We’ve discussed NBA futures for the upcoming 2016-17 season, with the Cleveland Cavaliers expected to win the East again. But if you’re looking for advice from some big-time ESPN experts, the famed sports network offered their predictions on the Eastern Conference standings.
Before we continue, here’s a look at what ESPN staffers predict, along with the GTBets betting odds for each team winning the conference:
Team/Predicted Record/GTBets.eu Odds
1. Cleveland Cavaliers – 57-25 record, -300 odds of winning East
T-2. Boston Celtics – 51-31, +850
T-2. Toronto Raptors – 51-31, +1200
T-4. Detroit Pistons – 45-37, +3500
T-4. Indiana Pacers – 45-37, +3500
6. Atlanta Hawks – 44-38, +2500
7. Charlotte Hornets – 43-39, +7500
8. Washington Wizards – 41-41, +4000
T-9. New York Knicks – 40-42, +3000
T-9. Chicago Bulls – 40-42, +3000
11. Milwaukee Bucks – 39-43, +4000
12. Miami Heat – 36-46, +1800
13. Orlando Magic – 35-47, +6000
T-14. Philadelphia 76ers – 20-62, +15000
T-15. Brooklyn Nets – 20-62, +20000
It’s little surprise that the experts are picking Cleveland to retain the Eastern Conference crown. ESPN has them at 6-game favorites over any other team, namely because the NBA champs return a core that includes Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Tristan Thompson, and Kevin Love. The main question is if they’ll bring J.R. Smith back, who’s getting heavy interest from Boston.
Speaking of the Celtics, they missed out on Kevin Durant, but got a great consolation prize in Al Horford. They also drafted Jaylen Brown with the No. 3 pick and look poised to take the next step.
The Toronto Raptors got some relief after re-signing DeMar DeRozan. But they also lost front-court depth when Bismack Biyombo and Luis Scola signed elsewhere. The Raptors replaced them with Jared Sullinger and Jakob Poeltl, but ESPN still has them winning five fewer games.
Detroit could be a team that takes a step up, considering that they bring back the same roster, only a year wiser and more used to playing with each other. Indiana also looks to improve with a roster that now includes Jeff Teague (minus George Hill) and Al Jefferson.
Teams that look like fringe playoff contenders include the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards. The Hawks did reasonably well last year, posting a 48-34 record and finishing fourth in the East. We discussed their new-look team, which features free-agent acquisition Dwight Howard. But ESPN thinks that losing Horford and adding Howard will actually lower the Hawks’ win total by four games.
Charlotte is another team that could struggle since they lost key role players in Jeremy Lin, Courtney Lee, and Al Jefferson. It’s a surprise that ESPN still sees them making the postseason again. Washington has a new coach, Scott Brooks, and will be looking to return to the playoffs after missing them last season.
The New York Knicks are going to be an interesting team, given their big free-agent acquisitions. But will Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Courney Lee, and Brandon Jennings turn this team around? ESPN sees an 8-game improvement, but no postseason for the Knicks.
The same can be said of Chicago, which, despite adding Dwayne Wade and Rajon Rondo, has plenty of questions to answer before being considered a legitimate postseason contender.
The Milwaukee Bucks have a talented, young roster, with every starter being 6’6″ or taller. But they don’t seem like a lock for the playoffs after going 33-49 last year.
ESPN sees the biggest fall coming from the Miami Heat, predicting them to finish 34-48 – far worse than their 48-34 mark last season. The losses of Wade, Luol Deng, and Joe Johnson could prove far too much this year.
Teams that don’t have a real chance at the postseason include the Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, and Brooklyn Nets. Orlando made some interesting moves, signing Biyombo, Jeff Green, and Serge Ibaka in the offseason. But they also gave up Victor Oladipo and should struggle offensively for a second-straight year.
With plenty of offseason changes in the East, these predictions will be shaken up once the season is in full-swing. But for the most part, ESPN’s predictions reflect the Eastern Conference betting odds.