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The combination of the economy and the free agent class of 2010 has turned the NBA into a league of haves and have-nots – or more accurately those willing to spend and those trying to cut back. What this means is the top teams have all gotten better and the lower teams have by and large gotten worse. There are only a handful of teams that have a legitimate shot of winning the title this year and don’t expect there to be many surprises among playoff teams. So, how will each team fare? Below are predictions for each team with their projected win totals.
-Boston Celtics - 58 wins - The Celtics should be focused on keeping their veteran (read old) players healthy for the playoffs and that will lead to a few less wins than last season. Health will be the biggest concern all season.
-Philadelphia 76ers - 43 wins - They lost Andre Miller in the offseason and Jrue Holiday won't be ready to take over the reins. That leaves Lou Williams as the starting point guard. This team could really excel if Elton Brand can produce. If not, they will hover around .500 all season.
-Toronto Raptors - 41 wins - The Raptors added Turkoglu who will help take pressure off of Bosh. They are solid in the frontcourt but their backcourt isn't the strongest. Jarrett Jack is a weak link at the shooting guard spot but I don't know if anyone coming off the bench is much of a bigger threat.
-New York Knicks - 32 wins - D'Antoni can't wait until 2010. He's just hoping Danilo Gallinari can prove worthy of his high draft pick last year and he can lure a big free agent or two to the Big Apple.
-New Jersey Nets - 24 wins - They lose Vince Carter and replace him with Courtney Lee? If Yi Jianlin can stay on the court and pair up with Brook Lopez, they will at least have a strong postgame to rely on.
-Cleveland Cavaliers - 61 wins - The Cavs won't quite have the fire they did last year and Shaq will have some trouble fitting in. Their biggest issue though, might be depth at point guard. We'll all be following the Delonte West saga this season.
-Chicago Bulls - 45 wins - They will miss Ben Gordon but a healthy Loul Deng combined with the addition of John Salmons should help the Bulls cope. Derrick Rose looks like he's on the path to becoming a superstar. The Bulls go as far as he takes them.
-Indiana Pacers - 39 wins - Once Mike Dunleavy returns they will turn into a playoff contender. They just have to hope they aren't too far out of it by that point to recover. If Roy Hibbert can play like he has in the preseason, this team could be dangerous.
-Detroit Pistons - 35 wins - Aside from Richard Hamilton, they have no one in their starting lineup that can create their own shot with any consistency. It's not good when your starting center is Kwame Brown. Can new head coach John Kuester pull this team together?
-Milwaukee Bucks - 23 wins - Who besides Michael Redd is going to score for the Bucks? On most nights every single one of their players will be worse than their opponent at the same position. At least Brandon Jennings will be fun to watch - whether he's crashing and burning or making highlights, he's going to be entertaining.
-Orlando Magic - 62 wins - Vince Carter is will fit in perfectly and his perception as a selfish player will disappear. This team is built for a championship run and will be better than last year's squad if Jameer Nelson returns to his All-Star form.
-Washington Wizards - 43 wins - The Wizards will undoubtedly be the most improved team over last year. This team has too many question marks though, and not all of those are going to work in their favor. Maybe Arenas isn't what he used to be, or Jamison is out longer than expected, or their younger players don't improve from last season. The Wiz are better but I don't see them getting home court advantage in the first round.
-Atlanta Hawks - 41 wins - This is pretty much the same team as last year, so expect similar results. They did nothing to get themselves over the hump in the East and I'm not ready to believe Josh Smith can lead this team to the Eastern Conference Finals.
-Miami Heat - 38 wins - I'll believe Jermaine O'Neal is back to his All-Star form when I see it. Last year they overachieved. This year they slip a bit with Dwyane Wade having one foot out the door.
-Charlotte Bobcats - 23 wins - Tyson Chandler isn't an upgrade over Okafor, Raja Bell has an injured wrist, and Larry Brown is itching to trade half his team away.
-Portland Trail Blazers - 57 wins - Greg Oden stays relatively healthy and the addition of Andre Miller gives them the floor leader they've needed. Expectations are high in Portland and I think they will live up to them.
-Denver Nuggets - 50 wins - Losing Linas Kleiza and Dhantay Jones will hurt more than most think. Everything went right for them last year and something is bound to go wrong this year. They will take a small step back this season.
-Utah Jazz - 46 wins - They are the Hawks of the Western Conference. They did nothing to get better and that is going to yield similar results. They become much more dangerous if Kirilenko can be the stat filler he was a few seasons ago.
-Oklahoma City Thunder - 36 wins - They won't start 3-29 like they did last year and will play a little better than they did down the stretch last season. It still won't translate into a trip to the playoffs.
-Minnesota Timberwolves - 26 wins - My hopes were high for the Wolves just a month ago. Then Kevin Love broke his hand and Al Jefferson has had some nagging injuries. Kurt Rambis is in for a tough year.
-Los Angeles Lakers - 67 wins - Artest won't completely fit in for the Lakers, but Bynum will be healthy and that's enough to make them better than they were last season. The Purple and Gold will return to the Finals.
-Phoenix Suns - 43 wins - Under Alvin Gentry they will average about 110 points per game but they will yield about the same amount. While other Western Conference teams were adding All-Stars, the Suns added Channing Frye.
-Los Angeles Clippers - 41 wins - They were set to be a sleeper team but with the injury to Blake Griffin it seems the curse continues. They will right the ship and be in the midst of the playoff hunt with a re-energized Baron Davis at the helm.
-Golden State Warriors - 27 wins - It's a shame this team is in such disarray because they actually have some talent. That talent though, doesn't protect the paint and might not get along with each other. Stephen Jackson gets his wish and is traded to a contender midway through the season.
-Sacramento Kings - 17 wins - Kevin Martin is their only dangerous scorer and he's having left ankle problems. Last season he missed over 30 games because of left ankle problems. They will be battling with the Grizzlies for lottery balls - at least that's something they can win.
-San Antonio Spurs - 58 wins - Richard Jefferson brings some much-needed youth and will benefit from kickouts from Tony Parker. The Spurs are the biggest threat to the Lakers chances of making it back to the Finals.
-Dallas Mavericks - 50 wins - They win 50 games every year and will do it again. But while 50 wins is nice, it's just enough to possibly win in the first round but no further.
-New Orleans Hornets - 47 wins - The Hornets need more than Okafor to be a contender. There's only so much weight Chris Paul can carry on his back.
-Houston Rockets - 36 wins - They lost Ron Artest and are without Yao Ming for the season. That's a lot of fire power to make up for. Trevor Ariza is a great role player but he can't step in as a top scoring threat on any team. If McGrady is healthy this team could sneak into the playoffs but how likely is that?
-Memphis Grizzlies - 21 wins - The only way the Grizzlies win is if they're playing with two basketballs on the court. How are Mayo, Iverson, Gay, and Randolph going to get enough shots to stay happy? Those four players cannot be on the floor at the same time. Something needs to change.
And the Winner Is...
Remember when I said to not expect many surprises? Well, I see an exact repeat of last year in the Finals with the Lakers, once again, beating the Magic in five games.
|‹‹ Utah Jazz|