East Preview: Predicting Records

This is the much lesser of the two conferences. This has been the case for what seems like forever. This year the East seems likely to be Tank Central as the vast majority of the anticipated Andrew Wiggins derby will involve teams from the East. If Miami runs away with the top seed again, the drama in the East might be focused more on the bad teams. Of course it first has to be determined if Wiggins is really everything they say he is and

These record projections are based on player projections that I translate into team records. Basically I take the average of a player’s previous two seasons. I then make some age adjustments and go from there. Factors like chemistry and injuries aren’t considered, so things could be wildly different from this. But this is my best guess going in.

Atlantic Division

1. Brooklyn Nets 48-34

2. New York Knicks 38-44

3. Toronto Raptors 36-46

4. Philadelphia 76ers 27-55

5. Boston Celtics 22-60

The Sixers and Celtics are tough teams to figure, because I have no idea how far the tanking will go, or even if any team is actually tanking at all. We’re still not completely certain that Andrew Wiggins is a tankworthy talent. One thing that’s safe to say is both teams are out of the playoff picture. The Raptors have an outside shot at the playoffs, thanks mainly to a weak Eastern Conference. They also might start dumping contracts and join the Sixers and Celtics in the chase for the worst record and the 25% chance at drafting Wiggins that comes with it.

The Knicks might finish better than the 38 wins I project, but they will be a disappointment. Carmelo Anthony’s supporting cast is made up of bad PGs, way past their prime former all-stars and Andrea Bargnini. Bargnini is a typical Knick acquisition in that he’s a player whose rep is bigger than his production and he cost the team a future #1 pick.

The Nets should win this division by default, but I don’t see that they’ll be serious competition for the Heat. They have a lot of players who have been all-stars, but all are either well past their prime or over rated. They lack the super productive player in his prime that is necessary for all serious title contenders.

Central Division

1. Indiana Pacers 56-26

2. Chicago Bulls 51-31

3. Detroit Pistons 46-36

4. Cleveland Cavaliers 39-43

5. Milwaukee Bucks 30-52

I wonder if Bucks’ GM John Hammond is doing a stealth tank job. The Bucks got rid of their entire perimeter from last year and replaced them with an inferior group. They get credit for trying to stay competitive, but the fact is they’re headed for the lottery because of Hammond’s  moves, starting with the JJ Redick trade last year.

Cleveland and Detroit both come with some question marks, but both should both hit the playoffs, taking advantage of some smart drafting and a weak conference. In Cleveland Bynum is quite an X-factor. If the year off does bring him back as one of the top centers in the game, the Cavs could crash the top 4. Detroit is one of the most interesting mixes in the league. The talent alone should improve the team quite a bit.

I’m not sold on the Bulls as a serious contender. Rose is back and that’s great. What concerns me is the teams from 2011 and 2012 that both notched the top seed had a much better bench than this group. That could have a huge effect on a team with a group of starters that has a history missed games due to nagging injuries.

The Pacers made some nice additions that should keep them as the top challenger to the Heat in the East. A return to form by Danny Granger could push them past 60 wins and get them a top seed. Should the Heat suffer a serious injury, the Pacers are the team most likely to take the East. But the Pacers will fall short of a championship. Like the Pacers of the Miller era, they lack the super-productive superstar that every champion needs.

Southeast Division

1. Miami Heat 63-19

2. Atlanta Hawks 44-38

3. Washington Wizards 38-44

4. Orlando Magic 29-53

5. Charlotte Bobcats 24-58

The Bobcats and Magic are in the same boat as the Sixers and Celtics in that they could be focused more on tanking than winning and that could affect the records. The Magic are a sleeper to surprise though. They have some of the characteristics of a team that comes out of nowhere and wins something like 47 games. I’m just not sure they can play the defense necessary for such a jump, but there is a lot of young talent here and they’re a playoff sleeper. One thing these two teams seem likely to compete for is the Rookie-of-the-year award. Orlando’s Victor Oladipo and Charlotte’s Cody Zeller seem like the top 2 candidates going in.

I feel the Wizards will make the playoffs, edging out the Knicks for the last spot. The Gortat trade gives them a solid, consistent presence inside. I’m kind of intrigued by the quick retool in Atlanta and I’d go so far as to say they could grab the 3rd or 4th seed if everything falls right for them. They could also fall short if things don’t go so well.

The Heat should win the East. There really isn’t a lot of serious competition here. Not that it will be easy. I’m a little puzzled by the off season moves. The past two years players who were clearly championship assets like Battier and Allen were brought in. This year it was Beasley and Oden. Does a team that has won the last two championships really need to bring a head case and the most injury-prone player ever on board? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to go the solid veteran route? That gripe aside, LeBron James is playing as well as any player ever right now. He makes the Heat a tough team to beat. I feel they’ll take the East fairly easily and meet the Thunder in the 2014 Finals.

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