We're back with part two of my NBA predictions! I think I'll be putting up six teams a post, spanning five posts, just because it's a lot of material per post. So, without further ado, here's team number 24 as designated by the model!
No. 24: Sacramento Kings
Model Prediction: 32-50
As a Boogie aficionado and northern California resident, I really want the Kings to succeed. Unfortunately, the mystifying loss of Isaiah Thomas, who the model really liked, hurts. The model actually isn't huge on Cousins or Rudy Gay, pegging them both as approximately five-win players, but curiously rates Darren Collison as a seven-win player, presumably due to his decent effective field goal percentage. We'll see if he actually performs as a starter.
Vegas Over/Under: 30-52
Vegas agrees that the Kings should be slightly better than last year despite the loss of IT, probably due to Cousins' development (T-minus two years until his MVP year, I hope) and a full season of Gay.
Unfortunately, 32 wins seems about right. The team only seems marginally improved from last year, but this team is not going to really be in contention for a .500 season at this point, despite what their ownership thinks.
No. 23: Utah Jazz
Model Prediction: 32-50
I don't understand what the Jazz are doing. Unlike many people who are much smarter than me, I don't see a very high ceiling in any of their young players. That being said, the model does like Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, both of whom it pegs for about seven wins this year. Dante Exum, Kobe from Down Under, is pegged at about five wins by virtue of his draft position; given how erratic his play has been in Summer League and the preseason, he'll either blow past that expectation or be replacement level, I think.
Vegas Over/Under: 26-56
Vegas likes this Jazz squad less than the model, probably betting lower on Exum's performance during his rookie season than the model.
Like Vegas, I really don't see that much upside in the Jazz, and don't see them breaking 30 wins this year. Prove me wrong, Exum.
No. 22: New Orleans Pelicans
Model Prediction: 35-47
According to the model, the Pels' real problem is its lack of bench production: the only players worth over a win are Ryan Anderson (three wins) and John Salmons (about two wins). Anthony Davis looks primed for another monster season, pegged at 13 wins, but this team hasn't been built with enough depth to contend.
Vegas Over/Under: 43-41
Vegas presumably is banking on Davis being the league's third-best player and dragging this team into the playoff discussion.
I tend to agree with the model; unless this team's starting five is one of the league's best, I can't see this team winning more games than it loses. It looks like a great fantasy team, but the depth isn't there.
No. 21: Brooklyn Nets
Model Prediction: 36-46
According to Brooklyn's Pythagorean win-loss record last season (based on its point differential), the Nets were a 38-win team. The model sees Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, Andrei Kirilenko, the corpse of Kevin Garnett, Mason Plumlee and Jarrett Jack all as productive players, but not stars at between three and eight wins. Beyond that, however, the Nets roster is pretty bleak.
Vegas Over/Under: 41.5-40.5
Vegas must be confident that Lopez's return and Jack's addition will prop this team, another year older, up.
While the Nets gained Lionel Hollins, Jack and re-gained Lopez, they lost The Truth, Jason Kidd and Shaun Livingston, and a bunch of old players got another year older. I can't see this team contending for a playoff spot, even in the East, given how it's older and thinner than last year's 38-win-caliber team.
No. 20: Minnesota Timberwolves
Model Prediction: 39-43
Look at these frisky Wolves! Most advanced metrics are higher on Ricky Rubio than conventional wisdom is, and this model sees Rubio as almost a 10-win player. Given that Andrew Wiggins was the number one pick, the model deems him just about worth 10 wins as well, which may be way too high, given his raw talents. The fearsome duo in the middle, NikPek and Gorgui Deng, make up about 10 wins together, and the team has some competent role players in Kevin Martin, Mo Williams and Thaddeus Young.
Vegas Over/Under: 27.5-54.5
Vegas's response to the model: this team, which wasn't especially close to being a playoff team last year, lost its by-far best player.
Okay, Vegas, fair point. The model predicts Minny to win one fewer game than last season despite losing one of the 15 best players in the league. However, Minnesota may have been better than its record indicated last year. Remember that concept of Pythagorean wins? Yeah, the Wolves had 48 of those last year, stinking it up in close games more than almost any other team in NBA history last year. So, if the Wolves were a 48-win team last year, they're actually nine wins worse this year. It's possible! Still, this team seems more like a 33-35 win team to me, given Maple Jordan's rawness and the not-so-anticipated return of coach Flip Saunders.
No. 19: Miami Heat
Model Prediction: 39-43
Yeah, the Heat lost a couple players to free agency this summer, but they signed Josh McRoberts! Unfortunately, McBob and his surprisingly-high five-and-a-half wins may not be enough to propel the Heat to the Finals this year. The model likes Dwyane Wade as a ten-win player this season, but predicts he'll play as many minutes as in 2012, which is doubtful given his knee issues. The model is not a huge fan of CB4 (five wins), most likely due to the minimal rim protection he offers, but Luol Deng (six wins) can do it all and might keep the Heat in the playoff hunt.
Vegas Over/Under: 44-40
I see where Vegas is coming from: a team featuring Bosh, Wade, Deng and Eric Spoelstra (one of the top four coaches in the league, with Pop, Rick Carlisle and Doc Rivers) can't miss the playoffs in the East, right? Unless Bosh and Wade are older and still not recovered from four straight 100-game theories and a nonexplosive shooting guard who has no outside shot is useless, right?
I could see this team finishing under .500 or winning 50 games. I do think Bosh is good, I think Mario Chalmers, recently promoted from whipping boy to starting point guard, may be a top-15 point guard, and I think Spoelstra can make this team work. It really comes down to what Wade is, and if he can play at least 75 percent of his games.