NBA predictions–drawn from a hat: Eastern Conference

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If you missed the Western Conference or need an explanation about what the heck’s going on with these predictions, click here.

Yesterday, we looked at the Western Conference and what it would be like if their records were drawn from a hat. Today brings the Eastern Conference and scenarios for each team according to the record they drew. Let’s begin:

Team #1: Chicago Bulls

I’m just assuming my first time playing basketball in over a year will be the same as Derrick Rose’s:

Record from a hat: 46-36

This is a little weird when Chicago, if anything, has been terrific in the regular season compared to the playoffs.

Scenario: In what’s an improved Eastern Conference, coach Thibs swings the other way from his usual allocation of minutes and chooses to rest players to the point of surrendering some tail ends of back-to-backs. Also, Chicago has a little trouble playing around Derrick Rose, who (hopefully) attacks a little less in order to save his body in the long run.

But Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng regress. Their PERs drop by .1 for every trade rumor they’re involved in.

Team #2: Orlando Magic

The winners of the Dwight Howard trade one season later.

Record from a hat: 43-39

So much for tanking with Victor Oladipo at point guard.

Scenario: The front office flirts with benching the starters for lottery picks but screw it, winning is fun. Orlando gets in a trade with Atlanta:

Orlando receives: Al Horford, Lou Williams

Atlanta receives: Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Hedo Turkoglu’s expiring contract

That might be too much to give Atlanta or too little; we won’t know for another season or two when we know more about Harris and Vucevic. Orlando’s offense was terrible without Glen Davis and with Harris though, good for dead last in offensive rating and fifth worst on defense. It’ll be a tad bit better with Al Horford, even if the Hawks were just an average team on offense last season. I’m a pretty terrible trade constructor anyway. It’ll make more sense when Atlanta’s hat drawing comes around.

Oladipo at point guard turns out to be a smart decision via the additional wins versus additional lottery balls, Moe Harkless takes his game to another level, Glen Davis will pass on a few mid-range jumpers for once, and everyone will be dancing like Big Baby at the thought of this team making the playoffs:

Team #3: Milwaukee Bucks

The most mediocre team in the NBA after getting out of Tankapalooza 2014. In the process, they avoided becoming so bad the motto ‘Tears for the Deer’ won’t be reserved until the next time they trade a blue chipper for an above average veteran.

Record from the hat: 33-49

Scenario: The Bucks struggle when Ersan Ilyasova is taken out of games, O.J. Mayo does O.J. Mayo things (play well for one month and erratic for the rest of the season), and Brandon Knight progresses only ever so slightly.

They become a League Pass favorite, however, when John Henson and Larry Sanders wreak havoc on defense and whenever Giannis Antetokounmpo steps onto the floor. It’s mandatory the Greek Freak plays for 40 minutes in the Rookie-Sophomore game.

Team #4: Brooklyn Nets

Quite the contender for my 2014 Time Machine Champion. My next post regarding that fake award will also include 2013′s champ.

Record from a hat: 19-63

Scenario: For all the teams I said would start out bad, Brooklyn actually goes 16-0 before Prokhorov rewards his starting lineup for their strong performance. He gives them a paid vacation around the world. The starting lineup gets lost in South Korea somewhere. All of them become Starcraft whizzes and never return to Brooklyn. The Nets falter. Reggie Evans averages the least-efficient 20 points per game outside of ‘Monta Ball’. Kevin Garnett becomes the most prolific trash talker Starcraft has ever seen.

Meanwhile, Boston and Atlanta lick their chops while looking at the draft picks Brooklyn owes them.

Team #5: Boston Celtics

To tank or not to tank?

Record from a hat: 41-41

Scenario: The Celtics keep Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green becomes more consistent with the added responsibility, Gerald Wallace isn’t awful, and Kris Humphries has an F-U season after hearing the news of Kanye proposing to Kim Kardashian. Also, Jordan Crawford becomes eerily similar to his older brother (not the 2012 version of him while in Portland) and Bill Simmons has 8,472 orgasms at the thought of this team making the playoffs.

In all seriousness, if this happens then Brad Stevens should be a favorite for Coach of the Year. That, or Jeff Green makes the All-Star team or Rondo is a dark horse for the MVP.

Team #6: Charlotte Bobcats

Not sure how they’ll do here, especially without Al Jefferson for some time.

Record from a hat: 40-42

Scenario: EWING THEORY! Not because of missing Jefferson though — they lost Byron Mullens in the off-season.

Also, they get in the trade with Memphis I hinted about in the post concerning the Western Conference.

Memphis receives: Ben Gordon ($13.2M expiring), Cody Zeller, and Charlotte’s second round pick

Charlotte receives: Zach Randolph

Charlotte plays themselves out of their own protected draft pick but they still own Portland’s and Detroit’s. Two first round picks plus Kemba Walker, Bismack Biyombo, MKG, Al Jefferson, Zach Randolph, and Jefferson’s and Randolph’s contracts that could both expire after 2015; that’s not the road to a title but it isn’t a terrible one to take for both the short and long-term.

Giving up their first round pick also kills a lot of potential trades for Chicago.

Team #7: Detroit Pistons

Joe Dumars hopes the free agent splurge of 2013 is more effective than that of 2009.

Record from a hat: 59-23

Success!

Scenario: I mentioned a Dirk Nowitzki trade in the Western Conference post. Detroit jumped in on that. Here’s my terrible trade idea to get them to 59 wins:

Dallas receives: Greg Monroe (assuming he signs an extension), Charlie Villanueva ($8.6M expiring), Rodney Stuckey ($8.5M expiring), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Jonas Jerebko, Detroit’s 2018 first-round pick.

Detroit receives: Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion

That could be too much for Detroit to give when Dirk’s prime is winding down and Monroe is just getting started, but one’s a former MVP while the other may become an All-Star though not as frequently as Nowitzki. One is a rental for a title run and the other is a building block that’s about to get expensive to keep.

Monroe is looking to get near the max in his next contract, which is kind of a problem if Andre Drummond is in their long term future with Josh Smith. Predicting a trade isn’t that outlandish, though getting Nowitzki in return is a bit of a stretch. But that’s what the hat predicts in order for Detroit to win 59 games and Dallas to win 16.

The Pistons are going to be all right with Monroe, but Dirk makes them a top-5 offense. Fab Melo could start at shooting guard for all I care, but Chauncey Billups may get the nod. Meanwhile, Andre Drummond logs 30 minutes for 75 games and destroys the Rookie-Sophomore game.

And this all works out because Brandon Jennings buys in. If that’s not believable I don’t know what is.

Team #8: Miami Heat

Three straight Finals appearances, back-to-back championships and Mario Chalmers hasn’t even hit his prime.

Record from a hat: 55-27

Scenario: The Heat coast a ton, possibly too much for their own good as they lose home court advantage throughout the playoffs. With a stronger Eastern Conference, winning around 60 games isn’t that big of a stretch.

Dwayne Wade has another 20-5-5 type season, but he’ll play 70 games (good for 75 if he doesn’t rest in April) whereas some may predict more around 60. Chris Bosh and Shane Battier might break in half if Miami plays two straight series versus any combo of Indiana, Chicago or Brooklyn but they’ll survive the regular season.

With the crazy records being predicted, this is the most vulnerable LeBron James has been concerning winning the MVP.

Team #9: Philadelphia 76ers

In the Western Conference post, the hat foresaw a trade sending Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins, and Hasheem Thabeet to Philadelphia in exchange for Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes, Kwame Brown, and the Pelicans’ first round pick.

Record from a hat: 55-27

Scenario: Russell Westbrook goes in total F-U mode, flirting with the top five in MVP voting, and Royce White plays every game and is awesome, like a 15-8-4 line every night. That’s just one of several reaches.

Jason Richardson loses 30 pounds when he realizes this team is going to make the playoffs. Also, Nerlens Noel DOES come back to play this season when the Sixers go from tanking to not only chasing the playoffs but nabbing home court for a round or two. A Noel-Thabeet-Perkins rotation somehow doesn’t turn out to be terrible.

But to win 55 games the 76ers will also have to sign a couple players to ten-day contracts who end up as possible all-stars. That’s about as likely as anything else I’ve said about this team.

Team #10: Indiana Pacers

Last season the Pacers had a bench thinner than Rip Hamilton yet were one game away from playing in the Finals. Was it all a fluke?

Record from a hat: 46-36

Scenario: Danny Granger has trouble fitting in with the Pacers’ offense, Roy Hibbert isn’t exactly the one we saw in the Eastern Conference Finals, and Luis Scola—one of their best additions this summer—continues to regress even though he’s not starting anymore.

That all could happen, or there’s this: The Pacers miss Tyler Hansbrough. So much. And just aren’t the same without him.

Team #11: Toronto Raptors

New management and a new global ambassador in, um, Drake. Will it be enough to make the playoffs?

Record from a hat: 60-22

Scenario: Inspired by Drake, the 2016 All-Star bid, and dedicating the season to Raptor, the Raptors come out smoking through a tough November schedule. Struggling early on might lead to Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan being shipped, but both turn into mid-range gods. (With consistent three-point shooting too!)

Rudy Gay has the most notable improvement of the two though as he can, like, finally see the damn hoop now after eye surgery. This leads to his first appearance in the All-Star Game.

Toronto’s starting lineup has been notoriously effective and it will have another huge season, but the bench steps up as well. Terrence Ross continues to be an intriguing talent despite the limited time available to him and another guard Toronto trades for.

That’s where Vince Carter comes in! Getting shipped to Toronto in exchange for Steve Novak. He won’t play much, but is along for the playoff run that Toronto is headed for. Will he jinx the franchise he tanked for in his last season there or will the reigning boos whenever he plays there turn into heaps of joy in the postseason? Is that trade my biggest reach yet despite 90% of these predictions never happening?

Team #12: Atlanta Hawks

After trading Al Horford for Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Hedo Turkoglu’s expiring and a first round pick, Atlanta scores a record of…

Record from a hat: 28-54

Scenario: Atlanta just can’t go 28-54 without a trade or injury occurring. Because I hate predicting injuries I went with the former. Trading Horford in any scenario is a sign to build towards the future than present. It also helps when Paul Millsap is on such a fair, short deal. He, Harris, Vucevic, and Elton Brand make for some intriguing possibilities in their frontline, at least on offense.

Trading only Horford is pretty generous if the Hawks rebuild. Their entire roster should be on the plate this season regardless if things go south.

Since Atlanta also owns Brooklyn’s pick, the hat’s predictions puts the Hawks in the race for Andrew Wiggins.

Team #13: Washington Wizards

Record from a hat: 28-54

Scenario: It doesn’t help that Emeka Okafor is going to miss a good chunk, if not all of this season with a herniated disc in his neck. And then there’s Nene, whose feet might fall off at any moment. The options to replace them are dicey with Jan Vesely, Kevin Seraphin and Al Harrington (even if he made my 2014 Dream Team).

But there’s major upside in their backcourt. John Wall and Bradley Beal will be terrific with Wall chasing his first All-Star Game, but there’s not much else there if the frontline is depleted with injuries. Randy Wittman will be on the hot seat and probably fired if the Wizards do indeed go just 28-54.

Team #14: Cleveland Cavaliers

(Deep breath.)

Record from a hat: 60-22

!!!

It’s like they won the lottery.

Scenario: Bynum and Irving, lots and lots of healthy Andrew Bynum–the one Shaq thought was the best center in the NBA–and Kyrie Irving.

Tristan Thompson becomes something of a switch hitter: Shooting left-handed jump shots on the right side of the court and righties on the left side. Dion Waiters scores in an odd, efficient way and becomes more of an appetizing prospect than, say, Harrison Barnes. Anthony Bennett makes the best of the times Jarrett Jack passes to him and C.J. Miles makes his threes like he’s paid to do, which has been b a rarity throughout his career.

All of this and the hat’s prediction on the Cavs makes Kyrie Irving a favorite to win MVP.

Team #15: New York Knicks

So many weird ingredients in the hot steamy bowl that is the Knicks.

Record from a hat: 54-28

Scenario: I have to bullet this:

  • Somehow, this whole squad gets along which helps Mike Woodson resist the temptation to have a flask in his inner suit pocket.
  • Tyson Chandler stays healthy and remains a top-three candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.
  • Amar’e Stoudemire plays more than 15 games for 15 minutes per game. His per-36 numbers, at least on offense, will be good stat porn.
  • Every time Andrea Bargnani scores 20 points, every fan at MSG gets free pasta at a nearby, um, pasta restaurant. We’ll find out which one Bargnani stars in a commercial for soon enough.
  • Raymond Felton resists the temptation to eat as many Knicks fan’s pasta bowls as possible, chooses to stay in shape.

Recap

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers 60-22
  2. Toronto Raptors 60-22
  3. Detroit Pistons 59-23
  4. Philadelphia 76ers 55-27
  5. Miami Heat 55-27
  6. New York Knicks 54-28
  7. Chicago Bulls 46-36
  8. Indiana Pacers 44-38
  9. Orlando Magic 43-39
  10. Boston Celtics 41-41
  11. Charlotte Bobcats 40-42   
  12. Milwaukee Bucks 33-49
  13. Atlanta Hawks 28-54
  14. Washington Wizards 28-54 
  15. Brooklyn Nets 19-63

                      

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