The NBA season is upon us and it’s shaping up to be the most exciting season we've had in years. There’s a potential juggernaut that everyone is going to love to hate, a potential for a three-peat, and the looming CBA issues that could cast a cloud on the whole season. I don’t know if it was these reasons, the Knicks being a half-legitimate franchise again, or my fantasy basketball auction draft, but I’m actually mildly interested in the NBA this year. Just in time for a lockout. Nice. With that said, here’s my preview of the NBA season by going through each team’s Vegas over/under for wins. (And for the record I’m predicting the Lakers over the Heat in the finals. Fuck LeBron!) First up is the Eastern Conference. Western Conference will come later today.
Boston Celtics: 54.5 games
Mr. T’s Pick: Under (-145)
After losing game 7 in last year’s NBA Finals, the Celtics went into the free agent market for reinforcements. The problem is their reinforcements are the O’Neals: Shaquille and Jermaine. I know Boston is an Irish town, but really? I don’t think the answer lies with two guys with that many miles on their tires. I don’t care how much weight Shaq lost in the offseason.
New Jersey Nets: 24.5 games
Mr. T’s Pick: Over (-140)
The Nets honestly weren’t as bad as their 12 wins last year. They got off to a slow start and shit got out of control real fast. I think Brick even killed a guy. They were 5-7 in their last 12 and all of their young dudes are a year more experienced. A Harris-and-Lopez combo with some decent parts is worth at least 28 wins.
New York Knicks: 37.5 games
Mr. T’s Pick: Over (-110)
So that LeBron thing didn’t really work out, did it? I’m sure I’m extra critical of the Knicks, but this team has a long ways to go. Inside sources have informed me Raymond Felton can’t lay off the guacamole. You can’t have a fat PG run an up-tempo offense. Gallinari doesn’t yet seem ready to take the leap and Donnie Walsh still doesn’t realize the team needs a real f*cking shooting guard. But hey, who wants a starting backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Eric Gordon? I’d totally rather have Gallinari and nothing to show for that 2009 draft. Yet, as bitter as I am, I still think they win 40 games.
Philadelphia 76ers: 34.5 games
Mr. T’s Pick: Under (-110)
The Sixers are already saddled with injuries in the front court and there’s one overlying factor to their inevitable downfall: Their coach is Doug Collins. He’s not that bright. Besides that, they drafted Evan Turner when they really need some front-court help and he’s apparently not good enough to even start. That’s a pretty sad second fiddle to the John Wall situation.
Toronto Raptors: 26.5 games
Mr. T’s Pick: Under (-125)
When you look around a roster and wonder how the team is going to score 90 points a game, things are not going your way. At least they’ll get to deal with another top-5 pick who won’t want to play in Canada once his rookie contract expires.
Chicago Bulls: 46.5 games
Mr. T’s Pick: Over (+105)
This would've been an easy number to hit had Carlos Boozer spent his off-season steering clear of bags scattered around his living room. Still, the Bulls are on the up and up and the Central is theirs to win.
Cleveland Cavaliers: 30.5 games
Mr. T’s Pick: Under (-130)
Mo Williams isn't even a solid #2 option, let alone a #1, as was proved when LeBron jumped ship. They're better off tanking anyway, since there's some decent talent in this year's draft like Perry Jones, Harrison Barnes, and Jared Sullinger. Then, in four years from now, they'll have a new jersey to burn.
Detroit Pistons: 31.5 games
Mr. T’s Pick: Under (-140)
The Pistons are undergoing a changing of the guard and it continues to amaze me how Joe Dumars has remained in charge. Fantasy sleeper Austin Daye enters the starting lineup, but the Pistons won't take off unless their guards, including highly overpaid Ben Gordon, stay healthy and dominate the pace of the game. I don’t see it happening.
Indiana Pacers: 33.5 games
Mr. T’s Pick: Over (-130)
You may look at this Pacers team and ask where the wins are coming from, but look closely and you’ll see they have a lot of players on the rise. Collison and Hibbert seemed poise to take the next step and Granger is an elite player if he actually plays a full season. Even backup point guard A.J. Price has some upside. They might not be able to pull out the white-out anymore, but that’s not the worst things in the world.
Milwaukee Bucks: 45.5 games
Mr. T’s Pick: Under (-110)
Last year was a fluke. Every year there’s a few playoff teams that regress and the Bucks have it written all over them. I mean just look at this roster. Their best five guys are Jennings, Salmons, Magette, Gooden, and Bogut I’m shaking in my Nikes…
Atlanta Hawks: 46.5 games
Mr. T’s Pick: Over (-120)
Remember that Hawks team that won 53 games last year? Yeah the whole crew is back, even the money-hungry Joe Johnson, who realized he couldn't get max dollars anywhere other than the A-T-L. So why is the number only 46.5? The Heat can only impact a few of those games themselves and the East isn't that greatly improved.
Charlotte Bobcats: 39.5 games
Mr. T’s Pick: Under (-135)
Mediocrity personified is the theme in Charlotte, where you have a team whose own fan base doesn't really want them around. Unlike the Hawks, these guys don't have the talent to compete with a slightly improved Eastern Conference.
Miami Heat: 64.5 games
Mr. T’s Pick: Over (-110)
South Beach, open your legs! Give it to me again! Give it to me again! Get in line now for sex in October! Riley got 'em all! Did he just bend over the Knicks… again? YES HE DID! A double rainbow! (At least until the Finals, when LeBron chokes… again. Give me that choke again! Give me that choke again!)
Orlando Magic: 54.5 games
Mr. T’s Pick: Under (+155)
Having Dwight Howard work out with Hakeem Olajuwon makes me ask one question. No, it’s not will Dwight Howard finally have an offensive game. The real question is whether the Magic can sign the Dream to a veteran’s minimum contract and get the guy in uniform. He looks like he can still play. Howard, meanwhile, looks like a robot trying to execute these moves. There’s no way he actually pulls them off in the game. Kendrick Perkins wouldn’t be able to D-up Hakeem. Sign that old man up!
Washington Wizards: 32.5 games
Mr. T’s Pick: Over (-125)
John Wall is one electrifying motherf*cker. I wasn't that big on him in college, but his game translates better to the NBA, where he can play a heavy, up-tempo style and have guys to run with him. Assuming Arenas doesn't show up to the arena with guns this year, this could be a fun team to watch.
Best bets: Atlanta, Cleveland, and Toronto
Coming later today: Western Conference over/under predictions! Sound Off with your own thoughts on the Eastern Conference in the Comments!