Last week, several casinos (i.e. LVH, Sportsbook, BetOnline) released expected win totals for all NBA teams for the upcoming 2012/13 season. The purpose of any gambler is akin to a prized fighter – you pick and choose your battles wisely. There were definitely a few numbers that jumped off the screen, so lets take a look at which “fights” are a little easier to pick than others.
Under 60.5 – Oklahoma City Thunder
While the rest of the league was resting from a brutally packed regular season, the Thunder played all the way to the Finals, PLUS their top three players (Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka) played in the Olympics. Let’s do some math:
- 66 games in 120 days (not one game was missed by any of their top three)
- 20 additional playoff games
- 5 preliminary games in July plus 8 Olympic games within a 2-week span
The Olympics ended on August 12th, and training camp started on October 2nd. So, their core had an offseason that lasted all of 6 weeks, while divisional foes had 5 ½ months (Portland, Minnesota) and 4 ½ months (Utah, Denver) to rest. We’re expecting this team to, not only stay healthy, but surpass their win percentage from last season (.712 in 2012 to .744 in 2013)? I’ll gladly take the under and predict 51 wins.
Under 40.5 – Minnesota Timberwolves
Since Kevin Garnett left the T-Wolves in 2007, Minnesota has averaged under 21 wins, with a peak of 26 wins last season. Ricky Rubio is several weeks, if not months, away from returning. Kevin Love will at least miss the first month of the season. Brandon Roy is coming out of retirement, following career-damaging knee surgeries. Andrei Kirilenko is returning to the NBA after spending a season overseas playing (no disrespect) easier competition. Factor that all in and we’re expecting the T-Wolves to reach .500 this year? As much as I respect Rick Adelman, it’s hard to envision Minnesota even reaching 35 wins. Sorry Minny, I’m pegging you at 32 wins and another trip to the lottery.
Under 19.5 – Charlotte Bobcats
Over 82 games, Charlotte’s record-breaking 2011-12 season translated to 8.7 wins. Here’s a Coles Notes version of their offseason activity….They drafted Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a high-energy future star who should more than make up for the loss of Corey Maggette (big deal he’s gone right?), especially in the long-run. Ben Gordon is a serviceable guard who will replace another serviceable guard in D.J. Augustin. As if those “blockbuster” moves were not enough, they also acquired Ramon Sessions and Brandon Haywood this offseason as well. With all due respect to MKG, who should have a bright future, I have no idea where these additional 11 or so wins will come from….especially considering this team couldn’t reach 11 total wins last season! The Bobcats are not getting any more than 15 wins. I’d be shocked otherwise.
Over 33 – Toronto Raptors
Last season, the Raptors won 23 games, which when expanded over a normal 82 game season, translates to 28.5 wins. Basically, Toronto’s trying to gain an additional five wins this season. They’ve upgraded in two of their starting roles, with the acquisition of Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas making his way over from Europe. In games decided by five points or less (plus overtime games), Toronto was an abysmal 6 – 13. Winning even half of those 19 games would’ve added three or four more wins. Dwayne Casey’s defensive mindset has boosted the Raptors to never before seen heights on the defensive end: 9th in points allowed; t-6th in opp. FG%; 5th in opp. 3FG%. Lowry had an impressive 1.55 steals per game (which would’ve been good for 13th) last year for Houston. That will be very helpful for a Raptors squad that finished near the bottom of the league in steals per game. Valanciunas had 1.6 blocks in the EuroLeague which, all things equal, would have boosted the Raptors to 2nd in the NBA. With Boston, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia all ranking in the bottom third in points per game, the Raptors defense should help a strong playoff push and, at least, 37 wins.
Over 35.5 – Golden State Warriors
I normally do not place any weight on the NBA preseason. The Lakers record (0-8) is not indicative of how good they are, nor the Bobcats record (1-7)…..actually, never mind. The Warriors, however, had the best record in the West (6-2), while missing Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry for majority of the preseason. Take these preseason stats with a grain of salt: David Lee led the NBA in scoring and was 3rd in Player Efficiency; Carl Landry ranked 11th in FG%; Klay Thompson ranked 4th in NBA.com’s Fantasy Player Rater; and Curry ranked 9th in 3pt FG%. After the All-Star break last season, Lee ranked 11th in Player Efficiency and PAR (Points + Assists + Rebounds) leaders, ahead of LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Garnett, and Dirk Nowitzki, to name a few PFs. As for Klay Thompson, I mentioned in my Western Conference preview the following stats: as a rookie, Klay had higher averages than Monta Ellis in FG%, 3pt FG%, FT%, and points per shot, all while playing 8 more games and 12 fewer minutes per game. They’re 2-deep in every position with Curry, Jarrett Jack, Thompson, Brandon Rush, Harrison Barnes, Richard Jefferson, Lee, Landry, Bogut, and Andris Biedrins. Even with their history of health woes, Mark Jackson has a good squad that will be gunning for the playoffs and should finish really close with 40 wins.
Over 49.5 – L.A. Clippers
This line is ridiculously low, which basically indicates the Clippers will have the exact same win percentage as last season. The “other L.A. team” have their entire starting five returning and riding the confidence of their successful 2011-12 campaign that saw them bow out to the Spurs in the Conference Semis. CP3 already has a season under his belt with alley-oop partners Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Their bench has improved with the additions of former 6th man award winners Jamal Crawford and Lamar Odom and 7-time All-Star Grant Hill. Also, add in spark plugs Matt Barnes and Eric Bledsoe, and you’re looking at a continued decrease in opponents’ points (from 101.8 to 95.0 last season) and a steady increase in offensive efficiency (from 20th to 10th in FG% last season). Put that all together in a convoluted, subjective formula that resides in my brain, and that equals 56 wins.
Follow Jay Rosales on Twitter at @Rosalesaurus