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How the East and West standings will look in 2018-19

On Monday, we examined the likeliest title contenders in 2018-19. Here’s a look at how our Summer Forecast projects every team to finish in the standings this coming season. (Also check out Kevin Pelton’s win-loss projections.)

Which teams are headed for the playoffs? Which teams are lottery bound?

We asked the ESPN Forecast panel to predict the win totals for all 30 teams.

Here are the results:

Eastern Conference standings


1. Boston Celtics
Projected record: 58-24
Last season: 55-27

Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving combined to miss 103 regular-season games last season and the Celtics still won 55 games. Even if Boston needs to ease Hayward and Irving back a bit, the younger players who sparked Boston’s playoff run — Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier — will be hungry to showcase their own development. It all adds up to Boston earning the second-highest win projection in the league, behind only Golden State.


2. Toronto Raptors
Projected record: 55-27
Last season: 59-23

The Raptors added an MVP-caliber talent this summer and their win projection is … lower? Toronto won 59 games last season, but the uncertainty surrounding Kawhi Leonard‘s health likely left our panel leery of pushing Toronto’s win total too high. A new head coach adds a layer of unpredictability to the season.


3. Philadelphia 76ers
Projected record: 53-29
Last season: 52-30

Our panel predicted the 76ers to win a mere 37 games last summer. But voters clearly trust the process now, with Philadelphia emerging with the fifth-highest win projection in the entire league this time around. Joel Embiid probably thinks it’s still too low.


T-4. Indiana Pacers
Projected record: 47-35
Last season: 48-34

Our panel is much more bullish on the Pacers this year. In the aftermath of the Paul George trade, Indiana was forecasted at a meager 31 wins and exceeded that number by a whopping 17 games last year. Now we’ll find out if the additions of players such as Doug McDermott and Tyreke Evans can help propel the Pacers to a spot in the top half of the East playoff bracket.


T-4. Milwaukee Bucks
Projected record: 47-35
Last season: 44-38

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the inconsistent Bucks settled for the seventh seed last season but nearly stunned short-handed Boston in Round 1. The biggest change for Milwaukee this offseason was the hiring of coach Mike Budenholzer. His playoff experiences with San Antonio and Atlanta could go a long way toward helping a young Bucks squad find the consistency it needs.


6. Washington Wizards
Projected record: 44-38
Last season: 43-39

The schedule-makers don’t seem too hyped about Washington, giving the Wizards only eight national TV appearances next season. John Wall has suggested he’s content with Washington reverting to the underdog role, but clearly there’s still a good amount of talent here. The question is whether adding the likes of Dwight Howard this summer is the answer to what ails the Wizards — or what might finally cause them to implode.


7. Miami Heat
Projected record: 43-39
Last season: 44-38

When re-signing Wayne Ellington is your big summer splash, it’s going to be hard to generate voter confidence. Miami won 44 games last season, and our panel doesn’t expect much change for a team that’s on track to pay the luxury tax despite not being a surefire contender.


8. Detroit Pistons
Projected record: 38-44
Last season: 39-43

Despite hiring the reigning NBA Coach of the Year in Dwane Casey, the Pistons’ win projection is actually lower than their win total from last season. Still, the Pistons, who have only one playoff appearance in the past nine seasons, are projected to be in the mix for a playoff spot with Casey’s leadership and a full season of Blake Griffin.


9. Charlotte Hornets
Projected record: 35-47
Last season: 36-46

The Hornets are hoping some of the Spurs’ mojo rubs off on them. Charlotte hired former San Antonio assistant James Borrego to be its coach, then signed veteran guard Tony Parker. But tough decisions loom about the future of key players, including Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, on a Hornets team that has won only 36 games in each of the past two seasons.


10. Brooklyn Nets
Projected record: 32-50
Last season: 28-54

GM Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson have done a nice job getting an asset-deprived program back on the road to respectability. But it’s reflective of just how poor the bottom of the East is that the Nets are pegged to finish above five teams during the rare instance they actually own their first-round pick.


11. Cleveland Cavaliers
Projected record: 31-51
Last season: 50-32

We see the LeBron Effect out West, with the Lakers projected to vault to a playoff team this season. Well, here’s the other side of the coin: The Cavaliers dropped from a projected 52 wins last season to 31 this year. Kevin Love faces an uphill battle to keep the Cavaliers in contention.


12. Orlando Magic
Projected record: 30-52
Last season: 25-57

Steve Clifford will be the latest head coach to try to harness the talents of Orlando’s fleet of unique young big men, including first-round pick Mohamed Bamba. After a big summer payday, Aaron Gordon must figure out how to get a team that has missed the playoffs six straight years out of lottery mode.


T-13. Chicago Bulls
Projected record: 28-54
Last season: 27-55

Say this about the Bulls: They don’t seem content to stand pat. Chicago paid to retain Zach LaVine, nabbed free-agent Jabari Parker and drafted Wendell Carter Jr. With Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, the Bulls have an intriguing mix of talent — or at least more than 28 projected wins might suggest.


T-13. New York Knicks
Projected record: 28-54
Last season: 29-53

New head coach David Fizdale won’t have the services of a still-rehabbing Kristaps Porzingis to start the season. But lots of reps for Kevin Knox and securing another lottery pick probably isn’t the worst outcome for a Knicks team hoping it can lure an elite star to New York during the summer of 2019.


15. Atlanta Hawks
Projected record: 22-60
Last season: 24-58

First-year coach Lloyd Pierce has three first-round picks to trot out in Trae Young, Kevin Huerter and Omari Spellman. The Hawks are playing the long game, which means they’ll be short on wins for the foreseeable future. But hitting on draft picks and managing their cap might just be the fastest path back to respectability.

— Chris Forsberg

Western Conference standings


1. Golden State Warriors
Projected record: 61-21
Last season: 58-24

Boredom was probably the Warriors’ biggest problem last regular season, and the signing of All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins definitely adds some excitement. It isn’t clear when Cousins will make his Golden State debut, but when he does, the opportunity (and challenge) of implementing another dominant scorer should command the Warriors’ attention, along with everyone else watching the NBA.


2. Houston Rockets
Projected record: 57-25
Last season: 65-17

A projected drop of eight wins — which is more optimistic than the Las Vegas oddsmakers’ over-unders — reflects the perception of replacing versatile defensive stoppers Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute with aging Carmelo Anthony and journeyman James Ennis III. However, it’s worth noting that Houston went 14-1 in games Ariza missed last season, with the lone loss coming when the Rockets sat all their regulars in the regular-season finale. And the Rockets’ record with James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela all playing: 42-3 (plus 11-4 in the playoffs).


3. Utah Jazz
Projected record: 49-33
Last season: 48-34

The Jazz made continuity a priority this summer, banking on internal development as the path to improvement after advancing to the second round for the second consecutive season. The Jazz went 29-6 from Jan. 24 (soon after Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert‘s return from injury) through the end of the regular season, posting the NBA’s second-best record and best point differential during that span. Watch out if Rookie of the Year runner-up Donovan Mitchell makes strides as a pull-up shooter (35.3 percent overall, 29.3 on 3s last season).


4. Oklahoma City Thunder
Projected record: 49-33
Last season: 48-34

Massive luxury-tax implications made dumping Melo’s salary a must, but the move might also make the Thunder a better team. Oklahoma City was minus-58 in Anthony’s 194 playoff minutes and outscored the Jazz by 32 points in the 94 minutes Melo sat during that series. How well Dennis Schroder, acquired from Atlanta in the Melo deal, adapts to his new sixth man role could determine whether OKC has home-court advantage in the first round.


5. Denver Nuggets
Projected record: 47-35
Last season: 46-36

After Denver came up one win short of the playoffs last season, we’re projecting the Nuggets to end a postseason drought that stands at five years. Denver deserves to be mentioned among teams that have the most promising young cores. The Nuggets had three of the seven players in the NBA last season who averaged at least 16.5 points at age 23 or younger while playing a minimum of 65 games: center Nikola Jokic and guards Gary Harris and Jamal Murray.


6. Los Angeles Lakers
Projected record: 46-36
Last season: 35-47

This would be the fewest wins for a LeBron James team in a full-length season since the 2007-08 Cavaliers went 45-37. On the previous occasions when James made a move in free agency, his new teams jumped 11 and 20 wins the next season. Of course, the Lakers aren’t adding an All-Star-caliber power forward, as well, unlike the Heat (Chris Bosh) and Cavs (Kevin Love) in 2010 and 2014, respectively.


7. New Orleans Pelicans
Projected record: 45-37
Last season: 48-34

The Pelicans went 20-9 in regular-season games during which Anthony Davis and February trade pickup Nikola Mirotic played together, outscoring opponents by 10.7 points per 100 possessions when that duo was on the floor. That momentum carried over into a first-round sweep of the Trail Blazers. Can the Pelicans, who played at the league’s fastest pace, keep running successfully with reclamation project Elfrid Payton replacing Rajon Rondo?


8. Minnesota Timberwolves
Projected record: 45-37
Last season: 47-35

There haven’t exactly been warm, fuzzy vibes coming from Minnesota, despite the Timberwolves making the playoffs for the first time since Kevin Garnett was just entering his prime. There have been persistent rumors and speculation about whether Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns, the team’s two All-Stars, are a tandem suited to last long term, with the former being a Tom Thibodeau loyalist and the latter seeming to butt heads with the head coach.


9. San Antonio Spurs
Projected record: 44-38
Last season: 47-35

The Kawhi Leonard saga is over in San Antonio. Will the Spurs’ historic playoff streak come to an end next? San Antonio’s 21 straight postseason appearances is tied for second in NBA history. An optimistic viewpoint: The Spurs managed to squeak in last season despite Leonard playing only nine games, and DeMar DeRozan — the centerpiece of the package the Spurs received from the Raptors — has been the leading scorer of a playoff team in Toronto each of the past five seasons.


10. Portland Trail Blazers
Projected record: 43-39
Last season: 49-33

This projection will probably be perceived as disrespectful in the Pacific Northwest. But there’s a reason Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum tweeted their displeasure when the Trail Blazers let reserve center Ed Davis leave in free agency. Davis, a valuable, rugged role player, ranked third among the Blazers in win shares last season, behind only Portland’s high-scoring guard duo. Portland likely needs Zach Collins to improve significantly to make the playoffs for a sixth straight season in the loaded West.


11. LA Clippers
Projected record: 35-47
Last season: 42-40

The departure of DeAndre Jordan, the last of the Lob City cornerstones, is a major reason the Clippers are projected to finish under .500 for the first time since 2010-11. Based on on/off court stats from last season, perhaps that shouldn’t be the case. The Clippers had a net rating (points per 100 possessions) of minus-2.8 when Jordan played and plus-4.4 when he sat. Montrezl Harrell, whose role could expand significantly this season with Jordan gone, had the best net rating (plus-2.3) of any Clipper who played at least 1,000 minutes.


12. Memphis Grizzlies
Projected record: 33-49
Last season: 22-60

The Memphis front office firmly believes the Grizzlies can compete for a playoff spot with a healthy Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. They are 65-56 when both of their remaining Grit ‘n Grind cornerstones have played over the past three seasons. But staying healthy has been tough for Conley in particular; he missed 70 games last season due to a heel injury that required surgery. No. 4 overall pick Jaren Jackson Jr. gives the Grizzlies a much-needed bolt of youthful energy and a bridge to the future.


13. Dallas Mavericks
Projected record: 33-49
Last season: 24-58

Dallas, which has missed the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since Dirk Nowitzki‘s first two seasons in the league, has dual goals. The development of future franchise cornerstones Luka Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr. is a priority, but the Mavs want to be competitive in what is likely Nowitzki’s last season. Signing DeAndre Jordan to what amounts to a one-year trial period addresses both agendas, giving the Mavs’ young playmakers a lob threat as Dallas hopes to fight for a playoff spot.

14. Phoenix Suns
Projected record: 27-55
Last season: 21-61

Devin Booker‘s scoring average (24.9 points per game) was higher than the Suns’ win total last season. That earned Phoenix the No. 1 pick and the right to draft big man Deandre Ayton, who sees the Suns’ young cornerstones as the next Shaq and Kobe. A good first step would be getting out of the West cellar, where Phoenix finished the past two seasons.


15. Sacramento Kings
Projected record: 24-58
Last season: 27-55

The Kings have gone 12 years — and nine head coaches — since their last winning season. Maybe Marvin Bagley III and De’Aaron Fox will lead the Kings back to relevance and improve the team’s reputation of being dysfunctional, but likely not this year.

— Tim MacMahon

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