Welcome back fellow degenerates. Once again, I pulled totals and odds from https://www.betonline.ag/sportsbook and, well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is not a single bet in the Northwest Division that I really like. If you were looking to ride your hot streak or bet your kid’s college fund, I recommend taking your money somewhere else. Despite the fact that I think Utah and Denver will finish above their win total, they could very well end up losing a few more just because of how good the West is. OKC could sell off all their vets, they could make a run at someone like Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, or they could just keep their team together and fight for the 8 seed.
If things go right I can see Minnesota making a run at the playoffs, but I would say that’s probably like a 20% outcome. And finally, I never want to be the person who counts out Portland, but that’s the right move this year, right? They won’t have center Jusuf Nurkic for most of the year and he probably won’t be any good if he comes back. If Anfernee Simons doesn’t work out as the backup point guard what are they going to do? They are screwed if one of Dame Lillard or CJ McCollum gets hurt. Who on their team is going to guard the other team’s best wings? Still, I am not ready to actually bet on them to win less than 46 games.
If I had to bet (and I am a betting man), below is my favorite bet and a bet you should definitely stay away from.
Favorite: Utah hitting the over at -115. Utah got a lot better this offseason. Couple that with the fact that they are always well coached, have a great home court advantage and run a great system. Those traits usually lead to regular season success. It wouldn’t surprise me if Utah ended up with the best regular season record in the league.
Least Favorite: Portland hitting the under at -110. In their individual preview I discuss a lot of issues that could very easily hold them back, but this is one of the toughest teams to bet against. I also think their win total of 46.5 is probably right around where they will finish, considering the team’s holes and the improvement of other teams in the West.
Check out the individual previews below. Once again, I pulled the totals and the odds from https://www.betonline.ag/sportsbook:
Denver Nuggets: 52.5
Denver is coming off a 54 win season and an offseason where they did not make too many moves. The addition of Jerami Grant was solid. He can back up both bigs, play with both bigs, even play a little three, and he basically fits everything they’re going to do on the court. Michael Porter Jr. is healthy this year after missing his entire rookie season, and he might be able to help fill their biggest weakness at the 3 spot. I would not expect too much out of him considering that he’s a rookie who has not played in basically two years and Denver is not in a position to work him in due to their season expectations. Denver should still have great team continuity and one of the best home court advantages in the league, I do not expect them to regress when they’re essentially running it back with the same roster, plus a few additions on the margins. If Gary Harris stays healthy and Jamal Murray can make some improvements, that automatically makes them a better version of last year’s squad. They should fair well in close games because of their home court altitude advantage and because of their team continuity. They have two ball handling options in Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, who are usually surrounded by high IQ players like Paul Millsap and Harris. However, I can see them running into a similar problem as the Celtics did last year. Do we know we will get the same egoless production from Monte Morris, Malik Beasley and Torrey Craig? If they get tired of their current roles or someone like MPJ starts playing ahead of them, it could lead to chemistry issues or their play regressing. Also, there is the chance that they just do not play as well as they did last year without any other outside factors, just regression to the mean. At the end of the day though, they do have depth, great continuity, and a great home-court advantage to go along with a relatively low over/under compared to their prior year finish.
Prediction: 53 wins
Oklahoma City Thunder: 32.5
This is another bet that I would stay away from due to the completely different paths the team could take. OKC went into semi-rebuild mode this summer, but still have high quality veterans in Chris Paul, Danillo Gallinari and Steven Adams. The team also gained so many assets this summer that their likely strategy will be to play and keep all their vets with the goal being either to over-perform and make a run at the 6-8 seed or let them play their trade value up. I think Miami eventually caves and makes a trade for CP3, and as long as Gallo is healthy he’ll net a first round pick from someone at the trade deadline. Steven Adams will be tough to trade due to his contract and the fact that he is not an ideal basketball fit in many places. I see them trying to spend the time after the trade deadline developing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Terrence Ferguson and their other young players. I think the most likely outcome for this team is being somewhere in the 8-10 seed range in the first half of the season, making deadline trades, and then slipping into the 10-12 range in the West. The 10-12 lottery range will be their sweet spot. The first half of the season will show the fans they tried. Trading the remaining vets will continue their rebuild. With the new lottery odds it puts them in a good position to land a quality pick without having to bottom out completely.
Prediction: 32 wins
Minnesota Timberwolves: 35.5
Minnesota is another bet I would stay away from. They basically have a new coach, are under a new front office, and it is not clear if they will be trying to compete or tank. Along with that, judging by their roster, their over under total seems relatively accurate. I think the new front office will look to build around Karl-Anthony Towns and actually feature him the way he deserves to be. Given his prior development and projecting forward, he could very easily make a run at being the best big in the league. I also think KAT will come out on fire with the offense running through him. This will help the young wings like Jarrett Culver, Josh Okogie, and Jake Layman be quality role players, as they will not have to be the focal point of the offense to have an impact. And this is a pretty hot take, but I think Andrew Wiggins will be better to start the year. I think the noise has gotten to him and the new up-tempo style will help him. Management has shown they want him to cut out some of the mid-rangers in favor of threes and layups, this should help him be more efficient. Call me crazy but I can see him being around a net-neutral on the court. If Robert Covington and Jeff Teague can stay healthy, I think the Timberwolves will spend the beginning of the year fighting for the 8 seed. However, most of those scenarios are unlikely. It is unrealistic to expect all their young wings to be positive contributors for the whole season, and it is also pretty unrealistic to expect Ro-Co and Teague to be healthy for an entire season. They might even be shopping Ro-Co at the deadline and will be ready to throw in the towel about two thirds of the way through the season.
Prediction: 34 wins
Portland Trail Blazers: 46.5
Portland is starting to become one of those teams that will be good in the regular season no matter what. With the West loaded this year, I think they finally take a step back. But this is another bet I don’t really like. I can see them finishing as a 8-10 seed, but also would not be surprised at all if they grab the 4 seed. They locked down Dame and CJ long-term this summer, but they’re going to rely on Anfernee Simons as their backup point guard. Simons has shown flashes, but he is so inexperienced. His calling card appears to be scoring, but it is very hard to see him being efficient enough on offense to make up for him being likely a negative on defense. Not having 48 consistent minutes of point guard could really hurt them. Also, what happens if one of Dame or CJ gets hurt? Their lack of bench guards could really hurt them. They also do not have any wing defenders, as it looks like Kent Bazemore will be the best one they have and he’s only 6’5”. He’s also lost a step with all the injuries he’s had lately, and may not even be an average defender anymore. Hassan Whiteside and Pau Gasol were solid additions who should be solid stop gaps until Nurkic returns from injury. Terry Stott’s system allows for non-mobile bigs to be relatively successful. Another issue is the starting 4 spot that is looking like it will belong to Zach Collins. Zach Collins does a little bit of everything, but he does not yet do anything at a high skill level, which is why he’s best coming off the bench. I think Dame, CJ , and Coach Stotts will still be able to work some magic despite the team having a lot of real issues. I project the team to make the playoffs, but with the other improvements of the teams in the West, I do not see them getting out of the first round.
Prediction: 44 wins
Utah Jazz: 53.5
Utah is typically a good regular season team because of their execution, their defense, and their culture. A lack of scoring has hurt them in the playoffs, but they addressed that this offseason. During the offseason, they added Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic, who both are very capable scorers and spot-up shooters/off-ball players. With the extra scoring and shooting on the court it should open Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert’s games even more. Mitchell will now get the chance to attack the weak side after a Conley-Gobert pick and roll that will force the defense to already be off balance. Factoring in that and natural progression, I think Mitchell will have a monster year. They are a little shallow, but they will probably be able to make up for that by staggering the minutes of Conley and Mitchell a good amount. They lack an elite wing defender but they still have a couple good ones. This hole on their roster is one of the things that will probably hold them back in the playoffs. The best version of this team will win a lot of games by 10-12 points due to their execution, defense, and high-end talent to go with that culture. It also doesn’t hurt that they have one of the best home court advantages in the league.
Prediction: 56 wins