When oddsmakers release NBA win-total futures, most casual fans scan right to their teams’ over/under and say, “My team’s better than that.” After a prolonged and misguided rant about sharps who do this for a living doing their job, the next move is to find the franchises they hate and bitch about the line being inflated.
How exaggerated the numbers are is up for debate — betting rubes love the Knicks, Lakers, and frontrunners — so allow me to sift through the noise and help you figure out how mad you really should be. Apologies now if I didn’t touch on a team you hate. No one has heated arguments over the Clippers and Nuggets other than their own supporters debating why the local fanbase is so apathetic to their legitimacy.
The answer to those questions is the Lakers and the Broncos, but the answer to just how out-of-whack the predictions are for the teams you love to hate (or, yes, love) is slightly more complicated. So entertain me as I try to look smart and break it down for you.
Odds courtesy of Vegas Insider.
Don’t underestimate the level of childishness Kevin Durant can resort to. He just watched James Harden hissy fit his way off of two franchises — one of which KD is on — and teammate Ben Simmons tantrum his way onto his roster. Owner Joe Tsai can try all he wants to win a staring contest with an impudent child, but this isn’t chess, checkers, or any game like that.
It’s a 3-year-old melting down in the middle of a toy store. There’s no winning that battle, and if Durant is willing to tank, sit out, or otherwise self-sabotage the season, how much faith are we putting in Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons? One guy wants his own team, and the other wants, I don’t know, mood crystals or some shit. The Nets won 44 games a year ago, and it’s entirely possible they’ll be without their best player. Never mind the fact that any respect Steve Nash had in the locker room is now gone after KD pulled his endorsement.
The only consistently healthy “star” is one the Lakers are desperately trying to trade. Rob Pelinka hasn’t come off this desperate since his “People tell me I look like Rob Lowe” pick-up stopped working. Those 20-somethings in West Hollywood haven’t seen “Parks and Rec,” Rob, so stop asking. Last year was objectively a disaster, and it’s hard to argue anything has improved. Russell Westbrook is still there, LeBron James turns 38 in December, and Anthony Davis is going on 30 while his body is about to turn 58.
New coach Darvin Ham is going to run the offense through AD, which hasn’t happened in the history of LeBron or Westbrook. If everything goes according to plan — with LeBron and Westbrook discovering their off-ball selves and Davis finding the fountain of durability — sure, they’ll surpass 45 wins. On an unrelated note, if my pipe dream comes to fruition, aggregated content will become the new podcast and multiple news agencies will get into a bidding war for my services.
We’re really doing this, guys? We’re really going to lowball the defending champs? They tallied 53 wins in 2021-22, and Klay Thompson is a year healthier, Jonathan Kuminga is a year older, and Steph Curry is a year pettier. No one is expecting James Wiseman to be the player the hype thought he’d be. However, there’s no pressure that he has to turn into Joel Embiid overnight. All Steve Kerr needs to do is highlight his strengths, and let the 7-foot, 240-pound big man be a rich man/team’s version of Kevon Looney — who also re-upped his deal with the Dubs.
Like Looney this free agency, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, and Jordan Poole will be looking for new deals next offseason, so as long as they’re not a distraction this year, a fully stocked Warriors team should cruise to the best record in the West. Fifty-one-and-a-half wins is disrespectful, and that collection of competitors always welcomes motivation. Their play style also is immune to switch flipping, the biggest potential risk (outside of injuries) to another great season.
I’m going to let the C’s show me they can exceed expectations before betting on them to do so. The last time Vegas had sky-high hopes for Boston was 2018 when bettors pushed their preseason win total to damn near 60. They ended the season with 49 wins and got dispatched with ease by Milwaukee, 4-1, in the second round. No team in the East won more than 53 games last year, and it projects to be a competitive conference again.
Malcolm Brogdon should help avoid regression if he can stay healthy, and Danilo Gallinari adds depth to a team that could use it. Ime Udoka essentially adopted an eight-man rotation when the Celtics went inferno last year, and if that version returns, it’ll be pushing for a one-seed if not running away with it. There’s just something about Boston that makes me uneasy though. Jaylen Brown doesn’t seem to like being in trade rumors, Marcus Smart throws his body around as if it’ll never break down, Al Horford is 36, and Jayson Tatum has to finally sustain his breakthrough. The lofty win total and last year’s Finals appearance also take away any unassuming quality they had about them last year.
I’m regretting my No. 1 reason for making this prediction before I even write it: Harden is in a contract year. The Beard loves the regular season and routinely flew over 50 wins in Houston. We know he’s not that player anymore, but there’s enough of him left (arguably too much of him) to easily return Embiid and Philly past the 50-win mark. Harden will have his Spanks pulled up tight and his weight relatively low trying to get one last bag.
As long as Nikola Jokić winning the MVP and another playoff disappointment didn’t break Embiid, he should be in MVP form once again. This season also sets up for a potentially violent punch to the collective stomach of Sixers fans. It’s not as if they’re not accustomed to having the wind knocked out of them at this point — and I just can’t shake the vision of Embiid crying tears of joy after an MVP presentation, and then sobbing in frustration when Harden curls up into the fetal position in the Eastern Conference Finals.
I could make this contingent on Mitchell staying in Utah. (Vegas seems to think either Mitchell’s stint in Utah is short-lived, or Rudy Gobert was worth 16.5 wins because 32.5 seems low even if they did lose the All-Star center.) Players don’t usually revolt until the second year under Tom Thibodeau, so there’s a chance the native New Yorker injects a bit of life into a roster already exhausted by the sound of Thibs’ rasp. That said, no one wants to read a writer hedge his hot takes for 1,000-plus words.
Regardless of if New York compromises its rebuild for Mitchell, the Knicks are still not winning 40 games. Every five to 10 years, the team overachieves and people overreact to the energy from the Garden. That playoff win against Atlanta wasn’t an ECF appearance. Calm down. Julius Randle was on a heater, teams took him seriously/went severely big-brother-actually-trying-against-little-brother and squashed that shit real quick. The team got in trouble tampering for Jalen Brunson, and if that’s not an indication that the Knicks are still firmly the Knicks, trading everyone they bottomed out for in exchange for a score-first, never-play-defense star would be.