As ESPN does throughout the off-season, their resident numbers guy, Kevin Pelton, has attacked the win projections for next year for each NBA team. As KP points out, next season is a wide open one. There are what look to be some very good teams, but no out-and-out dominant squad (like the Warriors of most of the past five years). What’s more, the defending champion Toronto Raptors are not quite the team they were last season, which complicates things further. If nothing else, it makes for some interesting forecasting work.
So then, where do the Raptors stand after all of Pelton’s complicated statistical chicanery, which involves RPM and SCHOENE and more math than I care to address right now?
Get this: they’re ranked fifth in the Eastern Conference behind... the Orlando Magic. Here’s the full takeaway from Pelton:
5. Toronto Raptors
Average Wins: 45.5
Without [Kawhi] Leonard and fellow starter Danny Green, the defending champs still look like a solid playoff team as currently constructed but no longer a serious contender due to their weakened wing rotation.
Obviously, there are some wild-ass conclusions here, not least of which is the Celtics somehow still remaining in the top three of the conference despite shedding their two best players. There’s no reason to believe the mood around Boston won’t be better next season, but I have a hard time believing they’ll be that good. Likewise the Magic, with only internal growth and their modest addition of Al-Farouq Aminu to raise them up.
Meanwhile, I’m not ready to believe the Heat are a six-seed, and I definitely don’t believe the Pacers will be in seventh. One of those predictions is most assuredly wrong. At the same time, as Pelton mentions in his analysis, it’s hard at the moment to get a bead on the Nets. On the one hand, they added two superstars, on the other — will we see Kevin Durant at all next season? And which version of Kyrie Irving will Brooklyn get? Questions abound.
(A brief Western Conference aside: It will be awesome to see which of Houston, Denver, and the two Los Angeles teams, manages to make it to the top of the table out west. Just a tremendous, fearsome assembling of talent there — with Portland and Utah also looming. Wild stuff.)
Now then, the Raptors. I think most would have put them right in that meaty portion of the conference, somewhere between three and six, depending on the breaks. If Pascal Siakam becomes an serious All-Star next season, the 3-seed doesn’t feel impossible. If Toronto struggles to find a wing rotation that works — distinctly possible — or the team’s veteran players start to breakdown in a major way — not impossible — then the slide down to six could also happen.
My final point here is: I do not see them finishing behind the gotdang Orlando Magic.
What do you think of the projections so far?