While a handful of teams haven’t taken the floor in a regular season game for nine-plus months, other NBA franchises likely can’t believe the 2020-21 regular season is about to begin. After all, organizations like the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat were playing competitive basketball into October and, well, this is a quick turnaround.
Still, the regular season is coming whether everyone is prepared or not, and one of the grand traditions before tip-off is evaluating the league through the prism of regular season win totals. This is something of a cottage industry at this point but, to explain briefly, each team is given an over/under for their win-loss record, with sportsbooks rushing to beat one another to the punch to present the quickest/best numbers.
This year, the NBA is scheduled for a 72-game season and a few books (DraftKings, etc.) are actually posting numbers based on winning percentage, likely because they foresee potent postponements. From there, other books are mandating that teams play at least 70 games for bets to be “action” and, while it is always wise to know your sportsbook’s official rules, that is especially true in this case.
With that out of the way, we are offering a six-pack of “best bets” and, importantly, we’re using more than one shop to grab our lines. A lot of people are certainly evaluating these for entertainment purposes but, if you want to attempt to profit, having multiple outlets to choose from is the way to go.
Here we go with the picks, coming to you in alphabetical order with the sportsbook vendor listed.
Atlanta Hawks OVER 34.5 wins (FanDuel)
The Hawks missed the bubble entirely, finishing 20-47 last season. As such, this is a very substantial jump to forecast and, under normal circumstances, that would be pretty scary. Lloyd Pierce’s team has a lot going for it, though, and it starts with the presence of a true star (Trae Young), another top-50 incumbent (John Collins) and a massive investment in the offseason. Atlanta signed Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari, both of whom are starting-caliber players with offensive punch, and the Hawks also get a healthy Clint Capela after trading for him in February. Atlanta’s defense is still a concern, which may scare some people away, but this is a team with five top-100 players in the NBA, all kinds of depth, and real star power with Young. They may not crash the top six in the East but, if you shop and get the right number, they don’t have to.
Indiana Pacers UNDER 39.5 wins (Westgate)
It’s a credit to Indiana that they have played as well in recent years as they have. The Pacers haven’t been a team that blows you away from a roster standpoint but, in 2019-20, Indiana was a top-eight defense and they rode Domantas Sabonis to glory. This is a reasonable number but, at the same time, the Pacers benefited greatly in the win column last season when compared to their actual metrics. From there, Victor Oladipo is a (very) uncertain asset right now, and the Pacers had a coaching change that adds a level of uncertainty. Indiana was a stay-away for me until word broke that TJ Warren wasn’t healthy, but that sent me over the edge. Give me the Under.
L.A. Clippers OVER 45.5 wins (Westgate)
Don’t overthink this. The Clippers went 49-23 last season and, from a point differential perspective, they were actually unlucky and “should have” finished 50-22. Despite their lackluster Bubble showing, L.A. isn’t really worse on paper than they were a year ago, and this number is low, simply because of what happened… in a playoff setting. The Clippers don’t even need to replicate all of their success from last year to hit the Over, and they could clear the bar with ease if things break right.
Minnesota Timberwolves UNDER 29.5 wins (FanDuel)
Defense still matters. Minnesota does have offensive talent, headlined by Karl-Anthony Towns, and they could put together a pretty interesting offense this season. However, the Wolves aren’t guaranteed to be awesome on that end of the floor after a bottom-10 showing a year ago, and they will need to be near-elite to hit the Over here. I say that because Minnesota might be flat-out dreadful defensively. They do have some supporting guys who can defend, but if the Wolves rely on Towns, D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, Malik Beasley and others to juice their offense, it comes at a cost.
Phoenix Suns OVER 37.5 wins (FanDuel)
If Chris Paul stays remotely healthy, it will be a significant surprise to me if this goes Under. Now, it is important to shop this, because some outlets are hanging more lofty numbers and that gets scary. With that said, the Suns could be the No. 8 seed in the West and still hit this over, doing so with relative easy. Paul joins Devin Booker to form one of the NBA’s best backcourts, and the Suns have underrated supporting talent, ranging from Deandre Ayton to Mikal Bridges. There is a lot to like here.
Portland Trail Blazers UNDER 41.5 wins (Westgate)
The Blazers should be notably better this year than they were in 2019-20. I’ll grant that after the investments in Robert Covington and Derrick Jones Jr., coupled with Jusuf Nurkic entering the season healthy. However, Portland has to be a lot better to go Over this total after finishing with a 35-39 mark last season. The Blazers were certainly bit by the injury bug, but Damian Lillard was absolutely unbelievable a year ago, and CJ McCollum played 70 games and gave Portland a lot. It’s a credit to Dame and Terry Stotts that the number is this high, but it shouldn’t be seen as a slight to Portland to think they might just win 40 games instead of 42. The West is a gauntlet.