NBA Predictions 2016-17: Win-Loss Projections for Every Team, Pre-Training Camp

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2016

NBA Predictions 2016-17: Win-Loss Projections for Every Team, Pre-Training Camp

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    Enjoy your NBA team's undefeated record while it lasts. 

    Though everyone will take an unblemished win-loss tally into training camp and the preseason, even the star-studded Golden State Warriors will lose at some point in 2016-17although that outcome will likely come far after the Brooklyn Nets and Phoenix Suns have dropped more than a few.

    Eventually, the all-knowing NBA standings will take shape. I'm just here to let you know how they should look well after games actually begin in late October.

    By pondering last year's records, the offseason additions and subtractions (including non-guaranteed deals in this pre-training camp edition), any other notable changes, and the levels of talent on the current rosters (as delineated by placements within the B/R NBA 200), I'm giving you the most informed record projections you could possibly hope for. 

    Apologies in advance for anyone who feels like their team is being slighted. I'd put every team in the playoffs if I could, but there are only 1,230 wins to go around during any given season, and that forces some painful choices. 

East: 15. Brooklyn Nets: 14-68

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    Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

    2015-16 Record: 21-61

    Subtractions: Andrea Bargnani, Markel Brown, Wayne Ellington, Jarrett Jack, Sergey Karasev, Shane Larkin, Willie Reed, Thomas Robinson, Donald Sloan, Thaddeus Young

    Additions: Beau Beech, Anthony Bennett, Trevor Booker, Yogi Ferrell, Randy Foye, Justin Hamilton, Joe Harris, Caris LeVert Jeremy Lin, Egidijus Mockevicius, Luis Scola, Greivis Vasquez, Isaiah Whitehead

    NBA 200 Representatives: Bojan Bogdanovic (178), Luis Scola (165), Jeremy Lin (105), Brook Lopez (46)

    Along with the New Orleans Pelicans, the Brooklyn Nets are one of only two teams who fail to roster even five players featured in the B/R NBA 200.

    But the problems don't end there: Three of the four representatives fall short of what you could even generously call "star power," the team's best player (Brook Lopez) could be shipped out before February's trade deadline and there are no elite prospects coming to town. Nothing could possibly expedite this rebuild, even if rookies such as Caris LeVert exceed the expectations in drastic fashion. 

    Rondae Hollis-Jefferson gives Brooklyn a shred of hope, but this is going to be an ugly season filled with gigantic losing margins and plenty of ineptitude. Head coach Kenny Atkinson must do everything possible to improve his team internally, and that means giving excessive minutes to young players who haven't yet earned such featured roles.

East: 14. Philadelphia 76ers: 22-60

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    2015-16 Record: 10-72

    Subtractions: Isaiah Canaan, Carl Landry, Kendall Marshall, Ish Smith, Sonny Weems, Christian Wood

    Additions: Cat Barber, Jerryd Bayless, Gerald Henderson, Shawn Long, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Brandon Paul, Sergio Rodriguez, Dario Saric, Ben Simmons, James Webb

    NBA 200 Representatives: Jerryd Bayless (179), Robert Covington (136), Jahlil Okafor (131), Jerami Grant (123), Nerlens Noel (94)

    The Philadelphia 76ers are still a mess. 

    A vastly more talented mess, sure, but that's the only way to describe a team that must figure out some combination of Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and Ben Simmons, all of whom are most comfortable operating at the biggest positions in a traditional rotation. Even having just Okafor and Noel in 2015-16 proved untenable, and they needed to be staggered. 

    For the first time in years, Philly has the pieces necessary to win games on some nights. Any one of the aforementioned standouts is capable of carrying his squad for a prolonged stretch, and that's saying nothing of other talented youngsters such as Robert Covington and Jerami Grant. But the Sixers are still seeking an identity; they're still trying to figure out how they can mix and match seemingly incompatible potential studs in cohesive fashion—still trying to make the proverbial leap. 

    Expect distinct progress, but not all of that will manifest itself in extra wins quite yet. Improving the quality of play and evaluating the future of each piece should be the priority in 2016-17. Making the playoffs can be the goal in 2017-18. 

East: 13. Milwaukee Bucks: 34-48

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    Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

    2015-16 Record: 33-49

    Subtractions: Jerryd Bayless, Chris Copeland, Tyler Ennis, Damien Inglis, O.J. Mayo, Johnny O'Bryant, Greivis Vasquez

    Additions: Michael Beasley, Malcolm Brogdon, Matthew Dellavedova, Xavier Henry, Orlando Johnson, Thon Maker, J.J. O'Brien, Mirza Teletovic, Jason Terry

    NBA 200 Representatives: Jabari Parker (156), Matthew Dellavedova (155), Michael Carter-Williams (152), Mirza Teletovic (129), Greg Monroe (76), Khris Middleton (32), Giannis Antetokounmpo (30)

    The Milwaukee Bucks' offseason made sense: Bringing in a bevy of shooters (Matthew Dellavedova, Jason Terry and Mirza Teletovic) while shooting for the stars by drafting Thon Maker improves this team. The loss of O.J. Mayo was unavoidable, and no other subtractions were made without corresponding additions who could better fit head coach Jason Kidd's schemes. 

    Though there's little doubt that growth from Giannis Antetokounmpo and the other youngsters will improve the Bucks' fortunes, until this team figures out its Greg Monroe problem, it'll be tough to make the gargantuan leap necessary for the Eastern Conference playoffs. 

    The big man is a talented offensive commodity who can hold his own on the glass, but his slow-footed play doesn't fit with the athletic leanings of his teammates. The same is true of his defensive woes, which negate much of the stellar perimeter work down low by Antetokounmpo and others. Sadly, we can't even count on defense from Khris Middleton, who will now miss nearly six months with a torn hamstring, per an official release from the team.

    Milwaukee was better with Monroe on the floor, but that's a misleading statistic. In addition to ignoring the context of those who played alongside him, it fails to reveal that using him prevented the youthful roster from reaching the full extent of its potential. It might be painful to trade him for pennies on the dollar, but that could be the only way Milwaukee is able to devote necessary minutes to the players who are clearly a part of the promising future. 

East: 12. Orlando Magic: 36-46

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    Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

    2015-16 Record: 35-47

    Subtractions: Dewayne Dedmon, Ersan Ilyasova, Brandon Jennings, Devyn Marble, Victor Oladipo, Shabazz Napier, Andrew Nicholson, Jason Smith

    Additions: Cliff Alexander, D.J. Augustin, Bismack Biyombo, Branden Dawson, Jeff Green, Serge Ibaka, Nick Johnson, Jodie Meeks, Kevin Murphy, Arinze Onuaku, Damjan Rudez, C.J. Wilcox, Stephen Zimmerman

    NBA 200 Representatives: Bismack Biyombo (167), Elfrid Payton (116), Jeff Green (110), Nikola Vucevic (88), Serge Ibaka (87), Evan Fournier (72), Aaron Gordon (66)

    Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan must not be a strict adherent to Gestalt psychology, because this whole isn't greater than the sum of its parts. 

    Individually, the Magic look like a playoff team. They may not have an a firm No. 1 option on offense, but they claim plenty of above-average players who are young enough to keep getting better—Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Bismack Biyombo and Elfrid Payton chief among them. 

    But what in the world is this team's direction? The offseason was spent acquiring talent in a manner that suggests different front-office members were pulling strings with virtually no communication. That's the only explanation for overloading the frontcourt with Biyombo, Serge Ibaka, Domantas Sabonis, Nikola Vucevic and Stephen Zimmerman, especially when you factor in Jeff Green and Aaron Gordon's mutual ability to play the 4.

    If Orlando—barring a midseason trade that moved frontcourt pieces for smaller ones—had a motto for the 2016-17 season, it would be "We don't believe in diminishing marginal returns." But unfortunately, that's not how roster construction works, since lack of minutes will cancel out a sizable portion of more than one talented prospect's potential impact. 

East: 11. New York Knicks: 37-45

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    2015-16 Record: 32-50

    Subtractions: Arron Afflalo, Jose Calderon, Cleanthony Early, Langston Galloway, Jerian Grant, Robin Lopez, Kevin Seraphin, Amar'e Stoudemire, Derrick Williams, Tony Wroten

    Additions: Ron Baker, Willy Hernangomez, Justin Holiday, Brandon Jennings, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Courtney Lee, Maurice Ndour, Joakim Noah, Marshall Plumlee, Chasson Randle, Derrick Rose, J.P. Tokoto

    NBA 200 Representatives: Courtney Lee (159), Lance Thomas (147), Derrick Rose (109), Kristaps Porzingis (83), Carmelo Anthony (21)

    The names on this New York Knicks roster hold appeal to the general public, but that doesn't mean this squad is anything close to a "superteam." There's more talent in the Big Apple than the Knicks have rostered in years, but a quick turnaround isn't coming. 

    Derrick Rose was the offseason's much-ballyhooed addition, but there's precious little evidence he's even a mid-tier starting point guard at this stage of his career. He struggled to assert himself as a top-100 player in 2015-16 (admittedly improving toward the end of the campaign) and will now feel out his new teammates in conjunction with a civil rape trial set to begin on Oct. 4 and lasting between eight and 10 days, per Daniel Werly of the White Bronco.

    As Bleacher Report's Dan Favale explains while providing an important caveat about our focus here, the timing could be significant:

    That timeline has Rose missing around three preseason games, but the proceedings won't end with the outcome. What if the ensuing media coverage becomes a distraction for him—not that this is by any means the leading concern of the case, but we are analyzing basketball here—and the rest of the team? What if he's subjected to disciplinary action from the Knicks or NBA that takes him off the court?

    Beyond Rose, the Knicks are banking on Carmelo Anthony staving off Father Time-mandated declines, Joakim Noah fighting back from years of injuries and decreasing effectiveness, Brandon Jennings learning how to shoot, and Kristaps Porzingis developing into a superstar while enduring a shifting role. 

East: 10. Chicago Bulls: 39-43

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    Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

    2015-16 Record: 42-40

    Subtractions: Cameron Bairstow, Aaron Brooks, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Pau Gasol, Justin Holiday, E'Twaun Moore, Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose

    Additions: J.J. Avila, Isaiah Canaan, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jerian Grant, Robin Lopez, Rajon Rondo, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Denzel Valentine, Dwyane Wade, Paul Zipser

    NBA 200 Representatives: Doug McDermott (199), Bobby Portis (176), Nikola Mirotic (121), Rajon Rondo (115), Taj Gibson (101), Robin Lopez (71), Dwyane Wade (23), Jimmy Butler (20)

    Last year's Chicago Bulls struggled to finish above .500, and that was with a significantly more talented roster. However, it's easy to stare into this year's mirage and become convinced otherwise. First, let's look solely at a comparison between last year's most-used starting five and this year's projected bunch, based on NBA Math's total points added in 2015-16: 

    PGDerrick Rose (Minus-137.97)Rajon Rondo (52.85)
    SGJimmy Butler (197.32)Dwyane Wade (35.23)
    SFTony Snell (Minus-106.36)Jimmy Butler (197.32)
    PFTaj Gibson (61.76)Nikola Mirotic (39.38)
    CPau Gasol (182.72)Robin Lopez (60.45)

    Much better, right? 

    It is until you look at chemistry. All of a sudden, you're trying to paste together three ball-dependent players and make a starting five work with virtually zero spacing. If Taj Gibson works his way into the opening lineup, that problem becomes even more dire. 

    Plus, these Bulls will be terrifyingly thin unless they can rely on Bobby Portis, Jerian Grant and Denzel Valentine quite often. Don't be fooled by the big names and recognizable jerseys. 

East: 9. Indiana Pacers: 39-43

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    Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    2015-16 Record: 45-37

    Subtractions: George Hill, Jordan Hill, Solomon Hill, Ty Lawson, Ian Mahinmi, Shayne Whittington

    Additions: Aaron Brooks, Jeremy Evans, Al Jefferson, Georges Niang, Alex Poythress, Kevin Seraphin, Julyan Stone, Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young, Nick Zeisloft

    NBA 200 Representatives: Lavoy Allen (181), C.J. Miles (177), Myles Turner (141), Al Jefferson (107), Thaddeus Young (100), Monta Ellis (68), Jeff Teague (64), Paul George (8)

    The Indiana Pacers desperately want to push the pace, hence trading for both Thaddeus Young and Jeff Teague while handing the reins at center to Myles Turner. And yes, we can just overlook the signing of Al Jefferson for that schematic statement, since he'll be a change-of-pace big off the bench when Indiana wants to slow things down. 

    But by moving this direction, the Pacers expose themselves to other problems—and we're not just referring to the fact that George Hill was stealthily more effective than Teague in 2015-16. 

    Teague, Monta Ellis and Paul George are all ball-dominant players, and pairing the three of them together forces them to play outside their comfort zones. (While the point guard thrived as a spot-up shooter for the Atlanta Hawks, there's no guarantee Teague's success was anything more than a one-year fluke in a system designed to promote that type of output.) 

    Additionally, Teague and Ellis both figure to be defensive liabilities. Hill's point-preventing prowess made Ellis' life easier in 2015-16, thereby turning him into a plus on that end, but Teague won't offer his teammate the same luxury of weaker nightly matchups. 

    Indiana has the talent necessary to compete with most teams, but a lack of consistency and easily exploitable weaknesses should leave it just outside the Eastern playoff picture. 

East: 8. Miami Heat: 40-42

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    2015-16 Record: 48-34

    Subtractions: Luol Deng, Gerald Green, Joe Johnson, Amar'e Stoudemire, Dwyane Wade, Dorell Wright

    Additions: Luke Babbitt, Wayne Ellington, Stefan Jankovic, James Johnson, Rodney McGruder, Willie Reed, Dion Waiters, Okaro White, Derrick Williams

    NBA 200 Representatives: Justise Winslow (158), Dion Waiters (157), Tyler Johnson (150), Josh Richardson (142), Goran Dragic (53), Chris Bosh (35), Hassan Whiteside (29)

    "The [Miami] Heat has been putting forward Chris Bosh through a physical examination and a battery of tests this week, and he still had not been cleared medically to return as of Wednesday morning, according to an NBA-employed official with knowledge of the situation," Barry Jackson reported for the Miami Herald

    If Chris Bosh is at full strength, this projection will likely be far too low. After all, the stretchy big was once again establishing himself as an elite frontcourt player before a second bout with blood clots knocked him out of action and put his career in jeopardy. 

    Of course, we also have to consider the possibility that he might not play—or at least that he may be limited if he does. In that situation, the Heat could be hard-pressed to make the playoffs in an improving Eastern Conference. 

    Hassan Whiteside is a legitimate centerpiece, and it's not hard to see him emerging as a top-20 player while he continues to work on his offense and the mental strides he made defensively in 2015-16.

    Goran Dragic is finally gaining comfort in South Beach. But beyond those two, this roster is composed of youngsters still aching to prove themselves, and it's hard to bank on consistent play from any of the heretofore unmentioned NBA 200 representatives quite yet. 

    With Luol Deng, Joe Johnson and Dwyane Wade leaving town, the additions don't measure up to the subtractions, which makes internal improvement all the more important.  

East: 7. Washington Wizards: 43-39

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    2015-16 Record: 41-41

    Subtractions: Alan Anderson, Jared Dudley, Drew Gooden, J.J. Hickson, Nene, Ramon Sessions, Garrett Temple

    Additions: Trey Burke, Danuel House, Ian Mahinmi, Sheldon McClellan, Andrew Nicholson, Daniel Ochefu, Tomas Satoransky, Jason Smith

    NBA 200 Representatives: Ian Mahinmi (103), Otto Porter (81), Marcin Gortat (78), Bradley Beal (75), John Wall (17)

    The Washington Wizards may have finished in the lottery last year, but they made a substantial push up the leaderboard toward the end of the regular season. After the All-Star break, they even outscored their opponents by 3.1 points per 100 possessions. (For perspective, the Boston Celtics' season-long net rating was a mere 3.2.) 

    Washington should be able to build upon that success as it returns most of its core and adds impact players such as Ian Mahinmi and Andrew Nicholson to the bench. This starting lineup remains potent, and the second unit won't squander as many leads in 2016-17. 

    Of course, any upside will still rely upon the backcourt's growth, and there are significant reasons for concern. John Wall even told CSN's Chris Miller the following about himself and Bradley Beal, as transcribed by's J. Michael:

    I think a lot of times we have a tendency to dislike each other on the court. ... We got to be able to put that to the side. If you miss somebody on one play or don’t have something go long as you come to each other and talk. If I starting arguing with somebody I’m cool. I’m just playing basketball. 

    That's...not what the Wizards want to hear from their clear-cut superstar, particularly given Beal's static development in recent years.

East: 6. Atlanta Hawks: 45-37

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    John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

    2015-16 Record: 48-34

    Subtractions: Al Horford, Kirk Hinrich, Lamar Patterson, Jeff Teague

    Additions: DeAndre' Bembry, Will Bynum, Matt Costello, Malcolm Delaney, Dwight Howard, Jarrett Jack, Ryan Kelly, Taurean Prince, Richard Solomon

    NBA 200 Representatives: Thabo Sefolosha (139), Kyle Korver (130), Dennis Schroder (127), Jarrett Jack (122), Kent Bazemore (96), Dwight Howard (73), Paul Millsap (10)

    A new era begins for the Atlanta Hawks. 

    Jeff Teague has been firmly entrenched as the team's starting point guard since the opening portion of the 2011-12 campaign, but an offseason trade sent him to the Indiana Pacers. Dennis Schroder will attempt to fill his shoes, and that's no easy task for a ball-dominant floor general in a system that asks every player to share the rock. 

    But the bigger loss was Al Horford, who joins the Boston Celtics after the first nine years of his professional career in Atlanta. In his place stands Dwight Howard, hoping for redemption after flaming out with both the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets. 

    These Hawks are still a talented bunch, and they should be capable of playing suffocating defense under head coach Mike Budenholzer. The offensive system will also help young wings such as Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince thrive, and we can't overlook the impact of All-Star power forward Paul Millsap. 

    But the identity of this squad is changing dramatically without Horford's steadiness on both ends, and growing pains are inevitable. Atlanta should be considered the first of the East's six playoff locks, but it'll be awfully difficult to replicate the success it found during the last two years. 

East: 5. Charlotte Hornets: 47-35

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    Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

    2015-16 Record: 48-34

    Subtractions: Troy Daniels, Jorge Gutierrez, Tyler Hansbrough, Al Jefferson, Courtney Lee, Jeremy Lin

    Additions: Andrew Andrews, Marco Belinelli, Treveon Graham, Roy Hibbert, Brian Roberts, Ramon Sessions, Rasheed Sulaimon,  Mike Tobey, Christian Wood

    NBA 200 Representatives: Jeremy Lamb (195), Cody Zeller (192), Marvin Williams (58), Nicolas Batum (25), Kemba Walker (22)

    Though Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum will continue serving as the leaders, the Charlotte Hornets have been definitively better with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on the court for a while now. It's almost unbelievable that this team won 48 games in 2015-16 with its ace defender healing from multiple shoulder injuries. 

    Just take a gander at how the Hornets' net rating has fared with and without him:

    YearNet Rating withNet Rating withoutNet Rating Improvement

    Offseason departures thinned out the entire roster, even if players such as Al Jefferson were clearly on the decline. Losing Jeremy Linwho was a sneaky candidate for Sixth Man of the Yearand Courtney Lee's two-way ability will prove detrimental. 

    But the additions of Marco Belinelli, Roy Hibbert, Ramon Sessions and Brian Roberts help restock the second unit, and we can't overlook the impact of Kidd-Gilchrist regaining his health and shutting down the team's toughest perimeter assignments. 

    There's no severe regression coming in Charlotte. 

East: 4. Detroit Pistons: 49-33

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    David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

    2015-16 Record: 44-38

    Subtractions: Joel Anthony, Steve Blake, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jodie Meeks, Anthony Tolliver

    Additions: Henry Ellenson, Trey Freeman, Michael Gbinije, Nikola Jovanovic, Jon Leuer, Boban Marjanovic, Ray McCallum, Ish Smith

    NBA 200 Representatives: Boban Marjanovic (197), Jon Leuer (160), Stanley Johnson (146), Ish Smith (138), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (89), Marcus Morris (67), Tobias Harris (65), Reggie Jackson (41), Andre Drummond (24)

    "These aren't huge names, but the Pistons continue to make sensible moves," the CBS Sports Staff wrote while giving the Detroit Pistons an "A-" for their offseason decisions. "This will be the deepest roster Stan Van Gunny has had in Detroit, but he didn't add anyone who will get in the way of the development of his young core."

    Frankly, an "A-" might be selling Detroit short. 

    Every subtraction was replaced by an effective addition. Every incoming player fits perfectly with the scheme and should be able to provide much more depth behind established players. Even if Henry Ellenson is slow to develop, the trio of Ish Smith, Jon Leuer and Boban Marjanovic should give the Pistons a stellar second unit. 

    This team continues to revolve around Andre Drummond and the shooters who surround him, and that's good news. Drummond may have been slightly overrated in 2015-16, thanks to his inability to finish plays in the post and his occasionally shabby defensive positioning, but we're now talking about a 23-year-old center gaining comfort and entering his third year under head coach Stan Van Gundy. 

    The best is yet to come, and the Pistons could very well establish themselves as a dark-horse challenger in the Eastern Conference. 

East: 3. Toronto Raptors: 50-32

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    Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

    2015-16 Record: 56-26

    Subtractions: Anthony Bennett, Bismack Biyombo, James Johnson, Luis Scola, Jason Thompson 

    Additions: Drew Crawford, Brady Heslip, Yanick Moreira, Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam, E.J. Singler, Jared Sullinger, Jarrod Uthoff, Fred VanVleet

    NBA 200 Representatives: Terrence Ross (189), Patrick Patterson (182), Jared Sullinger (172), Norman Powell (171), Cory Joseph (111), Jonas Valanciunas (60), DeMar DeRozan (38), Kyle Lowry (7)

    Losing Bismack Biyombo hurts, especially when that comes in conjunction with the departures of James Johnson and Luis Scola. Though Jared Sullinger and Jakob Poeltl should help, neither is a lock to be the same game-changing defensive presence who helped the Toronto Raptors survive in Jonas Valanciunas' absences. 

    This is still a strong outfit, but the weaknesses are a bit easier to find in 2016-17. 

    Not only could the rim protection take a step in the wrong direction after finishing No. 13 in percentage allowed at the hoop, per's SportVU data, but don't bet hard on Kyle Lowry replicating his recent exploits. The 30-year-old point guard finished No. 8 in NBA Math's TPA during 2015-16, and it's tough to count on a second consecutive career year at an age (30) where many floor generals begin to decline. 

    Of course, Lowry should still play like an All-Star. DeMar DeRozan is back in the fold, though it would be nice to see more defensive effort and fewer mid-range jumpers from him. Norman Powell is on the verge of a breakout, and the contingent of backup point guards (Cory Joseph and Delon Wright) should help keep the starters fresh. 

    Toronto won't fall out of the playoff picture, but winning at least 50 games for the second year in a row will have zero margin for error. 

East: 2. Boston Celtics: 51-31

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    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    2015-16 Record: 48-34

    Subtractions: John Holland, Jared Sullinger, Evan Turner

    Additions: Ben Bentil, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Georges-Hunt, Gerald Green, Al Horford, Demetrius Jackson, Jalen Jones, Damion Lee, Abdel Nader

    NBA 200 Representatives: Marcus Smart (168), Kelly Olynyk (125), Amir Johnson (108), Avery Bradley (86), Jae Crowder (39), Isaiah Thomas (37), Al Horford (28)

    As Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens explained on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s Zolak & Bertrand (as transcribed by CBS Boston), the addition of Al Horford brings so much to this Eastern Conference challenger:

    I’m excited for him for a number of reasons. He’s a good player, a very efficient offensive player; scoring and passing, he doesn’t turn the ball over. Defensively he can play a couple of different positions and has a great feel for team concepts. All of that.

    The thing that is really exciting is he’s a guy who has been a winner his whole [career]. He’s a nine-year player in the NBA and has been in the playoffs all nine years. He came from a Florida team that won two National Championships. He has an opportunity to lead by example here.

    One of the big knocks on last year's Beantown iteration was a dearth of star power. Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder were impressive on offense and defense, respectively, but there was no singular stud who could draw national attention and push the team. Everything was a group effort. 

    The collective effort isn't going anywhere, but the C's have found their superstar in Horford. Better still, they did so without losing pieces more important than Jared Sullinger and Evan Turner, whose contributions can be replaced by Horford's two-way prowess and facilitating excellence in the frontcourt.

    All of a sudden, this is a deep team stocked with plenty of upper-tier talent. 

East: 1. Cleveland Cavaliers: 55-27

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    2015-16 Record: 57-25

    Subtractions: Matthew Dellavedova, Joe Harris, Dahntay Jones, Sasha Kaun, Timofey Mozgov

    Additions: Chris Andersen, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Kay Felder, DeAndre Liggins

    NBA 200 Representatives: J.R. Smith* (99), Tristan Thompson (97), Kevin Love (34), Kyrie Irving (31), LeBron James (2)

    The Cleveland Cavaliers aren't a particularly deep bunch, and a second unit composed of Kay Felder, Iman Shumpert, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Channing Frye and Chris Andersen won't strike fear in any opponent's heart. But it doesn't matter, because the talent at the top is unimpeachable.

    LeBron James remains a dominant force, and his performance while bringing the Cavs back from a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit proved he could still assert himself as the world's best player. Whether he does so again is an entirely different question now that Cleveland once has little to prove in the regular season and should run away with the East's No. 1 seed. But counting him out of the MVP race is utterly foolish. 

    J.R. Smith (if he re-signs) has been a tremendous addition now that he's fully accepted his role, and Tristan Thompson is only improving on offense as he maintains his rebounding chops. Then there are the other two members of the Big Three—Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. 

    For all the criticism levied in Love's direction, he's continued to perform like a top-notch power forward. He doesn't take over games like he did with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but he's improved his defensive ability and settled in as a tertiary option on offense.

    There's nothing wrong with becoming the clear-cut third fiddle to James and Irving—and it should be noted that Irving is well on his way to claiming a spot as a top-five point guard, even if his rank in the B/R NBA 200 is depressed by injuries and struggles to regain his form during the regular season. 

    Fifty-five wins is by no means an insult to the defending champions. It's just accepting the reality that head coach Tyronn Lue will be looking to preserve his key players and build the bench before the inevitable playoff run. 

    *Smith remains a free agent, but no reports have emerged that he's talking to any team other than the Cavaliers.

West: 15. Phoenix Suns: 26-56

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    Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

    2015-16 Record: 23-59

    Subtractions: DeJuan Blair, Alec Brown, Chase Budinger, Jon Leuer, Ronnie Price, Mirza Teletovic

    Additions: Leandro Barbosa, Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss, Jared Dudley, Shaquille Harrison, Derrick Jones Jr., Tyler Ulis

    NBA 200 Representatives: Alex Len (194), Tyson Chandler (190), Jared Dudley (170), P.J. Tucker (166), T.J. Warren (140), Devin Booker (126), Brandon Knight (56), Eric Bledsoe (48)

    The Phoenix Suns added some nice pieces during the offseason, whether we're looking at nostalgia-inducing returns of Leandro Barbosa and Jared Dudley or the draft-day haul of Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and Tyler Ulis. But becoming more competitive doesn't mean wins come flowing in 2016-17. 

    Even if Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe remain healthy, Devin Booker keeps improving after his second-half breakout and the incoming rookies are more prepared to compete than expected, this team lags behind most other Western Conference squads in NBA-ready talent.

    It has more potential, sure. But while that might manifest itself in some momentum-earning victories, those will be few and far between as growing pains depress the win total and leave Phoenix looking to acquire another elite prospect in the 2017 NBA draft. This team is better than your typical 26-win squad, but rest assured this will be the franchise's worst record throughout the foreseeable future. 

West: 14. Los Angeles Lakers: 27-45

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    Brian Babineau/Getty Images

    2015-16 Record: 17-65

    Subtractions: Brandon Bass, Kobe Bryant, Roy Hibbert, Ryan Kelly, Robert Sacre

    Additions: Zach Auguste, Jose Calderon, Luol Deng, Brandon Ingram, Julian Jacobs, Yi Jianlian, Timofey Mozgov, Thomas Robinson, Travis Wear, Ivica Zubac

    NBA 200 Representatives: Julius Randle (187), Jose Calderon (180), D'Angelo Russell (174), Lou Williams (151), Jordan Clarkson (106), Luol Deng (63)

    If you genuinely think the Los Angeles Lakers are going to surge into playoff contention one year after winning just 17 games, take off your purple-and-gold-tinted glasses.

    The team was atrocious in 2015-16, ranking No. 29 and No. 30 in offensive and defensive rating, respectively. NBA Math's team rating shows those Lakers were the 25th-worst squad in league history, and building off that is no easy task. 

    Fortunately, the Lakers are doing a nice job amid this monumental rebuild. They've collected some solid role players, made big offseason additions in Luol Deng and Brandon Ingram and are able to dedicate substantial time to developing prospects. A six-man core of Jordan Clarkson, D'Angelo Russell, Ingram, Deng, Julius Randle and Timofey Mozgov represents an unmitigated step in the right direction. Plus, they have a sparkling new head coach in Luke Walton. 

    Winning an additional 10 games would actually make the Lakers one of the Association's most improved teams, and there's no reason to think the upward trend would stop after just one year. But L.A. is starting at quite a low point, so the immediate expectations have to be tempered. 

West: 13. Sacramento Kings: 30-52

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    2015-16 Record: 33-49

    Subtractions: Quincy Acy, James Anderson, Marco Belinelli, Caron Butler, Seth Curry, Duje Dukan, Eric Moreland, Rajon Rondo

    Additions: Arron Afflalo, Matt Barnes, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Isaiah Cousins, Jordan Farmar, Skal Labissiere, Ty Lawson, Georgios Papagiannis, Malachi Richardson, Garrett Temple, Anthony Tolliver

    NBA 200 Representatives: Willie Cauley-Stein (183), Matt Barnes (161), Arron Afflalo (134), Darren Collison (132), Omri Casspi (102), Rudy Gay (69), DeMarcus Cousins (14)

    DeMarcus Cousins alone can carry these Sacramento Kings to a handful of victories, but there are problems everywhere else.

    The point guards are an utter mess following the departure of Rajon Rondo. Darren Collison is the presumed starter, but he's coming off a mediocre season and could be facing league-mandated punishment after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor violation of domestic battery. Behind him, the washed-up versions of Ty Lawson and Jordan Farmar don't inspire confidence. 

    At shooting guard, they have to decide whether to play Arron Afflalo (clearly declining during his time with the New York Knicks last season) or notorious draft bust Ben McLemore. Small forward is problematic because Sacramento has no idea what to do with Rudy Gay and will struggle to keep him motivated if it doesn't acquiesce to his tacit requests for a trade. 

    "The man is miserable," Ailene Voisin wrote for the Sacramento Bee. "He has been moping around for the better part of two seasons. His decision to opt out of the final year of his contract comes as no surprise. It was Gay—in his familiar and typically polite way—encouraging the Kings to trade him, preferably to a contender, and sooner rather than later."

    Then there's the frontcourt conglomerate, which will see Willie-Cauley Stein, Anthony Tolliver, Skal Labissiere, Kosta Koufos and Georgios Papagiannis compete for minutes alongside and behind Cousins after an offseason in which the Kings' brain trust inexplicably decided it wanted all the bigs. 

    Bet on this team overachieving at your own risk. 

West: 12. New Orleans Pelicans: 32-50

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    2015-16 Record: 30-52

    Subtractions: Jeff Adrien, Ryan Anderson, Luke Babbitt, Norris Cole, Toney Douglas, James Ennis, Eric Gordon, Kendrick Perkins

    Additions: Chris Copeland, Shawn Dawson, Cheick Diallo, Langston Galloway, Buddy Hield, Solomon Hill, Terrence Jones, E'Twaun Moore, Robert Sacre, Lance Stephenson

    NBA 200 Representatives: Lance Stephenson (153), Jrue Holiday (62), Anthony Davis (12)

    Congratulations to the New Orleans Pelicans for having the fewest representatives in this year's NBA 200. Of the three, Anthony Davis is the only obvious star, though Jrue Holiday could get there if he would just stay healthy. There's no telling how much Lance Stephenson will even play, since his rank was predicated upon injury-created opportunity with the Memphis Grizzlies. 

    And that's it, though it's worth noting Tyreke Evans likely would've made the cut had he played in enough contests to qualify. 

    Following the departures of Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson, the Pelicans are searching for answers across the board. The general offseason theme seemed to be acquiring overlooked players with upside and hoping they break out in a new location (see: Moore, E'Twaun; Hill, Solomon; and Jones, Terrence). 

    But while that could improve the future for this franchise, it means present success will be tougher to come by. A starting five of Jrue Holiday, Buddy Hield, Evans, Davis and Omer Asik isn't a playoff-caliber unit, and it's not like the uninspiring backups will carry NOLA into the promised land. Unless Davis goes supernova, it'll be another disappointing year by the bayou. 

West: 11. Houston Rockets: 38-44

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    2015-16 Record: 41-41

    Subtractions: Michael Beasley, Andrew Goudelock, Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Josh Smith, Jason Terry

    Additions: Ryan Anderson, Tyler Ennis, Eric Gordon, Nene, Chinanu Onuaku, Pablo Prigioni

    NBA 200 Representatives: Eric Gordon (133), Trevor Ariza (119), Patrick Beverley (92), Ryan Anderson (54), James Harden (13)

    Losing Dwight Howard is a big deal, even if he's being replaced by promising young center Clint Capela. For all the knocks Howard took during his tenure with the Houston Rockets—and plenty of them were legitimate—his interior defense, pick-and-roll work and rebounding made him a distinct plus. The team was undeniably better when he was on the floor. 

    Capela will mitigate some of the negative impact, but he's by no means as effective a two-way force. Replacing Howard will be a joint effort, which makes a resurgent season from Nene more of a need than a desire. 

    The Rockets did add talent during the offseason, and it was nicely spread throughout the roster. But this squad still lacks convincing depth at some spots and is counting on a host of one-way players (and coach Mike D'Antoni) being cancelled out by the few plus-defenders who earn significant run.

    Houston will remain in the playoff race for much of the year, especially with James Harden running the show and looking to another MVP bid. But after an offseason in which plenty of Western Conference teams made substantial strides—whether through summer additions or expected internal improvement—the Rockets didn't do quite enough to avoid a lottery finish.  

West: 10. Denver Nuggets: 40-42

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    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

    2015-16 Record: 33-49

    Subtractions: D.J. Augustin, Joffrey Lauvergne

    Additions: Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez, Robbie Hummel, D.J. Kennedy, Jamal Murray, Jarnell Stokes, Nate Wolters

    NBA 200 Representatives: Emmanuel Mudiay (186), Gary Harris (128), Kenneth Faried (114), Will Barton (98), Nikola Jokic (70), Danilo Gallinari (51)

    "I hate to lose," Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone told's Matt Moore. "I'm competitive. I go into every game truly expecting to win. My expectation, going into every game because we're prepared, we've got everything down, is to win."

    This year, those expectations won't be ridiculous. 

    Denver has the depth of talent necessary to hang with nearly every team in the league. But going from staying competitive to actually emerging victoriously is an even tougher step than becoming competitive in the first place, and the Nuggets don't have a single superstar such as Karl-Anthony Towns who can help bypass that developmental stage. 

    This roster boasts plenty of up-and-coming talent and should spend much of the season functioning as a potential spoiler in the Western Conference, but this team is still another year away from earning a playoff spot. While it's possible any number of Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Nikola Jokic, Malik Beasley and Jamal Murray could break out and become undeniable stars, there's just not enough established play in the Mile High City. 

West: 9. Dallas Mavericks: 41-41

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    2015-16 Record: 42-40

    Subtractions: Jeremy Evans, Raymond Felton, David Lee, JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia, Chandler Parsons, Charlie Villanueva

    Additions: Quincy Acy, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Nicolas Brussino, Kyle Collinsworth, Seth Curry, Dorian Finney-Smith, Jonathan Gibson, A.J. Hammons, Keith Hornsby, Jameel Warney, C.J. Williams

    NBA 200 Representatives: Devin Harris (163), J.J. Barea (162), Deron Williams (118), Wesley Matthews (117), Harrison Barnes (93), Andrew Bogut (61), Dirk Nowitzki (33)

    Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle is a genius at maximizing talent and will probably find a way to make this prediction look laughably bad, but it's tough to see this squad in the postseason. The additions simply don't stack up against the subtractions, and it's not like Dallas can count on many homegrown improvements. 

    Sure, Justin Anderson could blossom into a solid presence in the starting lineup. Dirk Nowitzki could stave off a substantial decline for yet another year. But you're still attempting to replace Zaza Pachulia, Chandler Parsons and Raymond Felton, and that's no easy task. 

    Harrison Barnes hasn't yet proved he can thrive in a bigger role, and his teammates on the Golden State Warriors excelled at building him up. Dallas has no one who can draw as much attention as Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson or Draymond Green; it's banking on growth from Barnes that, at this point, is merely hypothetical. 

    In a vacuum, Andrew Bogut is better than Pachulia. But the Australian center's game is predicated on chemistry and a fine-tuned understanding of his teammates' positioning. Thus, he could be less valuable than Pachulia as he learns how to thrive in his new digs. 

    As for replacing Felton, the backup point guard had a strong season as a second-stringer, and his departure leaves the Mavericks perilously thin at the 1—Deron Williams, J.J. Barea and Devin Harris are solid, but they're all aging and coming off summer rehabs. 

West: 8. Minnesota Timberwolves: 42-40

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    Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

    2015-16 Record: 29-53

    Subtractions: Tayshaun Prince, Damjan Rudez, Greg Smith

    Additions: Cole Aldrich, Kris Dunn, Jordan Hill, John Lucas III, Toure' Murry, Brandon Rush

    NBA 200 Representatives: Nemanja Bjelica (193), Gorgui Dieng (91), Zach LaVine (74), Ricky Rubio (50), Andrew Wiggins (47), Karl-Anthony Towns (18)

    How can you not get excited about the Minnesota Timberwolves? Each of the following players is reason enough to tune into a Minnesota broadcast, which should quickly become one of the nation's League Pass favorites:

    • Karl-Anthony Towns was so good as a rookie that we're already comfortable calling him a top-20 player, even if he's only tapped a tiny percentage of his ginormous potential. 
    • Zach LaVine blossomed into a sharp-shooting offensive stud as soon as the 'Wolves realized he was best suited in an off-ball role. Oh, and he's pretty decent at dunking. 
    • Andrew Wiggins is brimming over with upside on both ends of the court and should come far closer to his status as a generational prospect entering his third professional season. 
    • Ricky Rubio's becoming a tremendously underrated point guard as he pairs his dazzling passing skills with a better spot-up jumper and great defensive instincts. 
    • Kris Dunn should assert himself as a defensive ace and great playmaker during his rookie season.

    And that's saying nothing of Nemanja Bjelica (one of the best shooters casual fans have never heard of) and Gorgui Dieng (a defensive stud with a burgeoning offensive game who would break out if he were given more opportunities). Plus, you can throw in the depth-aiding additions of Cole Aldrich and Co., as well as the most effective move of all: replacing Sam Mitchell with Tom Thibodeau as the head coach. 

    There are many reasons everyone is predicting a leap from these young 'Wolves. 

West: 7. Oklahoma City Thunder: 43-39

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    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

    2015-16 Record: 55-27

    Subtractions: Kevin Durant, Randy Foye, Serge Ibaka, Nazr Mohammed, Dion Waiters

    Additions: Alex Abrines, Semaj Christon, Daniel Hamilton, Ersan Ilyasova, Joffrey Lauvergne, Victor Oladipo, Ronnie Price, Domantas Sabonis

    NBA 200 Representatives: Andre Roberson (191), Enes Kanter (113), Steven Adams (82), Victor Oladipo (52), Russell Wetbrook (4)

    Hearken back to the 2014-15 season, when the Oklahoma City Thunder got only 27 games from Kevin Durant. Without him, OKC still outscored the opposition, albeit by a mere 0.1 points per 100 possessions. During the 55 contests he missed, it even mustered up a 28-27 record while Russell Westbrook led the charge. 

    A similar situation should unfold in 2016-17: Durant is now on the Golden State Warriors, and Westbrook is the clear-cut alpha dog after signing an extension that left little doubt about his status as the team leader.

    Westbrook has a palatable group of players surrounding him, and he's grown even better over the last two seasons. He's ready to lead a team into the playoffs almost single-handedly, and the offseason moves made by OKC's front office will ensure he doesn't even have to do that.

    Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson, Dion Waiters and others are gone, but even if we look past potential breakouts from Steven Adams and Cameron Payne, as well as growth from Enes Kanter, the Thunder added plenty of talent by trading for Victor Oladipo and Ersan Ilyasova.

    This team is no longer a playoff lock, but it enters the season as a good bet to play more than 82 games—even if it's not many more. 

West: 6. Portland Trail Blazers: 44-38

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    Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

    2015-16 Record: 44-38

    Subtractions: Cliff Alexander, Gerald Henderson, Chris Kaman, Brian Roberts

    Additions: Festus Ezeli, Grant Jerrett, Jake Layman, Shabazz Napier, Tim Quarterman, Greg Stiemsma, Evan Turner

    NBA 200 Representatives: Meyers Leonard (196), Maurice Harkless (173), Ed Davis (154), Allen Crabbe (124), Mason Plumlee (112), Al-Farouq Aminu (104), Evan Turner (84), C.J. McCollum (45), Damian Lillard (16)

    While Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are the headliners, it's depth of talent in Rip City that should excite the passionate fanbase. 

    The Portland Trail Blazers boasted nine representatives in this year's B/R NBA 200, which leaves them tied with the Detroit Pistons and behind only the Utah Jazz (10). What's incredible is that more than nine could earn such a distinction in 2016-17we don't want to rule out Festus Ezeli if he gets healthy and earns a big role.

    "Ezeli is big and brawny, standing 6'11" and weighing 255 pounds, and he excels on defense," the Oregonian's Joe Freeman wrote after Portland poached the center from the Golden State Warriors. "He'll instantly upgrade the Blazers' interior defense, adding muscle, athleticism and a dimension the team did not have last season."

    An injury to Lillard or McCollum would wreck this team's chances of earning a top seed in the Western Conference, but the Blazers can withstand blows to anyone else. That's a luxury many teams don't have, though Portland doesn't have the upside of the teams surrounding them in this countdown, which head coach Terry Stotts might readily admit.

    As he told's Zach Lowe, "We are probably not going to make the quantum leap the salaries might indicate. As a coach, you take the money out of it. We just want to grow." 

    Rest assured, their floor is rather lofty. 

West: 5. Memphis Grizzlies: 45-37

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    Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

    2015-16 Record: 42-40

    Subtractions: Chris Andersen, Matt Barnes, Mario Chalmers, Bryce Cotton, Jordan Farmar, P.J. Hairston, Ray McCallum, Lance Stephenson

    Additions: Wade Baldwin IV, Troy Daniels, Deyonta Davis, James Ennis, Andrew Harrison, Chandler Parsons, Wayne Selden Jr., D.J. Stephens, Troy Williams, Tony Wroten

    NBA 200 Representatives: JaMychal Green (188), Tony Allen (137), Zach Randolph (80), Chandler Parsons (55), Mike Conley (44), Marc Gasol (27)

    Mike Conley. Tony Allen. Chandler Parsons. Zach Randolph. Marc Gasol. 

    The Memphis Grizzlies' starting five may not be glamorous, but it's pretty darn effective. Parsons was the perfect addition to the incumbents, and his shooting ability should help space out the floor like no one has on Beale Street since the days of Mike Miller. All of a sudden, there are no glaring weaknesses, so long as the bigs continue turning back the clock. 

    But the excitement about this team doesn't end there: Troy Daniels and Wade Baldwin IV should be strong additions to the backcourt, while JaMychal Green and Deyonta Davis bring upside up front. The bench may not be filled with household names, but it contains plenty of players who can shore up distinct weaknesses while flashing potential. 

    Memphis isn't likely to be mentioned as a true contender in the Western Conferenceit deservedly falls more than a bit shy. But this is a squad that can compete with anyone through sheer toughness, especially now that its key pieces are returning to health and complemented by the shooting that has so often been missing in previous seasons. 

West: 4. Utah Jazz: 51-31

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    Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

    2015-16 Record: 40-42

    Subtractions: Trevor Booker, Trey Burke, Tibor Pleiss

    Additions: Joel Bolomboy, Boris Diaw, Quincy Ford, George Hill, Joe Johnson, Marcus Paige, Tyrone Wallace

    NBA 200 Representatives: Trey Lyles (198), Shelvin Mack (184), Boris Diaw (149), Alec Burks (120), Joe Johnson (79), George Hill (59), Rodney Hood (49), Rudy Gobert (43), Gordon Hayward (36), Derrick Favors (26)

    No team is stocked with more talented rotation members than the Utah Jazz, who feature an NBA-high 10 representatives in the B/R NBA 200The projected depth chart borders on obscene:

    George HillRodney HoodGordon HaywardDerrick FavorsRudy Gobert
    Shelvin MackDante Exum Joe JohnsonTrey Lyles Boris Diaw
    Raul NetoAlec BurksJoe Ingles Joel Bolomboy Jeff Withey

    This team features a starting lineup in which all five members were top-60 players last season. George Hill could very well join the other four in the top 50, which is terrifying since his new teammates are all young enough that they're still moving toward their peak campaigns. 

    Naturally, the bench must be bad then, right? Except it's not. 

    Shelvin Mack, Dante Exum, Joe Johnson, Trey Lyles and Boris Diaw would stack up nicely against starting lineups of some lottery teams; they'll almost always avoid giving away leads the starters have earned. And that's saying nothing of impressive third-stringers such as Alec Burks, Raul Neto and Jeff Withey. 

West: 3. Los Angeles Clippers: 53-29

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    2015-16 Record: 53-29

    Subtractions: Cole Aldrich, Jeff Ayres, Branden Dawson, Jeff Green, Pablo Prigioni, C.J. Wilcox

    Additions: Alan Anderson, Brandon Bass, Raymond Felton, Brice Johnson, Marreese Speights, Diamond Stone

    NBA 200 Representatives: Raymond Felton (169), Jamal Crawford (145), J.J. Redick (85), Blake Griffin (42), DeAndre Jordan (19), Chris Paul (9)

    For years, we've wondered what the Los Angeles Clippers' Big Three could accomplish if it were joined by a strong bench. Now, those wishes may finally be granted. 

    Raymond Felton is a legitimate backup point guard, so long as nepotism doesn't reign supreme and push head coach Doc Rivers to play his son, Austin, in a bigger role. Jamal Crawford, Paul Pierce, Wesley Johnson and Alan Anderson offer solid production on the wings, and the additions of Brandon Bass, Brice Johnson and Marreese Speights should give LAC legitimate depth behind Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. 

    This bench won't be one of the league's best, but at least it's no longer a glaring liability. 

    Of course, the Big Three—plus J.J. Redick, who's become far more valuable than your typical floor-spacing sharpshooter—remains the reason the Clippers are true contenders. Chris Paul, Griffin and Jordan are all elite at their respective positions, and they should finally be simultaneously healthy at the beginning of 2016-17. 

    Lest we forget, that trio outscored the opposition by 13.5 points per 100 possessions in 2015-16, by 17.0 in 2014-15 and 10.9 in 2013-14.

West: 2. San Antonio Spurs: 54-28

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    Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    2015-16 Record: 67-15

    Subtractions: Matt Bonner, Rasual Butler, Boris Diaw, Tim Duncan, Boban Marjanovic, Kevin Martin, Andre Miller, David West

    Additions: Ryan Arcidiacono, Davis Bertans, Dewayne Dedmon, Bryn Forbes, Pau Gasol, Patricio Garino, Livio Jean-Charles, David Lee, Dejounte Murray, Ryan Richards

    NBA 200 Representatives: Patty Mills (200), Kyle Anderson (175), Danny Green (144), Manu Ginobili (90), Tony Parker (77), Pau Gasol (40), LaMarcus Aldridge (15), Kawhi Leonard (3)

    Never. Ever. Doubt. The. San. Antonio. Spurs. 

    Losing Tim Duncan to retirement is a massive blow to the team's defensive excellence, and it's not exactly convenient that so many veteran members of the former bench mob will now be suiting up elsewhere. But instead of wallowing in their misery, the Spurs just went out and added Pau Gasol and a whole host of young talent.

    Davis Bertans and Livio Jean-Charles, for example, may not register with many American fans, but the former was drafted at No. 42 in 2011 while the latter was a first-round selection in 2013. These are talented international players, and the Spurs clearly believe in them. If you're not already preparing for their inevitable selections as All-Stars in the not-too-distant future, you clearly haven't been paying attention to San Antonio basketball for...well, forever.

    But this season isn't about them. It's not even about Patrico Garino, Dejounte Murray or Kyle Anderson, for that matter. 

    Kawhi Leonard is poised to assert himself as an MVP favorite, and he's joined by two more All-Star candidates in Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge. Plus, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are still present, even if they're no longer parts of the Big Three. If anyone is going to dethrone the No. 1 team in the West, it's the Spurs. 

1. Golden State Warriors: 63-19

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    2015-16 Record: 73-9

    Subtractions: Leandro Barbosa, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, Brandon Rush, Marreese Speights

    Additions: Elgin Cook, Kevin Durant, Cameron Jones, Damian Jones, Patrick McCaw, JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia, Phil Pressey, David West, Elliot Williams

    NBA 200 Representatives: David West (164), Shaun Livingston (143), Zaza Pachulia (135), Andre Iguodala (95), Klay Thompson (11), Draymond Green (6), Kevin Durant (5), Stephen Curry (1)

    Las Vegas' Westgate Superbook has released its over-under win lines for 2016-17, and no team checks in higher than the Golden State Warriors (66.5). If you're betting on the Dubs to exceed those expectations, you're asking them to win at least 67 games—a total only 12 teams, including Golden State and the San Antonio Spurs last year, have ever hit.

    The Warriors are absolutely capable of getting there, and it's not out of the question they win more than 73 games after adding even more talent to last year's record-setting roster. Bringing in Kevin Durant, Zaza Pachulia, David West and upside-laden youngsters such as Damian Jones and Patrick McCaw more than cancels out the offseason's subtractions, even if there's a bit less across-the-board depth. 

    But regression remains the better bet. 

    Stephen Curry is no lock to replicate the incredible feats produced during his unanimous MVP season. Draymond Green could come back to earth after his career year. The team could struggle to replace Bogut's passing and near-perfect screen-setting. It could be in for a big adjustment period as it learns how to fully incorporate Durant in the give and take of the talent-laden starting five. 

    Still, Golden State remains the league's best team. It's not even close. 

    Unless otherwise indicated, all stats are from or NBA Math.

    Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @fromal09


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