1. Atlanta - Remember that 4-1 start? Since then, the Hawks are just 10-18. They are currently 11th in the East. However, they have both a positive scoring differential and net efficiency rating for the season. So they’ve inarguably outscored their opponents while outplaying them on a per possession basis. Don’t be surprised if they climb as high as 6th in the East by season’s end and win the Southeast Division.
2. Dallas - The Mavs finished 7th in the West last season, largely because they were 2-11 SU in games decided by three points or less, a league worst. I figured they’d be a shoo-in to move up in the standings. But after 31 games, their record stands at just 15-16. The good news is there are still plenty of games left. I think the ceiling would be a 5th place finish. Currently, they are 9th. This team has NOT done well off an ATS win or when playing without rest. I expect that to change.
3. New Orleans - The Pelicans are similar to the Hawks in that their point differential & net efficiency rating indicates they should be closer to .500. They are currently 11th in the West with a 14-18 record. One thing I notice is that 27 of their 32 games have come on one or zero days’ rest. Hopefully, the schedule breaks better for them in the second half. Zion Williamson has looked great recently. The Pelicans’ last 10 games have all gone Over the total, so you know they can score.
1. Portland - The Blazers are 28th in defensive efficiency, missing two of their three best players and have suffered six 20+ point defeats. Yet somehow they are currently tied for 5th place in the West. Don’t expect that to last, however. By season’s end, they’ll be fighting for a play-in spot. This team has been lucky to this point. Their six wins by three points or less are tied for most in the league.
2. Charlotte - The Hornets are already starting to fade. This is a team that’s been an underdog in 25 of its 32 games. They were expected to finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. The East is so depth-shy that there will be multiple teams finishing below them this season and even a play-in spot cannot be discounted. But they aren’t going to maintain a .500 record moving forward.
3. Philadelphia - The Sixers are not as good as either the Bucks or the Nets. I do not expect they’ll finish with the best record in the conference, which is something they currently own.
4. Cleveland - This one may seem oddly placed as the Cavaliers are 12-21 and unquestionably considered one of the worst teams in the league. But I believe them to be THE worst team and expect a bottom of the standings finish by season’s end.