2019-20 NBA Schedule Release: Win-Loss Predictions for Every Team
After the wildest summer of player movement in NBA history, the 2019-20 schedule is out.
Now we know where to mark our calendars for all the revenge games, showdowns between power duos, battles between contenders and rivalry reunions.
One change reported by Wojnarowski could save us all some sleep: "Sources: Earlier times for national TV doubleheaders this season: 22 of ESPN's 36 doubleheaders and 12 of TNT's 31 doubleheaders to start at 7:30/10 PM ET or 7/9:30 PM ET instead of 8/10:30 PM."
Another change, per Charania, could save the players some sleep: "Other NBA schedule facts: Back-to-backs are at a historic low — for fifth straight season (teams will average 12.4 this season, down from 13.3 last season.) Five games in seven nights also have been reduced 9.5 percent."
The league itself also had plenty to share on the new slate of games. Monday's press release featured a number of facts and dozens of key matchups.
Now that we know when and where all regular-season games will be played, it's a little easier to settle into win-loss predictions. Below, you'll find prognostications for all 30 squads.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers (19-63)
This isn't an indictment of Cleveland's future. The Collin Sexton/Darius Garland fit may be funky at first, but having multiple playmakers should be a plus down the line.
This squad just isn't ready to win a ton of meaningful games. And there isn't a single surefire future star on the roster.
A midseason Kevin Love trade would further hurt the Cavaliers' chances to win games in the short term.
29. New York Knicks (20-62)
New York added a bunch of useful veterans. But the fit is weird for plenty of them, especially the plethora of power forwards they signed: Julius Randle, Taj Gibson, Bobby Portis and Marcus Morris.
That log jam, and the fact they all signed tradable deals, suggests the Knicks could easily blow things up and tank for better draft odds at some point this year.
As for the rest of the roster, Mitchell Robinson has tons of potential as a rim-rolling, shot-blocking menace. RJ Barrett evokes images of Harrison Barnes, but his significantly better playmaking numbers in college are encouraging.
The rest of the youngsters feel like question marks.
28. Charlotte Hornets (22-60)
Charlotte had one of the most bizarre offseasons in the league. Losing Kemba Walker for nothing is one thing. Replacing him with Terry Rozier for three years and nearly $60 million is another.
Rozier is now the 45th-highest-paid player in the league. Over the course of his career, he ranks 209th in box plus/minus, 279th in points per game and 442nd in true shooting percentage among 486 players with at least 1,000 minutes.
Now, Rozier is tasked with leading a team Walker couldn't even get to the playoffs in any of the last three years. The two will face off early in the season.
"After eight seasons and three All-Star games with the Hornets, new Celtics star Kemba Walker will make first return to Charlotte on Nov. 7," Charania reported.
27. Memphis Grizzlies (28-54)
There's a very intriguing young core here. Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke are loaded with potential. Kyle Anderson and Jonas Valanciunas are young(ish) and perhaps underrated.
And this year's No. 2 pick could be the one in the group to "kick it up a notch."
"The first NCAA player since 1995 to average at least 10 assists for a season, Ja Morant figures to top out as one of the league's premier playmakers," Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman wrote. "A mix of nifty ball-handling, blow-by speed and elite passing skill points to his assist work quickly translating."
They may not be ready to contend for a playoff spot this year, but a season or two of, well, seasoning could have them there soon.
26. Phoenix Suns (29-53)
Phoenix underwent a pretty dramatic overhaul. Ricky Rubio, Dario Saric, Aron Baynes and more are in. Dragan Bender, Jamal Crawford, Troy Daniels, Richaun Holmes, Josh Jackson, De'Anthony Melton and TJ Warren are out.
In terms of wins above replacement added, they actually came out ahead, according to FiveThirtyEight's CARMELO projection system. But this is another team that still feels a few years away unless Devin Booker somehow makes the leap into mega-stardom.
25. Washington Wizards (30-52)
With John Wall hurt and Otto Porter Jr. gone, Bradley Beal could put up some remarkable numbers to start the 2019-20 season. But don't be surprised to see some minutes in which he looks like he's taking on the world. His supporting cast does little to inspire right now.
24. Atlanta Hawks (33-49)
Another up-and-comer, the Hawks' young core of John Collins, Trae Young and Kevin Huerter could lead this team close to a .500 ceiling. Conventional wisdom suggests they still need some time, though.
23. Chicago Bulls (36-46)
A starting group of Tomas Satoransky, Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Thaddeus Young (or Wendell Carter Jr.) and Lauri Markkanen is certainly intriguing, but this is another squad that is probably a season or two away.
Seeing a trend with this portion of the rankings?
22. Detroit Pistons (38-44)
Just in time to break that trend, we have Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and the Detroit Pistons, a team that feels like it was treading water this offseason.
That's fine. Detroit was plus-6.8 points per 100 possessions (88th percentile) when Griffin, Drummond and Reggie Jackson shared the floor, according to Cleaning the Glass. But when other playoff teams got better, treading water is about the same as going backward.
21. New Orleans Pelicans (39-43)
CARMELO projects the players the Pelicans lost, including Anthony Davis, to put up 12.0 wins above replacement this season. The incoming group is forecasted for 13.8.
Losing AD, arguably a top-five player, and still possibly coming out ahead is one heck of a way to tip off a rebuild.
Veterans like Jrue Holiday and Derrick Favors, supplemented by the potential of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and, of course, Zion Williamson, are going to make this team a problem on plenty of schedules.
T18. Minnesota Timberwolves (40-42)
Karl-Anthony Towns is one of the 15-20 best players in the NBA. Robert Covington is a great complement. There may still be hope for Andrew Wiggins.
In the East, this team would have a pretty good shot at the postseason, but geography will likely doom it to the lottery yet again.
T18. Oklahoma City Thunder (40-42)
It sounds like Chris Paul will at least start the season with the Thunder, and OKC has some strong lineups with which it can surround him.
CP3, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Andre Roberson, Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams is a starting five that suggests playoff contention, but depth will be a problem in the loaded West.
T18. Sacramento Kings (40-42)
After the Kings won 39 games and wound up ninth in the loaded West, FiveThirtyEight projects them to finish with 33 wins in 2019-20.
A leap from third-year point guard De'Aaron Fox, who's been touted as a "standout" at Team USA's 2019 training camp, could help the young Kings blow past that prediction.
T16. Orlando Magic (42-40)
Orlando went 42-40 last season, snagging the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. And while Al-Farouq Aminu should help, the Magic already have two 3/4s in Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac.
That and a year of aging from Nikola Vucevic and D.J. Augustin could be seen as relative stagnation.
The wild card here is Markelle Fultz. Despite his tumultuous first two seasons, he's still projected for 0.8 wins above replacement in Year 3 and a steady upward trajectory after that. His jumper seemingly being back is encouraging, as well.
"Markelle is a sleeper," teammate Aaron Gordon said on SiriusXM NBA Radio. "If he wakes up...he's a monster."
T16. Toronto Raptors (42-40)
Toronto was minus-2.5 points per 100 possessions (39th percentile) when Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green were both off the floor last season. Both are gone, so this prediction might even be a bit high.
Forecasting the Raptors for a winning record is a nod to the infrastructure. Toronto has the fourth-best record in the NBA over the last six seasons.
T13. Brooklyn Nets (43-39)
Without Kevin Durant for most, if not all, of 2019-20, Brooklyn may not look significantly different than it did last season when it went 42-40.
"The calculus is complicated. Irving is the better player—a six-time All-Star fresh off an All-NBA second team selection, a marksman who's made better than 40 percent of his 3-point attempts in four of the past five seasons, and a half-court locksmith capable of deconstructing virtually any defense. But he comes with some glaring concerns, headlined by those nettlesome chemistry questions. During that same Lowe Post podcast, ESPN salary cap guru/former Nets assistant GM Bobby Marks invoked Deron Williams's dour tenure with the franchise, a point of comparison that likely sent shivers down Nets fans' spines."
Kyrie Irving with a bunch of young players who just got a taste of the playoffs? Where have we heard this story before?
If the script plays out in Brooklyn the way it did in Boston, KD could be returning with a sense of urgency in 2020-21 (or whenever that day comes).
T13. Miami Heat (43-39)
Jimmy Butler is great—probably a top-20 player. But Miami has been the picture of mediocrity since LeBron James' departure. In the five seasons since he left for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Heat are 209-201 (.510).
Is Butler alone enough to make this team anything approaching a contender? A jump from 39 to 43 wins feels more realistic.
T13. San Antonio Spurs (43-39)
Much like the Raptors, the Spurs get an above-.500 prediction on the basis of their system and sustained excellence over the years.
FiveThirtyEight sees this as a 37-win team. And though an attack predicated on the mid-range prowess of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge feels doomed in today's NBA, San Antonio did finish fifth in points per possession last season.
It was the defense that was uncharacteristically below-average. Perhaps the return of Dejounte Murray and the continued emergence of Derrick White will remedy that.
And San Antonio will probably want that done prior to its annual rodeo road trip. This year's is wild. From Feb. 3 to Feb. 23, the Spurs play the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, Denver Nuggets, Oklahoma City Thunder (twice) and Utah Jazz away from San Antonio.
T11. Dallas Mavericks (44-38)
Luka Doncic had 1,526 points, 563 rebounds and 429 assists in his rookie season. Oscar Robertson is the only other rookie in NBA history to hit all three marks.
Plus, with a full recovery from Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas could have one of the most devastating pick-and-roll/pop attacks.
T11. Indiana Pacers (44-38)
Darren Collison's sudden retirement, Victor Oladipo's injury and Thaddeus Young's departure will be tough to overcome.
But if adding Malcolm Brogdon, TJ Warren and Jeremy Lamb to Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis can allow Indiana to tread water until Oladipo is ready to go, the Pacers could be a dangerous matchup in the first round.
10. Portland Trail Blazers (45-37)
In just 27.4 minutes per game, Nurkic averaged 15.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.0 steals. Portland's net rating was 12.0 points better when he was on the floor, which ranked him in the 96th percentile.
"He's more than just his numbers, though," The Ringer's Paolo Uggetti wrote after the big man broke his leg late last season. "The team has mostly been led by guards since the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge, but Nurkic gave Portland a different dimension on both ends of the floor."
Not having the Bosnian Beast for the start of the 2019-20 campaign is significant. Hassan Whiteside is a capable stopgap, but he lacks the ability to facilitate from the post the way Nurkic does. He'll probably block more shots, but he also finds himself out of position more often.
The rest of the offseason moves felt like change for change's sake.
The Athletic's Jason Quick touted the additions of Whiteside, Rodney Hood, Kent Bazemore, Mario Hezonja and Nassir Little. Evan Turner responded, "Me, Ed, chief, moe, and Meyers would run them out the gym" and added a joy emoji, referring to himself, Ed Davis, Al Farouq-Aminu, Maurice Harkless and Meyers Leonard.
He may not be wrong. Next season, Turner's group is forecasted for more than twice as many wins above replacement.
While doubting Lillard and McCollum may be risky business, there's enough reason to expect a dropoff. Still, the Blazers should remain firmly in the playoff hunt.
9. Boston Celtics (50-32)
The Boston Celtics won 49 games last season. They lost Kyrie Irving and Al Horford this summer.
So, why project them to be better?
"Kyrie is just a better basketball player with more on-court upside," SB Nation's Tom Ziller wrote. "But he's also an active reagent in the locker room. ... If Kyrie takes the bad vibes away with him, and Kemba brings that magnetic smile he's known for, perhaps group happiness can lead to more success and even a championship."
Kemba is within shouting distance of Kyrie as a basketball player. A significant edge as a teammate could make up the gap. Plus, continued development from Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart could add some wins, as well.
The big loss, of course, is Horford.
Boston probably can't replace his contributions as a passer, shooter and defender with Enes Kanter, Daniel Theis and Robert Williams III. If it had a more suitable replacement inside, it could've earned more than one extra predicted win.
As things now stand, perimeter players like Brown and Smart will be relied upon heavily to carry the defense.
T7. Golden State Warriors (51-31)
The Golden State Warriors are embarking upon something of a basketball experiment.
It was certainly better than losing Kevin Durant for nothing, but replacing him with another high-volume guard who isn't known for his defense is a move accompanied by plenty of risk.
Last season, D'Angelo Russell and Stephen Curry were sixth and 13th, respectively, in usage percentage. For a team that successfully integrated KD's game into its scheme, maybe that's not a massive issue. But the nearly 10-point difference in true shooting percentage between Russell and Durant is worrisome.
Perhaps playing alongside Curry, one of the greatest offensive players of all time, might boost Russell's efficiency. Defenses certainly won't be able to pay as much attention to him as they did when he was with the Brooklyn Nets.
And when Klay Thompson gets back, the three-pronged attack from him, Curry and Russell will be tough to stop.
It's the other end where problems are likely to arise.
Defending opposing backcourts with Curry and Russell puts a lot of pressure on Draymond Green and whoever starts at center, especially in an era so reliant on guard play. Not having Andre Iguodala hurts, too.
Golden State may be tracking toward a below-average defense, but it should have enough firepower to win plenty of shootouts throughout the regular season.
Last time Curry went through a campaign without Durant, he put up the highest single-season offensive box plus/minus of all time.
T7. Utah Jazz (51-31)
John Schuhmann of NBA.com said "[Donovan] Mitchell has looked like a budding star" during Team USA's training camp leading up to the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
A leap to superstardom from Mitchell would push the Utah Jazz to the next tier of contenders. For now, let's assume that's another year or two away.
Still, the Jazz should be better than they were last season. Losing Derrick Favors may be a bigger deal than people realize, but the upgrade from Ricky Rubio to Mike Conley certainly softens that blow. And while Bojan Bogdanovic is older and probably worse in a vacuum, he may fit better than Favors next to Rudy Gobert.
Utah can now surround its top-notch rim roller with lineups that include four players who can both shoot and create shots. The natural Conley/Mitchell/Joe Ingles/Bogdanovic/Gobert unit should be particularly difficult to defend.
From Jan. 1 to the end of the season, Conley, Mitchell, Ingles and Bogdanovic combined to shoot 40.2 percent from three.
T5. Houston Rockets (52-30)
But in terms of raw productivity, this is a pairing that can't help but intrigue.
These qualifiers may come off as a bit arbitrary, but they're right around the career averages of both Harden and Westbrook: 23 points, six assists and five rebounds per game.
The only players in NBA history to log at least 5,000 minutes and achieve all three of those benchmarks? Larry Bird, Harden, LeBron James, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Westbrook.
And over the last three seasons, their numbers are even loftier:
- Harden: 31.9 points, 9.2 assists and 6.8 rebounds
- Westbrook: 26.8 points, 10.4 assists and 10.6 rebounds
Yes, that level of stat-stuffing is in jeopardy. There's only one ball. But if two players with this much talent can learn to meaningfully share that ball, this duo has immense potential.
The Ringer's Jonathan Tjarks explained further:
"Harden and Westbrook are at the stage of their careers when they should be willing to sacrifice their individual stats for the good of the team. The former turns 30 in August and the latter turns 31 in November. Both are in the sweet spot where they have gained a ton of experience without a corresponding drop-off in their athletic ability. They each pushed the limits of basketball in their 20s. Now to move forward they have to take a step back, if for no other reason than to stay healthy as they move deeper into their 30s. A decline like the one [Chris] Paul experienced last season is coming for both. It is now or never for Harden, Westbrook, and the entire Rockets organization. They gave up a lot of future picks in the trade on Thursday."
Harden may have to forego some of the isolation plays. Westbrook may have to exercise a little more discretion with his attempts. Both will have to adapt to playing off the ball a bit more.
If they do those things, this will be a title contender. But even then, there will likely be some growing pains, hence a projection that gives Houston one fewer win than it totaled last season.
T5. Los Angeles Clippers (52-30)
If Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were entering the season with completely clean bills of health, it would be much easier to predict that this team would lead the NBA in regular-season wins.
But after he played nine games in 2017-18 and was subjected to a "load management" schedule that limited him to 60 in 2018-19, Kawhi's ability to get to 82 has to be in question. And after George underwent shoulder surgery this summer, The Athletic's Jovan Buha opined that the star forward's Los Angeles Clippers debut may not happen until "mid-to-late November."
However, if there is a team outfitted to handle some star absences, it may be these Clippers.
Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell and Landry Shamet will combine to make less than $30 million next season. Twenty individual players will make at least that much.
That kind of value is a huge part of the Clippers' shot at a title, and it will also allow them to rack up wins even when their stars are resting or on the shelf.
"Clippers' longest road trip isn't the Grammy Trip, but instead a six-gamer in January:
Jan. 18 at New Orleans
Jan. 21 at Dallas
Jan. 22 at Atlanta
Jan. 24 at Miami
Jan. 26 at Orlando
Jan. 28 at Lakers"
If load management coincides with trips like that, a deep roster will be crucial.
T2. Los Angeles Lakers (53-29)
LeBron James and Anthony Davis have a chance to be the best duo in the NBA. But whether the Los Angeles Lakers reach their ceiling depends on how the rest of the roster comes together.
Danny Green is Mr. Reliable. He's the only player in league history with a career offensive box plus/minus of at least 1.0, a career defensive box plus/minus of at least 1.0 and a career three-point percentage of at least 40.0. Plus, he's 71st all-time in career overall box plus/minus.
He'll be fine spacing the floor for LeBron and AD while defending whatever assignment he's given.
Pretty much everyone else is a question mark.
How healthy is DeMarcus Cousins? Will he ever be the same player he was before he ruptured his Achilles? Can Kentavious Caldwell-Pope get back to the level of shooting he showed in 2017-18?
Rajon Rondo (minus-5.1) and Avery Bradley (minus-2.9) both have comfortably negative net rating swings over the last three seasons. Can head coach Frank Vogel find a way to make them plus players? Or will he be able to keep them off the floor?
And what about wildcard Kyle Kuzma? He believes he can be the third star.
"I don't feel no pressure, but I believe that I am capable of being that superstar," Kuzma told ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk. "I put a lot of work in. My progress through my journey shows that I can be there. I developed every single year, dating back to college, and I don't see that development stunting at all."
Right now, Kuzma's biggest area for development is on defense. He reached out to Metta World Peace for help on that end, which at least shows effort.
Even with all these hypotheticals, L.A. may only need one or two to break right. That's how good LeBron and Davis are. And by the time the Grammy Trip rolls around, they'll probably have answers to some of those questions.
"Grammy trip won't be easy for the Lakers: Houston, Boston, NY, Brooklyn and Philly." Spectrum SportsNet's Mike Bresnahan tweeted. "Five road games in eight days, starting Jan. 18."
If things don't go well during that stretch, perhaps there will still be time for the Lakers to make some roster adjustments ahead of the playoffs.
T2. Milwaukee Bucks (53-29)
The loss of Malcolm Brogdon certainly impacts the Milwaukee Bucks, but the other major components of last season's 60-win team are back. And Milwaukee was plus-8.6 points per 100 possessions (92nd percentile) when Brogdon was off the floor.
However, Milwaukee is firmly in the title-contending tier. There, every point counts, and the Bucks were in the 94th percentile when Brogdon played.
Additionally, the franchise is on the clock now, as explained by The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor:
"The Bucks are under pressure. Faced with losing Malcolm Brogdon—arguably their second-best player at times during the postseason—in free agency, Milwaukee dealt him to the Pacers. They had to pay a combined $70 million annually to keep Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Eric Bledsoe, and George Hill through the 2020-21 season. They lack the assets to make significant additions on the trade market, and won’t have the cap space to make a big signing in 2021, unless a core player like Middleton is moved. Meanwhile, other teams are building young cores on cheap contracts with the ability to sign Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and a second star."
Giannis Antetokounmpo may be a Buck for life. But in today's NBA, it's hard to have a ton of confidence in any superstar staying long term.
A title (or two) would shore things up, but that might even be out the window these days. See: Leonard, Kawhi.
In the short term, Milwaukee should be a nightly nightmare throughout the regular season even without Brogdon. The remaining starters all finished rather high in 2018-19 real plus-minus.
So why the drop from 60 wins to 53? Everything broke right for Milwaukee last season. And with a general leveling of talent throughout the league this summer, it feels like the NBA's best record will be well shy of 60-22.
T2. Denver Nuggets (53-29)
Among players with at least 5,000 career minutes, the top five in box plus/minus reads:
- LeBron James (9.1)
- Michael Jordan (8.1)
- Nikola Jokic (7.6)
- Charles Barkley (7.4)
- David Robinson (7.4)
Why yes, that is Nikola Jokic settled in between Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley. The 24-year-old big man is putting together numbers more absurd than fans may realize.
Larry Bird and Oscar Robertson are the only two players in league history to total at least as many points, rebounds and assists as Jokic through their first four seasons.
Robertson played 13,615 minutes in his first four seasons. Bird played 12,099. Jokic played 8,718.
If he continues to rise, the Denver Nuggets are going to be title contenders for years to come. That's especially true if Jamal Murray, Gary Harris or even Michael Porter Jr. rises with him.
There's an added layer of a potential trade with this prediction, as well. Denver can put together one of the most competitive packages for Bradley Beal (or really, for any star who may become available). Consolidating talent would hurt the Nuggets' depth a bit, but it might be worth it for a lineup that would ultimately include Murray, Beal, Paul Millsap and Jokic.
1. Philadelphia 76ers (55-27)
The Philadelphia 76ers have the potential to be dominant this season.
One of their only drawbacks last season was the availability of Joel Embiid, who missed 18 games in 2018-19 and has averaged just over 30 appearances per season in the five years since he was drafted. When he was on the floor, Philly was plus-8.9 points per 100 possessions (92nd percentile). When he was off, that number plummeted to minus-5.5 (26th percentile).
Now, the Sixers have starting power forward/backup center Al Horford to mitigate the damage in those Embiid-less minutes.
Over the last two seasons, Horford has finished 18th and 19th in real plus-minus. Fitting alongside another center may be a little wonky, but Horford's all-around game should make it work. He can shoot, pass and defend. His basketball IQ and leadership won't hurt, either.
Philadelphia's other big acquisition, Josh Richardson, should help, too. He averaged 16.6 points and 4.1 assists in a semi-breakout season for the Miami Heat in 2018-19 and is a solid perimeter defender.
Neither he nor Horford can probably reach the individual peak of Jimmy Butler, but they may be able to make up for his departure in concert.
Now, for the holdovers.
Ben Simmons is projected to finish ninth in the NBA in wins above replacement next season by FiveThirtyEight's CARMELO. Tobias Harris has averaged 19.3 points and shot 40.5 percent from three over the last two seasons.
There are some interesting bench players, too. After a tough start to his career, Trey Burke has been a solid backup point guard in recent years. And Kyle O'Quinn is an analytics darling (24th in box plus/minus over the last three seasons).
If one or both of Zhaire Smith and Matisse Thybulle pop this season, Philadelphia might even cruise past the 55 wins predicted here.