The West has gotten weaker. At least on paper, it seems that way. Amare and Boozer fled the West, along with a slew of lesser talents. A new championship contender has emerged in the East. The Lakers still have to be the favorites to win it all, but overall, I do believe there will be more parity between the conferences.
We'll use the same format: Vegas line and my prediction for over/under.
- Dallas (49.5 wins) - Under. I'm trying to figure out if it's wiser to overpay Erick Dampier or to depend on Tyson Chandler for heavy minutes, or to re-sign Brandon Haywood to a long-term deal. Any way you slice it, Dallas is getting older. Still a playoff team, but as a 7th or 8th seed, probably.
- Denver (43.5 wins) - Under. Melo won't last the season in Denver and the Nuggets aren't going to get a return that helps them right now unless they get Iguodala, which doesn't look likely.
- Golden State (30.5 wins) - Barely over. Curry is a stud. Finding a way to stop Monta' Ellis from taking 25+ shots/game would be a step in the right direction. I like their rebounding with Lee and Biedrins starting up front. Lee's non-existent defense won't be an issue out there either.
- Houston (48.5 wins) - Under. I like Scola, the rest of the team...eh. Yao's return is completely uninspiring, as is Aaron Brooks as your starting "point" guard. I suppose they could surprise if Kevin Martin and Yao can stay healthy, but what are the odds of that?
- LA Clippers (36.5 wins) - Over seems like a pretty easy bet, if they can stay healthy. The only problem is Baron Davis' propensity to submarine his own team. I'll stick with over.
- LA Lakers (56.5 wins) - Over. Tough call because the Lakers are probably going to slide into that "the regular season doesn't matter," mindset for the first half of the season. I'm saying over because I think they'll realize home court is important in time to make a late push toward 60 games.
- Memphis (38.5 wins) - Under. Zach Randolph was a complete beast last season, but I'm not optimistic that he'll bring that type of effort in back-to-back seasons. In his favor is the fact this is a contract year for him, but I'm still skeptical.
- Minnesota (23.5 wins) - Under. Until I see the T-Wolves put Kevin Love on the floor for 35 minutes/game, I will have zero faith they will break 20 wins. It looks like they're planning to start Darko, Love and Beasley, which means they won't be able to defend the 3, 4 or 5 positions. Jonny Flynn isn't exactly a defensive wizard at the point, either. This team is a mess.
- New Orleans (41.5 wins) - Over. I have very little confidence in this one, but I'm going with the logic that Chris Paul will be healthy and motivated. If he's both of those things, a .500 record is pretty much their floor.
- Oklahoma City (51.5 wins) - Barely under. 50 wins, simply because they aren't going to sneak up on anyone this season. The sooner they realize playing Nenad is a mistake, the more minutes they get for Ibaka, the sooner they'll be able to hang with the powerhouses out West, but I don't see those changes happening early enough.
- Phoenix (41.5 wins) - Over. See New Orleans, sub in Nash for Paul and you've got about 45 wins and a playoff appearance.
- Portland (51.5 wins) - UNDER. Brandon Roy is joining Rudy Fernandez in making waves in Portland. No one knows what to expect from Greg Oden, if anything. LaMarcus Aldridge is still in love with long twos. Andre Miller won't have a big enough role for this team to win 50 games.
- Sacramento (27.5 wins) - Over. Much improved on the inside (Dalembert and Cousins represent an unbelievable upgrade over Hawes and Thompson), but relying on young guys with questionable intangibles for a large portion of their production.
- San Antonio (50.5 wins) - Under. Age has caught up to San Antonio. Still a playoff team, but probably not with home court advantage in the first round.
- Utah (49.5 wins) - Under. I like Sloan, love Deron Williams, but Al Jefferson is just not going to get it done out there. They're going to need a monster breakout season from Millsap to tread water up front. They're going to miss Korver more than Matthews.
Your predictions and concerns in the comments.