ESPN released a forecast of the Eastern Conference standings for the 2017-18 season on Wednesday. In this forecast, the Boston Celtics are predicted to win 54 games, which gives them the best record in the East over the Cleveland Cavaliers and other competitors. Here is a snippet of the analysis:
Seems like a fair estimate to me at this point in the summer. I think that the Celtics are far better than what they were last season, but I wouldn't expect to see win projections greater than this until the season gets started. The rest of the Eastern Conference shapes out with Cleveland in second, Washington in third, and Brooklyn tied for last with the Chicago Bulls.
Record predictions weren't the only thing to come out on Wednesday in the slower part of the NBA's offseason. Bovada released their latest odds for the MVP award. Reigning MVP Russell Westbrook is first on the list going into next year with Boston guard Isaiah Thomas sitting in 9th after receiving the 5th most votes for the award this past season. Gordon Hayward is also on the list at 21st.
Motivation for Isaiah Thomas: One year after finishing 5th in MVP voting, @BovadaLV has him at 9th best odds before 2017-18 season. pic.twitter.com/fBdGiCB3zV— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) August 16, 2017
What is interesting to me is that Thomas is behind three sets of duos. Houston's Chris Paul and James Harden, Golden State's Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, and OKC's Westbrook and Paul George all have better odds individually than Thomas. Since there can only be one winner, players on the same teams tend to split votes.
As Chris Forsberg says in his tweet above, this will only serve as more motivation for Thomas, who after the season ended, said that he planned on returning to an "MVP level" following his season ending hip injury.