The NBA season is less than a week away. Futures bets will never grant you the best odds — the over-rounding tends to be outrageous — but if you’re betting for pure entertainment, they can’t be beat; wagering a small amount on your favorite team to hit the over on their season-long win total will give every game a little more meaning. (Or you could be a tad more sadistic and sprinkle some money on your least favorite teams to go under.)
Of course, whether you’re in this to make a real profit or just to have a little fun, you want to win, and that requires handicapping which teams are going to surpass expectations during the regular season, and which will fail to reach their goals. Not sure where to start with the new-look NBA? Below are my best bets for the 2017-18 season and here are our recommended sportsbooks for when you’re ready to pull the trigger.
The Sixers last hit the 40-win mark 2010-2011, and haven’t gotten past 35 victories since. The past four years, they are a combined 75-253. That’s a good argument for the under, right? Wrong. This win total is laughable for several reasons. The main reason Philly has been so bad is that the franchise had little interest in winning. The goal of the oft-mentioned “Process” that ex-GM Sam Hinkie put in place was, effectively, to be terrible for several seasons and build through the draft. It took longer than expected, but patience has finally been rewarded. The Sixers now have a young core that includes several likely future All Stars. The quartet of Joel Embiid, Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, and Ben Simmons are all under the age of 24. Saric and Embiid were tremendous last year, though Embiid had difficulty remaining healthy (and that remains a huge concern going forward). Simmons, who missed all of last season with an injury, is among the top NBA prospects in recent memory and the realistic favorite for Rookie of the Year (no, I’m not aboard the Lonzo Ball hype-train) while Fultz was the top pick in what many consider a very strong draft. Philly won’t contend with the Cavs this season, but their talent is .500 or better, particularly in the depleted Eastern Conference, where aside from Cleveland and Boston, the Sixers have the most talented (if untested) roster.
It may be playing with fire to bet the over on a Western Conference team that is hoping to reach the playoffs for the first time in five years. Denver’s competition is stiff, but Nikola Jokic leads a mostly home-grown and underappreciated roster. Last year, a 21-year-old Jokic broke out, averaging just under 17 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists per game while shooting 55-percent from the floor. Though he’s a nearly-seven-foot center, he can run the offense and is the very definition of a mismatch. The Nuggets brought in Paul Millsap to complement Jokic in the frontcourt, and the duo should help Denver’s young backcourt (Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris, Jamal Murray) take steps forward this season. With Wilson Chandler and Mason Plumlee providing depth, most of the team can be put into a comfortable role; they’ll only be asked to do what they do best, while the others mask their deficiencies. Denver won’t win the West, but nobody wants to play them.
Just like in Denver, optimism abounds in the Twin Cities. The addition of Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford, and Taj Gibson to a roster that already included the next eminent NBA center in Karl-Anthony Towns and a still-improving Andrew Wiggins gives the T-Wolves a formidable roster on paper. But it may be a paper tiger in the stacked Western Conference. Not every team can take massive steps forward, and Golden State, Houston, Oklahoma City, and San Antonio are going to do a ton of winning. Hitting 49 wins would be an 18-win improvement over last year, when Minny was 31-51, and there are myriad reasons why that’s a bridge too far. To start with, when you make this many changes to a roster, the team will need time to coalesce. You saw it in Miami when LeBron assembled one of the NBA’s first super-teams with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and you’ll see it again in Minnesota this year. A slow start may be all it takes to sink the team’s hopes of hitting the over. Secondly, the Wolves don’t have great shooters, and that is a major problem given that winning 49 games in the West is going to require scoring a lot of points. The under is the safe play.
Featured photo:Keith Allison (flickr) [CC License]
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