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We are back to 82 games, thank God. Trying to adjust for the shortened seasons the past two years has been a nightmare, but now we get to judge teams across six months of play and 82 games.
It’s NBA preseason and now’s the time to find value on NBA win total bets.
You can read my deep dive into all 30 team win totals, but here are the five teams I’m betting heaviest to go over or under their win total this season.
Atlanta Hawks Over 46.5 (DraftKings)
Atlanta had such bad injury luck last season and still wound up making a massive leap. Now there’s a regression built into the number, but it’s too much.
Their schedule in particular is among the softest in the league, fourth-easiest per PositiveResidual.com. So you have a team with high roster continuity, a significant coaching upgrade who helped the team to a record that would clear this over easily, a superstar, and good supporting players.
Players who make the kind of leap that Trae Young did last season see their win totals decrease year over year, but still hit their over.
Derrick Rose, Damian Lillard, Steph Curry, all saw this pattern play out after their first playoff run. The historical trend suggests that the market actually undercorrects after teams and stars make those kinds of leaps.
The offense is loaded; there are no discernible weaknesses when it comes to how they will score. Defensively there are greater concerns, but even then under McMillan they finished 15th in Defensive Rating, which is more than good enough for 50 wins with how their offense looks.
Bogdanovic provides another primary creator, and Sharife Cooper shows promise as a spark plug off the bench. They have shooting, vertical finishers in John Collins and Clint Capela, and a mix of hungry youngsters and veterans.
This number reflects an unwarranted skepticism and we’ve already seen the number bet up. Hawks over is the most bet over at BetMGM so far this preseason. PointsBet and DraftKings have the lowest total (46.5), but the latter has less juice. I like this up to 49.5.
Note: As of this writing, the Hawks got absolutely drubbed in their preseason opener and Trae Young suffered a bruised quad. Great start! I’m not overreacting to a preseason game, but it’s something to watch.
This is an incentive play. Orlando has the lowest win total on the board, and the team with the lowest win total has hit the over in nine of the past 12 seasons.
However, no team is as low on top-end talent as the Magic. Jalen Suggs profiles as a good player, perhaps a potential All-Star, but likely not a franchise cornerstone. Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Isaac, Mo Bamba, Cole Anthony, RJ Hampton, all have upside, but ultimately are likely rotation players. Terrence Ross is their best player and he’s trade bait.
The Magic more than any other team, outside of the Thunder have incentive to tank. So even if the Thunder get to 15 wins by February, they will aggressively move towards improving their draft position.
I like a lot of the Magic players — Hampton in particular has explosive potential. Bamba looked terrific in the preseason opener, but defensively he will still be a mess. Wendell Carter Jr. may be further along in that process; league sources expect Orlando to sign WCJ to an extension before the season begins.
However, they have injury concerns, a lack of experience, and no consistent top-level players. More than anything, though, Orlando seems dedicated to a true rebuild and that’s going to require a top-three pick.
I have the rest of the league projected for a fairly top heavy distribution with a healthy middle, which means the bottom teams are going to be truly awful. I think Orlando winds up as one of those teams.
I’m fading the trend above and picking the lowest total team to go under. I don’t want it lower than this number, though.
The Nuggets have gone over their win total in each of the past five full seasons under head coach Michael Malone. They were on track to go over in 2020 before the shutdown and the bubble where half their team was out for various reasons.
This number pretty clearly is built off the absence of Jamal Murray as he rehabs from ACL surgery. However, Murray is more crucial to the Nuggets’ ceiling, not its floor.
Yes, they will miss Murray’s ability to take over and save them when the rest of the team doesn’t have it, but Michael Porter Jr. is capable of filling that gap at this point.
The Nuggets took real strides in taking care of bad teams last season, going 26-8 vs. teams under .500. That advantage won’t evaporate as long as Nikola Jokic is available.
There’s a rest plan being put together for Jokic, but those are more likely to be in games that are at best coin flips anyway; he’ll play when the Nuggets have a high chance of winning.
That’s the Spurs-ian model of gaming the regular season. You bail on the tough games and double down on the games you should win. Denver has gone 33-9 vs. division opponents their last three seasons. They’ve won 79% of their games vs. the teams they play most often this season.
They have the second-easiest rest-adjusted schedule in the league per PositiveResidual.com. They added Jeff Green as a capable stretch-big and there’s real buzz that rookie Bones Hyland is going to challenge for rotation minutes. Oh, and they have the reigning league MVP.
Murray is on track to return sometime around February. There’s a soft expectation inside the Nuggets organization he’ll be back sometime that month. That gives the Nuggets two months at full strength if everyone else is healthy and their schedule is front heavy, so they’ll make a huge run late in the year.
Coaching, continuity, high-level talent, a sustainable regular-season win profile, and manageable schedule. They check all the boxes. I like this up to 49.5.
If the Nuggets check all the boxes, the Jazz do so with an even more solid regular-season foundation, an easier schedule per PositiveResidual.com, an offense that was better than Denver’s last season, a defense that was better than Denver’s last season and without a major injury to their second-best player.
While their win total number is five games over Denver’s, their Pythagorean expected figure last season was 5.7 wins better than where they finished. Based on Pythagorean expectation, they were slated for 66 wins per 82 games last season. This number assumes not only a regression, but a 14-win regression.
The most commonly used, and easiest win defensive scheme vs. pick-and-roll in the NBA is drop coverage, and no one does it better than the Jazz. It allows them to contain at the rim and on the perimeter (even with a roster of defensive question marks on the edge).
Rudy Gobert’s defensive vulnerability in the playoffs is not just a strength in the regular season, it’s an overwhelming advantage.
They have a dynamite scorer in Donovan Mitchell who was one of the best in the league at pull-up jumpers last season. Even if that figure regresses, his ability to draw contact and get to the rim along with his playmaking will get him into the All-Star game. They have plenty of shooters — Utah was fourth in the in the NBA in 3-point percentage and led the league in attempts and makes from deep. They added Rudy Gay to play small-ball five so they finally have a different look they can throw teams.
They’re well coached and their preseason comments indicate a chip on their shoulder about their early exit last season. Maybe that means they configure more towards a playoff-oriented approach, but even if they do so, that still would not justify a 14-win drop season over season.
The books were hammered on this total. BetMGM has 99.8% of the money on the over for this team. The number has been bet up to 52.5. I still love the over and I think this is a play to 54.5.
Utah is a great bet for the No. 1 seed, but their over is light by at least three wins. This is a 55-60-win team provided they stay healthy, and even if they’re not — as they missed Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell both late last season — they can still hit the over.
Minnesota Timberwolves Over 34.5 (PointsBet)
In Chris Finch we trust.
Every season there’s a team that makes a surprise jump in each conference. The most obvious answer in the West is the Wolves. Maybe that means it’s a trap. But there’s a lot to like here.
For starters, the change to Finch at head coach fundamentally shifted the offense towards a play style much better suited for the roster. Since Finch took over, it’s built for efficient Morey-ball style dunks and 3s.
Karl-Anthony Towns is a perfect center to use in dribble hand-off action and under Finch, plays involving Towns were the ninth-most efficient handoff plays in the league.
They’ve changed the defense, too. Former assistant David Vanterpool is well regarded by players and will likely be a successful head coach some day. He’s also known as an advocate for drop technique in pick-and-roll coverage. Towns’ athleticism and agility makes him much better suited to play at the level.
Most notably, the Wolves were the second-best defense in all pick-and-roll schemes that weren’t drop and No. 1 defending at the level of the screen (which is the new scheme they’re using).
Now, this doesn’t mean they’ll be a good defense. But they might bet 15th-20th and guess what? With the talent on this roster, that gets them home for the over.
Anthony Edwards has been impressing the coaching staff with his defense, of all things, in preseason. D’Angelo Russell looks locked in and while that’s always going to be a rollercoaster, just a less-bad season from Russell in terms of on-court impact would be big.
Minnesota is a fairly probable landing spot for Ben Simmons and if they add Simmons to Towns and Edwards, this team looks a little scary. Not horror show scary. But R/Creepy on Reddit creepy.
There’s talent, there’s a coaching upgrade, there’s a good vibe despite the front office turmoil. You’re buying two things here: Towns and Finch.