With over a quarter of the NBA season in the books – plus the inaugural NBA in-season tournament wrapped up – we can hopefully get a good read on some of this season’s surprise teams. More specifically, is their success (or, conversely, lack of it) sustainable over the full 82-game schedule? And have the books properly adjusted their season-long win totals? Here is a 2023/24 NBA win totals update.
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2023/24 NBA Win Totals Update
Minnesota Timberwolves – 44.5 Wins (preseason), 51.5 Wins (now)
No team has surprised more this season than the Minnesota Timberwolves. Their 17-4 record is not just tops in the Western Conference but in the whole NBA. Who saw this coming?! Certainly not the books, who had the Wolves pegged for 44.5 wins heading into the year.
That has now been adjusted up a whole seven wins to 51.5. And you know what? This projection is still too low. Basketball Reference, through their extensive simulation system, has Minnesota projected for 56 wins this season.
Four teams got over 52 wins last year, so as long as the Wolves stay near the top of the league, they should beat this projection. Considering they are doing this with the league’s best defense anchored by a revitalized Rudy Gobert and not based on luck or an easy strength of schedule, their performance should be sustainable.
Houston Rockets – 31.5 Wins (preseason), 38.5 Wins (now)
Right up there in the surprise category with the Wolves are the 10-9 Houston Rockets. While 10 wins in 19 games is nothing to write home about, it is something special, considering Houston won a grand total of 22 games last season. And 20 games the year before that.
And 17 the year before that. It’s been a bad stretch in H-Town. So is this sustainable? Like Minnesota, Houston is getting the job done on defense, so that makes it more ‘real’ in my eyes. And they revamped their roster over the offseason, adding gritty veterans like Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks to help lead their young core.
BR has them projected to very easily get past their updated win total of 38.5 – the site projects the Rockets to get to 47 wins by the end of the season.
Phoenix Suns – 51.5 Wins (preseason), 50.5 Wins (now)
Things have not gone according to plan for the Phoenix Suns this season. Their ‘Big 3’ of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal have all taken turns on the sidelines, not allowing the three to get any court time together.
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as all three are injury-prone. But the books seem to expect them to get healthy and start clicking, as their projected win total has only gone from 51.5 in the preseason to 50.5 as of now.
Sitting at 12-10 on the season, the team is only on a 45-win pace, with a below-average defense that probably isn’t going to improve, regardless of health.
Despite being a Suns fan, I don’t see this team getting to the elite level of 51 wins, nor do I foresee their Big 3 getting and staying healthy for the long run.
Memphis Grizzlies – 45.5 Wins (preseason), 34.5 Wins (now)
Oh boy, has this season gone off the rails in Memphis? Sure, they were expected to struggle while Ja Morant served his 25-game suspension, but their preseason win total projection of 45.5 wins shows that the team was at least expected to tread water while their star sat out. Instead, they’ve gone 6-15. Ouch.
However, Morant is only out four more games. Even if the Grizzlies lose all four of those games (not a crazy suggestion), they’d still only have to go 29-28 the rest of the way with Morant in uniform to top the new win total of 34.5.
Considering they have a top-10 defense currently but the second-worst offense, it appears that scoring is their issue. It won’t be once Morant is back.