There’s no better time of year for sports degenerates than October. MLB playoffs are in full swing, contenders are separating from the pretenders in the NFL, the NHL season is beginning and, most important, basketball is back. After a flurry of off-season moves, the NBA hierarchy has been restructured. Here are five teams that will exceed expectations—and five teams that will bust.
Key additions: Andre Drummond, Georges Niang
Key losses: Ben Simmons (???), George Hill
Win Totals Over/Under: 50.5
No team in the NBA had a more painful off-season than the 76ers. In a protracted saga that felt like watching a toddler argue with their parents, Ben Simmons completely ghosted the franchise before returning this week without telling anybody. With the status of their all-star guard in flux, the Sixers may struggle to start the year. This team is still good enough to make the playoffs, but it’s unrealistic to expect them to reach the same level that made them the East’s top seed last year. Unless—until?—a trade suitor comes for Ben Simmons, it will be a long season in Philadelphia.
Key additions: Reggie Bullock, Sterling Brown
Key losses: Jason Richardson
Win Totals Over/Under: 48.5
Boasting a borderline MVP candidate in Luka Doncic, the expectations for the Mavericks get higher and higher every off-season. The problem with the Mavericks’ off-season moves is that they stayed too complacent. Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis’s relationship seems to be degenerating by the day. Worse, Dallas hired Jason Kidd as head coach. Granted, Kidd played a major role in Giannis Antetokounmpo’s development, but his coaching style has been described as “psychological warfare” and his ultra-aggressive defensive scheme in Milwaukee has fallen out of style. In a deep Western Conference, the Mavs could struggle to avoid the play-in tournament.
Key additions: JaVale McGee, Elfrid Payton, Chandler Hutchinson
Key losses: Torrey Craig, Jevon Carter, Langston Galloway
Win Totals Over/Under: 51.5
The Suns’ NBA Finals run last postseason was electric—despite the fortunate fact that they didn’t play one fully healthy Western Conference team. In the Finals, though, their fatal smallness was exposed by a huge and physical Milwaukee Bucks team. Although the Suns bulked up their frontcourt by adding Javale McGee, their 51.5 over/under win total is overly ambitious, now that the rest of West have had time to heal.
Key additions: Kelly Oubre Jr, Ish Smith, Mason Plumlee, James Bouknight
Key losses: Devonte’ Graham, Malik Monk, Cody Zeller, Caleb Martin, Grant Riller
Win Totals Over/Under: 38.5
The Hornets made a splash last season by almost making the playoffs but ultimately lost in a play-in game. LaMelo Ball has taken the league by storm and the rest of the team’s young core will continue to improve alongside him; the problem is that the East has, as a whole, significantly improved, too. As such, the Hornets should occupy a position similar to last year and get into the play-in tournament.
New Orleans Pelicans:
Key additions: Jonas Valanciunas, Devonte Graham
Key losses: Lonzo Ball, Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams
Win Totals Over/Under: 39.5
The Pelicans have struggled mightily since the departure of Anthony Davis. Losing key rotational guards in Bledsoe and Ball, the Pelicans will be hard-pressed to run the fast break as effectively as they have in the past. New Orleans is doing everything it can to keep Zion with them, but it feels like they’re making all the wrong moves. If another disappointing season is in store, expect Zion to be on the move in a short time.
Key additions: Demar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, Derrick Jones Jr., Tony Bradley, Troy Brown Jr.
Key losses: Thadeus Young, Tomas Satoransky, Lauri Markkanen, Daniel Theis, Garrett Temple
Win Totals Over/Under: 42.5
The Chicago Bulls have completely revamped their roster. Since taking over in 2020, Arturas Karnisovas has almost completely erased the mistakes of a Gar/Pax front office. This team is stacked with incredible wing defenders, great shooters and some of the highest flyers in the
league. At their best, this Bulls team could contend for home-court advantage in the playoffs. The future is bright in Chicago.
Los Angeles Clippers:
Key additions: Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Harry Giles
Key losses: Patrick Beverly, Rajon Rondo
Win Totals Over/Under: 45.5
The Clippers will be without their superstar forward Kawhi Leonard and many people have counted them out as a result. Still, the Clippers were able to reach the Western Conference Finals without Kawhi, behind a rejiggered five-out offense that should also help them generate regular season wins. LA has great wings and continuity, which will enable them to maintain their contender-status.
Key additions: Goran Dragic, Scottie Barnes, Precious Achiuwa
Key losses: Kyle Lowry
Win Totals Over/Under: 35.5
At first glance, the Toronto Raptors would seem to be entering the first year of an extended rebuild. Despite trading franchise legend Kyle Lowry, the Raptors are in a good position to return to the playoffs after last year’s listless, mediocre campaign in Tampa. This team is poised to be a top 10 defense in the league, a common recipe for regular season success. Hopefully Pascal Siakam will bounce back from a disappointing season and the Raptors can make some noise this season.
Key additions: Dennis Schroder, Enes Kanter, Josh Richardson, Al Horford
Key losses: Kemba Walker, Tristan Thompson, Evan Fournier, Tacko Fall
Win Totals Over/Under: 46.5
The conversation in the East is centered around the Bucks and the Nets, and that’s about it. As a result, a promising Celtics team has been lost in the shuffle. Jayson Tatum has shown constant improvement, and Jaylen Brown is really coming into his own as a scorer. With a chip on its shoulder after last year’s disappointing season, Boston has an intriguing combination of talent and motivation. Moreover, with Al Horford back in the fold, the team’s chemistry should be A1 from day one.
Key additions: Delon Wright, Gorgui Deng, Jalen Johnson
Key losses: Kris Dunn, Tony Snell
Win Totals Over/Under: 46.5
Despite a slow start to the season, the Hawks surged late in the year to make the Eastern Conference Finals, showing they can handle the pressure in the biggest moments, even in enemy territory. Buoyed by last year’s run, they’re poised, once again, to win the Southeastern Division. If Trae Young can insert himself in the MVP conversation, Atlanta will finish even higher.