It was eleven years ago when the Timberwolves last won more games than they lost in a season. Today, Las Vegas is willing to give you even money that this season marks the end of sub-.500 futility in Minnesota. The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook released their over/under betting lines for all 30 NBA teams yesterday and the Wolves fall at 41.5 wins.
This shouldn’t be viewed directly as a win projection, rather a point in which gamblers will be divided down the middle of seeing value in the over or the under of 41.5 wins. Consistently, we see betting agencies find a win total that lures the optimist or pessimist.
Last season, the Wolves over/under was set at 25.5 wins—a mark exceeded by 3.5 games as they finished 29-53. This season, the projected jump from 29 to 41.5 wins is the second largest increase for any team in the league.
The Philadelphia 76ers—who have added rookies Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, and veteran role players Jerryd Bayless and Gerald Henderson—are the only team to see a higher jump (10 wins in 2015-16 to 27.5 in 2016-17 over/under).
The Los Angeles Lakers added second overall pick Brandon Ingram, veterans Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov, and moved on from Kobe Bryant. They see the next highest increase in projected wins at 7.5 (17 wins in 2015-16 to 24.5 wins in 2016-17 over/under).
The difference between those two sub-.500 teams in 2015-16 and the Wolves is that the other teams made significant roster adjustments during the offseason. Yes, the Wolves added a formidable rookie in Kris Dunn, but little else in the vein of significant role players. This large increase is, instead, a bet on the improvement of the pieces that were already on the roster last season and, not to be understated, the importance that comes with an elite head coach.
Calculating the added value of a coach is always a bit of an ambiguous task, but Tom Thibodeau certainly presents a track record of substantial improvement, at a minimum, on the defensive side of the ball.
Vegas has quantified these additions for us. Thibodeau, Kris Dunn, Cole Aldrich, Brandon Rush, Jordan Hill, and the fountain of youth are viewed to be worth 12.5 additional wins this season.
In comparison to the rest of the league, those 41.5 wins are good for a tie with the Houston Rockets for the eighth highest win total in the Western Conference and 15th best record in the NBA. Being mediocre in Minnesota would be an achievement for the Wolves in 2016—a place they haven’t been since before the iPhone 1 existed.
As the rational fan you are, what’s your take on the over/under? The Canis writers will be sharing their opinions soon enough. Stay tuned...