The Southwest division has a bet I really like and a lot of very-well placed lines. Houston under Mike D’Antoni has won 55, 65, and 53, respectively in his time in Houston. They have a pretty high-floor. After factoring in the Rockets winning 53 games last year in what was pretty close to a worst-case scenario based on their slow start and injury plagued season, plus other factors discussed below, I am very confident in their over. The other teams all have very-well placed lines. I expect all of them to finish right around them and it might come down to trying to predict who will have the best injury luck. Totals and odds from https://www.betonline.ag/sportsbook.
Favorite: Houston hitting their over at -130. Like mentioned above, they have a very high floor under D’Antoni. Despite your opinion on the Russell Westbrook/Chris Paul trade, they at least got the more durable regular season player. They also added a lot of quality vets who fit their system. Despite the bad odds, this is pretty close to a lock for me.
Least Favorite: Pelicans hitting the over at -125. Despite other teams being closer to their total, this team has the highest variance in outcomes. If Zion Williamson’s knee problems linger and he only plays in 50 games, and if Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram fail to meet expectations this season in their new surroundings, this team might only win 30 games. However, if the young guys are better than expected, plus their often-injured guys stay healthy, the Pelicans could win around 48 games.
Check out the individual previews below:
Dallas Mavericks: 40.5
Luka Dončić was a generational rookie last year, and he will now have Kristaps Porzingis as his running-mate. Porzingis hasn’t played competitive basketball in 20 months, so it is unrealistic to expect him to be at his peak of his New York Knicks days, or at least to expect peak-Porzingis for the entirety of the season. The team also added some decent role players in Delon Wright and Seth Curry. This is a team with some nice pieces, but I do not see any real path to them being a playoff team; outside of Porzingis being better than before and Luka jumping to the All-NBA level. I don’t think either of those two things is that likely (not impossible though). They have okay wing defenders in Justin Jackson and Dorian Finney-Smith. Maxi Kleber is a very-solid do it all big, but Dwight Powell and movie star Boban Marjanovic are probably below average after everything is considered. I really like Jalen Brunson’s game but he is not moving the needle too much. I think Luka will have the Mavs ranking as a good offense when he’s on the court, despite their lack of shooting. The issue is, what are they going to do when he’s not on the court or when Porzingis does not play? Are they going to be relying on Tim Hardaway Jr. as their third scorer? I don’t like the sound of that. As it stands, Porzingis probably only plays in 60 games, and that’s if he doesn’t get hurt. Seth Curry has also missed a lot of time in his career, and we can’t guarantee Luka is able to stay healthy for an entire season. This team will probably finish as a top 12ish defense. Coach Rick Carlisle will get the most out of their average wing defenders, their above average defensive bigs in Porzingis and Kleber, and above average guard defender Wright. Unfortunately for owner Mark Cuban and the Dallas faithful, I think the offense struggles too much when Luka is not on the court or when Porzingis sits out and I think they get hit with the injury bug just a little too much.
Prediction: 38 wins
Houston Rockets 53.5:
Last year Houston won 53 games despite their atrocious start to the season, their lack of depth and all their injuries. This year they will have no glaring weaknesses to start the year. They will have solid depth pieces in Austin Rivers, Danuel House, Thabo Sefolosha, and Tyson Chandler rounding out their rotation for the entire season. Depth will not be a problem for them. I really liked the Westbrook trade — he is still a top-20 regular season player and will be much more available than Chris Paul. This will be the first time Westbrook will be playing with adequate supporting pieces. Westbrook is elite at creating three-point opportunities for teammates and he will finally be surrounded with shooters like Eric Gordon, P.J Tucker and Danuel House instead of offensively-challenged Andre Roberson and Raymond Felton. While Steven Adams is a fine player, he is not the rim-runner Clint Capela is. Westbrook will finally be able to run 1-5 pick and rolls with a lob threat and three shooters around him — it will be a treat to watch. Having Westbrook also takes opposing defensive pressure off James Harden. It will be very tough for teams to prepare for Harden’s iso slow-paced play and Westbrook wanting to push the pace as much as possible. The last thing to consider is that Houston is will have elite team chemistry. Tyson Chandler, P.J. Tucker, and Thabo are all great locker room guys, plus Harden and Westbrook are literally best-friends. Other supporting players like Austin Rivers, Eric Gordon, Gerald Green, and others all fit in with the gritty culture they’ve established. It’s pretty clear this team’s goal is to win it all and they are willing to sacrifice to make that happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if they jumped out to an insane start like two years ago. This team has great players, great culture, a great system and they are hungry.Expect big things.
Prediction: 59 wins
Memphis Grizzlies: 26.5
This offseason, Memphis traded away Mike Conley and they shifted fully into their rebuild. They picked up some good veterans who will for sure have trade value in Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder. They drafted their point guard of the future,in Ja Morant and also picked up rookie forward and Summer League MVP Brandon Clarke. It is almost guaranteed they move most of their vets and 100% embrace the young guys by the end of the season. Ja can do some great things with the ball, but like all young point guards, he will probably be inefficient on offense and not a good defender. That is perfectly okay. This year is about the young guy’s development. Brandon Clarke looks as if the hype was real on defense and he’ll be an elite defender, though the offense for him on this team will probably take a few years to come along. Jaren Jackson Jr. is going to be asked to shoot more threes under new coaching and will likely be a little less efficient than last year. Between JJJ, Clarke, Kyle Anderson and whatever they get out of their vets, there is a realistic path to them being around league average on defense. Their offense will probably be closer to bottom-end of the league. Again, this year is about development and a lot of their core players will be inefficient. I can see them hanging in a lot of games because of their defense ,but not being able to generate enough points to win those close-games. The Grizzlies are also incentivized to try and keep their top-6 protected pick this year. They will look good at times, but I do not expect them to win that many games.
Prediction: 24 wins
New Orleans Pelicans: 39.5
This is one of the toughest teams to place in the league. They have almost a completely new roster, with many of those additions being good players. It must be considered that when teams experience as much turnover as they did, they typically don’t reach their highest potential. However, looking at their roster construction, they have a reasonable path to being above average on both ends of the court. Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball will make up a very good defensive backcourt, Derrick Favors is a good defensive center, and other players like Brandon Ingram and E’Twaun Moore should be solid defenders as well. With their super-fast paced offense, they’ll definitely be exciting too. Lonzo, Holiday, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Ingram will be pushing the pace, throwing lobs to #1 pick Zion Williamson all day. J.J. Redick will be a very good sixth man. This team will struggle with spacing though. Ball and Ingram are average at best 3-point shooters. Holiday isn’t that high volume of a shooter. Zion and Favors are both bad, low-volume 3-point shooters. I think Ingram will eat up too many possessions with low-quality mid-rangers as well. In the end, I think this team will show flashes of greatness on both sides of the court, but they will settle in around average or slightly below average on both ends. There is also a good chance they move veterans like Favors, Redick, and Moore. In the end, after factoring in the growing pains of a new team, spacing problems, and the potential to trade some of their veterans, I think this team will end up just outside the playoff picture.
Prediction: 41 wins
San Antonio Spurs: 43.5
Is this the year to bet against Pop? I’m going with no. They’re going to have two of the best defensive guard in the league in Dejounte Murray and Derrick White. Their two main scorers are old-fashioned with their love for the mid-range, but DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge are in fact floor-raisers. DeRozan and Aldridge don’t give the team a high ceiling, but them plus Coach Greg Popovichand you’re looking at a minimum of .500. Then you factor in solid two-way players in Jakob Poeltl, DeMarre Carroll, and Rudy Gay. They return other role-players in Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli, and Bryn Forbes. They also have the tools to pull-off a blockbuster trade. The Spurs’ vets are on tradable contacts, they have intriguing young players like Lonnie Walker and Luka Samanic, and they have all their picks going forward. It would not be the Spurs way to make a big move like that, but Pop is getting up there in age. Maybe he sees the chance to guarantee more success for the remainder of his coaching career and he goes for it. To me it comes down to betting on Pop, their elite perimeter defenders, their floor-raisers, and the Spurs culture.
Prediction: 46 wins