With the start of the NBA season just two days away, here are my five favorites over/under win total wagers for 2019-20.
All totals and odds courtesy of BetUS.com as of October 20th.
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* New York Knicks - Over 27.5 (+100)
Last season, I listed the Knicks “under 29.5 wins” as one of my favorite five. That edition of the Knickerbockers was a team with every incentive to tank, as a misfit squad of mismatched pieces, lacking depth and talent. And the organization was content playing kids in 2018-19 because they were trying to accrue as many ping pong balls as possible in the hopes of winning the “Zion Sweepstakes.” For instance, they waived Enes Kanter and then benched veteran DeAndre Jordan in favor of rookie Mitchell Robinson in the second half of the season.
This year, I’m taking the over for the opposite reasons. The Knicks front office clearly believes it is crucial to prove they are a franchise on the rise. After striking out on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, they spent over $70 million in cap space on a collection of established vets and young, promising players. The goal is to win as many games as possible to convince future free agents they are just a couple of pieces away from being legit contenders. Thus, over the final six weeks of the season, New York will scratch and claw for every victory, while plenty of other teams will either be resting for the postseason or tanking to improve lottery positioning. With the improved talent and the pivot in philosophy, I expect the Knicks to pick up a few extra victories late in the year, pushing them towards 30 wins. Eclipsing the 30-win plateau might buy the head coach and front office some extra breathing room from a potentially frustrated owner.
* Washington Wizards - Under 26.5 (-115)
After John Wall went down, the Wizards were one of the worst teams in the league last season. And, off that awful team, they lost Tomas Satoransky, Trevor Ariza, Jeff Green, Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis this summer. Meanwhile, their big free-agent additions were…. Ish Smith and Isaiah Thomas (who is already injured). Now that Bradley Beal has inked an extension, they have even less motivation to try and show progress this season. After Beal and Thomas Bryant, who is this team’s third-best player? Davis Bertans? Unproven rookie Rui Hachimura? Yikes.
I expect the Wiz to essentially be eliminated from playoff contention by Thanksgiving (if not Halloween), giving them an excuse to let John Wall sit out the entire 2019-20 campaign, and embrace a full-on tank. I don’t see them winning 25 games, even in a watered-down Eastern Conference.
* Philadelphia 76ers - Over 54.5 wins (-115)
The East got weaker, with the departure of Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard to L.A., and Boston breaking up its core. As a result, there are two truly elite teams in the conference - the Bucks and Sixers.
Philly parted ways with JJ Redick and Jimmy Butler, both of whom will be missed; but they brought in Josh Richardson and consummate veteran Al Horford, and drafted defensive specialist Matisse Thybulle. Horford, in my opinion, was one of more underrated free agents additions by any team this offseason. Not only will he make significant contributions on both ends of the floor, he’s one of the better locker room leaders in the league. He brings a level of professionalism and proven success to a team in need of both. In addition, both J-Rich and Thybulle will ratchet up the defensive intensity. If Joel Embiid can stay relatively healthy, my money says they win north of 55 games and eventually represent the East in the NBA Finals in June.
* Golden State Warriors - Under 48.5 (-115)
Let me start with the positive: I think Steph Curry will lead the NBA in scoring and has a legit shot to win the MVP. Let’s not forget, the last time he played without Kevin Durant, Curry became the first unanimous MVP in NBA history after averaging 30.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 6.7 assists, and 2.1 steals, while somehow shooting over 50% from the floor, 45% from 3-point territory and 90% from the free-throw stripe. So, yeah, Steph will put up insane numbers.
But, from a team perspective, I think the Dubs take a significant step back. How could they not? Not only did they lose starters Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins from last year’s squad, but Klay Thompson won’t return until late-February at the earliest. And I wouldn’t be shocked if he sits out the entire year. In addition, the losses of Andre Igoudala and Shaun Livingston have flown under the radar, but it will have a significant impact, both in the locker room and, especially, on the defensive end. Their offense made headlines, but their defense was crucial to their unprecedented run of five straight finals. They won 57 games last year; I believe the subtractions they endured this offseason result in at least ten fewer victories.
* Denver Nuggets - Over 53.5 (-115)
While it seems the rest of the league shook up and revamped their roster, the Nuggets maintained the status quo. The ten players who logged the most minutes for Denver last season are all coming back in 2019-20. And why not, as they racked up 54 wins in 2018-19. In addition, the Nuggets shrewdly added Jerami Grant and will welcome rookie Michael Porter Jr. into the fold.
Denver is also one of the youngest teams in the league, so it stands to reason that we will see improvement from their youthful core. Furthermore, both Gary Harris and Will Barton were constantly battling nagging injuries last season. They are due for bounce-back campaigns. Lastly, the Nuggets have a unique homecourt advantage playing the high altitude of the Mile High City. In 2018-19, they posted a league-best 34-7 record at home.