NBA season preview: Vegas odds — yes, the Warriors are favored — key numbers, predictions
Over/under win totals include 62.5 for the Warriors, 48.5 for LeBron and the Lakers and 53.5 for the Sixers.
A look at what you can expect from the 2018-19 NBA season, with teams in predicted order of finish.
Last season: 55-27, lost to Cleveland in seven games in conference finals.
Notable: The return of Gordon Hayward from a gruesome leg injury has the Celtics thinking Finals. LeBron James' exodus out of the conference isn't hurting, either.
Key number: 21.9. Points per game Gordon Hayward averaged in 2016-17 for Utah. The Celts won 55 games and reached Game 7 of the Eastern finals without him (and Kyrie Irving for much of the run). "Watching the guys last year just gave me a lot of confidence in our team and what I think we have the ability to do," said Hayward, who is dealing with back issues related to last year's injury.
Last season: 52-30, lost to Boston in five games in second round.
Notable: Left out of the free-agent frenzy, the Sixers' biggest offseason headline was the Bryan Colangelo/Twitter mess that led to the eventual hiring of Elton Brand as general manager. All eyes will be on whether guards Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons can make jump shots, which is almost as bizarre as the Twitter scandal.
Key number: 1,353. Number of turnovers last season, the most in the league and an average of 16.5 per game.
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Last season: 59-23, won division; swept by Cleveland in second round.
Notable: Shook up the roster by acquiring Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green from San Antonio for DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl. Leonard, a two-time defensive player of the year, will see Ben Simmons for the first time on Oct. 30 in Toronto. New head coach Nick Nurse had been an assistant for the Raptors under Dwane Casey before Casey's surprise firing.
Key number: 1993. The year Joe Carter homered off Mitch Williams, which also was the last time a Canadian team won a major sports championship.
New York Knicks
Last season: 29-53.
Notable: Kristaps Porzingis, who tore his ACL in February, remains in limbo. The Knicks probably are not going to contend this year, so they're not going to rush him back. Allonzo Trier, an undrafted guard out of Arizona, forced his way into the Knicks rotation — at least to start the season. "Some kids are just naturals. He's a natural scorer," coach David Fizdale said.
Key number: 5. Number of times the Knicks have made the playoffs this millennium.
Last season: 28-54.
Notable: The Nets were 29th in field-goal shooting last season, which has led coach Kenny Atkinson to make adjustments. "We've simplified, cleared up some of our spacing," Atkinson told the New York Post last week. " … You watch in the exhibition games right now, you see a lot of guards out there. That was part of the thinking of tweaking the offense where it fits a four-guard system." Admirable, but since none of those guards are named Harden, Lillard, Westbrook or Curry, the Nets seem headed for NBA purgatory again.
Key number: 13.9. Career-high points per game for Chester High product Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who has been nagged by a groin strain since playing in Jeremy Lin's charity game in China in August.
Last season: 44-38, lost to Boston in seven games in first round.
Notable: The Bucks are hoping a new arena helps them erase an ignominious mark of eight consecutive first-round losses stretching back to 2000-01. Ugh. "Coach [Mike Budenholzer] has been amazing. He's letting us play, He's letting us be basketball players," superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo said. "What he's putting out on offense and the way we're going to play this year is going to be free."
Key number: 4. Number of Villanova alums who've averaged double figures as NBA rookies (Paul Arizin, Kerry Kittles, Tim Thomas, and Randy Foye). Donte DiVincenzo would love to become No. 5.
Last season: 48-34, lost to Cleveland in seven games in first round.
Notable: Added Tyreke Evans and Doug McDermott to a club that gave the Cavaliers a major scare. The Pacers are intent on showing last season was no fluke. "I don't know if people think we're Milli Vanilli, a one-hit wonder, but I think there's a little bit of that. I do," said team president Kevin Pritchard, showing his age (51). "I think people think we're a solid team that overachieved last season and now we've got to prove it again."
Key number: 23.1. Victor Oladipo's points per game last season, nearly eight points higher than his career average.
Last season: 39-43.
Notable: Scooped up coach Dwane Casey from Toronto to replace Stan Van Gundy. Blake Griffin turns 30 in March. If he, and others, can stay healthy, the Pistons could challenge for a postseason spot. Griffin hasn't played more than 70 games in five years.
Key number: 67. Number of games missed by point guard Reggie Jackson over the last two seasons.
Last season: 50-32, won division, swept by Golden State in Finals.
Notable: You know that scene when Forrest Gump just stopped running and all his followers were questioning what's next? That's the Cavs. "Life's going to be a lot different for us going forward, basketball-wise," forward Kyle Korver said. "We went to LeBron because we were supposed to go to LeBron. Now, there's an opportunity for new. No one is LeBron, but we get to figure out new things. We get to create a new identity."
Key number: 19. Number of wins the Cavs had in 2010-11, the year after LeBron left them for Miami. Their win total over/under this year is 31.
Last season: 27-55.
Notable: The risky signing of oft-injured Chicago native Jabari Parker looked better when Lauri Markkanen severely sprained his elbow. Markkanen, who was first-team all-rookie, could be out until mid-November. Wendell Carter Jr., who was terrific in Vegas during the summer, has the Bulls excited about his interior defense. Oddly, Chicago opens the season in Philadelphia (Oct. 18) and closes the season here (April 10).
Key number: 13.4. Points that guard Kris Dunn was averaging before missing the final 14 games with a toe injury last season. The year before, as a rookie with Minnesota, Dunn averaged 3.8.
Last season: 43-39, lost to Toronto in six games in the first round.
Notable: Dwight Howard was slated to replace Marcin Gortat at center, but Howard was nagged by a back injury during the preseason, which is concerning. The 33-year-old has been to the postseason six times since 2010-11. His teams were knocked out in the first round in five of them.
Key number: 3. Number of times Bradley Beal scored at least 40 points last season. This division figures to come down to Washington or Miami.
Last season: 44-38, won division, lost to Sixers in five games in the first round.
Notable: Dwyane Wade will play one more season. His only regular-season visit here is Feb. 21. Wade's teams are 38-20 against the Sixers, including 5-5 in the postseason. … Bringing back Udonis Haslem was important. "When players come in and we talk to them about what it means to be a Miami Heat player," coach Erik Spoelstra said, "we point [to] Udonis Haslem."
Key number: $40 million. Approximate amount remaining on the contract of guard Dion Waiters, who has not yet played because of a wrist injury.
Last season: 36-46.
Notable: They brought in former Spurs assistant James Borrego as head coach. He has installed an up-tempo system the players seem to love, especially the three-point shooters. "In practice, we've been playing with 12- and 14-second shot clocks just to speed it up," Malik Monk told the Charlotte Observer. "It's super spaced-out and we love that."
Key number: 18. Number of seasons for backup point guard Tony Parker, who will help starter Kemba Walker both on and off the court.
Last season: 25-57.
Notable: Steve Clifford is their fifth coach since the Magic last made the playoffs in 2012 under Stan Van Gundy. They're going to rebuild around Aaron Gordon, Nik Vucevic and first-rounder Mo Bamba, who played at Westtown before going to Texas. Bamba vs. Embiid should be fun. The Magic's first visit to Philadelphia is Oct. 20.
Key number: 12.3. Number of rebounds Vucevic avereages against the Sixers, most against any opponent. Vucevic, the Sixers' first-round pick in 2011, was dealt to the Magic in the 2012 Andrew Bynum deal.
Last season: 24-58.
Notable: Rookie Trae Young was the first player ever to lead the nation in points and assists, which is even more remarkable given that he was a freshman at Oklahoma. Looking forward to him going against Ben Simmons on Oct. 29 and Jan. 11 when the Hawks are here.
Key number: 19.4. Points per game last year for Dennis Schroder, who was traded to Oklahoma City shortly after Young's arrival.
Last season: 65-17, won division, lost to Golden State in seven games in conference finals.
Notable: Curiously signed Carmelo Anthony (to the veterans' minimum) with the hope he can get them over the hump. "Everybody on this team, especially the Hall of Fame guys, which is a lot of them, have got every individual award known to man," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Now it's just can you get the ultimate prize as a team player and kind of top your career off?"
Key number: 25. Number of All-Star selections for Anthony (10), Chris Paul (9) and reigning-MVP James Harden (6), who are pursuing their first title.
New Orleans Pelicans
Last season: 48-34, lost to Golden State in five games in the second round.
Notable: They replaced DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo with Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton. Upset third-seeded Portland with a first-round sweep, the first playoff series win in Anthony Davis' now seven-year career. Getting Payton allows Jrue Holiday to remain as the two-guard, where he flourished last season.
Key number: 12.6. Minutes per game last season for Jahlil Okafor, who is trying to resurrect his career in New Orleans.
San Antonio Spurs
Last season: 47-35, lost to Golden State in five games in the first round.
Notable: Picked up four-time All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan in the Kawhi Leonard trade. DeRozan played nine years in Toronto and initially felt betrayed by the Raptors, who had assured him he was not being dealt. The Spurs play in Toronto on Feb. 22. The Spurs suffered a huge blow when starting point guard Dejounte Murray tore the ACL in his right knee in the preseason. First-round pick Lonnie Walker tore his meniscus and will be out for at least another month. Manu Ginobili retired and Tony Parker signed with Charlotte.
Key number: 7. Number of teams former Villanova star Dante Cunningham has been with in 10 NBA seasons (Portland, Charlotte, Memphis, Minnesota, New Orleans, Brooklyn, San Antonio).
Last season: 24-58.
Notable: The Mavs have declined in each of the last three years and are in full rebuilding mode, despite Dirk Nowitzki's coming back for his 21st season. They have an interesting rookie in Luca Doncic, who was the EuroLeague regular-season and Final Four MVP last season for Real Madrid. DeAndre Jordan signed in the offseason, three years after backing out of a handshake deal. Jalen Brunson might not get much time at first, but the Mavericks like his savvy.
Key number: 31.3. Dennis Smith (15.2 ppg.) had a decent rookie year, but his three-point shooting percentage needs to improve.
Last season: 22-60.
Notable: The Grizzlies went from 43 wins to 22 in a monumental slide, but retained J.B. Bickerstaff, who took over when David Fizdale was canned. They drafted Big Ten defensive player of the year Jaren Jackson with the fourth overall pick and national defensive player of the year Jevon Carter with the 32nd pick.
Key number: 11. Number of seasons Mike Conley and Marc Gasol have been teammates. A quick Google search revealed the average marriage lasts eight years, so good for them.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Last season: 48-34, lost to Utah in six games in the first round.
Notable: The biggest surprise in free agency was the Thunder's ability to retain Paul George. "I just developed these really good relationships here, almost feeling like I've been here for a while," George said of his decision. (There was a thought that he was headed to the Lakers.) They acquired scorer Dennis Schroder from Atlanta and parted ways with Carmelo Anthony.
Key number: 36.5. Minutes per game last year for Russell Westbrook, a career high. He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in mid-September and turns 30 on Nov. 12.
Last season: 48-34, lost to Houston in five games in the second round.
Notable: Donovan Mitchell, who was not happy to be runner-up for rookie of the year to Ben Simmons, led the Jazz to a playoff upset of OKC. "There's a difference in how people are going to play me this year and how they're going to guard me," he acknowledged. The Jazz play at the Wells Fargo Center on Nov. 16.
Key number: 29-6. Utah's record to close the season, which included winning streaks of 11, 9 and 6.
Last season: 46-36.
Notable: An overtime loss in the season finale cost them a playoff spot, but there's optimism here (and it has nothing to do with the marijuana laws). Nikola Jokic averaged 21.7 ppg. after the All-Star break and was given a max contract. "We have an identity now and Nikola is a huge part of that identity," said coach Michael Malone. Veteran Paul Millsap is fully recovered from a wrist injury that wrecked his first season in Denver.
Key number: 14. Where Denver selected Michael Porter Jr. in the first round. Porter has top-five talent, but a second back surgery in July has him out indefinitely.
Portland Trail Blazers
Last season: 49-33, won division, swept by New Orleans in the first round.
Notable: The division is better this year, so a slow start must be avoided. That first-round sweep still stings. They return all five starters and most key reserves except for Shabazz Napier and Ed Davis. "I want to get back to the playoffs and have a better performance," said NBA first-teamer Damian Lillard, "but like I said it's a super, super tough Western Conference ."
Key number: 15.8. Minutes per game for 7-footer Zach Collins, last year's first-rounder out of Gonzaga who is expected to step in for the loss of Davis.
Last season: 47-35, lost to Houston in five games in the first round.
Notable: Any optimism coming off their first playoff appearance since 2006 evaporated when Jimmy Butler demanded a trade. The Wolves, who did get Karl-Anthony Towns signed for five more years (for $190 million), have a major distraction on their hands.
Key number: 8.0. Average number of three-pointer made per game as a team last year, fewest in the league. The average was 10.5 and the Rockets led the NBA with a ridiculous 15.8.
Golden State Warriors
Last season: 58-24, won second consecutive championship and third in four years.
Notable: They could be looking at the end of a dynasty with Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson likely hitting free agency next summer. Next year aside, the Warriors are favored to win their third consecutive title and fourth in five years. And, oh yeah, at some point they'll get DeMarcus Cousins, who signed a one-year deal. He's recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in January.
Key number: 1966. Year that the facility now known as Oracle Arena opened. It's the oldest arena in the league and will close this season. The Sixers' final visit, barring a postseason series, is the back end of a TNT doubleheader on Jan. 31.
Last season: 35-47.
Notable: They added LeBron James at the bargain price of $153 million for four seasons. James, who played a league-high 3,948 minutes last year (counting postseason) turns 34 on Dec. 30. The Sixers play at the Lakers on Jan. 29 and host the Lakers on Sunday, Feb. 10.
Key number: 48.5. The betting line on the Lakers' projected number of wins. The last time one of James' team failed to win 50 games was 2011-12 when Miami went 46-20. That was the year he won his first title.
Last season: 42-40.
Notable: The Clippers are back to being L.A.'s other team — at least for this season. The nucleus of Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin has been dismantled and the club is stockpiling money in the hopes of being a major player when next summer's free-agency orgy opens. Tanks a lot, LeBron. Tobias Harris, acquired from Detroit in the Griffin deal, averaged 19-6-3 in 32 games for the Clips.
Key number: 22.6. Scoring average for Lou Williams, who became the first player to win Sixth Man of the Year for two teams (Toronto, 2014-15).
Last season: 21-61, worst record in the league.
Notable: The Suns fired general manager Ryan McDonough a week before the season started, which probably isn't a good sign. McDonough drafted Arizona center Deandre Ayton with the first overall pick and traded for Villanova swingman Mikal Bridges, another lottery pick. Igor Kokoskov, a Serbian national, is the first NBA coach not born in North America.
Key number: 24.9. Points per game last season for Devin Booker. In July, Booker signed a five-year, $158 million extension to essentially become the face of the franchise. He's coming off hand surgery and turns 22 on Oct. 30.
Last season: 27-55.
Notable: Another West club looking toward the future. The Kings are extremely young, but there's talent here. Just not enough yet to run with the horses in this conference. "It's a season where we're going to commit to playing even more young guys than we have in the past," coach Dave Joerger said. "It's an opportunity for guys to develop and it's an opportunity for the organization to evaluate long-term which guys will still be considered a core guy two, three, four years from now." Point guard De'Aaron Fox and big men Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles (all under 21) should be big parts of the rotation, along with Justin Jackson (23) and Buddy Hield (24).
Key number: 103.7. Estimated number of points per 100 possessions last season. Only Phoenix (103.5) was worse.
This story contains information from the Associated Press.