Rating ESPN's Summer Forecast For The NBA's Eastern Conference: What'd They Get Wrong?

  • Eric Goldschein

kyle lowry raptors

The NBA offseason is still going strong (if you consider “trying to figure out where Greg Monroe and Eric Bledsoe are going” to be an indication of strength), but for lack of anything better to do, ESPN is forecasting the upcoming NBA season with predictions on conference standings, individual awards and even champions. They started with the Eastern Conference yesterday.

Predicting the outcome of the NBA season before it starts — much less three months before it starts — is a fool’s errand. Charles Barkley knows that. But if the Worldwide Leader is going to do it, we’ll do it too, albeit by pointing out things we think they got wrong.

Here are their standings:

1. Cleveland Cavaliers — 56-26
2. Chicago Bulls — 54-28
3. Toronto Raptors — 47-35
4. Washington Wizards — 47-35
5. Charlotte Hornets — 45-37
6. Miami Heat — 44-38
7. Atlanta Hawks — 42-40
8. Brooklyn Nets — 39-43
9. Indiana Pacers — 38-44
10. New York Knicks — 37-45
11. Detroit Pistons — 33-49
12. Boston Celtics — 28-54
13. Orlando Magic –27-55
14. Milwaukee Bucks — 23-59
15. Philadelphia 76ers — 18-64

So here’s what ESPN got wrong:

Just 56 wins for the Cavs?

This is what we in the business call “being a pussy.” A team with LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving should wreck the East, no matter how much stronger the conference has gotten. If this is truly LeBron’s strongest supporting cast ever, Cleveland should get to at least 60 wins.

Toronto is way too high.

Don’t get me wrong — I love the Raptors. This team is young, talented, athletic and fun to watch, but the best thing you can say about their offseason is that they didn’t let the band split up (retained Kyle Lowry, Patrick Patterson, Greveis Vasquez). They didn’t improve nearly as much as Washington and Charlotte did. I’d drop Toronto to 6th in the conference.

Miami is too low.

Yes, they lost the best basketball player in the world. You may have heard about that. But they’ve still got two top-20 players (okay, you can quibble about Wade, but when healthy, he’s elite), replaced LeBron with Luol Deng (a serviceable replacement) and quality role players like Josh McRoberts and Danny “Something Left, Maybe” Granger. Shabazz Napier can contribute right away. This team is at least worth a five spot.

Atlanta and Brooklyn? Really?

These are not playoff teams. Both squads barely qualified last year. Atlanta only looked decent in the playoffs because they played the Pacers, and the Nets lost Paul Pierce and only have the shell of Kevin Garnett remaining. Unless Deron Williams finds his soul and Brook Lopez returns at an All-Star level, expect the Nets to miss the postseason. We’ll keep Atlanta in here only because the alternatives do not look enticing (Detroit is a sleeper, however, thanks to Stan Van Gundy).

Look for the Knicks to sneak into the eighth seed.

This team won’t play, you know, defense. But they’ll have a game plan offensively besides throwing it to Carmelo Anthony with six seconds left on the shot clock and praying for a miracle. Derek Fisher will channel Phil Jackson on the sidelines, and if anyone can get more out of a whole than the sum of its parts, it’s Jackson/Jackson’s puppet.

Our revised standings (excluding wins-losses, because that’s kind of ridiculous/pointless):

1. Cleveland Cavaliers
2. Chicago Bulls
3. Washington Wizards
4. Miami Heat
5. Charlotte Hornets
6. Toronto Raptors
7. Atlanta Hawks
8. New York Knicks
9. Brooklyn Nets
10. Detroit Pistons
11. Boston Celtics
12. Orlando Magic
13. Indiana Pacers
14. Milwaukee Bucks
15. Philadelphia 76ers

This is subject to change if, for example, Roy Hibbert gets traded to Detroit.

UPDATE: Yep… totally fucked up regarding the seeding. The top four seeds have to be division winners, meaning the Raptors would be fourth even if they finish with a worse record than the Hornets, Heat, etc. Consider this the standings based on record alone. Thank you to our commenters for pointing this out .

Still don’t think the Hawks will be better than 7th.

Photo via Getty