Give and Go: Evaluating over/under win totals for 2013-14 season
Give And Go is a recurring feature in which The Point Forward’s Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney bat an NBA topic du jour back and forth.
This week: Picking through the over/under win totals for the 2013-14 season.
Oddsmaking service Bovada.LV sent out its preseason over/under win totals this week. Here’s the list in alphabetical order. Disclaimer: This post is for recreational purposes only.
Atlanta Hawks: 39.5 | Boston Celtics: 27.5 | Brooklyn Nets: 52.5
Charlotte Bobcats: 26 | Chicago Bulls: 56.5 | Cleveland Cavaliers: 40
Dallas Mavericks: 43.5 | Denver Nuggets: 46 | Detroit Pistons: 40
Golden State Warriors: 51.5 | Houston Rockets: 54.5 | Indiana Pacers: 54.5
Los Angeles Clippers: 57 | Los Angeles Lakers: 36.5 | Memphis Grizzlies: 50.5
Miami Heat: 61.5 | Milwaukee Bucks: 29 | Minnesota Timberwolves: 41
New York Knicks: 49.5 | New Orleans Pelicans: 39 | Oklahoma City Thunder: 51.5
Orlando Magic: 24 | Philadelphia 76ers: 17 | Phoenix Suns: 21
Portland Trail Blazers: 38.5 | Sacramento Kings: 31 | San Antonio Spurs: 55.5
Toronto Raptors: 35.5 | Utah Jazz: 25 | Washington Wizards: 39
1. Which team will beat its over/under line by the most wins?
Mahoney: Bucks at 29 wins. This strikes me as a rather dismal projection for a team that should be on the playoff bubble in the East. Milwaukee isn’t that good, but 29 wins is the territory of last year’s Pistons or John Wall-deprived Wizards. The Bucks will be a fair bit better than that, and, correspondingly, the Cavaliers and Pistons might be a few wins short of their projection (40 wins apiece). I don’t see an 11-game divide between the Bucks and those other fringe playoff contenders, or a strong argument for why Milwaukee would drop nine victories from last season.
Losing Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings, Mike Dunleavy and J.J. Redick will undoubtedly come at a price, most readily seen in the clamming up of the Bucks’ offense. But there could be gains on the other end of the floor, as replacing the vomit-worthy collective defense of Ellis and Jennings should make things far easier on Larry Sanders. Considering that Milwaukee ranked just outside the top 10 in points allowed per possession last season despite Sanders’ undue burden, the Bucks should be able to rely on team defensive success while their own scoring comes and goes. To me, that’s a 30-something-win team, a bit closer to respectability than is represented in this line.
Golliver: Thunder at 51.5 wins. I realize this is a risky pick for a few reasons. 1) We know Russell Westbrook will be out until at least December. 2) We don’t know when Westbrook will be back to 100 percent health. 3) The Thunder lost Kevin Martin, a key contributor, and added little of (short-term) substance this offseason. 4) Oklahoma City has never been more susceptible to copious amounts of losing should Kevin Durant miss time for any reason, even an ankle tweak. 5) A line of 51.5 wins is a high bar, one cleared by only seven teams (including the Thunder) last season.
Maybe “blind faith in Durant” is a poor reason to justify a position on a wager, but he’s certainly talented enough to keep the Thunder afloat during Westbrook’s absence, particularly because Oklahoma City’s early schedule isn’t brutal. Toss in the Thunder’s solid home-court advantage (.750 winning percentage over the last four seasons) and the fact that the chase for playoff seeding at the top of the West should go down to the wire, and it’s not too difficult to envision Oklahoma City’s closing the season on a rampage once Westbrook returns.
This group is unlikely to hit the 60-win mark or lead the league in point differential like last year’s team, but the Durant/Westbrook/Serge Ibaka trio shouldn’t be written off so swiftly. This line just feels like an overreaction to Westbrook’s untimely second knee surgery.
2. Which team will fall short of its over/under line by the most wins?
Golliver: Cavaliers at 40 wins. I nominate Cleveland as the biggest potential “disappointment” through an air of self-loathing. Kyrie Irving has been one of the best things to happen to the NBA in recent years, as he’s effortlessly combined the flashy and the fundamental to become one of the league’s most dangerous point guards. Jarrett Jack will prove to be very wise addition, and Cleveland should enjoy more than the 25 games it got from Anderson Varejao last season.
The Cavaliers should easily surpass their 24 victories from last season as long as Irving enjoys relatively good health. But adding 16 wins would require major contributions from Andrew Bynum, and that seems like the most wishful type of wishful thinking. Impact play from Bynum, should it develop, would require a period of acclimation, and that hasn’t happened yet — at all — because he’s been limited during training camp and unable to play in the preseason. The silver lining here: Cleveland could fall short of the 40-win mark and still reach owner Dan Gilbert’s goal of making the playoffs.
Mahoney: I don’t think there are any great picks here aside from the Cavs. But rather than double down on that skepticism, I’ll make my doubts known about the Nuggets’ ability to hit 46 wins. Denver should still be rather good, and in the thick of the race to fill out the Western Conference playoff field. But the team’s modus operandi under George Karl did a marvelous job of disguising flaws, many of which were only augmented during a fairly brutal offseason.
It’s no secret that the Nuggets were propelled by their steadfast commitment to transition play last season, an engine that allowed them to attempt over 500 more shots in the restricted area than any other team in the league. With that disposition, they were a blur — so fast and so resolved to run that regular-season opponents struggled to pin down their weaknesses. But when the Nuggets slowed down, their offense started to show at the seams; there was enough driving and counter-driving to keep Denver going, but that half-court offense was quite solvable.
All of which makes it odd to me that new coach Brian Shaw seems intent on slowing his team down, despite losing an important facilitator and ball handler in Andre Iguodala. With Danilo Gallinari out for a portion of the season as he recovers from a knee injury, that leaves Ty Lawson burdened with the bulk of the team’s shot creation. As good as Lawson has been, I’m not convinced that he’s equipped to carry a slowed-down, pared-down offense to high efficiency. There are some wild cards in play (Shaw’s schemes, JaVale McGee’s increased minutes, Kenneth Faried’s development, etc.) that could give Lawson a hand, but I don’t think the combination of those factors will help Denver enough to reach this particular mark.
That’s especially true due to the hit that the Nuggets are set to take with Iguodala and Corey Brewer — the team’s best perimeter defenders — no longer in the rotation. Denver was a below-average defensive team before Iguodala came along, and this summer the Nuggets made room for dunk-allowing savant J.J. Hickson to fill out a rotation of big men that has never established defensive solvency. McGee boasts the length and shot-blocking ability to turn a corner in that regard at almost any moment, but he and Faried were a bit of a mess in bridging their individual instincts with the basics of a rotational scheme. Add Hickson to the mix — without Iguodala and Brewer around to make opponents work on the perimeter — and things could get very messy soon.
I don’t want to overstate here; Denver is still a .500 team at least, set to be competitive on most nights once healthy. But this is a roster on thin ice, reconfigured under a new coach and left temporarily without a vital contributor. Call me a pessimist, but I see cause for underperformance there.