While we're still months away from actual games being played, now we know which teams will play when. The NBA released the schedule for the 2019-20 season Monday.
Many of the most important dates on the calendar were already known. The Clippers and Lakers will headline a Christmas Day marquee that also includes Rockets-Warriors, Bucks-Sixers, Celtics-Raptors and Nuggets-Pelicans.
Yes, that means you will finally not be subjected to a Knicksmas.
The Lakers and Clippers will also be involved in opening night, when they play the late game following the Raptors receive their rings before a matchup with the Pelicans. From the looks of the slate, it seems the NBA is all-in on promoting Zion as its next foundational star.
Here is a look at team-by-team predictions heading into the 2019-20 NBA season now that the full schedule has been released.
1) Philadelphia 76ers (58-24); playoff probability 100 percent; +800 (bet $100 to win $800)
2) Milwaukee Bucks (58-24); playoff probability 100 percent; +550
3) Brooklyn Nets (49-33); playoff probability 100 percent; +3000
4) Indiana Pacers (47-35); playoff probability 100 percent; +5000
5) Boston Celtics (45-37); playoff probability 100 percent; +2800
6) Toronto Raptors (44-38); playoff probability 70 percent; +5000
7) Miami Heat (42-40); playoff probability 65 percent; +5000
8) Orlando Magic (40-42); playoff probability 50 percent; +12500
9) Detroit Pistons (39-43); playoff probability 40 percent; +25000
10) Atlanta Hawks (36-46); playoff probability 25 percent; +25000
11) Chicago Bulls (32-50); playoff probability 5 percent; +15000
12) New York Knicks (23-59); playoff probability 0 percent; +25000
13) Cleveland Cavaliers (23-59); playoff probability 0 percent; +100000
14) Washington Wizards (19-63); playoff probability 0 percent; +100000
15) Charlotte Hornets (16-66); playoff probability 0 percent; +100000
Championship odds via Caesars.
Barring a major trade or Kevin Durant making a surprise return late in the season, the East has two title contenders, a pile of also-rans and an absolute trash heap at the bottom.
If the Wizards trade Bradley Beal, they and the Hornets will rank among the two least-talented teams in modern NBA history. Beal is probably worth 15 wins himself; the rest of the roster comprises the remaining four.
The Sixers and Bucks are the class of the conference, and it's not particularly close. The Sixers probably have the best starting five in basketball, assuming health. They should be the runaway best defensive team in basketball, with four players who swarm on that end and suffocate you with their length and smarts (and a fine defender in Tobias Harris).
Depth remains an issue and something the Sixers will probably look to address throughout the season via buyout candidates and trades. They'll also hope to get something from Zhaire Smith, the 2018 first-round pick who missed almost his entire rookie season due to a foot injury.
Offensively, the Sixers' largest issue remains spacing. Replacing JJ Redick with Josh Richardson will make their defense better, but it deprives them of one of the most dangerous perimeter shooters in basketball; Richardson is a career 36.8 percent shooter from deep, which is about league average. Al Horford and Joel Embiid are big men who can shoot, just not necessarily enough to scare opposing defenses.
Harris is going to have to shoot a lot better than the 32.6 percent clip he did as a Sixer in 2019 because the other person in this lineup is Ben Simmons. Which...says all that needs to be said.
The Bucks return most of their roster from last season's East runners-up but lost Malcolm Brodgon to Indiana in free agency. The decision to re-up with Eric Bledsoe over Brogdon is already looking like a bit of a mistake after their respective playoff performances last year. Odds are they'll take a slight step back in the regular season but could be more ready for the playoffs after falling apart in the final four games of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Aside from Philly and Milwaukee, the rest of the East is filled with teams that would struggle to even make the playoffs in the West. Brooklyn isn't scaring anyone until Durant returns, and the Pacers do not expect Victor Oladipo back until at least December. The Celtics are a Jayson Tatum leap away from potentially getting in the mix, but they downgraded at point guard and lost Horford in free agency. It's going to take a seismic leap.
1) Utah Jazz (59-23); playoff probability 100 percent; +1400
2) Los Angeles Clippers (58-24); playoff probability 100 percent; +375
3) Denver Nuggets (56-26); playoff probability 100 percent; +1200
4) Houston Rockets (54-28); playoff probability 100 percent; +1100
5) Los Angeles Lakers (52-30); playoff probability 95 percent; +300
6) Golden State Warriors (50-32); playoff probability 70 percent; +900
7) Portland Trail Blazers (48-34); playoff probability 65 percent; +2200
8) San Antonio Spurs (47-35); playoff probability 60 percent; +4000
9) Oklahoma City Thunder (41-41); playoff probability 35 percent; +50000
10) Minnesota Timberwolves (37-45); playoff probability 30 percent; +50000
11) Dallas Mavericks (37-45); playoff probability 15 percent; +7500
12) New Orleans Pelicans (36-46); playoff probability 15 percent; +10000
13) Sacramento Kings (33-49); playoff probability 10 percent; +15000
14) Phoenix Suns (27-55); playoff probability 0 percent; +100000
15) Memphis Grizzlies (24-58); playoff probability 0 percent; +100000
Championship odds via Caesars.
The West, on the other hand, is a complete mess, with no fewer than five teams going into next season reasonably thinking they can make the Finals.
The Clippers are clearly the top-to-bottom best team in the conference, featuring two stars (Kawhi Leonard and Paul George) and a deep bench mob that was responsible in part for them taking the Warriors to six games in Round 1 last year. They're the clear-cut title favorites, and anyone who says otherwise is looking through purple and gold lenses.
That said, we're projecting for the regular season here. George might not be back for the beginning of the regular season after undergoing double shoulder surgery. Kawhi has clearly reached a load management stage of his career, and he was hobbling as he foisted the Raptors on his back to a championship. Even a 58-win projection might be a little lofty, depending on George's rehab.
The Lakers, likewise, cannot be a team concerned with how their regular season shakes out. Their roster is too old. Loads need to be managed. Chemistry needs to be built. This is a team built to go 75-7 in NBA 2K15 and one that might have to limp its way through the regular season just to be fully healthy for the playoffs.
The Jazz are built for the regular season. They have arguably a deeper bench than the Clippers, a complete starting 5 after the acquisition of Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic and two young players (Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell) who play with chips on their shoulder. They're the exact type of team that would take pride in capturing the No. 1 seed, even if they're primed for a second-round exit if they do.
If Nikola Jokic continues the leap he showed during last season's playoffs, the same could be said about the Nuggets. They'll largely bring back the group that challenged the Warriors at the top of the conference for most of last season, banking on internal improvement taking them to the next level.