centric league. The problem is, the players they acquired all shot less than 38% from behind the arc, so they did not really address their problems in an adequate way. They should be pretty reliant on their defense, but I think they are likely to win less games than the Pacers and the Knicks, and potentially be fighting for a lottery pick.
Bold Prediction: The Orlando Magic will the third worst team in the Eastern Conference.
Detroit Pistons: 38.5
The Detroit Pistons are projected to be a mediocre team once again. The only significant move the team made in the offseason was getting Avery Bradley from the Celtics. They still have Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson to help keep them afloat. All in all, the Pistons are a very average to below average NBA team, and are projected to miss the playoffs in the East. I think it might be time for the team to start a rebuild, unless it is able to land a star player in the backcourt then the team will be unable to contend for years to come.
Bold Prediction: The Pistons will narrowly miss the playoffs behind the 76ers and will make no major moves at the deadline.
Philadelphia 76ers: 42.5
Holy Toledo! The 76ers are projected to have a winning record after winning just 28 games last season. With a full season of Joel Embiid, and solid rookie seasons from Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz could put the team in a solid position to make the playoffs. I think that if the core remains healthy all year, the team could propel itself to a 5th or 6th seed in the East. I thought that when he was healthy, Joel Embiid was the best rookie in the league last year, and combining him with Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz could be a lethal trio. I think that the Sixers are on the rise, and while they might not advance past the first round of the playoffs this year, I think that they have the potential to be one of the best teams in the East in the next few years. I especially liked the team signing JJ Reddick to a one year deal in the offseason, he not only provides a good three-point shot, but he will also provide a strong veteran presence in the locker room.
Bold Prediction: Both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will make the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
Charlotte Hornets: 42.5
Last season, the Charlotte Hornets won 36 games, and during the offseason they acquired Dwight Howard from the Atlanta Hawks which will help them defensively and on the boards. Kemba Walker will continue to develop and we will see if Malik Monk’s talent translates to the NBA. The expected 6 game improvement is pretty reasonable because the team added more depth to help keep Kemba Walker’s legs fresh, which is especially important after he slowed down tremendously during the season's’ second half. The team will be competing with the Sixers and the Heat for seeding at the bottom of the Conference. I could see the Hornets ending up behind both the Sixers and the Heat simply because both of those teams have more talent to work with.
Bold Prediction: The Hornets will lose more games than the Philadelphia 76ers.
Miami Heat: 43.5
The Miami Heat were blisteringly hot to start the second half last season, however, Dion Waiters got hurt and missed the team's last games. During the offseason, the team's only significant addition was Kelly Olynyk who will help add some size to the team. There are also rumors that if Dwyane Wade gets bought out by Chicago, he would be interested in joining the heat, which I think would be huge for the team. I think that Dwyane Wade would be a good influence on Dion Waiters and would help Dion continue the breakout he experienced last season. All in all, I think that the heat have a promising roster, especially when paired with head coach Erik Spoelstra’s drive-and-kick offense from last season.
Bold Prediction: Dion Waiters will make the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
Washington Wizards: 47.5
Last season, the Wizards won 49 games, so they are projected to lose two more games this year, and I am not buying it. I think that the combination of John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter Jr. is still improving. With each passing season their chemistry gets stronger and they become better basketball players. Even though they did not improve their bench by a significant amount in the offseason, which they should have done, I see no reason that John Wall can’t carry the team to win around 50 games. John Wall has improved his shooting percentage every year, and I think that this will continue this year as he continues to develop. We also got a taste of what Bradley Beal can do when he stays healthy last season, he played in 77 games and averaged 23.1 ppg on .482 shooting. I think that this team will win around 50 games, and have a higher seed than the Milwaukee Bucks.
Bold Prediction: John Wall is a finalist for NBA MVP.
Milwaukee Bucks: 47.5
The Bucks are projected to win the same amount of games as the Wizards, which I think is dumb. I think that this projection is based off of the potential upside that the young core of the Bucks have. They have some solid young players in Malcolm Brogdon, Khris Middleton, and Thon Maker. They also have a future superstar in Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the real question mark this year revolves around Giannis’ ability to carry the load offensively while Jabari Parker is recovering from his ACL surgery. Parker is projected to return to the team after the all-star break, so his absence might put added stress on the young players on the roster, which might lead to fatigue down the stretch and into the playoffs. I think the Bucks will be an incredibly fun team to watch, eventually when they are completely healthy, but they will not win more games than the Wizards this year, and will not be winning the Eastern Conference.
Bold Prediction: The team will start out hot, with Giannis Antetokounmpo carrying the load offensively, but will fall off in the second half of the season due to fatigue. Will end up as the 4th or 5th seed in the East.
Toronto Raptors: 48.5
The Toronto Raptors have missed their Eastern Conference Championship window, this is a sad fact that is becoming clearer with each passing season. The team still cannot compete with Cleveland and Boston. They may have pieces to win around 50 games in the regular season, but the team has never stood a chance against LeBron and the Cavs in the playoffs, and now the Boston Celtics might be just as good as Cleveland too. The Raptors still have Kyle Lowry and DeMar Derozan, but I do not think that they have enough talent outside of those two to be able to compete with the top dogs in the East. Sorry Toronto, the window has been slammed shut.
Bold Prediction: The Raptors will experience some regression and will end up having a worse record than the Wizards, and will lose in the first round of the playoffs.
Cleveland Cavaliers: 53.5
The thing about the Cavaliers’ over/under is, that it really doesn’t matter all that much. LeBron and the Cavaliers will continue to go through the motions in the regular season, and will continue to rest players. LeBron James does not need his team to be the number one seed in the East. The team lost Kyrie Irving in the offseason, but replaced him with Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder. Isaiah will be out until the all-star break, and is a liability on defense, so he will be basically unplayable against the Warriors, should the team make the Finals. Crowder is a solid addition, and has the potential to play some good defense. The team will win around the same number of games that it would have if they kept Kyrie. LeBron and the Cavaliers are a lock to make the playoffs, in the top 2 seeds, and will likely face off against the Celtics in the ECF.
Bold Prediction: LeBron James will start the season hot, but will show signs of regression as the season progresses. LeBron will no longer universally be considered the best player in the NBA after this season.
Boston Celtics: 56.5
Unlike the Cavaliers, the Celtics over/under does matter, because if they want to have a chance of beating Cleveland in the ECF, they need every advantage they can get. They acquired Kyrie Irving, who is one of the most clutch players in the NBA, and is universally recognized as the best finisher in the game. However, the team did give up a lot to get Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. They had to get rid of Avery Bradley, and Jae Crowder, who were two of their best defensive players. I do think that the Celtics are better prepared to win more games during the regular season than the Cavs, I think that the Cavaliers are in a better position for the postseason. I think that experience is more important than skill in the playoffs, because frankly, the game is different in the regular season than in the postseason. I think that the Celtics will get the No. 1 seed in the East and make it to the ECF, but will ultimately be defeated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 6 games.
Bold Prediction: Jayson Tatum will win Rookie of the Year.