Welcome back to another NBA season and as usual I’ll give you my preview division by division, starting with the east and ending in the west. Teams are listed in the order in which they finished the prior year.
Toronto Raptors (49-33, lost in the first round to Washington):
Headline: Toronto Looks to Break Out of Its First Round Slump
Summary: The Raptors are in that sort of NBA hell that is good enough to make the first round but not good enough to actually make a deep playoff run. They are no title threats but they are certainly good enough to win a series or two if they get good matchups and a few things go their way. About time too, because the long suffering sports fans of Toronto are rabid and deserve some success (in the big 3 sports Toronto hasn’t won a thing in the playoffs since the 90s).
Overall Trend: Up, stable, strong core, good coaching staff, weak competition, they should hit 50 wins this year for the first time in franchise history.
Salary: $63.2M (under cap by $6.8M)
2016 Draft picks: Owed the less favorable of New York and Denver’s 2016 First Round Picks, Owe their Second Round Pick to either Utah or Memphis (Depending on if their pick or Boston’s is more favorable).
Biggest Addition: DeMarre Carroll
Losses: Amir Johnson, Louis Williams
Best Case: Eastern Conference Finals. This is not a team that is good enough to win a seven game series against the East’s best but given a favorable matchup its possible to see it getting to the Conference Finals.
Worst Case: First round. The bottom of the east playoff picture is a hot mess and unless absolutely everything goes wrong for them its hard to see the Raptors doing worse than another playoff appearance.
Most Likely Case: Second Round. The Raptors are probably the third or fourth best team in the east and so can be expected to win a series before bowing out.
Boston Celtics (40-42, lost in the first round to Cleveland):
Headline: After a Surprise Playoff Trip, Boston Looks to Build Towards Its Rightful Place in the NBA Hierarchy
Summary: Most NBA watchers, including yours truly, expected the Celtics to spend another year in the NBA’s cellar before beginning to climb out. They were wrong. This team was a playoff squad last year, albeit in the weak east, but still a notable accomplishment and a 15 win improvement over the previous season. With a solid young core, a good coach and piles of first rounders coming their way, this is a franchise on the rise.
Overall Trend: Up, Boston will only get better for at least the next few years.
Salary: $77.5M (over salary cap)
2016 Draft picks: Owed Brooklyn’s 2016 First Round Pick, Dallas’s 2016 First Round Pick (Protected for Picks 1-7), Minnesota’s 2016 First Round Pick (Protected for Picks 1-12), Cleveland, Miami and Philadelphia’s 2016 Second Round Picks and the less favorable of Dallas and Memphis’s 2016 Second Round Picks. Owe its 2016 Second Round Pick to Memphis or Utah (depending on whether it or Toronto’s is more favorable).
Biggest Addition: RJ Hunter
Losses: Gerald Wallace, Brandon Bass
Best Case: Second Round. This team is still a few steps behind the east’s second tier playoff pack but if they get lucky they could win a series.
Worst Case: Miss Playoffs. Boston is likely good enough to make the playoffs with the hot mess that is the bottom of the east playoff picture but if things don’t go their way they could fall short.
Most Likely Case: First Round. One and done is the most likely result for Boston for the second year in a row.
Headline: The Nets Look for the Self Destruct Button as They Look to Blow it Up
Summary: The Nets made the playoffs last year almost entirely because the east was terrible. 38-44 is not a playoff caliber team in any sense and things are only going to get worse for this roster full of over the hill, over paid players.
Overall Trend: Down, this is going to be a long and painful rebuilding process.
Salary: $90.2M (over luxury tax threshold)
2016 draft picks: Owe their 2016 first rounder to Boston and the Clippers have the right to swap their 2016 Second Rounder with Brooklyn provided neither team’s pick falls in the 56-60 range.
Biggest Addition: Andrea Bargnani
Losses: Mason Plumlee, Deron Williams
Best Case: First Round. The Nets are terrible but so is the east so they could sneak in once again.
Worst Case: #1 pick, which they send to Boston. Brooklyn owes its unprotected first rounder to Boston and so the worst case would be nabbing the #1 pick and shipping it a few hours north to Boston.
Most Likely Case: Miss Playoffs. Brooklyn has no first rounder next year so its doesn’t matter where they finish if its out of the playoffs.
Philadelphia 76ers (18-64, missed playoffs):
Headline: Philly “Trusts the Process” as they Continue their Long and Painful Rebuild
Summary: Gotta hand it to the Sixers, they know to tank. Although they actually finished a game better than the Knicks last year, they were a game worse than the previous season. With another young raw talent in the fold, they are getting better but how much longer will it be before they start climbing back towards the playoffs?
Overall Trend: Up, almost by default.
Salary: $55.4M ($14.6M under cap)
2016 Draft picks: Has the right to swap Golden State’s 2016 first round pick with the less favorable of OKC and MIA’s 2016 first round picks (if either is in the top 10 they may swap GS’s pick with the other one), owed LAL’s 2016 First Round Pick (Protected for selections 1-3), Owed Miami’s 2016 First Round Pick (protected for selections 1-10) and OKC’s 2016 First Round Pick (Protected for selections 1-15). Owe Boston their 2016 Second Round Pick.
Biggest Addition: Jahlil Okafor
Losses: Jason Richardson, Thomas Robinson
Best Case: #1 overall pick, they will be among the favorites to land it come next spring.
Worst Case: #4 pick, the Sixers should have one of the three worst records in the league and so #4 is as low as they go.
Most Likely Case: #1 pick, they’ll probably be just worse than anyone else and so the odds will appear to be in their favor to land the top pick.
Headline: The Knicks Look to Avoid Another Season as a Broadway Flop
Summary: In true New York fashion the Knicks appeared to have all the makings of a Broadway Hit last year, a top star in Carmelo Anthony, a big-time address in Madison Square Garden and, even after a bad 2013-14 season, big things were expected. Well, much like the Broadway show “Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark” a promising open led to disappointment as injuries, poor coaching and a roster that was thin, at best, the Knicks were somehow worse than the Sixers last year. Its hard to see it getting better, at least anytime soon.
Overall Trend: Up, they’ll win more than 17 games.
Salary: $56.9M (under cap by $13.1M)
2016 Draft picks: New York will convey the less favorable of its own and Denver’s 2016 First Round Pick to Toronto (New York doesn’t have a pick in this scenario due to other pick swaps). Owe Houston their 2016 Second Round Pick
Biggest Addition: Kristaps Porzingis
Losses: Quincy Acy, Andrea Bargnani
Best Case: First Round. The Knicks could be a fair bit better this year and with the east the way it is they could sneak into the playoffs.
Worst Case: Miss Playoffs. If Melo can’t score a lot of points every night, this team won’t be able to make up for its awful defense and will miss the playoffs again.
Most Likely Case: Just Miss Playoffs. They’ll win 35ish games and miss the playoffs.