It's that time of year again, where we all stake our non-existent internet credibility on predicting the results of a NBA season that will ultimately hinge on a great deal of contingency and luck. Since Eric initially posted the over/unders a month ago, there have already been several significant injuries significantly changing the outlook of several teams.
Here are the rules, to be modified by popular acclaim and/or act of God. Winner(s) will gain bragging rights and an unshakable feeling of superiority. I'll do my best to remember to post the results at the end of the year.
1. You have $100 (fictional). You may bet this money on any team(s) you choose.
2. Whoever "wins" the most (fictional) money based on said bets is the winner.
3. In the event of a tie, victory to be granted to the person with the most correct bets.
4. Separately, list your picks for all 30 teams. Whoever gets the most correct also wins bragging rights of some sort.
Here are the most recent over/under totals I was able to find.
Golden State 59.5
Los Angeles Lakers 28.5
Los Angeles Clippers 56.5
New Orleans 48.5
New York 29.5
Oklahoma City 56.5
San Antonio 57.5
Most of these look pretty fair to me. Here are my picks.
$40 Milwaukee under 45.5. I feel very confident about this pick. The Bucks are a talented young team that showed massive improvement last year, and it's tempting to think that will continue. However, the team struggled after trading away Brandon Knight for Mikey Carter-Williams and they jettisoned veterans Zaza Pachulia, Jared Dudley, and Ersan Ilyasova after the season. They will be replaced mostly by Greg Monroe, a healthier Jabari Parker, and Greivis Vasquez.
While the added players represent an upgrade in offensive skill level, they are worse shooters and inferior defenders. As the team finished 3rd in defense, any drop-off on that end could damage the Bucks' playoff odds, since I do not think the team has enough shooting to put together an above average offense. The only factor that gives me pause is the possibility that Middleton, Giannis, or Parker makes the jump to superstar, but the odds of that happening this year seem low enough for me to take the under with confidence.
$25 Los Angeles Lakers under 28.5. Number of above average defenders on roster: one (Roy Hibbert)
Number of first or second year NBA players: seven
Number of players with an above average TS% last year: three (Tarik Black, Brandon Bass, Lou Williams)
Likelihood of a successful season: close to nil
$20 Boston over 44.5. The pre-season darlings of the statistical community. I think this line has moved up a couple wins from the beginning of the month, but I would still take it. They might be the deepest team in the league, they have above average players at every position, and more upside than you might think. They played like a ~50 win team after acquiring Isaiah Thomas last year, most of their players are 27 or younger and can be expected to improve, and they added a very good two way big in Amir Johnson. Marcus Smart has breakout potential in his second year and they have enough talent to weather almost any injury. That is a quality that can help a team rack up regular season wins, and for what it's worth, they went 6-1 in preseason. I would be less surprised if this team finishes in the conference's top two than if they dropped back to .500 next year.
$15 Portland over 27.5. The expectation is that the Blazers will take a huge step back after losing LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, and Robin Lopez. While they won't be nearly as good as last year, they have more talent than you might think, including the makings of a high octane offense. C.J. McCollum can flat out score, Al-Farouq Aminu adds plus defense, hustle, rebounding, and athleticism, Meyers Leonard gives the team beaucoup spacing, and they have a couple fantastic pick & roll finishers in Ed Davis and Mason Plumlee. They even have some extra young players with upside in Noah Vonleh, Moe Harkless, Cliff Alexander, and Allen Crabbe. In addition, they have one of the best home court advantages in the league. They may not stop anybody, but they should be entertaining and it's difficult for a team with an above average offense to win much fewer than 30 games.
What do you think? Who will overachieve or underachieve this year?