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Monday Musings: Placing Bets

Which teams do you think will over-perform or under-perform this year?

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, a few friends and I placed a friendly wager on our collective NBA knowledge. Of all of the over-unders for each team in the NBA, all we had to do was pick five teams and the direction in which we thought they were going to go as compared to their Las Vegas projections.

I won the bet last year and I would like to say it due to my superior NBA forecasting skills, but in reality, I was the only person to get more than one prediction correctly. All of us were wildly wrong with picking a Minnesota over (Minnesota's line was at 40.5) and I was carried to victory with a safe Houston Rockets over (against 44 wins) and a New York Knicks under (38.5).

Essentially, what this exercise boils down to is trying to figure out where you are smarter than Vegas. Which teams do you think you have a better projection for than the “consensus”?

Here is what the current lines are for this upcoming season:

Western Conference:

Eastern Conference

Now, there are a few things that jump out just glancing at this list. There are a couple teams that Vegas is obviously trying to capitalize on the hype for with our own Timberwolves and the 76ers. Both teams would be making astronomical jumps in regular season success if they were to reach their respective numbers of 48.5 and 41.5. Both of those seem to be pretty fair under bets, although one could theoretically be talked into a Wolves bet that is around the 45.5 territory, which does not seem too far off from that 48.5 number. The 76ers bet just seems silly and is a bet for youth (never a good idea in the NBA) and health from a few players that have not shown they can stay healthy (looking at you Joel Embiid).

The Eastern Conference looks to be a crapshoot though. There just do not seem to be enough good teams here, which is probably why the 76ers are coming in 8th in these projections, and there seems to be a tiered system of morass where it really is anyone’s guess. For example, who are you confident in, the Wizards, Raptors, or Bucks? How about between the Heat, Hornets, 76ers, and Pistons? Do the Magic continue their existential funk of being a bad team or do they slide into really bad, or maybe they are just ok?

Those are tough questions, and while things are a little simpler in the Western Conference in terms of team quality, there still are a few interesting issues to grapple with. Do you really want to be the person who bets that this is finally the year that things fall apart for the Memphis Grizzlies? I would not be confident in that bet. It also seems that the tier of the Wolves, Jazz, Trailblazers, Nuggets, Clippers, and Pelicans could easily fluctuate throughout the year.

So it seems, as per usual, that Vegas has done a good job of providing us with some difficult questions. If you had to choose five teams and the direction in which you think they are going to go against their line, which teams and which direction?