For NBA fans, it feels like an eternity since the Cavs shocked the Warriors by erasing a three-games-to-one deficit in last year’s finals. Thankfully our hoops hiatus is mercifully coming to an end this week as the NBA season tips off.
Every year, season win totals are one of the most fun bets you can make. Whether your budget is $10, $100, or $1000, you get bang for your buck, since wagering on win totals gives you a dog in the fight for all 82 games.
If you’re only putting ten bucks down, you might max out your enjoyment by laying it on your favorite team. But if you’re playing for real cash, you need to put real thought into the side you support.
Here are a few bets win totals I’m considering ahead of the 2016-17 season.
2016-17 NBA Win Totals
Oklahoma City: Over 44.5 Wins
The Thunder couldn’t do anything about Kevin Durant leaving. But management did a nice job of trying to steady the ship, inking a jilted Russell Westbrook to a three-year extension and making the team deeper by trading Serge Ibaka for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and Domantas Sabonis. The Thunder also convinced 2013 draft pick Alex Abrines to leave his native Spain.
None of those names will replace Durant, but OKC also has a young core – Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, Mitch McGary, and Andre Roberson – that is on the rise.
Billy Donovan has a different roster than last year, and it isn’t better without KD, but the Thunder have won 45 games or more in seven straight years and should be near 50 again.
Memphis: Under 43.5 Wins
During an injury plagued season a year ago, the Grizzlies went 42-40. Conventional wisdom suggests they’ll win more this year because, barring more rotten luck, stars Marc Gasol (52 game played) and Mike Conley (56 games played) will be on the court more, and they’ll be joined by newcomer Chandler Parsons.
The problem is the Grizzlies are old. The average age of their starting lineup is over 31. Players in their 30s get worse not better; injuries take place more frequently, and they linger.
The team is defined by war horses like Tony Allen, Zach Randolph, Vince Carter, and Gasol. Those are great complementary players off the bench, but not trusted starters anymore.
Indiana: Under 44.5 Wins
Larry Bird shuffled his deck of playing cards this offseason, and the Pacers will look a lot different in 2016-17. But don’t expect them to be better. Indiana won 45 games last year, leaning heavily on Paul George. They are going to be improved on offense this season – thanks to the additions of Jeff Teague and Al Jefferson/subtractions of George Hill and Ian Mahinmi – while the defense will regress.
The Pacers clearly didn’t have the roster to contend last year, so it was wise of Bird to make significant changes. But what they gained on offense, they gave away and then some on D. I don’t think their current roster can guard well enough to be better than .500.
Photo credit: Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/].