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August 31, 2012
NBAPET Win Projections
Eastern Conference

by Bradford Doolittle

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The transactions are still trickling in, but barring an unforeseen blockbuster, we can just about put a wrap on our offseason transactions. Using NBAPET, my system for projecting, evaluating and tracking the league, I've entered all transactions through the weekend and created a wins forecast for every team.

I've also compared the wins forecast to last season's total of Pythagorean wins per 82 games for each team, which is the record each team should have had based on its point differential. This gives us an idea of how teams have moved up and down the NBA ladder since the Heat wrapped up the championship a couple of months ago.

With ESPN.com's Summer Forecast upon us, let's take a look at just how close these projections are to what our expert panel predicted. The first number for each team is projected wins, the second is how many games better (or worse) the team should be than it was in 2011-12.

1. Miami Heat: 60.5 | 2.6
With the Bulls likely to take a big step back this season, the Heat should be able to land the East's top seed with little difficulty, something it has gone without the last two years despite winning a pair of conference titles. Miami projects to be a top-five team on each end of the floor, displaying the most balance of any team in the league.

2. Atlanta Hawks: 48.7 | 2.5 worse
It's funny, our projections systems have never much liked the Hawks over the years and now that they've unloaded their highest-profile player, we've got them getting a better seed than at any point during Atlanta's current string of playoff teams. The Hawks' offense without Joe Johnson will get better, trading in a lot of long jumpers for more trips to the foul line. Still, it's not so much a matter of the Hawks' getting better as it is the rest of the East backsliding.

3. New York Knicks: 48.4 | 1.9 worse
If this seems odd, consider that the Knicks finished five games worse last season than their point differential suggested they should have. While that kind of disparity usually evens itself out, New York's projection for 2012-13 would need to be at least five games better for the roster to register any kind of improvement from the offseason.

4. Boston Celtics: 46.9 | 1.9 worse
This seems about right. The Celtics retained more or less the same core, only one year older. The supporting cast looks a little bit better, and Boston projects to be the best defensive team in the league. It should be enough for Rajon Rondo & Co. to run Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce a little longer, but it can't stop the inevitable.

5. Chicago Bulls: 46.9 | 16.8 worse
What did you expect? With Derrick Rose forecast to be out at least half the season and Chicago's league-best bench almost completely turned over, even the most optimistic Bulls fan can't dare hope for another No. 1 seed. If they get one, the folks in Springfield, Mass., might as well go ahead and clear out a spot for Tom Thibodeau in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

6. Indiana Pacers: 43.7 | 6.9 worse
This is a surprisingly pessimistic look at the Pacers, who certainly seem like one of the league's rising teams. Mostly we're seeing a regression for Indiana's performance on the defensive end. One problem in that area may be the addition of Ian Mahinmi, which could make the already foul-prone Pacers the most hack-happy team in the league.

7. Brooklyn Nets: 42.9 | 18.8
The good news is that Brooklyn projects to be the most improved team in the league. As we've written, that would have been largely true even without the addition of Joe Johnson because of the injury problems the Nets had last season. While Johnson's addition appears to help the Nets a lot more than his loss hurts the Hawks, the fact of the matter is that the Nets are still well short of the league's upper crust.

8. Philadelphia 76ers: 42.5 | 11.3 worse
The Sixers' projection is bogged down by an iffy playing-time projection for Andrew Bynum, which is based on his long history of knee trouble. However, even if Bynum repeats last season's healthy campaign, the Sixers will still be short of perimeter players who can efficiently create their own shots. That problem is made worse by the lack of a traditional playmaking point guard who can make this kind of power configuration work. The Sixers should again be one of the top defensive teams in the league.

9. Toronto Raptors: 41.8 | 10.8
The additions of big man Jonas Valanciunas and shooting guard Landry Fields give Toronto a much more solid starting five. Head coach Dwayne Casey's team will stress defense, and if DeMar DeRozan's productivity starts to match his raw talent, the Raptors might be poised for a playoff run.

10. Milwaukee Bucks: 39.7 | 2.1 worse
You might not have noticed that Milwaukee actually outscored its opponents last season, but it did. Still, even a full season of Ersan Ilyasova, Monta Ellis and the addition ofSamuel Dalembert only serve to maintain the Bucks' status as perfectly average.

11. Detroit Pistons: 32.9 | 6.1
The Pistons' name still pops up in "who will lose the most games" polls, but there is upside to the Greg Monroe-Rodney Stuckey-Brandon Knight core. If rookie Andre Drummond can contribute in a positive fashion, Detroit could be one of the league's more improved outfits.

12. Cleveland Cavaliers: 30.9 | 9.6
With one season under Kyrie Irving's belt, the Cavaliers should continue their upward arc with another big step forward. Irving is a legit franchise player. Meanwhile, theAnderson Varejao-led contingent of big men are forecast to make Cleveland one of the league's top offensive-rebounding teams.

13. Washington Wizards: 30.2 | 3.0
Washington's new veteran front line of Nene, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza should help solidify the Wizards on the defensive end. Unfortunately, the offense still projects as one of the league's most inefficient. But that could change fast if John Wall's production begins to match his elite potential.

14. Orlando Magic: 29.2 | 14.2 worse
The Bulls are the only team projected to take a bigger step back than Orlando in its first year post-Superman. And it could crater much worse than this as veterans like >Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson, Al Harrington and Glen Davis start to lose their motivation to stay "healthy."

15. Charlotte Bobcats: 15.7 | 6.6
The absolutely scary thing about the Bobcats' 7-59 record last season (8.6 wins per 82 games) is that it was entirely justified by Charlotte's horrific point differential. The Bobcats will be better, but they'll still be so bad that hardly anyone will notice.

A version of this article originally appeared at ESPN Insider Insider.

Follow Bradford Doolittle on Twitter.

Bradford Doolittle is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Bradford by clicking here or click here to see Bradford's other articles.

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