October 10, 2021, 4:49 am
It’s a little bit absurd that I get to study all summer but struggle to put together a win totals article because I’m racing the clock on the B150 and all things HB right now. Not to mention battling serious injury on the neck front. That said, I love it. Basketball is finally moving again and it’s winning time. Dan Besbris beat me up last year and that should be no surprise as he is one of the best handicappers in the world, but he definitely shouldn’t get comfortable. He was complaining about the lines being tight and I’m looking at this quite the opposite… I think there’s value all over the board. After a 17-13 campaign last year we take a 45-30 record on win totals into this year from the last 3-of-4 seasons (pandemic year screwed us … we had some great stuff). This past year we started betting on all 30 outcomes, too, so we don’t get to be nearly as choosy about what we play.
I will put my best bets together for WagerPass holders and if you are not signed up yet, check out all of our premium options here.
* due to typing limitations and overall time limitations I’m going to be keeping these write ups short.
ATLANTA HAWKS OVER 46.5
There are multiple key players progressing in their production curves and the ones that are not don’t really impact the equation. Not only has this team set a goal to win a lot of games, they need to in order to sustain another deep playoff run. With so much depth, injuries to anybody other than Trae Young might even help some guys get the touches they won’t be getting at full strength.
BOSTON CELTICS OVER 45.5
Getting continuity with no more Kemba Walker in and out of the lineup, shifting some of those touches to make sure that Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are well fed, while giving Marcus smart the role he has wanted for a while… It all trends toward a better fit. The depth on the team is impactful and also clear on what their rules are, with potential to step in to more if needed. Even the transition from Brad Stevens to Ime Udoka is as good as one could typically expect in a coaching change.
BROOKLYN NETS OVER 56.5*
*Kyrie story is causing me to personally hold on any bets, but there will be an element of the Nets being better than whatever his impact on the line is — if news breaks that he’s not playing a lot this year.
The Nets have a lot of talent with or without Kyrie Irving and they are plenty hungry for everything… Wins, respect and throughout the lineup, playing time. James harden appears to be in shape. There are great role players and each of those guys have something to prove, as well. The only thing that can knock this bet off is if Kyrie gets so cancerous that the whole thing implodes.
CHARLOTTE HORNETS OVER 38.5
The Hornets hit this number last year and their situation has only gotten better. They have continuity, LaMelo Ball stands to make another big leap, and they have seen improvements across the rotation in their player development. I worry a little bit about shot creation but drafting James Bouknight was a great way to mitigate that a bit.
CHICAGO BULLS UNDER 42.5
Even if I’m going under here there’s a lot to like about this Chicago squad, with the exception of Patrick Williams being their only legitimate power forward. He’s going to be great, but even if he stays healthy all year long they’re going to struggle against any team with dynamic offensive counterparts there. The small lineups that they can toss out there or just a bit too gimmicky and while I expect this play to come down to the wire, it feels like there are a few ways that Chicago can catch a few bad breaks and put this number out of reach.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS OVER 26.5
The Cavs basically hit this number last season and though they lost Larry Nance they have at minimum workable solutions for a 27 win team. Adding Ricky Rubio, Evan Mobley and whatever one wants to assign Kevin Love provides a nice boost to a pair of guards in Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, as those two and Isaac Okaro got pretty much all they could eat last season. The mixture of youth and veterans and projected workloads is easy and complementary.
DALLAS MAVERICKS UNDER 48.5
This is a really tough bet as you have pretty much the same squad returning and Luka probably coming into this season in better shape and just better overall in many ways. That’s supporting cast isn’t getting any better and then you have a coaching change which is a really big downgrade. I don’t want to bet against Luka but if I had to I would here.
DENVER NUGGETS OVER 47.5
Denver has plenty of experience without Jamal Murray and while I was not a fan of their free agency, acquiring Jeff Green is a big deal for them and represents an upgrade, but they had several other factors working in their favor, too. Aaron Gordon has had an off-season to get healthy and wrap his head around his new role, which will encourage him to take good shots while Murray is out. Michael Porter is going to have an ultra green light and he will do just fine in that role. Will Barton will probably make more contributions this year than he did last year. They are even getting great looks out of relative unknown rookie Bones Hyland. Everybody in the organization is aligned on getting a high seed this season.
DETROIT PISTONS OVER 24.5
Dwane Casey isn’t the type to get comfortable with tanking long-term. Asking players like Jerami Grant to sign a big deal and mail it in for two of those years isn’t the picture of a winning squad, and I think this is going to matter this season. They might not run all the way through the finish line but there will be inertia to exceed expectations and prove that this group is getting some traction, even if it is just at the execution level so assets can appreciate. This team looks really bad on paper, let’s be real, but there are a lot of young players that are going to play better than they did last season and the addition of Kelly Olynyk to go with a legit number one overall pick in Cade Cunningham is going to help make this offense credible.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS OVER 48.5
In a way last year was a tanking year for Golden State. Heading into this year the generalists know that Klay Thompson is coming back, but despite the hype in basketball bubbles, folks don’t know about Jordan Poole and how good he really is. Adding the two rookies they added in Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga, along with Otto Porter, and given the solid experience the back end of the rotation got last year, this team is well constructed and they know that the clock is ticking fast on their dynasty.
HOUSTON ROCKETS UNDER 27.5
Houston is getting a lot of buzz for their young talent with this number, despite a lot of it not really being close to known by the public. There is just a sense that all this young talent is going to be harnessed and compete in a tough Western Conference, apparently. Well I do think there is a chance that these guys can sneak up on a lot of teams falling all the way asleep, they are going to struggle to close games out and because of their physical talents they might just wake the opposition up before the second half.
INDIANA PACERS OVER 42.5
Whereas Dallas had the major downgrade at coach, with Rick Carlisle the Pacers got an equivalent upgrade. Caris LeVert will worry me probably for a few years if not his entire career in terms of injuries, but even if he goes down there are a lot of players on this team that showed they could handle more than they will get early on, and that is assuming TJ Warren isn’t back for a few months. In other words, they’re way deeper than most people know. Even the team’s key cogs go under the radar.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS OVER 42.5
Reggie Jackson showed he has another gear as an offensive player, and it has everything to do with his handle and his shot reaching elite levels. This is a team full of connectors and Paul George is just good enough to keep teams honest and in rotation. They’ll be competitive against good teams but generally out-gunned. Having veteran talent that knows how to win will lead to a few extra wins that they shouldn’t have gotten, and against middle of the road and bad teams they will probably be favored. If Kawhi decides he wants more ramp before the playoffs he would be an addition that would actually help, whereas sometimes adding a big piece late could actually slow a team.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS UNDER 52.5
Sure, these guys probably all want to prove the naysayers wrong because they can sense the rest of the basketball world sneering at the concoction here. That much should be true, it’s not the greatest concoction. With so many players that need minutes, even with Trevor Ariza’s injury, there will be ample reason to rest the studs and all of this could lead to a clunky season. Then there is the reality that the Lakers are a public team and that almost all of their players are in decline.
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES OVER 41.5
The Grizzlies passed this number last year and it makes no sense why we would be predicting that they fall short with another year of improvement. We are going to see more De’Anthony Melton and that is probably the most pop one can get against a win totals number. We might see an elevated version of Jaren Jackson this season and all of the young talent is getting better. Steven Adams is a great addition for this squad considering Xavier Tillman can easily step into minutes if he falters.
MIAMI HEAT OVER 48
Yes this is a lot of wins and yes there might be times where this offense grinds to a halt. They also have two players in Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro who can unlock a lot of configurations all by themselves. Kyle Lowry can make offense out of nowhere. So can Jimmy Butler whenever he feels like being assertive and theoretically Bam Adebayo comes into this season with a chip on his shoulder regarding the offensive end. But defensively, I’m not sure we’ve seen anything like this in a very long time. And I think they’re going to take joy in that.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS UNDER 54.5
These players went very deep into the playoffs and both Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday played in the Olympics. They lose any one of the big three for any substantial amount of time and they’re not hitting this number, so just these aforementioned issues put the under in play for me. I’m not sure that the talent at its peak is worth betting the over on, and too much of the depth fits in the good but nowhere near great category. Bobby Portis had a serendipitous run but he can be played off the court pretty easily. Too much about this squad doesn’t meet the 54-win threshold for me.
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES UNDER 35
I like Anthony Edwards and I like Karl-Anthony Towns to have a fuck you kind of season. I’m not sure one way or another if Chris Finch can be a positive. I generally like some of the mid to back-end talent in the rotation. They still have an extremely overrated D’Angelo Russell and too many disparate parts that are looking to establish themselves in ways that don’t plug themselves naturally into a team concept. Everything going on in the front office and with ownership is decidedly a negative for the squad, even if new interim POBO Sachim Gupta can live up to whatever hype one wants to assign him.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS UNDER 39.5
This situation has dumpster fire written all over it. Zion has done just about everything to dampen the hype on one of the legitimately awe-inspiring entrances into the NBA. The franchise is going through the early stages of a transition period on the ownership side. Overall, it just feels like this team is getting ready to be pulled apart. David Griffin is taking fire from all sides, seemingly, which is amazing after his hot start. New coach Willie Green would probably love to turn the keys over to Brandon Ingram. There are some interesting young players but nothing on the talent side suggests that this team can play .500 basketball.
NEW YORK KNICKS OVER 41.5
New York crushed this number last year and they improved in multiple facets. Perhaps the thinking is that they don’t sneak up on anybody this season. That’s all I got.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER UNDER 23.5
I honestly don’t know if Sam Presti is done tanking. Anything goes in OKC. But I generally like a lot of their young players and this year they will be credible whereas last year they were a glorified G league squad. Josh Giddey and Derrick Favors add enough presence to cut out some of the BS of being a really bad team. Poku might weigh more than 180 pounds this year.
ORLANDO MAGIC UNDER 22.5
Even if we assign relatively high values to Orlando’s talent they might not have this number. They have a number of stop and start issues throughout the lineup in terms of returning key players and the question becomes how hard are they going to push through a year with the lowest of expectations.
PHILADELPHIA SIXERS OVER 50.5
Talk about injured star theory. This team has been out of balance for a while now and they’re about to get an identity and a whole lot to prove once they can cut loose from Ben Simmons. Whatever they get back in a deal is a bonus. We probably see peak Joel Embiid this season.
PHOENIX SUNS OVER 51.5
I’m not sure how much the squad will lose in any games that Chris Paul does not play. That’s not to say Chris Paul still isn’t one of the more effective point guards in the league, but Cameron Payne is a starter quality player in this league at a minimum. So many key players have an up arrow next to their name and they have a whole lot to prove this year.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS OVER 44.5
I think that time is almost out for this iteration of Portland basketball. That’s going to be gnawing at this bet the entire time. But I do think there will be a good faith effort to win with this ball club and acquiring Larry Nance was a credible step in the right direction. They just need high-end defenders and the fact that he is an underrated connector and shooter on offense is a very key bonus. The back-end depth is also a tiny bit better than most know. Norman Powell helps this squad a lot. The balance is good and Dame brings enough high-end kick to bet on playoff level ball.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS OVER 28.5
Death, taxes and Spurs overs. The talent is good and it all fits. There will still be young players stuff going on but these guys have a lot of experience for being a young group. There is continuity and there is Gregg Popovich. Thad Young and Doug McDermott are great additions to this squad, with very underrated impact.
SACRAMENTO KINGS OVER 36.5
The only thing that can screw this up is Luke Walton and I am not sure that even he can do that. There are too many combinations of players that play smart basketball and they were able to get rid of Cory Joseph and Nemanja Bjelica, who had been killing the team for years. Davion Mitchell is a great pick up for them. Tyrese Halliburton could be stupidly held back and he will still have an amazing impact on the team. De’Aaron fox still hasn’t displayed a high end grasp of the game, but nothing he has done has suggested that this is ultimately out of his grasp. Overall, he looks ready to go beast mode. Harrison Barnes and Richaun Holmes are elite role players. It’s kind of funny that looking at players like Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley one can envision returns on those assets as putting the Kings in a great position with their core, but one can just as easily imagine that these two players can be very good within the context of right-sized roles. In other words, the kings can win this bet and have a great season multiple ways — credit Monte McNair for making good calls so far (Hassan Whiteside was not on him). Meanwhile, Walton is already putting veteran players through meaningless competitions for starting gigs in his first shot at narrative based coaching this season.
TORONTO RAPTORS OVER 35.5
I blew this bet last year not recognizing the Tampa Bay factor. And there was more to it that would’ve required insider knowledge to know, including the struggles internally with Pascal Siakam, but also the impending exit of Kyle Lowry and the general fatigue of so many things. Recharged, put in their place, and full of talent that the public isn’t quite ready to credit. Scottie Barnes is going to be great. A lot of guys got minutes last year that are going to help this year. Whether this is based on talent or effort I think they have this number any number of ways.
UTAH JAZZ UNDER 52
This is a tough bet because there is a lot of inertia to have a big year not just in the standings but also in the playoffs. Donovan Mitchell could have an MVP season. There is still plenty here to put fear into teams. There is also potential for erosion in the core surrounding Mitchell and especially in the starting lineup.
WASHINGTON WIZARDS UNDER 33.5
This is also a very tough bad because there are quite a few low-end starter, serviceable sixth to eighth in the rotation type players on this squad. Theoretically putting that kind of squad around Bradley Beal, Spencer Dinwiddie and an interesting Daniel Gafford should give you pause that they can stay under the number. This also feels like a situation where Bradley Beal in Washington is already hanging by a thread and some of the anti-VAX stuff didn’t exactly scream lockstep with Wizards management. Setting that aside because it’s extremely speculative, there are a lot of offensive players here and not a lot of distinction in talent levels, so it all just points to bumpy and chaotic.
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