The Eastern Conference should be fascinating in 2021-22. At the top of the heap, the Brooklyn Nets are projected by many as the betting favorite to win the 2022 NBA title, and teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat, and reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks will aim to topple Brooklyn to represent the East in the NBA Finals. While attention is rightfully paid to the pursuit of playoff glory, the regular season also projects to be quite interesting, with a bevy of competitive teams jockeying for position in the standings.
In this space, we’ll take a glance at the over/under win totals for each team in the Atlantic Division, attempting to decipher a market that is always of great intrigue to die-hards. For the purpose of clarity, each line below comes from the good folks at DraftKings and they are listed below in alphabetical order.
Boston Celtics Over 45.5
I think 45.5 is a good number for Boston. They were only on pace for 41 wins over an 82-game season in 2020-21, but it was also the season from hell for the Celtics. They had a point differential of a 44-win squad, and they seemingly upgraded the roster on the whole with Al Horford, Josh Richardson, and Dennis Schroder. At the same time, there is some downside potential, and this is definitively not a number that I would invest in. If you made me pick, I’d lean over.
Brooklyn Nets Over 56.5
To be honest, giving out an Over on a number this large is terrifying to me and goes against my principles. However, the Nets are the best team in the NBA on paper, and I don’t think it’s particularly close. They won at a 55-win pace last year, even with James Harden and Kevin Durant combining to play only 71 games and Kyrie Irving playing only 54 of a possible 72. Brooklyn’s roster is also better on the margins after adding Patty Mills and Paul Millsap, with notable depth in the frontcourt and a full season of Blake Griffin. Brooklyn may take it easy at some point, but they are good enough where I don’t want to be on the other side.
New York Knicks Under 41.5
I was ready to give out the Knicks under with confidence. They have all the signs of a dead-under team after overachieving last season and making some high-profile additions in the offseason. However, oddsmakers seemingly guarded against that with a relatively modest number, making it a lot tougher to evaluate. New York’s offense should really improve with Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier to provide shot-making and overall creation, but the Knicks made their bones on the defensive end last year. Tom Thibodeau and a strong infrastructure should help New York stay in a strong position defensively, but this isn’t an elite defense on paper. I’ll default to the Under, even with a number that the Knicks could realistically clear.
Philadelphia 76ers Over 50.5
Honestly, picking this is impossible. The Sixers may trade Ben Simmons in the next few weeks. It might even be likely. They could also trade Simmons during the season. I’m technically picking the Over because they have eclipsed this figure in three of the last four seasons, and the roster should be better than it was a year ago with some internal improvement. No one can tell you what the final product will look like, though, so I’d stay away unless forced to take a side.
Toronto Raptors Over 35.5
The Raptors finished the shortened 2020-21 season winning at a 31-win pace over 82 games. That is a little bit scary, but Toronto’s point differential was that of a 40-win team and, well, the Raptors didn’t try to win very much down the stretch last season. Kyle Lowry’s absence will undoubtedly be felt, but Toronto’s roster is still quite respectful, and they are well-coached. If Goran Dragic was bought out, their projection would take a hit, but if the Raptors are relatively healthy and push to win nightly, they are better than this.