If you believe the good folks at the Las Vegas Hilton, there won’t be a dominant team in the NBA this season. Usually the leader would be projected to win at least 60 games. Not so here. The Los Angeles Lakers head the list at just 54½ victories over the 82-game regular season. Just behind are the defending champion Boston Celtics with 53½. Last year the Celtics finished with 66 wins and the Lakers 57.
Four other teams (Houston, Detroit, Utah and New Orleans) are in the 50’s, while 10 (Toronto, San Antonio, Portland, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Denver, Dallas, Cleveland and Chicago) are in the 40’s. The Memphis Grizzles have the lowest expectation, with the projected win total at just 22½. Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Sacramento and New Jersey are the others below 30.
With 41 wins the break-even mark for the regular season, there are naturally 15 teams projected to finish above .500 and 15 below. New Orleans was the most improved team last year, reaching the Western Conference finals. Possibly Portland will be this year, at a very reachable 44½. Last year Portland won 41 without the NBA’s No. 1 pick center Greg Oden, who missed the entire season with a knee injury. In his first preseason action, Oden scored 13 points in just 20 minutes of action.
Another team that figures to show improvement is Memphis, which won just 22 games a year ago. The Grizzlies have added top draft pick O.J. Mayo and Pau Gasol’s brother Marc, who played well for Spain against the USA in the Summer Olympics at Beijing. Gasol had 14 points and 10 rebounds in a recent preseason game. With Mayo and Gasol, one would think Memphis could at least win 23 games.
The NBA regular season begins on Tuesday, Oct. 28 with three games – the LA Lakers at Portland, Milwaukee at Chicago and Boston hosting Cleveland. There are 12 games slated for Wednesday, Oct. 29 including ESPN telecasts of Lakers-Clippers in LA and Phoenix-San Antonio. Here is the Hilton’s complete list of 30 teams (in alphabetical order) and their projected win totals.
Atlanta 35½. Boston 53½, Charlotte 38½, Chicago 40½, Cleveland 47½, Dallas 46½, Denver 42½, Detroit 50½, Golden State 37½, Houston 51½, Indiana 33½, LA Clippers 31½, LA Lakers 54½, Memphis 22½, Miami 37½.
Milwaukee 29½, Minnesota 32½, New Jersey 27½, New Orleans 50½, New York 30½, Orlando 47½, Philadelphia 48½, Phoenix 46½, Portland 44½, Sacramento 27½, San Antonio 48½, Oklahoma City 26½, Toronto 47½, Utah 51½, Washington 37½.