ESPN

The only question this season: Who can beat the Warriors? That's it. So we did something nuts: We created a Warriors Competition rating to rank every team's chance to take them down. Gone are divisions! Gone are conferences! Will anyone succeed? Nah. But here's to trying.

1 Golden State Warriors Western Pacific http://a.espncdn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/warriors.png0.25 0
2016-17 record: 67-15 | Won Finals

This is how you beat the Warriors: Find players who can match the Dubs on both ends. Easy enough, right? Uh ... no. We rated players based on their projected offensive and defensive ratings in ESPN's real plus-minus (RPM) relative to the average players at their positions. The player's weaker end makes up his two-way rating, and teams with better two-way ratings (the Cavaliers) had more success against Golden State in the 2017 playoffs.

Based on how well two-way rating predicted how a team would over- or under-perform its overall talent against the Warriors, we've adjusted RPM projections to give an idea of how close teams will keep it against Golden State this season. Hint: Not very. -- Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    62.3
  • Summer forecast
    66.0
  • Las Vegas
    67.5

Title chances

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Cavaliers (in a potential Finals rematch) by 1.7 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO WIN TITLE
51.0
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
112WARRIORS
110CAVALIERS

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team's five starters and the bench project. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Stephen Curry 5.6 25
SG Klay Thompson 1.9 25
SF Kevin Durant 4.3 25
PF Draymond Green 6.0 25
Center Zaza Pachulia 1.4 25
Bench Warriors -0.7 25

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. CAVS

C Zaza Pachulia: Cleveland's own death lineup -- Isaiah Thomas, JR Smith, Jae Crowder, LeBron James and Kevin Love -- would give Golden State (and Pachulia especially) trouble defensively. Of course, the Warriors have an easy counter: Take Pachulia off the floor, and roll with maybe the most unstoppable five-man unit ever. -- Jeremias Engelmann

2 Houston Rockets Western Southwest http://a.espncdn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/rockets.png0.25 0.0
2016-17 record: 55-27 | Lost in second round

The 55-win Rockets finished 18th in defense last season, so GM Daryl Morey acquired six-time steals leader Chris Paul. Offense? Not an issue. Paul joins MVP runner-up James Harden and Houston's already potent unit (second to the Dubs in both PPG and O-rating). But Morey also added defensive stalwarts Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker, who join a bench projected to have the third-best real plus-minus. Behold! The biggest threat to unseat the Warriors lives in H-Town. -- Michael C. Wright

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    55.2
  • Summer forecast
    57.0
  • Las Vegas
    55.5

Competitor rank: No. 1

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Rockets by 1.6 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving Houston a 44.8 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
44.8
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
115WARRIORS
113ROCKETS

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Chris Paul 5.8 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG James Harden 4.0 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Trevor Ariza 0.3 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Ryan Anderson 0.6 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Clint Capela 0.8 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Rockets -0.2 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

PF Ryan Anderson: Given the strength of Houston's roster, a playoff matchup with the Warriors seems extremely likely. With Harden and Paul, the Rockets actually have two players rated above their Golden State counterparts, so Draymond Green will have to win his matchup by limiting Anderson's effectiveness from outside and making him work on defense. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

JAMES HARDEN | SHOOTING GUARD

It's difficult to call any contract extension worth $228 million a "no-brainer," but special talents demand special considerations. Even those who grouse over Harden's defense appreciate that nobody in the NBA manufactures points quite like the Beard. For a team that fashioned the strategy that every shot should ideally come from the 3-point line, basket area or foul line, Harden is the paragon of efficiency. It's simply a perfect fit in Houston. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

Evan Turner, Zach Collins from POR for Ryan Anderson, 2020 first-round pick

It's a swap of perhaps the two most untradable contracts in the league as the Rockets go all-in on a "switch everything" rotation that has no defensive gaps among the role players. Houston gambles that Turner's serious offensive woes are remedied by playing with Chris Paul and James Harden. Collins provides rim protection to spell center Clint Capela while the Blazers add a badly needed floor stretcher in Anderson. -- Micah Adams

3 Cleveland Cavaliers Eastern Central http://a.espncdn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/cavaliers.png0.15 0.0
2016-17 record: 51-31 | Lost in Finals

It's not all on LeBron's shoulders, even now that Kyrie Irving (27.7 PPG, 39.5 percent from 3 in 13 career Finals games vs. Golden State) is gone. But with the arrival of off-target penetrators Dwyane Wade (career 28.7 percent from 3) and Derrick Rose (29.8 percent), sharp shooting is mandatory from Kevin Love (145 3-pointers last season), who slides over to center. The Cavs put up a stellar 123.2 O-rating in Love's 114 minutes at center last postseason, which makes his new position the key to Cavs-Warriors Part IV. -- Dave McMenamin

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    51.4
  • Summer forecast
    52.0
  • Las Vegas
    55.0

Competitor rank: No. 2

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Cavaliers by 1.7 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving Cleveland a 44.6 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
44.6
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
112WARRIORS
110CAVALIERS

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Isaiah Thomas 1.4 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG Dwyane Wade -1.5 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF LeBron James 6.3 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Kevin Love 2.8 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Tristan Thompson 0.6 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Cavaliers -0.6 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

PG Derrick Rose: With news that Isaiah Thomas could be out until January, the Cavs will have to rely on Rose, whose impact took a complete nosedive over the past few years. That could end up hurting the Cavs in the battle for the East's No. 1 seed, which ultimately might make them less fresh in a mostly inevitable Finals rematch with the Warriors. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

LEBRON JAMES | FORWARD

The final of the coveted first-round "Brooklyn picks" landed in Cleveland following the Kyrie Irving trade, but no hypothetical star can rival a real-life generational one. James' eye might be wandering as he approaches a certain opt-out in his contract, but Cleveland is still the incumbent for his services. Could any discontent be buried with another magical run to the title? -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

DeMarcus Cousins from NOP for Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, BKN's 2018 first-round pick

Peak Cousins might give Golden State more trouble than any other player in the league, and if the Cavaliers are serious about challenging in what could be LeBron's final year in Cleveland, flipping the Nets pick for the All-Star center is the only realistic move that could make the Warriors blink. -- Micah Adams

4 San Antonio Spurs Western Southwest http://a.espncdn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/spurs.png0.25 0.0
2016-17 record: 61-21 | Lost in conference finals

Who remembers Game 1 of the 2017 Western Conference finals? You know, when the Spurs held a 21-point lead over the Warriors? Then, of course, Kawhi Leonard sprains his ankle, and the Warriors sweep the series. Funny how that works. Leonard, who missed the preseason, is projected to be this season's RPM leader. But it's newcomer Rudy Gay, part of the league's best projected bench who, at 6-foot-8, can guard multiple positions, who will allow the Spurs to play more small ball. -- Michael C. Wright

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    52.1
  • Summer forecast
    54.0
  • Las Vegas
    55.0

Competitor rank: No. 3

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Spurs by 1.8 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving San Antonio a 44.0 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
44.0
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
108WARRIORS
106SPURS

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Tony Parker -2.2 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG Danny Green 1.9 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Kawhi Leonard 6.4 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF LaMarcus Aldridge 0.7 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Pau Gasol 0.0 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Spurs 0.2 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

PG Tony Parker: Given his age, you have to wonder if the Spurs will continue starting Parker, who'll undoubtedly have trouble staying in front of Curry in a potential playoff matchup. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

KAWHI LEONARD | FORWARD

Complete players who excel at every component of the game don't come around very often. Leonard finished third in last season's MVP voting after upping his usage rate to 31.1 percent. Leonard's excellence enables the Spurs to sustain their culture of professionalism and humility and stay in the Western Conference mix for the foreseeable future. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic from DET for LaMarcus Aldridge

Harris gives the Spurs more scoring pop and, most importantly, added youth and versatility to help switch against the Kevin Durants of the world. The cupboard is bare on rim protectors, so the Spurs should insist on bringing back former San Antonio fan favorite Marjanovic. Detroit gets a buy-low opportunity on Aldridge, even if the fit alongside Andre Drummond isn't necessarily perfect. -- Micah Adams

5 Los Angeles Clippers Western Pacific http://a.espncdn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/clippers.png0.25 0.0
2016-17 record: 51-31 | Lost in first round

Sure, the Clippers will miss future HOFer Chris Paul, last season's leader in defensive RPM among point guards. But Paul's replacement, Patrick Beverley, finished second at the position. And Beverley's backup, 30-year-old Serbian import Milos Teodosic, is projected for 5.6 APG, 5.5 of which will be sensational underhanded highlight passes. L.A. also projects to have the fourth-best bench RPM with new arrivals Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. With DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin still around, the Clips didn't rebuild to catch the Warriors. They retooled. -- Ohm Youngmisuk

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    49.1
  • Summer forecast
    45.0
  • Las Vegas
    44.5

Competitor rank: No. 4

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Clippers by 3.9 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving LA a 37.6 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
37.6
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
111WARRIORS
107CLIPPERS

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Patrick Beverley 1.4 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG Austin Rivers -1.4 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Danilo Gallinari 2.0 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Blake Griffin 2.4 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center DeAndre Jordan 3.1 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Clippers -0.2 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

PG Patrick Beverley: Beverley (No. 2 among PGs in defensive RPM last season, at 1.37) won't make Curry's life easy on offense, but the two-time MVP is still difficult to lock down -- even for one of the league's best backcourt defenders. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

A HEALTHY BLAKE GRIFFIN

The Clips' franchise player requires a short disclaimer, having missed 92 games the past three seasons. But when he's well, Griffin is one of the league's best finishers and big-man playmakers. Among non-Warriors who played more than than 24 minutes per game and 60 games last season, Griffin ranked third in the league in net rating. With the departure of Chris Paul, the Clippers are now his team. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist from CHA for Austin Rivers

The Clippers don't have much size on the wing, especially with small-ball lineups with Blake Griffin and Danilo Gallinari manning the frontcourt. Enter Kidd-Gilchrist, although Doc Rivers would have to get creative with lineups to account for his lack of spacing. Charlotte needs shot creation outside of Kemba Walker, hence Rivers. -- Micah Adams

6 Milwaukee Bucks Eastern Central http://a.espncdn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/bucks.png0.35 0.0
2016-17 record: 42-40 | Lost in first round

At 22, Giannis Antetokounmpo (22.9 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 5.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, 1.9 BPG, 18th in RPM) is the unquestioned leader of the young core of Khris Middleton (career 40.4 percent from 3), ROY Malcolm Brogdon and 7-foot-1, 20-year-old Thon Maker. The Bucks are projected to land in the top 10 in both offense and defense, joining just the Wizards, Spurs, Rockets and Warriors. In a June sometime soon, we could get a taste of Milwaukee's Finest. -- Kevin Arnovitz

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    47.7
  • Summer forecast
    47.0
  • Las Vegas
    46.5

Competitor rank: No. 5

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Bucks by 4.8 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving Milwaukee a 34.8 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
34.8
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
110WARRIORS
105BUCKS

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Malcolm Brogdon 1.6 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG Tony Snell 0.9 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Khris Middleton 2.2 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Giannis Antetokounmpo 3.0 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Thon Maker -0.1 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Bucks -0.6 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

SF Khris Middleton: After a shaky playoff performance last season, Middleton needs to return to his 2015-16 form if the Bucks are going to rise in the East. His RPM went from 3.76 (20th overall) two seasons ago down to 1.40 (74th) last season. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO | FORWARD

If Antetokounmpo's steep trajectory to superstardom continues, last season's Most Improved Player has a shot at serious MVP contention. In an age of versatility, Giannis is the ultimate unicorn. Still only 23 and under contract in Milwaukee through 2021, Giannis sports a point guard's handle, a wing's agility and a big man's reach. If and when the long-range stroke arrives, the Bucks enter a future without a ceiling. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

DeMarcus Cousins from NOP for Jabari Parker, John Henson

Milwaukee decides now is the time to go for it, and rather than pay the rehabilitating Parker a max extension, the Bucks use him as the centerpiece of a Cousins trade. Although they'd hope to retain Cousins beyond this season, the opportunity to compete with a Greek Freak-Boogie tag team is irresistible. -- Micah Adams

7 Denver Nuggets Western Northwest http://a.espncdn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/nuggets.png0.0 0.0
2016-17 record: 40-42 | Missed playoffs

After moving Nikola Jokic in the starting lineup for good in mid-December, the Nuggets had the league's best offensive rating (113.3). Even better than the Warriors! Jokic ('17-18 projection: 17.7 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 5.2 APG) is a budding offensive star, but Denver needs to improve on D (projected 21st per 100 possessions). Adding free agent Paul Millsap -- veteran leader, multifaceted weapon and hard-nosed defender -- should mean a playoff berth for the first time since 2013. -- Tim MacMahon

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    47.7
  • Summer forecast
    46.0
  • Las Vegas
    45.5

Competitor rank: No. 6

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Nuggets by 4.9 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving Denver a 34.3 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
34.3
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
116WARRIORS
111NUGGETS

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Jameer Nelson -1.5 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG Gary Harris 0.3 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Wilson Chandler -1.0 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Paul Millsap 2.8 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Nikola Jokic 6.2 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Nuggets -0.5 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

Point guards: Denver is weak at the point guard position but thankfully has two of the league's best passing big men in Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap. With the Nuggets being one of the more likely first-round matchups for Golden State, Curry should be able to take advantage. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

NIKOLA JOKIC | CENTER

It speaks well of the Nuggets' direction that distinguishing one asset above the others is such a tough call. Jamal Murray and Gary Harris have established themselves as Denver's backcourt of the future. Incoming vet Paul Millsap should push the Nuggets into the playoffs. But Jokic's impact as an uber-versatile big man who can run an offense makes him one of the league's most intriguing young stars. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

DeMar DeRozan from TOR for Jamal Murray, Juan Hernangomez, Kenneth Faried, Jameer Nelson

Nikola Jokic is Denver's foundational piece, but can he or Paul Millsap be the high-volume scorer to carry the offensive load late in games? Murray might have future star potential, but you have to give up something to get something, and he along with Hernangomez could be the key cogs in a trade for an All-Star bucket-getter such as DeRozan. -- Micah Adams

8 Oklahoma City Thunder Western Northwest http://a.espncdn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/thunder.png0.0 0.0
2016-17 record: 47-35 | Lost in first round

Versatility? Check. Athleticism? Check. A trio of stars? Check, check and check. Russell Westbrook's incredible one-man show (and NBA-record usage percentage!) was ultimately unsuccessful in matching the Warriors. Enter All-Stars Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. But to beat Golden State, Melo, projected for career-low usage, might need to spend more time in the corners (42.6 percent on 47 attempts last season) to infuse the league's worst 3-point outfit. -- Royce Young

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    50.6
  • Summer forecast
    50.0
  • Las Vegas
    53.5

Competitor rank: No. 7

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Thunder by 5.0 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving OKC a 34.0 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
34.0
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
116WARRIORS
111THUNDER

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Russell Westbrook 4.8 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG Andre Roberson 1.3 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Paul George 2.7 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Carmelo Anthony -0.1 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Steven Adams 1.6 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Thunder -1.1 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

PF Carmelo Anthony: Despite high expectations, Anthony is the weak spot in OKC's starting unit, according to RPM. While his struggles on the defensive end are well documented, he might even have a hard time offensively when matched up against Draymond Green. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

RUSSELL WESTBROOK | POINT GUARD

OKC can exhale now that the Thunder have locked up their franchise star through 2023. So long as he remains healthy, Westbrook guarantees the Thunder not only a floor of respectability but also the ability to pitch the league's impact players on the chance to contend alongside an elite talent. Few players in the league carry that weight. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

OKC acquires: Nap time for GM Sam Presti

After adding Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Patrick Patterson, inking Russell Westbrook to the richest contract in NBA history and re-signing key starter Andre Roberson, Sam Presti ... needs a break from what has been a chaotic offseason. There isn't much for OKC to offer anyway, as the team has already traded two future first-round picks, and there aren't any large expiring contracts to flip for an asset. Rookie Terrance Ferguson has enough upside to fetch veteran help now, though the belief here is that OKC should stand pat and revisit at the trade deadline if necessary. -- Micah Adams

9 Minnesota Timberwolves Western Northwest http://a.espncdn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/timberwolves.png0.3 0.0
2016-17 record: 31-51 | Missed playoffs

This roster needed one thing: defense. So Tom Thibodeau acquired Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson, Chicago's leaders in D-rating (min. 25 MPG). Why do the Wolves project to be the NBA's 23rd-ranked defense? Andrew Wiggins (460th overall in dRPM) and Karl-Anthony Towns (last among centers) aren't yet playing Thibs-level defense. Still, Minnesota should make its first playoff appearance in 13 years behind an offense projected to be better than that of all but one team: the Warriors. -- Nick Friedell

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    50.0
  • Summer forecast
    48.0
  • Las Vegas
    48.5

Competitor rank: No. 8

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Timberwolves by 5.3 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving Minnesota a 33.5 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
33.5
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
113WARRIORS
108WOLVES

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Jeff Teague 0.8 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG Jimmy Butler 4.6 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Andrew Wiggins -0.4 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Taj Gibson -0.8 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Karl-Anthony Towns 3.0 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Wolves -0.5 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

Wiggins still gets lots of hype -- and probably a max extension -- but RPM remains unimpressed with his defensive effort. Should the Wolves and Warriors meet in the playoffs, he'll have his hands full on that side of the court, having to defend either Thompson or Durant. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS | FORWARD-CENTER

The Wolves have a trove of assets, including recent acquisition Jimmy Butler. But Towns stands along with Nikola Jokic and Kristaps Porzingis as one of the league's foolproof future stars still on his rookie deal. Towns brings an eye-popping true shooting percentage of 61.8, a monster rebounding rate and a solid locker-room presence. Once he elevates his defensive game, there's a full package -- and enormous upside for the Wolves. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

Wesley Matthews to MIN for Gorgui Dieng

For Karl-Anthony Towns to reach his full potential -- and thus help revamped Minnesota threaten Golden State -- he likely needs to slide to the 5 full-time. That makes Dieng expendable. He is one of the NBA's best defensive bigs and could land the Wolves some much-needed shooting in Matthews, a career 38 percent 3-point shooter. -- Micah Adams

10 Miami Heat Eastern Southeast http://a.espncdn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/heat.png-0.07 0.0
2016-17 record: 41-41 | Missed playoffs

The Heat's second-half record (30-11) was just two games worse than the champion Warriors. But after barely missing the playoffs, Miami spent heavily to retain a roster without an All-Star (James Johnson at $60 million! Josh Richardson at $42 million! Dion Waiters at $52 million!). That's a big bet. But in the second half of the season, Miami was third in both D-rating and 3-point shooting -- with Dion Waiters hitting on 44.5 percent from deep. Will all that carry over? Pat Riley certainly thinks so. -- Brian Windhorst

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    42.8
  • Summer forecast
    44.0
  • Las Vegas
    44.5

Competitor rank: No. 9

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Heat by 5.6 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving Miami a 32.3 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
32.3
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
110WARRIORS
104HEAT

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Goran Dragic 1.1 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG Josh Richardson 0.0 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Dion Waiters 0.2 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF James Johnson 0.6 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Hassan Whiteside 1.2 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Heat -0.2 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

PF James Johnson: A career season during a contract year earned Johnson a stunning and expensive long-term deal. However, it's more likely that his 2.36 RPM from 2016-17 is an outlier than the new normal for the 30-year-old forward. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

QUALITY OF LIFE

Imagine a world as a pro athlete where the landscape is dotted with palm trees and it never gets cold, where the night is just getting started when you leave the arena because the restaurants and bars don't close until dawn, where the state doesn't tax you on your considerable income and where Shaquille O'Neal took an honest-to-goodness boat to the game. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

DeMar DeRozan from TOR for Justise Winslow, Wayne Ellington, Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Johnson

Pat Riley decides he wants to contend now, and to do so, he needs a legit No. 1 scoring option. He ships depth to Toronto for the services of DeRozan, who slides in next to Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters. The move costs Winslow, who oozes potential but remains an enigma due to various injuries. -- Micah Adams

11 Toronto Raptors Eastern Atlantic http://a.espncdn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/raptors.png-0.15 0.0
2016-17 record: 51-31 | Lost in second round

As the rest of the league hit the market to keep up with the Warriors, the Raptors doubled down, re-signing both Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka. They'll again focus their offense on the league's fifth-leading scorer, midrange monster DeMar DeRozan (356th in 3P attempt rate), who will benefit from the addition of career 41.5 percent 3-point shooter C.J. Miles. The Raptors have averaged 52 wins the past three seasons but are still just one star short. -- Chris Forsberg

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    43.7
  • Summer forecast
    47.0
  • Las Vegas
    47.5

Competitor rank: No. 10

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Raptors by 5.7 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving Toronto a 32.3 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
32.3
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
110WARRIORS
105RAPTORS

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Kyle Lowry 4.1 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG DeMar DeRozan -0.3 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF CJ Miles -0.3 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Serge Ibaka 1.0 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Jonas Valanciunas -0.2 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Raptors -0.5 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

PF Serge Ibaka: Ibaka's block numbers have plummeted to the point where he blocks almost as little as one-third of the shots he did in 2012. When it comes to altering shots, he isn't on the same level as Draymond Green. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

WE THE NORTH

Not long ago, Toronto was thought by players to be the NBA's Siberia. But word of T.O. as basketball's cool international outpost has gotten out. Today, it's a place where DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry re-sign without a hint of drama. Rabid fans pack the arena every night, with an overflow pouring into the adjacent Jurassic Park. General manager Masai Ujiri has a good thing going, with an ownership group committed to investing. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

Nerlens Noel, Josh McRoberts from DAL for Jonas Valanciunas, protected first-round pick

The Raptors showed promise playing Ibaka at center with lineups that could more easily switch in place of the brooding Valanciunas. With the Cavs getting only quicker and the Warriors the small-ball standard-bearer, adding Noel would give Toronto the much-needed defensive versatility necessary to compete right now. (Trade also includes salary filler from Toronto.) -- Micah Adams

12 Washington Wizards Eastern Southeast http://a.espncdn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/wizards.png0.0 0.0
2016-17 record: 49-33 | Lost in second round

The Wizards haven't stopped thinking about losing Game 7 in Boston. They loved how they matched up with the Cavs and badly wanted their shot. Washington just might get it. Everyone is paid -- John Wall (projected 22.1 PPG, 10.3 APG) and Otto Porter (projected 41.5 from 3) got nine figures -- and all five starters return to a team projected to be 10th in both offense and defense. In a weaker East, this should be the first time the Wiz win 50-plus since they were the Bullets in 1978-79. -- Brian Windhorst

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    47.2
  • Summer forecast
    49.0
  • Las Vegas
    49.5

Competitor rank: No. 11

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Wizards by 5.7 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving Washington a 32.0 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
32.0
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
114WARRIORS
108WIZARDS

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG John Wall 2.3 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG Bradley Beal 2.2 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Otto Porter Jr. 2.9 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Markieff Morris 0.9 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Marcin Gortat -0.6 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Wizards -0.9 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

PF Markieff Morris: As the Wizards are one of the East teams looking to dethrone the Cavs, Morris will need to combine solid defense with reliable shooting come playoff time. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

JOHN WALL | POINT GUARD

The Wizards agreed to a $170 million contract extension with their franchise point guard following his best season yet. Wall has always been a speedster who can zip end to end with the ball in a nanosecond, but he has grown into a crafty passer and pesky defender who controls the game at big moments. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Trevor Booker from BKN for Ian Mahinmi, two first-round picks

The Wizards think they are the best team in the East. To truly make that a reality and earn a date with Golden State, the bench needs more reinforcements. If they attached multiple first-round picks to this deal, they might be able to find a taker for Mahinmi in return for significant help on the wing. The Nets need all the assets they can get, and two first-rounders would help stock the cupboard. (Trade includes salary filler from Brooklyn.) -- Micah Adams

13 Utah Jazz Western Northwest http://a.espncdn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/jazz.png0.0 -0.015
2016-17 record: 51-31 | Lost in second round

After winning their first playoff series since 2010, the Jazz were promptly swept by the Warriors, then saw free agents Gordon Hayward and George Hill sign elsewhere. Defense won't be an issue with DPOY runner-up Rudy Gobert and the additions of vets Ricky Rubio and Thabo Sefolosha -- Utah projects as the league's second-best defense -- but an offense that played at the league's slowest pace loses its two leading scorers and drops to a projected No. 22. -- Kevin Pelton

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    45.1
  • Summer forecast
    44.0
  • Las Vegas
    40.5

Competitor rank: No. 12

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Jazz by 6.8 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving Utah a 29.3 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
29.3
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
104WARRIORS
98JAZZ

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Ricky Rubio 2.9 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG Rodney Hood 0.1 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Joe Ingles 0.4 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Derrick Favors 0.4 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Rudy Gobert 4.3 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Jazz -1.1 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

PF Derrick Favors: The Jazz are still expected to make the playoffs despite losing two strong contributors. Unfortunately for them, pairing Favors with Gobert and Rubio will lead to spacing issues. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

RUDY GOBERT | CENTER

Utah's 7-foot-1 center is among the handful of guys who can truly change an NBA game defensively. His defensive efficiency rating of 100.6 ranked second in the league to Draymond Green, and the Jazz have clocked in at seventh and third in opponent points per possession since he assumed the starting center role. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, BKN's 2018 first-round pick from CLE for Rudy Gobert

The Jazz will try to replace the departed Gordon Hayward's scoring by committee, and while Joe Johnson still has clutch moments, it's a roster starved for scoring. A long look in the mirror might reveal that the quickest path to true title contention in Utah is to nab a blue-chip prospect and trade Gobert to Cleveland for the Nets' 2018 pick. -- Micah Adams

14 Charlotte Hornets Eastern Southeast http://a.espncdn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/hornets.png0.0 -0.05
2016-17 record: 36-46 | Missed playoffs

Fun fact: The Hornets were plus-210 with Cody Zeller on the floor and minus-194 with him off last season. With Zeller and now Dwight Howard, the Hornets will go big, zigging while the rest of the league zags by copying the Warriors. Add All-Star Kemba Walker (career-high 39.9 percent from 3 last season) and the rim-crashing efforts of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and the Hornets -- who project as the league's fifth-best defensive team -- are betting the tortoise beats the hare. -- Tom Haberstroh

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    43.5
  • Summer forecast
    42.0
  • Las Vegas
    43.0

Competitor rank: No. 13

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Hornets by 7.1 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving Charlotte a 28.1 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
28.1
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
110WARRIORS
103HORNETS

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Kemba Walker 1.8 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG Jeremy Lamb 0.0 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 1.7 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Marvin Williams -0.3 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Dwight Howard -0.4 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Hornets 0.0 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

PF Marvin Williams: Williams is slowly getting up there in age and doesn't project to have a positive on-court impact, but getting back to his 40 percent 3-point shooting from 2015-16 would help make him a nice stretch big next to Dwight Howard. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

KEMBA WALKER | POINT GUARD

Walker's first All-Star honor last February was well-deserved, as he continues to mature into one of the league's most reliable pick-and-roll operators. No ball? No problem. He was also the league's top catch-and-shoot artist (70.2 effective field goal percentage among those with at least one attempt per game). Charlotte has Walker locked up through 2019 at $12 million per season, which makes him the team's sixth-highest-paid player this season. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

Dennis Schroder, 2018 first-round pick from ATL for Kemba Walker

Can you win a title with Walker as your best player? Michael Jordan decides the answer is no, selling high on the point guard and moving him to Atlanta for Schroder and the Hawks' pick. (Trade includes salary filler from Charlotte.) -- Micah Adams

15 New Orleans Pelicans Western Southwest http://a.espncdn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/pelicans.png-0.15 -0.0
2016-17 record: 34-48 | Missed playoffs

Talk about a team that's good on paper. Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins anchor the No. 6 projected D, and newly acquired PG Rajon Rondo (when healthy) will draw defenders away from Jrue Holiday, who shot just 30.1 percent from 3 after the Cousins trade. But forget the Warriors. To even make the playoffs, New Orleans will need more shooting (19th from 3 in '16-17) and a better bench (23rd in projected RPM). -- Michael C. Wright

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    43.5
  • Summer forecast
    41.0
  • Las Vegas
    39.5

Competitor rank: No. 14

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Pelicans by 7.3 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving New Orleans a 27.3 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
27.3
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
113WARRIORS
106PELICANS

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Rajon Rondo -1.9 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG Jrue Holiday 1.5 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Dante Cunningham -1.6 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Anthony Davis 3.6 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center DeMarcus Cousins 4.0 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Pelicans -1.2 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

PG Rajon Rondo: RPM is still waiting for a positive season from Rondo since his ACL tear years ago. He did show signs of life in last season's playoffs, though, which might make life a little uncomfortable for the Warriors should these teams meet in the first round. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

ANTHONY DAVIS | FORWARD

A couple of years back, Davis was anointed the NBA's next mega-superstar. But as the Pelicans have struggled to assemble the necessary pieces around him, coupled with injuries, Davis has faded a bit from the discussion. Call it a plateau or poor circumstance, but he still represents the Pels' best chance to contend. However, the clock is ticking. Davis has three seasons left on his contract before he can opt out. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

Jae Crowder, JR Smith, Kyle Korver to NOP for Solomon Hill, Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca, three first-round picks

Let's say New Orleans is determined to take one big swing at Golden State with a Davis-Cousins pairing. Adding the help the Pelicans so badly need on the wing would require mortgaging the future. If they offered a Nets-style package of picks to Cleveland for their wing depth in January, it might be hard for the Cavaliers to pass up if they're convinced LeBron James is leaving and they don't have a realistic title shot. -- Micah Adams

16 Boston Celtics Eastern Atlantic http://a.espncdn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/celtics.png-0.2 0.0
2016-17 record: 53-29 | Lost in conference finals

Boston is the first team in history to return just four players after finishing atop its conference. Why overhaul? Danny Ainge believes 25-year-old Kyrie Irving (career 27.7 PPG vs. Warriors in the Finals) and 27-year-old Gordon Hayward (24.8 vs. Golden State in last season's playoffs) are long-term upgrades. They're talented, for sure, but the Celtics (projected No. 17 D) will feel the losses of wing defenders Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder if they make it to June. -- Chris Forsberg

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    44.0
  • Summer forecast
    54.0
  • Las Vegas
    54.0

Competitor rank: No. 15

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Celtics by 7.5 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving Boston a 26.9 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
26.9
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
115WARRIORS
107CELTICS

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Kyrie Irving 1.5 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG Jaylen Brown -1.8 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Gordon Hayward 2.7 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Marcus Morris 0.4 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Al Horford 1.3 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Celtics -0.4 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

PF Marcus Morris: The Celtics acquired several big names this offseason but lost perpetual plus-minus star Amir Johnson at power forward. His replacement, Marcus Morris, might come close to Draymond Green in tenacity but can't match him in skill. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

BRAD STEVENS | HEAD COACH

Some NBA insiders raised an eyebrow in 2013 when the Celtics guaranteed six seasons to a 36-year-old NBA newbie from the college ranks. Four years later, Stevens has presided over a quick rebuild, has constructed one of the league's most stable cultures and was a crucial selling point in recruiting Gordon Hayward to Boston. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

Anthony Davis to BOS for Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris, Aron Baynes, two first-round picks

Danny Ainge could put all his chips in the middle to land Davis. Davis is under team control for four more seasons, so it would take a king's ransom to pry The Brow from New Orleans. Still, no team can put together a package like Boston can, and a core of Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford and Anthony Davis could terrify the Warriors and the rest of the NBA. (Boston includes the 2018/'19 Lakers/Kings pick and Memphis' protected 2019 pick.) -- Micah Adams

17 Portland Trail Blazers Western Northwest http://a.espncdn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/trailblazers.png0.0 0.0
2016-17 record: 41-41 | Lost in first round

The key to the Blazers? Jusuf Nurkic. Seriously. His acquisition helped push Portland -- which went 14-6 with Nurkic -- into the playoffs before an injury sidelined him for all but 17 minutes of a first-round sweep by the Warriors. A healthy Nurkic (15.2 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 1.9 BPG and 1.3 SPG in those 20 games) gives the Blazers an interior counterweight to guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum (projected 52.2 PPG combined) and at least a fighting chance against the mighty Dubs. -- Kevin Pelton

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    43.8
  • Summer forecast
    42.0
  • Las Vegas
    43.0

Competitor rank: No. 16

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Blazers by 7.9 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving Portland a 26.0 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
26.0
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
113WARRIORS
105BLAZERS

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Damian Lillard 2.6 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG CJ McCollum 2.1 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Maurice Harkless 0.8 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Al-Farouq Aminu 1.4 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Jusuf Nurkic 1.4 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Blazers -1.7 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

PF Al-Farouq Aminu: Aminu, like Green, belongs among the NBA's best defenders. But unlike Green, he struggles with offensive contributions -- something that will undoubtedly be exploited by the Warriors in a potential first-round matchup between these two teams. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

THE BACKCOURT

The pricey sum for the long-term services of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum is a good problem to have if you're team owner Paul Allen. That's a ton of production from the guard positions in a league in which perimeter shooting greases the wheels. Among starting backcourts, only those of Golden State, Houston and Washington posted more efficiency offensively. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

Kristaps Porzingis, Joakim Noah from NYK for CJ McCollum

As constructed, the Blazers aren't close to beating the Warriors. And because Portland is locked into multiple long-term deals, there's no direct road to adding talent. While the Lillard-McCollum backcourt might be dynamic, there are defensive shortcomings and significant duplication. Perhaps taking on Noah's contract might be enough to pry Porzingis from the Knicks in exchange for McCollum as Portland builds for the future. -- Micah Adams

18 Detroit Pistons Eastern Central http://www.espn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/pistons.png-0.15 0.0
2016-17 record: 37-45 | Missed playoffs

The Pistons remain built around Andre Drummond (13.6 PPG, 13.8 RPG), a 38.1 percent career FT shooter -- oh, just 52 percentage points lower than Steph Curry. They added combo-guard Avery Bradley and rookie Luke Kennard to an offense that finished 25th and made 33 percent from 3 (28th). Detroit needs PG Reggie Jackson (30 games missed with a knee injury) to up his mediocre 5.2 APG from last season to sniff the playoffs. -- Dave McMenamin

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    35.3
  • Summer forecast
    37.0
  • Las Vegas
    38.5

Competitor rank: No. 17

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Pistons by 10.7 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving Detroit a 19.7 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
19.7
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
112WARRIORS
102PISTONS

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Reggie Jackson -0.9 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG Avery Bradley 0.0 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Tobias Harris 0.5 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Jon Leuer -1.1 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Andre Drummond 1.1 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Pistons -0.6 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

PG Reggie Jackson: Detroit had an underwhelming season, not in small part due to a disappointing performance from Reggie Jackson (the Pistons played 11 points better per game without him). If the Pistons want to make the playoffs, Jackson will have to perform at his old level. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

THE NEW DIGS DOWNTOWN

The Pistons are yet another Eastern Conference squad without a name on the roster that screams, "Asset!" Middling franchises looking to attract free agents and bump up revenue have increasingly turned to glitzy facilities as part of the pitch. After nearly 40 years in the 'burbs, the Pistons have unveiled the Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit. The Pistons hope what's inside the pizza box can tempt NBA players. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

Kent Bazemore, Miles Plumlee from ATL for Andre Drummond

The Pistons have been much better with Drummond on the bench, yet they owe him more than $75 million over the next three seasons. The path toward contention involves getting out from under Drummond's albatross deal. Atlanta has shown that it is willing to spend big on behemoth centers (see: Howard, Dwight), and if Detroit could split Drummond's deal into two more easily moveable pieces, that's a win. -- Micah Adams

19 Dallas Mavericks Western Southwest http://www.espn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/mavericks.png-0.0 0.0
2016-17 record: 33-49 | Missed playoffs

The Mavs' priority during Dirk's 20th season? The development of rookie PG Dennis Smith Jr., their next face of the franchise, who per 40 minutes projects a 15/5/6 stat line. Dallas has a Curry (Steph's little bro, Seth) but scored a league-worst 97.9 PPG and played at the second-slowest pace last season. This season, the Mavericks project to finish 24th in O-rating. That isn't exactly sending Dirk off in style, but it's good enough for another trip to the lottery. -- Tim MacMahon

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    34.6
  • Summer forecast
    33.0
  • Las Vegas
    35.0

Competitor rank: No. 18

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Mavericks by 11.3 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving Dallas an 18.9 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
18.9
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
110WARRIORS
98MAVERICKS

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Dennis Smith Jr. -1.7 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG Seth Curry -0.2 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Wesley Matthews 0.5 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Harrison Barnes 0.5 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Dirk Nowitzki -0.1 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Mavericks -0.6 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

PG Dennis Smith Jr.: The Mavericks will be handing the keys to a rookie point guard. Not only are rookies rarely positively impactful, but also the point guard position is probably the hardest to learn and master. The Mavs won't likely be part of the bloodbath that is the Western Conference playoff race as Nowitzki plays what could be his last NBA season. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

DENNIS SMITH JR. | POINT GUARD

The Mavs have been looking for a line of succession for the Nowitzki era, and they might have found it in Smith. League insiders and oddsmakers like the ninth overall pick as a strong Rookie of the Year candidate. An explosive penetrator who can burst off a screen, fearlessly absorb contact and finish, Smith is also no slouch at the more traditional facilitating role of a floor general. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

Dante Exum, Alec Burks from UTA for Wesley Matthews

Dallas' future rests with Dennis Smith Jr., and the Mavs aren't trading Dirk Nowitzki. Matthews is an elite 3-and-D wing whom any contender looking to compete with the Warriors would covet. If Utah gets desperate to compete now and doesn't want to pay Exum after drafting Donovan Mitchell, the Australian guard could be a high-upside gamble to consider (even with this recent injury). -- Micah Adams

20 Memphis Grizzlies Western Southwest http://www.espn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/grizzlies.png-0.2 0.00
2016-17 record: 43-39 | Lost in first round

Say goodbye to Grit 'n' Grind, which dragged the Warriors to a six-game first-round series in 2015. Tough guys Zach Randolph and Tony Allen are out, which hurts the D (projected No. 24). Ben McLemore (38 percent from 3 last season) is in alongside now-healthy floor spacer Chandler Parsons. But if Memphis wants to make an eighth straight playoff appearance, it'll be carried by the grit-and-grinders who remain: Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, who were fifth and seventh, respectively, in RPM at their positions. -- Tim MacMahon

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    34.8
  • Summer forecast
    35.0
  • Las Vegas
    38.0

Competitor rank: No. 19

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Grizzlies by 11.8 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving Memphis a 17.9 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
17.9
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
111WARRIORS
99GRIZZLIES

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Mike Conley 3.1 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG Ben McLemore -1.3 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Chandler Parsons -1.6 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF JaMychal Green -1.0 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Marc Gasol 1.2 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Grizzlies -1.2 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

SF Chandler Parsons: Parsons reportedly appears healthier than he was a season ago. That's good news for the Grizzlies, who don't want his contract to turn into an albatross given that they probably won't even make the playoffs. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

"CONLEANGASOL"

The small-big duo will collectively earn about $164 million over the next three seasons, but there isn't a tandem in the league that better embodies the identity and heart of its franchise. Now in their 10th season together, each subscribes deeply to the team's defensive focus and gritty persona. Outside of their 2016 Finals loss to Cleveland, the Warriors still regard the 2015 semifinals series against Memphis as the toughest. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

LaMarcus Aldridge from SAS for Marc Gasol

When it comes to true title contention, the Grizzlies are in no-man's-land. Despite being the only team with three of the top 30 highest-paid players in 2017-18, Memphis has just a 19 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to ESPN's Basketball Power Index. Trading Gasol for Aldridge, who can opt out after this season, could trim $24 million from the 2018-19 payroll and fast-track a rebuild in Memphis. The Grizzlies need to be really bad to keep their first-round pick (top-eight protected). Plus, the move unites the Gasols in San Antonio! -- Micah Adams

21 Los Angeles Lakers Western Pacific http://www.espn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/lakers.png0.0 0.0
2016-17 record: 26-56 | Missed playoffs

The Lakers are back, right? Not yet. Although Magic has visions of Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram becoming the next Showtime combo, the Lakers were last in D-rating (110.6) and are projected to be 28th in 2017-18. The team's best hope to gain ground on the Warriors? Succeed where they've repeatedly failed: winning free agency and luring LeBron to La La Land. -- Ohm Youngmisuk

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    33.1
  • Summer forecast
    32.0
  • Las Vegas
    32.5

Competitor rank: No. 20

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Lakers by 12.9 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving L.A. a 15.2 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
15.2
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
119WARRIORS
105LAKERS

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Lonzo Ball -0.5 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 1.7 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Brandon Ingram -1.6 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Julius Randle -1.4 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Brook Lopez 1.3 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Lakers -1.0 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

SF Brandon Ingram: From a statistical standpoint, Ingram had a disastrous rookie season. The Lakers can only hope he goes the way of Durant, who also didn't post great numbers in his first two years in the league. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

LONZO BALL | POINT GUARD

When you dig past the hype and the antics of his old man, Ball enters the league as one of its most intriguing prospects in years. Although he isn't a conventional pick-and-roll point guard, Ball displays a preternatural feel for the game and freaky vision. He is poised to become the charismatic superstar for a franchise and market that worship such talents. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

DeMarcus Cousins from NOP for Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson

This season is all about developing Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram while trying to create max cap space for the summer of 2018. Cousins is on an expiring contract, which means the Lakers get to see what they have before potentially inking him to a long-term deal next summer. They also get out from under Clarkson's deal. The Pelicans add two young pieces while banking on a potential star turn from the 22-year-old Randle. -- Micah Adams

22 Philadelphia 76ers Eastern Atlantic http://www.espn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/76ers.png-0.17 0.0
2016-17 record: 28-54 | Missed playoffs

Top-three picks Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Markelle Fultz are the Sixers' saviors. But you can't beat the Warriors -- or be like them -- if you can't shoot. Philly hasn't finished better than 24th from 3 in the past four seasons, and none of the aforementioned projects better than 35.6 percent. But fear not, Hinkie-truthers, there'll be significant progress for The Process, as newcomer J.J. Redick (career 41.5 percent from 3) should help open up the floor. -- Ian Begley

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    33.4
  • Summer forecast
    37.0
  • Las Vegas
    39.5

Competitor rank: No. 21

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Sixers by 13.2 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving Philly a 14.5 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
14.5
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
117WARRIORS
103SIXERS

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Markelle Fultz -1.5 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG JJ Redick -0.4 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Robert Covington 2.1 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Ben Simmons -1.4 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Joel Embiid 1.7 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Sixers -0.9 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

PG Markelle Fultz: Repeat after us: Rookies almost always cost their teams wins. Fultz might be the No. 1 pick, but it'll take time for him to be effective. The injury he suffered in the first game of Las Vegas summer league didn't help. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

THE YOUNG CORE

It took years in the NBA's wilderness, but the Sixers have amassed a trove of intriguing prospects. Joel Embiid tantalized fans last season before being sidelined for the season with a knee injury. The past two No. 1 overall draft picks, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, join Embiid on the floor this season. If things jell in Philly, The Process will be immortalized. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

Jeremy Lin from BKN for Jahlil Okafor, Jerryd Bayless

With Joel Embiid locked up to a max extension, the 76ers are committed to making a run with this core. One aspect of signing JJ Redick and Amir Johnson to one-year deals is maintaining some flexibility to make a splash next summer, and acquiring free-agent talent usually requires showing the ability to compete now. A Lin trade would help on that front and would also likely relegate Fultz to the bench for his rookie season. Plus, the Nets would get another buy-low reclamation project in Jahlil Okafor to pair with D'Angelo Russell. -- Micah Adams

23 Indiana Pacers Eastern Central http://www.espn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/pacers.png0.0 0.0
2016-17 record: 42-40 | Lost in first round

Even with Paul George, the Pacers couldn't get past LeBron James. Now with George tackling the Warriors in OKC, the Pacers pin their long-term hopes on third-year C Myles Turner, who joined Shaq, Kevin Garnett, Chris Webber and Anthony Davis as the only players with at least 14.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG and 2.0 BPG at 20 years old. But Indiana won't compete until Domantas Sabonis (51 3s as a rookie) and Victor Oladipo (30th among SGs in oRPM) make a star turn. -- Dave McMenamin

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    32.1
  • Summer forecast
    31.0
  • Las Vegas
    31.5

Competitor rank: No. 22

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Pacers by 13.2 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving Indiana a 14.7 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
14.7
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
114WARRIORS
100PACERS

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Darren Collison -0.5 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG Victor Oladipo 1.1 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Bojan Bogdanovic -3.3 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Thaddeus Young 0.1 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Myles Turner 2.0 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Pacers -1.3 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

SF Bojan Bogdanovic: In Bogdanovic, the Pacers have one of the worst NBA players in their starting unit. This will undoubtedly make it hard to compete for a playoff spot, even with Indiana playing in the weaker East. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

MYLES TURNER | POWER FORWARD/CENTER

A stretchy league demands a stretchy big, preferably one who can still provide rim protection. Turner made a huge leap in both capacities during his sophomore season. He drained 34.8 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc and ranked sixth among starting power forwards in defensive real plus-minus. As a cornerstone of the Pacers' future, he's due for a hefty extension next summer. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle from LAL for Darren Collison, Bojan Bogdanovic

This is another potential landing spot for the Randle/Clarkson Lakers cap casualty duo. If the Pacers wait until December, they'll have $20.5 million in expiring non-guaranteed contracts. They could take on the remainder of Clarkson's deal and steal Randle as the Lakers do everything in their power to free up max space for 2018. Randle would be a perfect complement to budding star Myles Turner. (Trade includes salary filler from L.A.) -- Micah Adams

24 Orlando Magic Eastern Southeast http://www.espn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/magic.png0.0 -0.03
2016-17 record: 29-53 | Missed playoffs

With a new front office, Orlando believes it finally has a plan for its post-Dwight Howard world. (Stop us if you've heard this before.) It all seems to hinge on rookie Jonathan Isaac, who, at 6-foot-10, fits the Kevin Durant mold as a modern-day big man: long, mobile and positionally versatile. That he can't shoot (projected 30.5 percent from 3)? No problem! Even KD didn't break 30 percent as a rookie. -- Nick Friedell

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    32.5
  • Summer forecast
    30.0
  • Las Vegas
    33.0

Competitor rank: No. 23

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Magic by 14.0 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving Orlando a 13.5 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
13.5
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
117WARRIORS
102MAGIC

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Elfrid Payton 0.9 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG Evan Fournier -0.5 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Terrence Ross -0.3 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Aaron Gordon 1.4 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Nikola Vucevic -0.2 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Magic -1.6 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

PG Elfrid Payton: The Magic have a balanced, but weak, starting unit. As spacing remains an issue, Payton will have to improve on his 27 percent 3-point shooting from last season. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

JONATHAN ISAAC | ROOKIE FORWARD

The Magic have no shortage of passable young NBA players, but they've yet to hit on a franchise-changing talent. Isaac, the versatile forward the Magic snagged with the No. 6 pick in this year's draft, has elite defensive potential, the ability to score at close and long range and a smart feel for the game. When he grows into his 6-foot-11 frame, he might just be the next big thing. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

Aron Baynes, Terry Rozier, LAC's 2019 first-round pick to ORL for Nikola Vucevic

For the Magic to reach their potential, the young kids need to play. Moving Vucevic to the rebounding-starved Celtics in exchange for a lottery-protected pick and smaller pieces would help Orlando take baby steps. (Trade includes salary filler from Boston and another young prospect). -- Micah Adams

25 Chicago Bulls Eastern Central http://a.espncdn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/bulls2.png-0.1 0.0
2016-17 record: 41-41 | Lost in first round

After years of chasing the leaders, Chicago looks to aggressively rebuild. The tearing down of the Bulls began with the trade of two-way star Jimmy Butler, who projects to add 16.3 wins above replacement, to Minnesota on draft night and the buying out of Dwyane Wade. Sure, Bobby Portis, Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn will develop, but they project to add 2.3 RPM WAR combined -- 0.5 better than the Warriors' third man off the bench. Translation: Draft lottery, here they come! -- Nick Friedell

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    30.1
  • Summer forecast
    26.0
  • Las Vegas
    22.0

Competitor rank: No. 24

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Bulls by 15.2 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving Chicago an 11.7 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
11.7
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
115WARRIORS
99BULLS

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Kris Dunn -1.3 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG Zach LaVine -2.5 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Justin Holiday -0.9 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Nikola Mirotic 1.9 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Robin Lopez -0.2 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Bulls -0.8 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

PG Kris Dunn: RPM generally doesn't think highly of rookies, and Dunn did little to convince otherwise. To become even an average player, Dunn should focus on improving his 3-point and free throw shooting, in which he hit a lowly 28 percent and 61 percent, respectively. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

THE MICHAEL JORDAN STATUE

The only legitimate NBA starters on the Bulls' roster are Robin Lopez and Zach LaVine (likely to be sidelined on opening night as he recovers from ACL surgery). There's no trove of future first-rounders, and there are no can't-miss rookies or sophomores to ignite hope. What there is in Chicago is mystique cast in bronze inside the United Center, a signal to any ambitious NBA star that there is precedence for greatness in the Windy City. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

Jimmy Butler from MIN for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen

The Bulls unload three young assets for Butler, who is the star they need to begin amassing top-shelf talent. He's 28 and has two more years on a team-friendly, below-market contract. But let's be honest: The chances of a deal such as this happening in real life are ... pretty slim. Who would give up Butler for a package like that? -- Micah Adams

26 New York Knicks Eastern Atlantic http://www.espn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/knicks.png0.0 0.0
2016-17 record: 31-51 | Missed playoffs

Melo and Phil are mercifully gone, which turns the Knicks over to 22-year-old Kristaps Porzingis (projected 19.7 PPG, 8.1 RPG), who was third on the team in fourth-quarter usage percentage (behind Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony). Now he will lead 25-year-old Tim Hardaway Jr., 19-year-old Frank Ntilikina and 23-year-old Willy Hernangomez, whose presence around the basket (70 percent of his shots were from 5 feet and in) complements Porzingis, who can stretch the floor. Best-case scenario? One distant day competing in a post-Warriors landscape. -- Ian Begley

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    30.0
  • Summer forecast
    31.0
  • Las Vegas
    28.5

Competitor rank: No. 25

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Knicks by 15.5 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving New York an 11.5 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
11.5
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
117WARRIORS
102KNICKS

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Ramon Sessions -2.9 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG Courtney Lee -1.0 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Tim Hardaway Jr. 0.4 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Kristaps Porzingis 2.7 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Willy Hernangomez 0.2 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Knicks -1.7 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

PG Ramon Sessions: The Knicks' point guard rotation features not a single positive impact player as New York tries to recover from the Carmelo Anthony saga. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

KRISTAPS PORZINGIS | POWER FORWARD-CENTER

It isn't easy to play at the NBA's most storied arena in the nation's largest metropolis and still rank as an NBA laughingstock after years of managerial malpractice. The one saving grace is the 22-year-old Porzingis, the Latvian wunderkind with the sweet stroke, rangy athleticism and winning personality. Even the Knicks can't screw this one up ... let's hope. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, CHI's 2018 second-round pick from OKC for Carmelo Anthony

The Knicks need to turn the keys over to Kristaps Porzingis. The sooner he starts getting high-leverage reps as a No. 1 scoring option, the sooner he'll reach his peak and the sooner the Knicks might contend in the Ea ... wait, it looks like the Knicks beat us to the punch here. -- Micah Adams

27 Sacramento Kings Western Pacific http://www.espn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/kings.png0.0 0.0
2016-17 record: 32-50 | Missed playoffs

DeMarcus Cousins took his team-leading points, rebounds and dysfunction to New Orleans. Sacramento surrounded rookies De'Aaron Fox and Harry Giles with consummate pros Vince Carter and George Hill (1,946 games combined). Still, these cross-generational Kings project to finish 29th in offense, 25th in defense and more than 30 games behind the Warriors. Hey, at least the rookies and guard Buddy Hield, acquired in the Cousins deal, will make losing less stressful. -- Chris Haynes

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    27.8
  • Summer forecast
    29.0
  • Las Vegas
    27.5

Competitor rank: No. 26

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Kings by 15.8 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving Sacramento an 11.0 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
11.0
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
114WARRIORS
98KINGS

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG George Hill 2.9 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG Buddy Hield -2.6 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Bogdan Bogdanovic -0.9 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Zach Randolph -1.6 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Willie Cauley-Stein -1.4 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Kings -1.4 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

C Willie Cauley-Stein: As the Kings start another rebuild, they have lots of time to develop their young players, including Cauley-Stein, who began to show promising flashes after the Cousins trade. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

PRIME REAL ESTATE DOWNTOWN

Sacramento is rightfully excited about first-round draft pick De'Aaron Fox, but the Kings have been more successful at buying property than winning basketball games. Kings execs are fond of saying that they're a "real estate company," and there's truth to the claim. The Kings have craftily gobbled up acreage around their new arena for multi-use development in an area ripe for improvement. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

Thon Maker, Greg Monroe from MIL for George Hill

Sacramento added Vince Carter, George Hill and Zach Randolph to help nurture its young core. The only way to contention is continuing to build that core with high-ceiling players. If during the season the Bucks decide they are one major piece away from a title run, Sacramento could target Maker in exchange for Hill. Maker is the type of big swing who could ultimately give Golden State headaches in a few years. -- Micah Adams

28 Brooklyn Nets Eastern Atlantic http://www.espn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/nets.png-0.30 0.0
2016-17 record: 20-62 | Missed playoffs

After 79 wins in three seasons, the Nets emerge from the darkness -- and boy, was it dark -- of the Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett trade. GM Sean Marks acquired D'Angelo Russell (19.6 points per 36 minutes) and Allen Crabbe (44 percent from 3) through trades and could have upward of $30 million in 2019 cap space. Sure, the Nets have to send their first to Cleveland this season, but they own Toronto's lottery protected pick this year and all of their own picks going forward. Hey, at least that's a step in the Warriors' direction. -- Ian Begley

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    29.8
  • Summer forecast
    26.0
  • Las Vegas
    28.0

Competitor rank: No. 27

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Nets by 15.8 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving Brooklyn a 10.3 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
10.3
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
122WARRIORS
105NETS

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Jeremy Lin 0.0 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG D'Angelo Russell -0.5 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Allen Crabbe -1.4 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Rondae Hollis-Jefferson 0.6 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Timofey Mozgov -1.8 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Nets -0.9 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

SF Allen Crabbe: At almost $20 million per season through 2020, Crabbe has one of the worst contracts in the league. He makes only $5 million less per season than some guy named Kevin Durant, whose per-game impact is estimated to be 8.4 points higher than Crabbe's. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

TIME AND PATIENCE

After forfeiting a couple of prized lottery picks the past couple of seasons -- with another likely headed to Cleveland next summer -- the Nets finally seem to have turned the corner. With few expectations that they'll contend anytime soon, Nets players and staff can focus on rebuilding the franchise from the ground up and establishing a clear vision. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

Nerlens Noel from DAL for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Caris LeVert

Brooklyn is turning the keys over to D'Angelo Russell, and he needs a springy running mate. It would cost the Nets a couple of young wings, but the opportunity to buy low on Noel presents another high-upside reclamation project. -- Micah Adams

29 Pheonix Suns Western Pacific http://www.espn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/suns.png0.0 0.0
2016-17 record: 24-58 | Missed playoffs

The Suns, who haven't made the playoffs since 2010, are still a few years away from being a few years away. Phoenix committed to a core of Devin Booker (projected 21.7 PPG), T.J. Warren (13.4) and No. 4 pick Josh Jackson (11.1). But the Suns still project to be 21st in offense and last on defense. Their rebuild will take some time, which works out just fine. By the time these Suns are set, the Warriors will be out of the way. -- Royce Young

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. -- Royce Young

  • Real plus-minus
    29.5
  • Summer forecast
    28.0
  • Las Vegas
    29.0

Competitor rank: No. 28

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Suns by 16.1 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving Phoenix a 10.1 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
10.1
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
123WARRIORS
106SUNS

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Eric Bledsoe 2.0 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG Devin Booker -0.5 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Josh Jackson -2.4 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Marquese Chriss -1.5 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Tyson Chandler 0.2 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Suns -1.3 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

PF Marquese Chriss: Chriss was one of the youngest NBA players last season. Given that the Suns will "fight" for a good draft spot, he has some more time to develop from his subpar rookie season. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

DEVIN BOOKER | GUARD

A team can accumulate as many young players as it wants, but to climb into the NBA's upper echelon, it must develop a star. In his two seasons, Booker has shown flashes of shotmaking and swagger that suggest he is the Suns' best chance. The defense needs work (his -2.58 defensive real-plus minus was near the bottom), but at age 20, there's time and opportunity for improvement. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

DeMarcus Cousins from NOP for Dragan Bender, Tyson Chandler, MIA's protected 2018 first-round pick

With Marquese Chriss and Josh Jackson on board, Dragan Bender's development might be blocked, which makes him a good flip candidate while he still has value. A package headlined by him and the Heat's 2018 first-round pick might be enough to get DeMarcus Cousins if New Orleans decides his marriage with Anthony Davis doesn't work. If the Suns re-sign Cousins, they'd have a core of Cousins, Booker, Jackson, Chriss and whomever they take next June. -- Micah Adams

30 Atlanta Hawks Eastern Southeast http://www.espn.com/prod/styles/pagetype/otl/20171010_nbapreview/images/bb-marquee/hawks.png-0.1 0.0
2016-17 record: 43-39 | Lost in first round

How good are the Warriors? The Hawks won 60 games in 2014-15 and decided they'd be better off blowing it up. With that starting five now all out, Atlanta is all-in on youth, especially John Collins, who was selected to the All-Summer League First Team (15.4 PPG and 9.2 RPG, 59 percent shooting). Was hitting the reset button the right move? Check back in five years. -- Tom Haberstroh

2017 projected wins

Real plus-minus (RPM) projections were formed by combining the roster's expected on-court impact with the likely rotation, an ESPN panel of experts voted in the summer forecast, and the Vegas lines come from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

  • Real plus-minus
    27.2
  • Summer forecast
    27.0
  • Las Vegas
    25.5

Competitor rank: No. 29

On average, the Warriors project to outscore the Hawks by 18.0 points per 100 possessions in a single head-to-head matchup on a neutral court, giving Atlanta an 8.2 percent chance of victory. -- Projections by Kevin Pelton and Tom Haberstroh

CHANCE TO BEAT WARRIORS
8.2
AVERAGE FINAL SCORE
118WARRIORS
100HAWKS

Starters and bench

Using ESPN's real-plus minus, a metric that quantifies a player's performance both on offense and defense, we show how your team projects against Golden State, comparing each team's five starters and the bench. -- Jeremias Engelmann

PG Dennis Schroder -0.9 25 Stephen Curry 5.6 32
SG Kent Bazemore -2.1 25 Klay Thompson 1.9 32
SF Taurean Prince -0.9 25 Kevin Durant 4.3 32
PF Ersan Ilyasova 0.6 25 Draymond Green 6.0 32
Center Dewayne Dedmon 0.9 25 Zaza Pachulia 1.4 32
Bench Hawks -1.8 Warriors -0.7

BIGGEST WEAKNESS VS. WARRIORS

PG Dennis Schroder: Schroder continues to have trouble with turning the ball over, even after four years of NBA experience. Most likely, though, these Hawks would rather see their draft position increase than their win total, so the turnovers might be a welcome sight ... for now. -- Jeremias Engelmann

Best asset

MIKE BUDENHOLZER | HEAD COACH

A league executive who is watching the 2018 draft lottery with great interest recently remarked that the rebuilding/tanking Hawks shouldn't count on nabbing a top pick. "Knowing Bud, he'll probably coach 'em to 33 wins," the exec said. The Hawks don't have much top-shelf NBA talent on their roster, but if nothing else, they employ a coach who can maximize what little they have. -- Kevin Arnovitz

Best trade (for now or later)

Jahlil Okafor from PHI for Marco Belinelli

We're just two years removed from Okafor being drafted one spot ahead of Kristaps Porzingis, mostly due to his potential on the offensive end. That's the kind of high-ceiling swing the Hawks should take as they restock their roster. The Sixers would be happy to get an expiring contract back for Okafor, who has struggled in his first two seasons. -- Micah Adams

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