The NBA released the schedule for the upcoming 2017-18 season on August 14th and I am HYPED. Here are the win projections I have for all of the teams in the Eastern Conference. Let me know how I did in the comment section below!
Projected Record: 25-57
The Brooklyn Nets will be an improved team from last season after adding D’Angelo Russell, DeMarre Carroll and Allen Crabbe. However, those players will not be enough to help Jeremy Lin win more than 25 games this season. For as much as the Nets will struggle this year, I think Jarrett Allen, from the University of Texas, will see a lot of playing time coming in for starting center Timofey Mozgov.
Marquee Games: The Nets start the first ten games of their season by playing the Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns twice, as well as the Los Angeles Lakers, Atlanta Hawks, and New York Knicks. All of those teams will be in some kind of rebuilding mode this season, giving the Nets an opportunity to have a successful beginning to the season.
Projected Record: 28-54
The Orlando Magic will be competing this year…for a top-5 pick in the draft. Sure, adding 6th overall pick Jonathan Isaac to the team will give the Orlando Magic something to build on, but the ensemble of Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon, and Nikola Vučević won’t be enough to get the Magic to a 30-win season. Look for this team to potentially try to deal one of the previous three players in order to acquire an extra first round pick or a second round pick to combine with other 2nd rounders in order to trade into the first round.
Marquee Game: Thursday March 22 @ Philadelphia 76ers– The Orlando Magic don’t have many nationally televised games, but this is one of them. The season may be ‘over’ for the Magic at this point in the season, but it will interesting to see them face off against a team that has perennially been in the bottom of the league and is looking to step into relevancy for the first time in about five years.
New York Knicks
Projected Record: 31-51
The New York Knicks have a lot of questions going into this season that demand answers. Will Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, or both be traded by trade deadline? Will Tim Hardaway Jr. be as good as $16.5 million? Overall, the Knicks made a good move by parting ways with Phil Jackson, but new GM Scott Perry inherited a mess with this New York Knicks Squad. Look for this team to trade what few assets they have to try to rebuild in the following years.
Marquee Games: From January 15th through January 26th, the Knicks will embark on a seven-game road trip that will feature a visit to Oracle Arena to face the defending champion Warriors. If the Knicks are going to do better than I have them projected, they will need to do better than expected on this road trip.
Projected Record: 32-50
The Charlotte Hornets acquired Dwight Howard in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks. If it was 2012, this might be considered a good move, but I would have thought that teams would know by now that Dwight Howard is just a name and face used to sell tickets. Hopefully, Michael Jordan can inspire Howard to play at a level similar to a few years ago, but ever since joining the Lakers, Howard has been a shell of the dominant force he was when he played in Orlando. Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum are solid, but I think the Hornets are headed in the wrong direction for this season.
Marquee Games: Between the dates of January 10th and January 26th, the Hornets play 8 of their 9 games at home. Those games should be a solid chunk of the wins the Hornets have this season, as they will face teams such as the Jazz, Hawks, Mavericks and Kings.
Projected Record: 33-49
Not long ago, the Hawks boasted some of the best ‘big man’ combinations in the league with Al Horford and Paul Millsap in 2015, and Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard this past season. Now, the Atlanta Hawks are decimated at the power forward and center positions with the likes of John Collins, Mike Muscala, and Dewayne Dedmon. Dennis Schröder and Kent Bazemore are a formidable combination in the backcourt, but don’t expect too much out of the Atlanta Hawks this season.
Marquee Game: October 27th Vs. Denver Nuggets– Paul Millsap departed from the Hawks this offseason and signed a 2-year, $61 million deal with the Denver Nuggets. This game will be Millsap’s first time playing in Atlanta as the opponent since the 2013 season. Millsap averaged a career high 18.1 points per game last season and will look to make an early statement against his former team.
Projected Record: 34-48
After trading Jimmy Butler, this Bulls team has committed to a rebuild. Other than Dwayne Wade and Robin Lopez, there aren’t too many faces on this team that are recognizable by most NBA fans. Power forward/center Bobby Portis and shooting guard Denzel Valentine will be in line for plenty of minutes this season. It will be interesting to see how Zach LaVine will adjust to life after an ACL tear given his athletic and high-flying styles of play.
Marquee Game: February 9th Vs. Minnesota Timberwolves– This shouldn’t be much of a surprise, especially if you read the Western Conference predictions. How could one pass up on watching Jimmy Butler return to face the team that traded him?
Projected Record: 36-46
It is time for the ‘process’ to starting turning into ‘progress.’ While the 76ers probably won’t see the playoffs, or a .500 record, I do expect them to improve on where they were last season. With Fultz, a healthy Ben Simmons, and a key addition to the bench in J.J. Redick, I expect to see this team in the win column more than last year. They may do better than my projection if Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor are able to stay healthy. However, one of those two players is bound to see extended time in the training room, so this team should win about 36 games.
Marquee Game: January 11th Vs. Boston Celtics– This matchup will be interesting for two reasons. The first is that the 76ers are an up-and-coming team in the Eastern Conference and playing against the former top seed will be a great test for them. The second reason is that this is the eighth game the NBA has ever scheduled to be played in London, England.
Projected Record: 40-42
Despite turning down a better offer from the Boston Celtics for Paul George, the Indiana Pacers still secured shooting guard Victor Oladipo, who will team up with the likes of Lance Stephenson, Myles Turner, Thaddeus Young, and Al Jefferson. Throw in a decent bench consisting of Darren Collison, Lavoy Allen and Bojan Bogdanovic, and this team will be competitive all season. Unfortunately, the loss of Paul George drops the team’s ability to win the close games.
Marquee Game: Wednesday December 13 Vs. Oklahoma City Thunder– Hopefully, you could have seen this coming from a mile away (or in the Western Conference predictions). Paul George’s return to the Indiana should be a mixed bag with the fans. On one hand, he did essentially force his way out, but on the other, he still brought a lot of success and fun years of basketball to Pacers fans. However, despite the sub .500 record, this team should be able to squeeze into the playoffs as the 8th seed.
Projected Record: 41-41
With the addition of Avery Bradley to the Pistons, this team certainly got better defensively. Bradley, in addition to Reggie Jackson, Andre Drummond and Tobias Harris, should look to be competitive on a nightly basis, but similarly to the Pelicans, the lack of a supporting cast will plague them. This team should still be good for the 7th or 8th seed, depending on how they play against weaker opponents this season. Being in the Eastern Conference, they should have some easier games to help make up for their lack of depth.
Marquee Game: Monday November 27th @ Boston Celtics– This will be Avery Bradley’s return to the team that both drafted and traded him. Many Boston faithful believe there will be a video tribute for Bradley, similar to the ones Pierce, Garnett, and Rondo received in their first return to Boston. This matchup will also be a good game for Drummond to attempt to set a new NBA record for rebounds in a single game ( I am only half kidding).
Projected Record: 44-38
Despite being 25-32 at the All-Star break last season, the Heat still finished 41-41 and were the seventh seed in the playoffs for the Eastern Conference. Personally, I think that the Miami Heat won’t make a huge jump in terms of record, but the additions of free agent Kelly Olynyk and rookie draft pick Bam Adebayo will allow the Heat to be a steady force in the Eastern Conference. With a healthy Dion Waiters and Justice Winslow, this team could give whoever the third seed is a stingy matchup. While I am a fan of James Johnson and his gritty style of play, this team needs to have someone better than him at small forward if they want to ascend in the standings and make a bigger splash in the playoffs.
Marquee Games: The WHOLE MONTH of November– I know this may come across as lazy analysis at first, but hear me out. The Miami Heat play only four home games in the entire month of November and will have to play teams like the Clippers, Warriors, and Cavaliers on the road. This stretch of games could make, or break, the Heat’s 2017 season.
Projected Record: 46-36
The starting five for the Wizards is a formidable force; John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr., Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat. What hurt the Wizards last season, and will again this season, is the lack of a bench. A team that features Trey Burke, Kelly Oubre Jr., Mike Scott, and Jason Smith as its primary rotation players simply can’t stack up against teams that have even an average bench. The Washington Wizards were seemingly tolled by the Nets this offseason and were forced to give a max contract to Otto Porter Jr., who will now earn $24 million this season. Don’t get me wrong, the Wizards can hang with just about anyone in a playoff series, but the starters can’t/won’t play 40 minutes a game in the regular season, so expect the Washington Wizards to be underrated for the playoff seed they will yield this year.
Tuesday February 27th @ Milwaukee Bucks– This is an important game for the Wizards, as they begin the final stretch of the regular season. This road contest will be important for seeding and to get a preview of a potential playoff opponent in the first round.
Friday March 2nd Vs. Toronto Raptors– This is another important game for the Wizards for the same reasons as the game against the Bucks. Thankfully, the Wizards will get to play at home for this matchup.
Monday December 25th @ Boston Celtics– In this Christmas Day matchup, the Wizards will face off against the team that bested them in an instant-classic playoff series. Both teams will likely face each other in the playoffs again, so it will be important for both teams to have bragging rights, and this game is the one to win.
Projected Record: 47-35
The Raptors are in a situation similar to the Wizards, as their starting five consisting of Kyle Lowry, Demar DeRozan, C.J. Miles, Serge Ibaka, and Jonas Valančiūnas will be a formidable force. The loss of both solid role player P.J. Tucker and starting small forward DeMarre Carroll will result in this team seeing a regression from last season. This team will likely face either the Wizards or Bucks in the playoffs, so look for an uptick in intensity from this squad against those teams through the year.
Marquee Game: Thursday January 11th Vs. Cleveland Cavaliers– If the Raptors want to move into the top three seeds (or carve out their spot as the 4th seed) they will need to have a signature win against a good team. What better than to play the Cleveland Cavaliers at home and on national television?
Projected Record: 49-32
The Milwaukee Bucks are my favorite to make a big jump this season. However, this team probably won’t see 50 wins on account of health issues. Jabari parker tore his ACL and will out until February, and Khris Middleton only played half of the season after getting surgery done on his left hamstring. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Thon Maker, and Malcolm Brogdon are set to have even better years than the last, and rookies Gary Payton II and Bronson Koenig will be fun to track the progress of. If the Bucks can stay healthy, I think they could have a very good year.
Marquee Game: Wednesday October 18th @ Boston Celtics– The 2017-18 campaign begins in Boston for the Milwaukee Bucks. Facing off against the defending top seed in the East will be a tough, and early, test for this up-and-coming team.
Projected Record: 53-29
Of course, just as I finished writing this article, the Cavaliers pull perhaps the most impactful transaction of the offseason by trading Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics. Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder are perhaps the two most important pieces Cleveland acquired, aside from the 2018 Nets pick. Isaiah Thomas is a winner. Pure and simple. However, I think this team will still finish behind the Celtics in the regular season standings. Jae Crowder will be a solid 3 and D player off the bench for the Cavaliers, but the rest of the bench is pretty lackluster. Derrick Rose was an okay signing, but I still have my doubts about his ability to stay healthy, even coming off the bench. Other than Crowder and Rose, 37-year-old Richard Jefferson will be the most prominent ‘force’ off the Cavaliers bench.
Marquee Game: October 26th @ Milwaukee Bucks– Despite going 1-1 in Milwaukee last season, the Cavaliers still needed overtime for their lone win in Milwaukee. The Bucks were a tough matchup for The King and his jesters last season, so I expect this to be the first of many hard fought games between these two teams this year.
Projected Record: 55-27
In addition to the acquisitions of All-Star Gordon Hayward via free agency and swap for Marcus Morris, this team also traded for star point guard Kyrie Irving. This team has the perfect mix of stars capable of taking over, such as Irving and Hayward, key role players such as Marcus Morris and Al Horford, and young players looking to make their mark in the NBA in Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown and rookie Jayson Tatum. This team should be able to improve on last season, as Brad Stevens now has an Eastern Conference Finals appearance under his belt and is the early-season favorite to win the Coach of the Year award.
Marquee Game: October 17th @ Cleveland– The Boston Celtics will start the year in Cleveland against the defending Eastern Conference champions and the team that bested the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. This will be a GREAT game to start the season as it will give the Boston Celtics either momentum to start the season, or a taste of what they need to do to try and reach the NBA Finals for the first time in seven years. It is also the first time Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas will face off against their new teams, making this game one of the marquee games for the entire league.