Now that the moratorium on NBA free agent signings has passed and most teams have cobbled together the bulk of their roster for the upcoming ’15-’16 season, we can start projecting win totals.
The following is a look at where most projections should be, barring significant injuries, come October. For comparison’s sake, we’ve included the Westgate LV SuperBook’s totals entering last season in addition to where teams actually ended up.
Atlanta Hawks: (40.5 LY), finished 61-21: Last year’s top overachiever. Will be bigger with Tiago Splitter and Edy Tavares alongside Paul Millsap and Al Horford, but need point guards Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder to take another step forward. Kyle Korver and Thabo Sefolosha returning to health also essential. Projected wins: 46.5
Boston Celtics: (26.5 LY), finished 40-42: No one expected Celts to make the playoffs, especially after moving Rajon Rondo, but Brad Stevens pushed the right buttons. There will be more expectations going forward, but Amir Johnson, David Lee and top pick Terry Rozier don’t exactly move the needle. Projected wins: 35.5.
Brooklyn Nets: (41.5 LY), finished 38-44: Buying out Deron Williams truly ends up breathing fresh air into their situation, but this is still a rebuilding team. Joe Johnson is likely to be next to go, which will also help the Nets get younger and sleeker. Projected wins: 32.5.
Charlotte Hornets: (45.5 LY), finished 33-49: The acquisition of Nic Batum and drafting of the very capable Frank Kaminsky has Hornets encouraged that they’ve added some nice pieces to surround Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker. The X-factor remains former No. 2 pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Projected wins: 35.5.
Chicago Bulls: (55.5 LY), finished 50-32: Fred Hoiberg’s arrival is the major variable here, although Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah staying healthy will always be key. Jimmy Butler returned to continue his ascent as one of the league’s top wings. Pau Gasol’s resurgence allows versatility in halfcourt sets. Projected wins: 50.5.
Cleveland Cavaliers: (58.5 LY), finished 53-29: LeBron James will have the deepest team in the Eastern Conference and some continuity in place. With Kevin Love likely to be an improved contributor and oddsmakers already instilling the Cavs as this season’s championship choice, expectations should increase. Projected wins: 60.5.
Dallas Mavericks: (49.5 LY), finished 50-32: DeAndre Jordan’s change of heart tempers expectations significantly, even though trading for Zaza Pachulia and reaching a deal with Deron Williams provides some new blood. Wes Matthews will provide a major upgrade on the wing once he’s finally healthy in 2016. Projected wins: 41.5.
Denver Nuggets: (40.5 LY), finished 30-52: The future of Kenneth Faried and Ty Lawson makes this forecast murky. Both likely involved in trade talks. Emmanuel Mudiay should to get the bulk of the minutes as a rookie point guard, which guarantees growing pains. Projected wins: 23.5.
Detroit Pistons: (36.5 LY), finished 32-50: Greg Monroe’s exit and Ersan Ilyasova’s arrival means Stan Van Gundy will be able to play his style more, while the growth of Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson will dictate just how successful they’ll be. Projected wins: 34.5.
Golden State Warriors: (50.5 LY), finished 67-15: The defending champs have the NBA’s biggest home court advantage bolstering an up-tempo attack that is going to be tough for most to keep up with. Having a target on their back in the loaded West keeps expectations from getting significantly out of hand. Projected wins: 60.5.
Houston Rockets: (49.5 LY), finished 56-26: The Rockets certainly took a step forward as Dwight Howard looked fully healthy for the first time in years and James Harden became a deserving MVP candidate. With relatively the same core back, this team will be a factor. Projected wins: 51.5.
Indiana Pacers: (32.5 LY), finished 38-44: Paul George’s return to health instantly raises expectations. Remains to be seen how they transition from a defensive-minded team anchored by 7-foot-3 Roy Hibbert to one that signed Monta Ellis and Jordan Hill while bringing back Rodney Stuckey with intent to run. Projected wins: 36.5.
LA Clippers: (55.5 LY), finished 56-26: Coaxing Jordan back to the fold saved this cap-strapped squad, keeping it among the league’s elite. With Paul Pierce and Lance Stephenson on board, look for the Clips to hold tight at the number they were set at last season. Projected wins: 55.5.
LA Lakers: (31.5 LY), finished 21-61: Optimism in what is expected to be Kobe Bryant’s final season. D’Angelo Russell arrives, Julius Randle returns and veterans Roy Hibbert, Brandon Bass and Lou Williams come aboard. Projected wins: 32.5.
Memphis Grizzlies: (48.5 LY), finished 55-27: Marc Gasol returned, while Brandan Wright and Matt Barnes arrive. Grit and grind lives to ride another day and may be better than ever given the increased depth. Projected wins: 52.5.
Miami Heat: (43.5 LY), finished 37-45: Chris Bosh is expected to return to 100 percent after a health scare, so the Heat will have Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic, Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside joining him in a loaded starting lineup. Pat Riley has put together a deep bench. Projected wins: 47.5.
Milwaukee Bucks: (24.5 LY), finished 41-41: Monroe signing with the Bucks over the larger markets provided a major lift to a team that also kept Khris Middleton around. With Jabari Parker returning, a team that will be expected to make a major jump. Projected wins: 44.5.
Minnesota Timberwolves: (25.5 LY), finished 16-66: Andrew Wiggins gets more help with top pick Karl-Anthony Towns coming on board, but this will still be a lottery team when all is said and done. Won’t be expected to win much more than they were entering last season. Projected wins: 25.5.
New Orleans Pelicans: (41.5 LY), finished 45-37: Anthony Davis is likely to emerge as an MVP candidate, so with Alvin Gentry taking over and promising a faster pace and improved execution, the Pelicans should be better. Even in the loaded West, they’ll be expected to make the playoffs. Projected wins: 46.5.
New York Knicks: (40.5 LY), finished 17-65: Carmelo Anthony didn’t get big-name help, but the organization is standing behind the acquisitions of Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo and Derrick Williams. Draft picks Kristaps Porzingis and Jerian Grant may upgrade the core. They still don’t look like a playoff team. Projected wins: 32.5.
Oklahoma City Thunder: (57.5 LY), finished 45-37: With Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook set to join forces and Billy Donovan likely to get great results out of the gate, the Thunder will have extremely high expectations. Matching Enes Kanter’s 4-year/$70 million offer sheet from Portland tells you they’re set to pull out all the stops. Projected wins: 59.5
Orlando Magic: (28.5 LY), finished 25-57: Aaron Gordon’s improvement was the talk of Summer League in Orlando, while No. 5 pick Mario Hezonja also impressed. The young Magic should take another step forward under Scott Skiles, though they likely won’t be expected to reach the postseason. Projected wins: 34.5.
Philadelphia 76ers: (15.5 LY), finished 18-64: Joel Embiid will miss his second straight season with a foot injury, so Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel will have to hold the fort down for the league’s worst collection of talent. 76ers will be expected to bring up the rear. Projected wins: 17.5.
Phoenix Suns: (42.5 LY), finished 39-43: Despite seeing their LaMarcus Aldridge pursuit come up short, the Suns did add Tyson Chandler and Mirza Teletovic. They’ll be able to play fast, but probably still have moves ahead of them with Markieff Morris and Eric Bledsoe both available via trade. Projected wins: 36.5.
Portland Trail Blazers: (48.5 LY), finished 51-31: Suffered the most personnel losses in the league. No longer expected to make the playoffs, opening up the spot OKC is likely to claim. They’re rebuilding around Damian Lillard, but look to be in for a long season. Projected wins: 26.5.
Sacramento Kings: (30.5 LY), finished 29-53: DeMarcus Cousins may not be in for the long haul, or maybe he’ll win a power struggle with head coach George Karl and remain one of the league’s most productive big men. Kings want to win now and have some nice pieces. Projected wins: 32.5.
San Antonio Spurs: (56.5 LY), finished 55-27: LaMarcus Aldridge and David West arrive, which means Tim Duncan should be even fresher come April. The fact Gregg Popovich rests players will keep regular-season expectations from being too extreme. An impressive collection of talent. Projected wins: 61.5.
Toronto Raptors: (49.5 LY), finished 49-33: Carroll is the big offseason addition, expected to significantly upgrade the team’s perimeter defense. Considering the relative weakness of the Atlantic Division and how dead on last season’s projection was, look for it to be in a similar ballpark. Projected wins: 47.5.
Utah Jazz: (25.5 LY), finished 38-44: The way Jazz closed the regular season has many excited in their fortunes. With Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert back to anchor one of the top defensive teams in the game, look for a jump to .500 to be expected. Projected wins: 40.5.
Washington Wizards: (49.5 LY), finished 46-36: Pierce’s absence will be felt, but he did teach young guys how to win. That should keep the Wizards in the same vicinity of expectations, especially since Otto Porter looks ready to take a step forward in support of John Wall, Bradley Beal and bigs Nene and Marcin Gortat. Projected wins: 47.5.
Tony Mejia is a national sports writer and senior contributor at VegasInsider.com. He’s also the owner and operator of Antony Dinero, the most successful documented volume handicapper in the industry. View his analysis daily at VegasInsider.com. Contact Tony at [email protected].