Do you hear that? That's the sound of basketballs bouncing on the hardwood floor, whistles blowing and sneakers squeaking. That's right, the 2018-19 NBA season is creeping up faster than you think. And this season comes with a new wrinkle, as the Supreme Court paved the way for sports gambling to become legal in many U.S. states.
That means in addition to enjoying NBA basketball, you can also try to make some money. One attractive bet to look at this time of year is the NBA win total over/unders, which have been set by Bovada. On Thursday we looked at the best bets in the category -- teams that are likely to over-perform or under-perform -- but now we're going to show you the opposite.
These are the bets that will leave you pulling your hair out come next April, as you sweat out whether a team will get past the win total mark. These are the bets that may appear enticing, but will lead to nothing but anxiety. These are the five NBA win total over/unders you should avoid at all costs.
Los Angeles Lakers
Over/Under: 49 wins
Ah, the Lakers -- the beginning of any discussion for the 2018-19 NBA season thanks to LeBron James' decision to take his talents to Los Angeles. If healthy, James will undoubtedly help the Lakers improve on the 35 wins they scraped together last season, but taking this bet means that you're banking on the Lakers winning 50-plus games. My colleague, Brad Botkin, listed his reasons why he thinks there's in a stacked Western Conference, namely the question marks surrounding their roster construction and the fact that LeBron only led the Cavaliers to 50 wins in the East last season while playing all 82 games.
But here's the thing: It's LeBron.
It's become one of the most trite basketball tropes of all, but you can throw conventional wisdom out the window when LeBron James is on the court. Never was it more clear than when he somehow led the ragtag Cavs to the NBA Finals last season despite a disillusioning lack of contributions from his teammates. Maybe this year Lonzo Ball thrives under LeBron's tutelage, becoming the player Magic Johnson and Co. hoped he would become. Maybe Brandon Ingram takes another huge step forward and becomes a bona fide All-Star. Maybe the bewildering vision behind the acquisition of Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Michael Beasley immediately becomes clear once they step onto the King's court. The point is we really have no idea, and with LeBron all bets are truly off. Stay away.
Over/Under: 54.5 wins
On the surface this seems like a lock for the over. Toronto won a franchise-record 59 games last season and replaced DeMar DeRozan with arguably a top-three NBA player in Kawhi Leonard. But if you're laying down some cash on a season-long over/under, you want to eliminate as many variables as possible -- and the Raptors have possibly the biggest variable in the entire league.
We have no idea which version of Kawhi we'll see when he takes the floor as a Raptor for the first time. In fact, we don't even know when he'll take the floor -- his injury is shrouded in more mystery than the Sherlock Holmes anthology. All we know is that he passed the Raptors' physical, and that's not enough to instill confidence in a wager. Leonard only played nine games last season and was clearly not himself. If he's unable to play, the Raptors are looking at a starting lineup of Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas, and you can't tell me that's a 50-plus win team. Unless Kawhi unexpectedly shows up in a summer 5-on-5 run and looks like his old self, take extreme caution in betting on Toronto's win total either way.
Over/Under: 44.5 wins
With the Cavs dropping out of the East's upper echelon, the Wizards are primed to take their place. Washington won 43 games last year with only half a season from John Wall due to injury, so it may be enticing to take the over on the 44.5. Pump the brakes.
The Wizards already had questionable chemistry, and this offseason they decided to add Dwight Howard -- whose former teams have a curious habit of talking about how happy they are to have him out of their locker rooms. On paper this team should waltz into 45 wins, but they also have massive emotional blow-up potential. If they get off to a rough start, the finger-pointing will likely begin, which means they could even become sellers at the trade deadline instead of thinking about a top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Over/Under: 49 wins
The trouble with this line is that it's set pretty much perfectly. The Jazz were one of the best teams in basketball during the second half of last season, and most expect them to do it from the beginning this year behind Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Quin Snyder's brilliant system. They'll be in every game because of their world-class defense, but Utah isn't without its questions.
Can Mitchell shoulder the load of being the team's primary (at times, only) scoring option for 82 games? Will Ricky Rubio's career-high shooting numbers regress to the mean? Can Gobert, who's missed over 20 games in two of the past three seasons, stay on the court enough to turn the Jazz from playoff contenders to a top-tier team in the West? Last season the Jazz started slow and finished red-hot, which led them to 48 wins. They'll likely be more consistent this season, but that will probably put them right around 49, making this a bet you should avoid.
The Pacers surprised everyone, maybe even themselves, by rattling off 48 wins last season despite trading away Paul George last summer. The conventional thinking is that they'll come down to earth a bit, which may make it tempting to take the under on this one. Don't.
Victor Oladipo proved he was a legitimate star last season, and he'll be able to win a handful of games by himself. The Pacers also brought back their core and added some shooting this offseason with Doug McDermott and some bench scoring with Tyreke Evans. Overall, they look just as rock solid as they proved themselves to be last season, which means they're honing in on another win total in the mid-to-upper 40s. Whether they go over or under 46.5 will likely depend on health and end-of-the clock bounces -- not aspects of the game you want to put your money on.