|Can the Nets crack 50 wins in a tough Atlantic Division? (Getty Images)|
The 2012-2013 NBA Championship odds were released this week and there weren't really any surprises. If you want, you can bet on someone other than the top favorites Miami, Los Angeles (Lakers) and Oklahoma City, but a better option might be to set that $100 bill on fire and then use the ashes to make a nice teapot to hold your tears.
|Los Angeles Lakers||59.5||60.5|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||59.5||59.5|
|San Antonio Spurs||53.5||55.5|
|Los Angeles Clippers||49.5||48.5|
|New York Knicks||45.5||45.5|
|Golden State Warriors||34.5||34.5|
|New Orleans Hornets||24.5||25.5|
Let's break these down by group.
"I'm not fat, I'm just big-boned." (Teams with inflated win totals.): Portland, Phoenix, Chicago, Boston
Portland at 35.5 across the board is pretty terrifying. Rookie point guard, an All-Star power forward who has said he's simply "fine" with the direction of the team, a lack of efficient scorers, few pure shooters to speak of and big questions about rebounding under a first-year head coach.
Phoenix, also at 34.5 seems a bit risky on the over. Goran Dragic is good. Luis Scola was good two years ago. Michael Beasley can score. Marcin Gortat is efficient and plays hard. But this is an up and down team without a lot of pure speed, and the athletic forward to tie the room together is Beasley. A good not great bench is there, and while the training staff is magnificent, any sort of muck up on the injury front and this team could come in below 30. But if you believe in the upside, the over's an acceptable thought here.
Chicago is pretty simple. It depends on when and how you think Derrick Rose can come back, and if Luol Deng, who has been playing out of his mind for a calendar year now, even through injury, can keep them afloat. The Bulls will make the playoffs, but four games over .500 feels high. Then again, them getting the top seed in the East the past two years seemed high and they did that. Maybe stay away from this one based on the Thibodeau principle.
If extrapolated to an 82-game season last year based on winning percentage, the Celtics would have won either 48 or 49 games. The year before, 56, and the year before 50. So a team with two players who are very much in the twilight of their careers, a new core built on unfamiliar players, Jason Terry who started to slide last year, and Rajon Rondo who has a bit of an injury bug during regular seasons is going to win 51-52? Forget all that, though, the Celtics are legit. But consider this. They play in one of the toughest divisions in basketball, with at least three other playoff teams. The Celtics tend to take long stretches of the regular season off and have admited to getting "bored." Go under on KG and Doc Rivers at your own peril, but this team plays for June, and in a tougher East, 51 may be just a bit high.
Lean, mean, money-making machines (Teams with win totals too low): Denver, Memphis, Brooklyn, Minnesota, Toronto
Denver put in a 47-win pace last season and had significant injuries that completely jacked with their system (most notably Danilo Gallinari), and had a huge midseason trade of Nene for JaVale McGee who is still developing. Oh, and arguably their second-best player Arron Afflalo had a huge down year. The Nuggets are made for regular season wins, especially with an improved defensive front featuring Andre Iguodala. They'll rattle off a few long win-streaks here and there, and the 48.5 mark for Bovada in particular seems soft.
Memphis put in a 51-win-in-an-82-game-season pace last season. Here's what Memphis dealt with: Darrell Arthur out for the year, Zach Randolph out for three months, weak backcourt depth and no shooters. The shooting will still be an issue but they have a much improved bench, Arthur should be back by the first of the year, Randolph is by all accounts in the best shape he's been in in years, and the team has more stability. While you should expect the Grizzlies to drop further down the West seedings due to improvements by the other teams, this number seems awful soft for a team that only really lost O.J. Mayo this summer.
Brooklyn is a bit of an unknown, so this is one you want to avoid at all costs with those theoretical beer bets with your buddies. But a starting five of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez with a solid-to-good bench should be good for better than three wins over .500. Cracking 50 wins is a bit more of a legitimate question. The division, as with Boston, makes this a bit of a problem. But the boost of those home games in the super-cool new arena should do a bit to help. A caveat here: outside of Deron Williams' poor season last year and the rebounding and defense questions, this team is also going to be on a constant public relations binge as the team sells itself in Brooklyn. The players will be ready to play, but distractions are distractions.
For Minnesota, yes, Ricky Rubio is still on the mend. Yes, Brandon Roy is always on the mend. Yes, Andrei Kirilenko hasn't been stateside in a while. But this is a team that was on pace for the playoffs last year, landed some huge bench improvements, have an MVP candidate in Kevin Love, and have one of the best coaches in the game in Rick Adelman. Finishing below .500 is so low, I'm getting a General Akbar feeling here. A lot of people are picking them for somewhere near the sixth seed. Under .500 would be an outright disaster, and the fact that both sites are in lockstep on this has to be concerning.
"I wouldn't touch them with a ten foot pole." (Teams too up in the air to figure out.): Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Golden State, New Orleans
The Sixers were red hot for 3/4 of the season last year and then fell off a cliff like Wile E. Coyote before upsetting the Bulls after Rose's injury. They've got Andrew Bynum, who could lift them as high as second place in that tough division and a fourth seed, but Bynum's on the shelf and there's starting to be concerns about how serious the injury is for a guy who has had injury problems nearly every season. They are starting Kwame Brown and Spencer Hawes right now, and are leaning on a lot of inconsistent pieces.
Milwaukee... man, you tell me. Can Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis figure it out? Is Ekpe Udoh going to be the future? Is Ersan Ilyasova worth the money? Was John Henson that much of a sleeper pick? Skiles has his defense ready every year. Skiles also almost always wears out his welcome and the team could very well blow it up for a rebuild at the deadline. Absolutely no telling what Milwaukee will do.
Golden State is pretty simple. If they are healthy, they're going to win better than 46 games at least. But they are never healthy and even now everyone's holding their breath and crossing their fingers on their two most important players in Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut. You just can't trust the injuries.
And New Orleans has looked dreadful, God-awful in the preseason and were one of the worst teams in the league last year. Yet they're incredibly well coached, play hard, have the consensus preseason pick for Rookie of the Year, and some great scoring pieces in Eric Gordon (injury concerns not withstanding) and Ryan Anderson. Their number is incredibly low for how much overhaul they put in, but there are too many unknowns to go barging in.