Sleepers and lower-seeded playoff teams reside here. It's somewhat likely that one of these teams will claw its way to its conference finals, but the teams here are clearly a cut below contention.
No. 12: Portland Trail Blazers
Model Prediction: 43-39 (No. 7 Seed in the West)
Led by one of the league's best starting fives (of which the model thinks LaMarcus Aldridge is the worst, curiously), Portland gets almost 80 percent of its wins from its starters. The model feels similarly about this team as it did the Suns, not believing the career-best performances of Robin Lopez and Wes Matthews last year are sustainable.
Vegas Over/Under: 49-33
Vegas believes Rip City is due for some regression as well this season, but less than the model does. With Dame Lillard's improvement and an improved bench, it's possible that this team will be largely able to hedge against regression.
I see this team winning between 46 and 49 wins, regressing some but building on its young stars.
No. 11: Toronto Raptors
Model Prediction: 43-39 (No. 5 Seed in EAST)
Another team that the model severely underestimated last season, Toronto is another regression candidate, according to the model. The strong Raptors backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan had career years last year, and the model isn't sold on that repeating.
Vegas Over/Under: 48.5-33.5
Vegas is sold on the Raptors feel-good story and the continued growth of its core, winning as many games as last year despite better Cavaliers and Bulls teams at the top of the East.
I like 43 or 44 wins for this team; I'm still not sold on Dwayne Casey as a coach, and think that this team stayed stagnant this offseason while the top of the East improved dramatically.
No. 10: Washington Wizards
Model Prediction: 43-39 (No. 4 Seed in East)
The model pegged Trevor Ariza as a 13-win player last year, and although The Truth is a grizzled veteran, will only offer eight wins. Coupled with Bradley Beal's injury and the age of this team aside from John Wall and Beal, the model thinks the Wiz will regress from last year.
Vegas Over/Under: 49.5-32.5
Vegas is in on the Wizards, thinking that last season was only the beginning. Vegas also seems to think that Pierce is a bona fide upgrade at the 3 over Ariza.
I agree with the model that the Wizards will miss Ariza and will top out at 45 wins, possibly looking at a .500 season. I think this team is a lock for the under.
No. 9: New York Knicks
Model PredicTion: 46-36 (No. 3 Seed in East)
The first result that truly made me gawk at the model. The model is huge on Jose Calderon (10 wins), presumably due to his role as a creator on some great offenses over the past few years. Quincy Acy (seven wins) and Samuel Dalembert (five wins) are also great additions and will offer some defense on an otherwise all-offense team.
Vegas Over/Under: 41-41
Vegas likes where this Knicks team is headed too, evidently. This surprised me - I thought public perception held that the Knicks were a low-30s team.
Again, I gawked when I saw this, but I've started talking myself into the Knicks returning to their 2012 glory days. I think the team could sniff a .500 record and get a low playoff seed.
No. 8: Dallas Mavericks
Model Prediction: 48-34 (No. 6 Seed In West)
The model thinks the Mavs lost its trade with the Knicks, as Tyson Chandler (10 wins) is less valuable than the combination of Jose Calderon (10 wins) and Sam Dalembert (six wins). Furthermore, the loss of Shawn Marion (seven wins) really hurts this team's defense. However, Chandler Parsons (eight wins) will help mitigate these losses.
Vegas Over/Under: 50-32
Vegas thinks the Mavs should be slightly better than last year with a real rim protector, despite the aforementioned losses.
I think the Mavs will miss Marion, who offers much more defense than Parsons. I think 48 is just about right, but this team getting into the low 50s is not out of the question.
No. 7: Golden State Warriors
Model Prediction: 48-34 (No. 5 Seed in West)
While the Dubs should be happy with the addition of Shaun Livingston (four wins), losses of role players Jermaine O'Neal and Steve Blake (two wins each) may come back to bite with the Dubs' lackluster bench. The model also isn't convinced Stephen Curry (12 wins) will be able to play 75 games this season due to past injury issues.
Vegas Over/Under: 51.5-30.5
Vegas is all-in on Steve Kerr and Curry taking these Warriors to the next level and possibly becoming contenders.
I could see growing pains under Steve Kerr and slippage in last year's great defense, but I think 48 wins is the low end for this Warriors team. The high end? 56 wins.