We are just over a week away from the beginning of the 2017-2018 NBA season. The offseason drama has interest around the league soaring as high as anytime I can remember since my youth, and the soap opera of the summer has created some absolutely delicious storylines. Yes, the Warriors are still the prohibitive favorites, but that hasn’t stopped a lot of teams from employing various strategies to close the gap.
The difference in the strategies is significant. Some teams are trying to close the gap NOW, others are trying to close the gap for 2021… those “all in” vs. “all out” differences made the 2017 offseason look like the MLB trade deadline; are team’s buyers or sellers? The difference between the two has created some really fascinating 2017-2018 Over/Under season win total wagers.
Here’s a look at every team’s Vegas projected win totals.
2017-2018 NBA WIN TOTAL OVER/UNDER WAGERS:
Golden State Warriors
Oklahoma City Thunder
San Antonio Spurs
New Orleans Hornets
Portland Trail Blazers
New York Knicks
A couple of quick observations regarding this data:
#1. Golden State’s over/under is set at SIXTY-SEVEN AND A HALF!! That is absolutely ridonkulous. An OVER hit would mean they turned in one of the six best regular seasons in the history of basketball. The more amazing thing? That number seems just about right, even with the Western Conference arms race reaching a furious frenzy this season, all in an effort to merely approach the throne of the Dubs. Current Vegas numbers have them a full 13 games better than anyone else in the entire league. Stunning stuff – and perhaps a sign that ALL the activity this season was moot. Reload, revamp, retool – the Warriors are still the absolute gold standard in the NBA.
#2. Someone in the East has to win some games, right?? Take a look at all the teams projected to go 30-52 or worse: Chicago, Brooklyn, Atlanta, New York, Orlando, and Indiana. Someone has to win some games, don’t they?? I mean they do get to play each other often, after all. It is also jarring to see the Chicago Bulls projected to go 22-60. Sad times indeed, as the Bulls read the tea leaves and decided to go the way of the future and appear to be in vintage Sixers “tank-a-palooza” mode with their insanely young roster. The race to the bottom in the East might be more interesting than the somewhat assumed two-way fight at the top (with all due respect to the Wizards and Raptors)
#3. The Process is Now?? Philadelphia is projected to be a .500 team. And in the East, that means a six or seven seed. Is this the year that four years of staggering futility finally comes to fruition? And will that payoff serve as some silver-lining for the crowded dregs of the East??
Here’s my five favorite Over/Under plays for 2017.
FIVE BEST OVER/UNDER WAGERS FOR 2017-2018
#1. Los Angeles Lakers UNDER 32.5
The Lakers will be better this season. They will be fun to watch and Lonzo Ball will orchestrate one of the most improved offenses in the NBA. But at the end of the day, the West is just TOO good to make substantial improvement. They play in a conference with four teams projected to win 53 games. It is asking a lot to ask them to vault into playoff position, especially when you consider according to Vegas projections, teams like the Grizzlies, Trailblazers, and Jazz are projected on the outside of the playoffs looking in. Even Dallas and Phoenix can make the case for having equally talented and accomplished rosters. Los Angeles could be substantially better this season and still languish in 12th or 13th place in the Western Conference. Thirty wins is a reasonable goal, but I see this team finishing closer to 27 or 28.
That said, a 2020 lineup of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Brooke Lopez, Julius Randle and a few pieces from the 2018/2019 Draft? Not bad at all. The future is bright in LA, but the future hasn’t quite yet arrived.
#2. Atlanta Hawks UNDER 26.5
This is the worst team in the NBA. Their best player is the woefully inefficient Dennis Schroeder and the remaining starting lineup is Bazemore, Taurean Prince, Ersan Ilyasova, and Dewayne Dedmon. Their bench is Miles Plumlee, Malcolm Delaney and hopefully a promising rookie campaign from John Collins, who should get ample opportunities. The cupboard is BARE in Atlanta, who is in flat-out rebuilding mode for the first time in a long time. The East is weak, so they will get some wins, but I’d put this roster behind New York, Orlando, Indiana, and even Chicago, who at least has some decent young pieces (which we will get to shortly…)
Going over every roster in the NBA, starters and projected rotation players, and unless Collins is far more NBA ready than expected or Schroeder becomes stunningly more efficient, this is the worst team in the league. I could see a scenario where they flirt with franchise records for futility and struggle to get to 20 wins.
#3. Chicago Bulls OVER 22.5
It isn’t asking much for the Bulls to win a meager 23 games this season. 23-59 cashes a winning wager, and in the dreadful Eastern Conference. I’ll take the over. Zach Lavine was a nice return piece for Jimmy Butler – especially considering the rebuild mode the Bulls were about to engage upon. He averaged 18.9 points per game on 46% shooting for Minnesota last year. Lavine is known best for his gravity-defying athleticism and dunking prowess, but the former UCLA guard is only 22 years old and still developing as a basketball player. Likewise for newly-acquired point guard Kris Dunn. I think he could wind up being a bit like Chauncey Billups – high expectations, a tough first year in the league, but eventually settling in to being a very good NBA player. I can see him really flourishing this season in Chicago. He is an excellent defender, physically strong, and should get 30 minutes a night to develop as a player. He is also young, only 23 years old. I expect his sophomore campaign to be a far more successful one.
The Bulls bench is intriguing as well. The second unit with Mirotic, Jerian Grant, Paul Zipser and Denzel Valentine has some potential. I’m not saying this is a playoff team, but they look a lot better than Atlanta on paper to me, and no worse than Brooklyn, Orlando or Indiana. That should be good enough to 25-28 wins in the East.
#4. New Orleans Pelicans UNDER 40.5
Man, I want to say the Pels can make the playoffs. After all, how can a team with Anthony Davis and Boogie Cousins NOT make the playoffs?? Well, they miss the playoffs by being in a loaded Western Conference and sporting a backcourt rotation consisting of a talented, but injury-riddled Jrue Holliday, an aging and volatile Rajon Rondo (and the worst shooting guard in the league (ever?) in a modern NBA that values shooting more than ever, Dante Cunningham, Ian Clark and E’Twaun Moore.
There just isn’t nearly enough perimeter help for the Pelicans to compete in the highly bolstered Western Conference. It is a shame, frankly, that they can’t find ONE PERIMETER player to push them over the top, but I think this team is still a year away from being ready to even compete in a playoff series (if they make it at all), despite the absolute brilliance of their frontcourt. Plus, Rajon Rondo = UNDER. It really is that simple over the last three years. Think New Orleans would like to have a re-do on the Eric Gordon exit?? He’d be a nice piece for a team in desperate need of perimeter shooting.
#5. Minnesota Timberwolves OVER 46.5
No team in the NBA is poised to make a bigger jump in 2017-2018 than the completely renovated Minnesota Timberwolves. The splashy acquisition of Jimmy Butler was just the beginning. The former Bulls small forward is a Coach Thibs guy (both literally from their time together in Chicago, and figuratively in style), and his defensive toughness, along with his range and versatility is a perfect fit for the Wolves. Add in the acquisition of Taj Gibson, a great bench role player pickup, and the upgrade of Jeff Teague from Ricky Rubio – and you are looking at an absolute playoff team. Minnesota struggled shooting the basketball in 2016, but swapping Lavine and Rubio for Teague and Butler changes everything.
The biggest reason for my OVER play here is the “next step” from Karl Anthony Towns. I think he is a LEGIT 2018 MVP candidate. Last year he averaged 25.2 points and 12.3 rebounds on 54.2% shooting, making him one of the best and most efficient players in all the NBA. He blocked nearly a shot and a half per game and shot 36.7% from distance. AND HE IS ONLY 21 YEARS OLD!
Minnesota is loaded. I think they could jump as high as the #2 seed if things don’t work out as well as hoped health/chemistry wise in Houston and OKC. Conservatively, I’ll stick with a #5 seed projection, but flirting with 50 wins. They are much younger than some of their fellow top teams in the West, so expect them to be a little fresher and to “mail in” fewer games than San Antonio or Houston might. A 50-win season would be a motivating stepping stone for a franchise with more than a decade of futility in their recent past.
This is my favorite play on the board. The Wolves are FOR REAL and one of the five most talented teams in the NBA.
I like the steady veteran hand of Coach Thibs to steer the ship, the veteran intensity and leadership of Butler to keep them competing all season long, and the MVP emergence of the Big Kat tp push them to new heights.
The NBA season tips off on October 17th with a doubleheader featuring Boston at Cleveland (the NBA didn’t waste any time giving us the Kyrie and LeBron reunion) and Houston at Golden State.
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