The regular season begins tomorrow night with a battle between the Heat and the Celtics. Much like last season's Finals, I'm left with choosing between teams I loathe to root for, so I'll probably sit this out, emotionally. With the clock ticking down, however, it is time for me to get my predictions on the record. We'll take a look from a difference perspective this season.
Instead of starting from scratch and predicting a record for each team, this year I'm going to use Vegas lines and predict over or under for each team's win total, with a bit of logic to boot.
- Atlanta (46.5 wins) - I'm taking the under here. Every team in their division has either held their ground or improved, with the exception of the Bobcats. Atlanta overpaid to keep Joe Johnson, added a couple of middling centers (E. Thomas and J. Collins). Personally, I think they played a bit over their head last season, couple that with a new head coach and I think they're looking at a step in the wrong direction.
- Boston (54.5 wins) - Under. Shaq may give them some rebounding and an occasional 20+ points in the post, but he's an absolute liability on the defensive end. He also doesn't exactly help their average age. Boston is, however, a lock to win the Atlantic and finish with home court for at least one round of the playoffs.
- Charlotte (41.5 wins) - Under. Losing Felton will hurt more than you'd think.
- Chicago (46.5 wins) - Over. Boozer's injury hurts, but not as much as you'd think. Taj Gibson was an extremely effective rookie last year, and the added burn early in the season will help in the long run.
- Cleveland (30.5 wins) - Under. The preseason is not fooling me. Cleveland has a worse roster with less talent than the Sixers.
- Detroit (30.5 wins) - Over. This was a tough one. Detroit is terrible, but 31 wins seems doable for some reason. Ben Gordon isn't as bad as he played last season. Maybe Ben Wallace has another decent season in him.
- Indiana (33.5 wins) - Over. Maybe 35. Just enough wins to keep them away from a top lottery pick. Interested to see how Collison helps them, also waiting with baited breath for Granger's first injury. Hibbert is probably the key here, though. He needs to rebound more in Troy Murhpy's absence.
- Miami (64.5 wins) - Under. Take Wade away, you're looking at the Cavs from last season, only add Bosh and remove the shooters. Take LeBron away and you're left with a moderate upgrade over what the Heat were last year. Injuries and eventually apathy will cost this team at least 18 losses.
- Milwaukee (45.5 wins) - Under. Maggette is a bad fit for a Skiles team. Bogut may not be healthy the entire season. They're a playoff team, but I don't see them topping 45 wins.
- New Jersey (24.5 wins) - Over. This line seems ridiculous. They were better than 25 wins last season if not for injuries and a burning desire to tank the year away. They're probably good for 30, at least.
- New York (35.5) - Over. Amare and Felton help. Having better players for D'antoni's system helps more.
- Orlando (54.5 wins) - Over. No one in the East can deal with the big lineup they've been featuring this summer. They could/should go over 60.
- Philadelphia (34.5 wins) - Under. Unless a major trade with an immediate impact on the floor, 32 is probably their ceiling. I would go even lower, but I do believe their athleticism on the perimeter will carry them to wins over teams with limited talent on the outside.
- Toronto (26.5 wins) - Under. Clearly the worst team in the Atlantic. Relying on Bargnani to carry the load is a recipe for disaster.
- Washington (32.5 wins) - Under. Wall will have to be better than any rookie in the past two seasons for the Wizards to make this kind of leap. I question Arenas and Blatche, specifically if either can be a meaningful contributor in a team sense.
There you have it. My eight playoff teams are, in no particular order: Miami, Orlando, Boston, Chicago, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Charlotte, New York.
Leave your thoughts and/or predictions of your own in the comments below.