Every NBA Team's Win-Loss Predictions After Full 2021-22 Schedule Release

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2021

Every NBA Team's Win-Loss Predictions After Full 2021-22 Schedule Release

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    Now that the NBA has released the full schedule for the 2021-22 season, it's time to opine on the win totals each of the league's 30 squads will reach.

    Returning contenders like the Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers won't be too difficult to peg. Few can predict exact win totals, but it's safe to say those teams will clear 50.

    Others are tougher, like the new-look Chicago Bulls. They now have plenty of talent, but how will DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic fit together?

    Which teams will make the biggest leaps from their 2020-21 records? Is anyone on the verge of a collapse?

    Over/unders can provide some clues, but answers to questions like those above require a deeper dive.

Atlantic Division

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    Brooklyn Nets: 54-28

    PointsBet gave the odds the highest projected win total (via the Action Network), and it isn't hard to see why. Even with Kyrie Irving out and James Harden hobbled, they were within inches (literally) of eliminating the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks in the second round.

    If Kevin Durant, Irving and Harden are all healthy, Brooklyn will be dominant. That trio had a plus-11.1 net rating last season. And the supporting cast, which includes Joe Harris, Bruce Brown, Blake Griffin, Patty Mills, James Johnson and promising rookie Cam Thomas should be better as well.

    The only thing preventing a 60-plus-win prediction is that health and availability is far from a given with this team.

        

    Philadelphia 76ers: 50-32

    The possibility of a Ben Simmons trade still looms over the Philadelphia 76ers, and whoever returns in that potential trade would have a major impact on their 2021-22 win total. For now, we'll assume that team president Daryl Morey gets solid value and a player who'll better complement MVP candidate Joel Embiid.

    Assuming Philly has a roster that can more effectively play four-out, one-in basketball around Embiid, it should remain on the bubble for Tier 1 contenders.

         

    Boston Celtics: 47-35

    After a tumultuous 2020-21 campaign, the Boston Celtics appear poised for a comeback.

    Al Horford's playmaking and floor-spacing is back, which should open up the inside for Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Marcus Smart should get his first crack at being the Celtics' primary point guard. And Dennis Schroder, Payton Pritchard, Josh Richardson, Aaron Nesmith, Robert Williams and Enes Kanter add intriguing depth across several positions.

    But mostly, this significant bump in winning percentage (they were .500 last year) is a nod to the upward trajectory of Brown and Tatum.

        

    New York Knicks: 46-36

    The New York Knicks were perhaps the biggest surprise of this past season, thanks in large part to Julius Randle's All-NBA campaign.

    With him back and Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier replacing Elfrid Payton and Reggie Bullock, you'd think this team would be a near-lock to improve. Consider this conservative prediction something of a hedge against possible regression from a few holdovers and the expected improvement in Boston.

         

    Toronto Raptors: 34-48

    With Fred VanVleet (27), Gary Trent Jr. (22), OG Anunoby (24), Pascal Siakam (27) and Chris Boucher (28), the Toronto Raptors return a solid, relatively young core for the post-Kyle Lowry era.

    But with apologies to Siakam (who did make an All-Star appearance in 2019-20), it's hard to find a surefire face-of-the-franchise level talent. And in a division that figures to be one of this season's most competitive, Toronto looks like the odd team out of the playoff picture.

Central Division

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    Milwaukee Bucks: 54-28

    Don't expect much of a Finals hangover from the Bucks.

    Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and every other key piece from the title run is back aside from P.J. Tucker. Plus, George Hill and Grayson Allen will bolster a backcourt rotation that will get Donte DiVincenzo back from injury.

    A fourth straight MVP-caliber season from Giannis, backed by a strong supporting cast, will have Milwaukee pushing into the high 50s this season.

        

    Chicago Bulls: 47-35

    All of the doubt regarding the Chicago Bulls' defense is probably warranted. And yes, both DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine have historically been high-usage players. But the amount of offensive talent here feels like too much to fail.

    Last season, Nikola Vucevic, LaVine, DeRozan and Lonzo Ball ranked 17th, 18th, 28th and 76th, respectively, in offensive box plus/minus. And the lowest mark for assists per 75 possessions among those four was Vooch's 4.2.

    Bulls head coach Billy Donovan has a track record of making mid-range attacks work, too. With the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2019-20, he led Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder to an unexpected playoff appearance.

        

    Indiana Pacers: 44-38

    The 2020-21 Indiana Pacers were one of the league's most injury-impacted teams, according to Man Games Lost's lost win shares metric.

    If they can return to some semblance of decent health, new head coach Rick Carlisle should have them back in the playoff hunt. Last season, they missed out for the first time since the 2014-15 season.

    On paper, a starting lineup of Malcolm Brogdon, Caris LeVert, T.J. Warren, Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner should be competitive in most games.

         

    Cleveland Cavaliers: 25-57

    Development isn't always linear, but it's probably safe to expect some improvement from Collin Sexton, Darius Garland and Isaac Okoro. With the addition of Evan Mobley, that sounds like a recipe for noticeable team improvement, too.

    However, several organizations in the Eastern Conference took more dramatic steps forward. That means the Cleveland Cavaliers will sort of spin their wheels in 2021-22, at least in terms of raw winning percentage. 

               

    Detroit Pistons: 23-59

    The Detroit Pistons' outlook probably reads much like that of the Cavs'. Killian Hayes is certainly harder to project than Sexton or Garland, but he's young enough to improve. Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey should be better, too. And 2021 No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham looks like the right kind of facilitator to bind everything together.

    Throw in veterans like returning forward Jerami Grant and newcomer Kelly Olynyk, and it feels relatively safe to predict some improvement. However, this team isn't likely to take a major step forward because of what happened around the rest of the East.

Northwest Division

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    Utah Jazz: 53-29

    The Utah Jazz had the NBA's best record last season, and they added some intriguing depth this summer. Hassan Whiteside is two seasons removed from a strong campaign for the Portland Trail Blazers, and Rudy Gay and Eric Paschall open up the possibility for small-ball lineups.

    Adding that to the team that played at a 59-win pace last season suggests Utah should at least hold steady in terms of wins and losses in 2020-21. But playing at that level for two straight years is rare, and Mike Conley has struggled with availability for much of the last four seasons. 

    Those factors along with improvement from a handful of Western Conference teams will slow the Jazz down a bit.

       

    Denver Nuggets: 49-33

    The Denver Nuggets' shot at a 50-win season will be impacted by Jamal Murray's recovery from a torn ACL, but the presence of MVP Nikola Jokic and continued improvement from Michael Porter Jr. will have them in that hunt.

    In every season of his career, the Nuggets have been at least solid with Jokic on the floor, including two sub-.500 campaigns in 2015-16 and 2016-17. And MPJ already looks like a near-perfect floor-spacer alongside him. Last season, he averaged 24.0 points per 75 possessions with an absurd 67.2 true shooting percentage when Murray was off the floor.

    With role players like Monte Morris, Will Barton and Aaron Gordon surrounding those two, Denver should be in decent shape until Murray returns.

        

    Portland Trail Blazers: 45-37

    This is a tough one to predict, as it's strongly tied to whether Damian Lillard will be on the team for the entire season. The smoke from his rumor mill isn't quite as thick as that of Ben Simmons, but it's probably fair to say there's a chance he gets moved.

    If he stays, the Portland Trail Blazers will be tough. If he goes for a rebuild starter kit (picks and young players), they likely won't be.

    For now, we'll assume the former. And while Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic are still a strong trio, the front office did little to supplement those three this offseason. In the Western Conference, lateral moves often translate to regression in the win column.

         

    Minnesota Timberwolves: 35-47

    Last season, the Minnesota Timberwolves' minus-6.1 point differential ranked 26th in the NBA, but they were plus-6.5 with all three of Karl-Anthony Towns, D'Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards on the floor.

    Towns is an offensive juggernaut. Edwards should be better with a year of seasoning under his belt. The wild card is the availability of Russell, who managed fewer than 50 appearances in each of the last two seasons.

         

    Oklahoma City Thunder: 17-65

    The Oklahoma City Thunder still seem to have both feet firmly planted in asset accumulation mode. Expect plenty of minutes for unproven youngsters like Aleksej Pokusevski and Josh Giddey, and maybe even another early-season shutdown for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

    Regardless of who's out there, OKC will play hard (as it did for head coach Mark Daigneault last season). However, that'll be far from enough on most nights.

Pacific Division

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    Los Angeles Lakers: 53-29

    The Pacific Division may be the NBA's best in 2021-22, and the Los Angeles Lakers should still manage to be the king of that hill.

    Even when accounting for the time it will take for Russell Westbrook and LeBron James to figure out how to play together, as well as the time LeBron and Anthony Davis might miss because of injuries, it's hard to imagine this amount of talent falling shy of 50 wins.

    Considering the amount of shooting that vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka found in the minimum-contract market, it's even easier to make that prediction.

        

    Golden State Warriors: 50-32

    In 2020-21, the Warriors were plus-7.6 points per 100 possessions (89th percentile) when Stephen Curry and Draymond Green were both on the floor, and they were plus-14.7 when those two played without Kelly Oubre Jr. Now, just imagine Klay Thompson, whether he's entirely his pre-injury self or not, playing Oubre's 30.7 minutes.

    Assuming decent health, Otto Porter Jr. should help as well. Over his last five seasons, he's hit 42.1 percent of his three-point attempts, and his teams' net ratings are 6.3 points better when he plays.

    If Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman and an aging Andre Iguodala can lift the Warriors' ceiling at all, they should be back in the top tier of contenders.

         

    Phoenix Suns: 50-32

    Phoenix Suns fans will rightfully recoil at this prediction after their team won 51 games in a 72-game season and represented the Western Conference in the Finals. They were one of 2020-21's most fortunate teams on the health front, though, with the third-fewest games missed because of injury.

    With Chris Paul entering his age-36 season, it's fair to wonder if his own durability may wane a bit, too.

    Still, all of that playoff experience for Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges should help the Suns pick up any slack dropped by CP3. Their winning percentage might dip a bit, but they still have a shot to get back to the Finals.

         

    Los Angeles Clippers: 43-39

    Kawhi Leonard's absence won't necessarily doom the Los Angeles Clippers to miss the playoffs, but a Western Conference team without its best player is in a precarious position.

    Paul George will likely have to be the MVP finalist version of himself for L.A. to win more games than this, but that isn't impossible. He averaged 29.6 points in the playoffs after Kawhi's departure from the lineup.

    With PG and a still strong supporting cast that now includes Eric Bledsoe, the Clippers should still be in the mix for a playoff spot.

         

    Sacramento Kings: 33-49

    You can probably argue for a more optimistic projection for the Sacramento Kings, who could very well see improvement from De'Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton and Marvin Bagley III, but they're in a nightmarish division.

    Even if those three are better, Richaun Holmes, Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes are still solid and rookie guard Davion Mitchell exceeds expectations, it's hard to imagine the Kings on the level of the rest of the Pacific.

Southeast Division

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    Miami Heat: 48-34

    With the addition of Kyle Lowry, P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris, the Miami Heat likely got better this offseason. However, it's fair to wonder how much better.

    Lowry is entering his age-35 season, has struggled with durability for two years and just posted his lowest BPM since 2009-10. Tucker is 36 and was 340th in BPM in 2020-21. Jimmy Butler, 31, will be a year older, too.

    Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson can conceivably stem the aging tide, but it feels like Miami is slightly behind the East's top tier.

        

    Atlanta Hawks: 46-36

    This record would mean the Atlanta Hawks experience a slight decrease in winning percentage, which may seem like a stretch given the age of their core and the additions of Delon Wright and Gorgui Dieng.

    If Trae Young, John Collins, Cam Reddish and De'Andre Hunter all improve, Atlanta could indeed push toward or beyond 50 wins. Like others discussed, though, the Hawks are up against a conference featuring several teams that made major offseason upgrades.

    The Hawks feasibly could play better without posting a better winning percentage.

         

    Charlotte Hornets: 43-39

    The Charlotte Hornets are one such Eastern Conference team that should be better.

    A presumed starting five of LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, Miles Bridges and Mason Plumlee features plus passing from three positions, Rozier's takeover ability and Bridges' dynamic finishing and improved three-point shooting.

    With a little depth from P.J. Washington, Kelly Oubre Jr. and rookie James Bouknight, Charlotte exceeding a .500 win percentage feels like a relatively safe bet.

         

    Washington Wizards: 41-41

    At each of his last two stops (the Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards), there was an adjustment period for Russell Westbrook and his teams. Both times, though, Westbrook figured things out.

    After the 2020-21 All-Star break, Westbrook averaged an absurd 23.6 points, 13.1 assists and 12.8 rebounds and had a positive point differential. The Wizards will miss him, but the depth they got in return should keep them in the playoff mix.

    Bradley Beal is one of the game's premier scorers, and the additions of Spencer Dinwiddie, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell gives him several proven role players. A little development from Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija, Davis Bertans or Thomas Bryant could help the Wizards beat this prediction.

         

    Orlando Magic: 17-65

    OKC, Houston and the Orlando Magic figure to be the faces of tanking in 2021-22. There are plenty of talented young players in the East's representative in that race, but Jalen Suggs and company are nowhere near ready to compete with veteran teams yet.

    If the Magic get flashes of star upside from Suggs, Wendell Carter Jr., R.J. Hampton, Chuma Okeke or Mo Bamba, the season should be seen as a mild success. They'll get bonus points if Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac come back and look like foundational pieces as well.

Southwest Division

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    Dallas Mavericks: 49-33

    There aren't many superlatives left to describe Luka Doncic. Over the last two seasons, he's averaged 28.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 8.7 assists. He nearly averaged a triple-double at the Tokyo Olympics. And he's the current favorite to win MVP this season, per FanDuel Sportsbook. The 22-year old is magnificent.

    The problem remains his supporting cast. When healthy and engaged, Kristaps Porzingis is a high-end No. 2, but he often fails to check both boxes. Tim Hardaway Jr., Reggie Bullock, Maxi Kleber, Jalen Brunson and a handful of Dallas centers are solid, but none are stars.

    Still, a solid supporting cast should be enough for Luka to lead Dallas to somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 wins.

        

    Memphis Grizzlies: 42-40

    The Memphis Grizzlies took a bunch of swings this offseason. In exchange for the offensive reliability of Jonas Valanciunas, they've added more of a rim runner in Steven Adams and question marks in the form of Sam Merrill, Daniel Oturu, Jarrett Culver and Juancho Hernangomez.

    If one of those youngsters hits and Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke take a step forward, the Grizzlies could push closer to the mid-40s.

        

    New Orleans Pelicans: 42-40

    The New Orleans Pelicans are another young team that shook things up around a young star. And the question for them might be even more obvious.

    As individual additions, Devonte' Graham, Tomas Satoransky and Valanciunas all make sense, but were they worth the loss of Lonzo Ball? Over their two seasons together, the Pelicans were plus-5.8 points per 100 possessions when Zion Williamson played with Lonzo and minus-2.2 when Zion played without him.

    Satoransky and Graham can approximate a lot of what Ball brought, but there was a chemistry between he and Williamson that might be harder to replicate.

         

    San Antonio Spurs: 32-50

    The San Antonio Spurs have some intriguing young players such as Dejounte Murray, Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson and Jakob Poeltl. It should be fun to see Doug McDermott go full McBuckets on a roster devoid of stars. And solid vets like Derrick White, Thaddeus Young and Bryn Forbes will have their moments.

    But in the Western Conference, San Antonio will be at a talent deficit in most matchups.

        

    Houston Rockets: 18-64

    The 2021-22 Rockets will be fun. They'll be bad, but they'll be fun.

    Jalen Green looked like the real deal at Las Vegas Summer League. Expect a high-volume scoring season from the rookie. Alperen Sengun showed some old-school big skills that complement him, too.

    Add Kevin Porter Jr., KJ Martin, Jae'Sean Tate, Usman Garuba, Josh Christopher and other young players to the mix, and it's easy to be intrigued.

    If the Rockets eventually move Christian Wood for more unproven talent, they might even be able to beat OKC and Orlando to the bottom and increase their odds at another top pick.

         

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    All statistics via Basketball Reference, Cleaning the Glass, NBA.com or PBPStats unless otherwise noted.

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