The NBA season is nearly upon us. Stars have moved East and West, establishing new contenders, but it will still be months until one team is crowned champion.
At this time of year, you can get down on who will win the title, but it is a long wait til the playoffs begin. NBA team win totals offer a great chance to see how your “stocks” are doing every day of the season. And unlike the NFL or NCAAF, one bad or unexpected results is not going to sink your whole season.
Even an injury can be managed much better in hoops, so you do not have to be as fine in your handicapping. Here are some plays I like a lot from the top to the bottom in terms of totals.
1. Los Angeles Clippers: Under 54.5
I can get behind the Clippers being a top contender for their first championship, but the playoffs are a long ways away. What we know about them right now is Kawhi Leonard will be “load managed” all season. Their other star, Paul George, is not healthy enough to start the season.
Throw in some continuity concerns once they finally get everyone together and you have a great chance to get the under. Even if you still like them to win it all. Those things might not be as correlated for them, as they often are.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Over 50
That other team in L.A. has also undergone a big makeover, bringing in Anthony Davis and a slew of veterans in support of LeBron James. A “big three” of Davis, LeBron and Kyle Kuzma makes for about as good a frontcourt as there is, with lots of versatility.
And I think they are going to be able to make the most out of their role players. I like guys like Rajon Rondo and Danny Green to be able to play smartly and help LeBron get back to the playoffs, maybe even take the Pacific Division. The only concern is whether they have enough shooting or fresh legs late in the season.
3. San Antonio Spurs: Under 47.5
The Spurs have a Hall of Fame coach and they might even have a couple of HOF players (DeRozan, Aldridge) but I see them sinking this season. They have done nothing to close the gap with Houston and the majority of the players on their roster are more likely to be worse not better than they were a year ago.
I am also bullish on the other teams in their division – Memphis, Dallas and even New Orleans to be a bit better than expected. That is going to sap some of the easy wins that I think the oddsmakers have built into this total.
4. Toronto Raptors: Over 46
Toronto just won its first NBA title and then lost its best player in free agency (Kawhi Leonard). You have to expect a bit of a hangover/downfall from those factors.
However, remember that he did not play in 20 games last season and the Raptors have won at least 48 games for six straight season – they did not come out of nowhere and are one of the top franchises in the game. This is a veteran club that is not going to fall apart just because Kawhi decided to move on and there are still a lot of bad teams in the league.
They are a proud group and I expect them to get to 50 wins.
5. Phoenix Suns: Under 29.5
Phoenix may be the worst in the league. They won just 19 games last season. The last time they won even 30 games was the 2014-15 season, so I am not sure why the markets think they are going to make that leap.
They have a couple of building blocks in Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton, but other than those guys, who do you have to worry about? New coach Monty Williams is not exactly being handed the keys to a Cadillac. I am not sure how guys like Ricky Rubio, Aron Baynes and Frank Kaminsky lead to a 10 game improvement.
6. New York Knicks: Under 27.5
I suppose it is not terrible have a rookie as the face of your franchise, but RJ Barrett is not exactly a dynamic force. He is a likely All-Star, with a strong pedigree, but I doubt he’s the guy to lead a franchise out of the doldrums, especially in his first season.
When was the last time that something actually went the Knicks way? They have improved up front with the additions of Julius Randle and Bobby Portis, but the collection of guys they have of guys who will be handling the ball, including Barrett, is not very inspiring.
The East has some lame teams but there are few automatic wins for the Knicks. If they are better there is way more value going to game to game.
7. Memphis Grizzlies: Over 27.5
This is no longer Mike Conley’s team. He was a gutsy player but there was also a reason many thought his contract with the Grizzlies was just crazy for all those years.
Rookie Ja Morant slides into his spot and I feel like this total is an indictment of him. If you think he can be an effective player as a rookie, then there is more than enough around him to win 30 games. If you think he is not ready, then I can see the under side.
I like their frontcourt of Jaren Jackson and Jonas Valanciunas, with fellow rookie Brandon Clarke also providing something up front. The only thing that has me worried is a rookie coach.