NBA free agency has cooled down and we're still about a month away from training camp, so that means it's prediction season. Minor tweaks can still be made, but for the most part every team has its core components set for the 2018-19 season.
An interesting wrinkle for the upcoming season is that sports gambling will be legal in more states, which adds a new aspect to team analysis. With that in mind, we decided to take a look at the win total over/unders set by Bovada and give our predictions on whether each team will land above or below the projection.
It's going to be a lot of fun watching Trae Young bomb away with impunity, and John Collins had a terrific summer after a really good rookie season that got lost in the hoopla of last year's star-studded class. But this just isn't a very good team right now. Hawks GM Travis Schlenk has been very open about their playing for the future, and that will be the good news coming out of this season: More draft picks. Good ones. In the meantime, there will be a lot of losses in Atlanta. - Brad Botkin
It's a high number, and yet somehow it still seems low for a Boston team that is without question the cream of the Eastern crop. Last year the Celtics won 55 with Gordon Hayward missing the whole campaign, and Kyrie Irving sidelined 22 games of his own. Throw in the expected leap of budding stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and this team is completely stacked. Plus, don't underestimate the power of motivation in the NBA's regular season. This team wants to show everyone how good it is now that everyone is finally going to be on the court together. Barring another Hayward-type blow on the injury front, I cannot see Boston winning less than 60 games at a minimum, with 65 feeling very much in play. - Brad Botkin
Give coach Kenny Atkinson and general manager Sean Marks credit for what they've done with limited resources, but 33 wins seems a bit ambitious. They won 28 last season, but even a healthy D'Angelo Russell and quality additions of Ed Davis and Shabazz Napier probably won't make up that difference. Also keep in mind that the Nets actually have incentive to lose this season, as they retain their own first-round pick for the first time in what seems like forever. - Colin Ward-Henninger
This is one of the tougher lines to predict, as there's a case to be made for Charlotte making the playoffs, and another reasonable scenario in which the Hornets are not good at all and trade Nicolas Batum and maybe others en route to a mini-tank job down the stretch. It's worth mentioning the Hornets were competitive in a lot of games last year until the latter stages; they just couldn't close.
Problem is, you could say that same thing about a lot of bad teams. Winning and losing in the NBA can be a thin line. The Hornets just don't have enough beyond Kemba Walker. Speaking with new coach James Borrego, they plan to play much faster and open the court for Walker, in part with Cody Zeller back at center rather than the lane-clogging Dwight Howard. They have some decent switchability on defense. If they get a better shooting season out of Batum (if they don't trade him) and a nice second-year leap from Malik Monk, if Miles Bridges can contribute right away, this is a team that could surprise some people as something of a light version of last year's Indiana Pacers.
But I think that's too optimistic. They're ripe to be dealers at the deadline. I think Charlotte looks to the future and I wouldn't even rule out Walker going back on the trade block at some point, particularly if the Hornets don't get off to a good start -- which could well be the case with 13 of their first 18 games against playoff teams from last year. - Brad Botkin
The Bulls were a strange team last season, but managed to win 27 games thanks to red-hot month of December. They may be even stranger this season with the addition of Jabari Parker and Wendell Carter Jr. giving them some serious positional redundancy. That said, they'll hopefully get a full, healthy season from Zach LaVine, and the talent infusion from him, Parker and Carter -- plus the continued improvement of Lauri Markkanen -- should be enough to get them past their line of 28.5. - Colin Ward-Henninger
This line is largely dependent on one thing: Do the Cavs keep Kevin Love for the entirety of the season? Yes, they just extended his contract another three guaranteed years, but that could simply make him a more attractive trade chip as a locked-up asset. Factor in that the Cavs lose their 2019 first-round pick to Atlanta if they fall outside the top 10, and you can see the incentive for them to be a bad team. Still, I think Love stays put for at least this year.
I think there's a statement to be made here -- albeit a stubborn one -- that life does not begin and end with LeBron James. I think Love is still plenty capable of being a No. 1 option on a mediocre team, and there are still a lot of savvy basketball players on this team that have played in multiple Finals to complement him. Thirty-two wins in the East isn't that many. I think Cleveland fights for a playoff spot. - Brad Botkin
Your faith in the Mavericks basically comes down to one thing: Are you a Luka Doncic believer? The addition of DeAndre Jordan should help Dallas jump up into the top half of the league in defensive efficiency, while Doncic, in theory, adds a huge boost to an offense that was 23rd in the NBA last season. The Mavs should play a faster, more exciting brand of basketball this season, and they'll have a little extra incentive in what will likely be Dirk Nowitzki's last season. A 10-game jump is a lot, but this team can do it. - Colin Ward-Henninger
The stage is set for Denver to make a leap this season, even in a loaded Western Conference. Nikola Jokic is one of the best offensive players in basketball poised for a breakout season, and the Nuggets hopefully get more than 38 games out of Paul Millsap. With the continued development of Jamal Murray and Gary Harris plus a favorable home-court advantage, it's not hard to see Denver winning at least two more games than they did last season. - Colin Ward-Henninger
Detroit inconsistently made its way to 39 wins last season, and you'd think that a full season of Blake Griffin (a "full" season for Griffin is about 60 games these days) and a new, established voice in Dwane Casey would at least bring them back to that total. It's definitely not the safest bet in the world, but having LeBron James off the Cavs should at least give them a couple more wins against a team they went 1-3 against last season. - Colin Ward-Henninger
Golden State Warriors
You want to hear a crazy stat? Over the last four seasons, the Warriors have won 82 percent of the games in which Stephen Curry has played -- 82 percent. I know we all realize how good Curry is and how good the Warriors are at this point, but that is just nuts on a level of its own consideration.
In looking at this over/under line, you're basically asking whether you think Curry -- and to varying lesser extents Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green -- is going to play enough to cover. I say he/they will. They'll want to get as much time on the court with DeMarcus Cousins as possible, and this is a just a team full of guys who love to play. They could get injured, but if they don't, I don't see them sitting all that much just to sit. They had their one year of slack-off time with 58 wins last year. I think this year they get back in that 65-68 range. - Brad Botkin
This line is pretty crazy. The Rockets won 65 games last season, and while they lost pieces that could hurt in the postseason (Trevor Ariza, Luc Mbah a Moute), they did little to diminish their formula of regular-season dominance. If they get relatively healthy seasons from James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela, it's hard to see this team winning less than 60 games. Carmelo Anthony isn't a perfect fit, but he'll help keep them afloat while they figure things out. Jump all over this one. - Colin Ward-Henninger
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 upper-40s. - Colin Ward-Henninger
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers made things interesting by winning 42 games last season with a ragtag group and a roster full of sidelined players. This season will be different. DeAndre Jordan is gone in the middle, replaced by a significant athletic downgrade in Marcin Gortat. The perimeter defense between Patrick Beverley and Avery Bradley will be a nightmare for the opposition, but the Clippers' offense, eighth in the NBA last season, will almost certainly take a nosedive thanks to a lack of shot-creation outside of Tobias Harris, oft-injured Danilo Gallinari and regression candidate Lou Williams. The playoffs are pretty much out of the question, so Doc Rivers could look to develop first-round picks Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson, which would likely mean fewer wins. - Colin Ward-Henninger
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers won 35 games last season. Does LeBron make a 15-win difference in the Western Conference? He's definitely capable of that kind of impact, but it's not easy. The Miami Heat only jumped 11 wins in 2010-11, and that was with Chris Bosh joining LeBron as a new addition. Let's also remember that last year's Cavs only won 50 games in the East with LeBron playing all 82. Chances are he's not going to do that again, and even if he does play north of 75 games, there is no overstating how much more difficult life will be with a Western schedule. That's good for at least 3-4 extra losses.
Plus, you know the Vegas sports books are inflating this line by at least a few wins because they know the suckers will take the over on the excitement of LeBron alone. Realistically, the line should probably be somewhere between 46 and 48, so you're getting value right away there, too.
Moreover, I'm not as sold as some people seem to be on Brandon Ingram or Lonzo Ball, and the additions the Lakers made after LeBron make no sense other than that they all come off the books next summer. When LeBron went to Miami, Bosh went with him. When he returned to Cleveland, Kevin Love joined him. Now he's got Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley and JaVale McGee.
They say all these guys can "create," but if you're pinning your hopes on any of those guys to do their thing one-on-one in any sort of consistent manner, you're in trouble. Even Rondo is being oversold in this regard. Everyone is so stuck on how he looked in the playoffs last year with New Orleans that they're casually tossing aside how bad he's looked for much of his post-Boston career when the circumstances surrounding him are not ideal and when he can't control the ball for as long as he likes.
Are you seriously going to start Rondo over Lonzo Ball? I doubt it. And even if he makes it into your finishing lineup, are you honestly going to take the ball out of LeBron James' hands in crunch time? I doubt it. So now Rondo is, what, spacing the floor? Rondo will surely make plays and take pressure off LeBron and Lonzo over the course of games, but he's not some major pickup.
Botton line: If you think the Lakers are going to be a top-four Western team (which is what 50 wins would make them), it's not because of any free agent addition other than LeBron -- it's because you think Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram are going to make big leaps with LeBron by their side. That's a fair stance, and it could happen, but again, a 15-win improvement in the West is a monster jump. Consider that in 2014-15, the Warriors jumped 17 wins to go from a first-round loser to the best team in the league and a championship. That's the kind of leap we're talking about. Even if LeBron stays healthy and engaged all year long in his 16th season, the Lakers are going to have a hard time winning 50. If he goes down for even one two-week stretch, this under is a lock. - Brad Botkin
People are sleeping on the Grizzlies. That's not to say they're going to win 50-plus games and threaten for a top-four seed, but 34 wins? Come on, man. With Mike Conley back and Marc Gasol still patrolling the paint, that's a 40-win team on those two alone. Granted, we don't know about Conley's durability (he hasn't played in 70 or more games since 2014-15), but internally the Grizzlies feel good about where Conley is at and are optimistic he'll be back to his old self.
Former Spur Kyle Anderson was also a nice under-the-radar signing. He doesn't help the Grizzlies' lack of shooting (are they ever going to figure this out?), but he gives them another ball-handler/playmaker and is an elite, versatile defender as the Grizzlies try to get back to their Grit N' Grind ways. If No. 4 overall pick Jaren Jackson Jr. develops into an impact player by midseason, and Gasol and Conley stay healthy, forget about 34 wins -- this team will be fighting for a playoff spot.
Again, the injuries are a real concern. Conley's health is No. 1 on the Grizzlies' internal list of things that need to go right for them to have a solid season. But 34 wins is not very many. You can feel pretty good about this over. - Brad Botkin
This is another really tough one. Erik Spoelstra is going to get a lot out of his guys, you can count on that. Miami can space you out, and the return of Dion Waiters (for better or worse) does give them another scorer. They have a potentially monstrous perimeter defensive trio in Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and James Johnson. All that said, I think this is the year Miami plays closer to its collective talent level than above it. I think Hassan Whiteside is a problem that is going to get worse, and I don't know if Bam Adebayo is ready to be a super impactful player on a consistent basis while playing heavy minutes. Forty wins for the Heat is my call. - Brad Botkin
With the Cavs out of the picture, the Bucks are primed to finally fulfill all that potential. New coach Mike Budenholzer is tasked with helping Giannis Antetokounmpo evolve into a legitimate MVP candidate and figuring out a defensive scheme that takes advantage of all the athleticism and length on the Milwaukee roster. The Bucks won 44 games last season and no longer have to worry about how to play Jabari Parker and Giannis alongside each other. The defense will improve, which will translate to at least three more wins. - Colin Ward-Henninger
This one will be right on the line, but I'l say under because I just don't believe in Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler aren't enough to win 45-plus in the West. The Wolves were 37-22 and potentially headed for a top-four seed when Butler was on the court last year, but the West has gotten better. Games against the Lakers, Mavs and Thunder will all be significantly tougher than they were last year. I wouldn't even rule out the possibility of Butler being moved if they aren't in a solid spot at the deadline.
Remember, Butler turned down an extension, and rumors are out there that he would consider going LeBron in L.A. next summer a free agent. I wouldn't call it likely by any stretch, but you can see a scenario in which the Wolves don't want to lose him for nothing and send him on his way for the right young package to re-start around Town and Wiggins (since they can't get out of that mess of a deal). - Brad Botkin
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans are likely to take a step back this season, which is a shame after they became one of the most entertaining teams in the league after the All-Star break last season. Anthony Davis will be an MVP favorite, but the run-and-gun formula they discovered after DeMarcus Cousins' injury last season won't function the same with Elfrid Payton in the place of Rajon Rondo. Nikola Mirotic won't sneak up on anyone this season, and Jrue Holiday -- as brilliant as he is -- likely won't play 81 games like he did last year. Newcomer Julius Randle may not be happy with a bench role, which could lead to problems. Overall it could be a rough road for New Orleans in a beast of a Western Conference. - Colin Ward-Henninger
New York Knicks
The Knicks are looking at an opening night starting lineup of Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee, Mario Hezonja and Enes Kanter. Things will get better at some point with the return of Kristaps Porzingis, but tanking and possible trades involving Kanter and/or Lee will limit the already low ceiling. Kevin Knox will be fun to watch, but it's hard to imagine 31 wins from this group. - Colin Ward-Henninger
Oklahoma City Thunder
This is my stone-cold lock. Just book it right now. Last season the Thunder won 48 games with Carmelo Anthony and without Andre Roberson for the final 33 games. Melo, who was not helping this team in any way, is out, Roberson is back, and with Paul George and Russell Westbrook having a year under their belt together, this team is going over 50 wins easily. The defense is going to be a monster.
And think about this: Last season the Thunder had two games absolutely robbed from them by the officials, first when Giannis Antetokounmpo went out of bounds before finishing a game-winner that shouldn't have counted, then again when Denver's Nikola Jokic traveled, and also took more than five seconds, before inbounding the ball to Gary Harris for a game-winning 3-pointer. The NBA admitted both were missed calls after the fact.
Throw in the half-court buzzer-beater Minnesota's Andrew Wiggins banked in to stun OKC in the first week of the season. That's three wins that would almost certainly go their way this upcoming season. That's 51 before you even consider that this figures to be a much better team than last year with a healthy Roberson and Melo gone. Barring a major injury or a bunch of little ones that pile up, this is a 55-win team. At a 49.5 over/under, there is value everywhere. - Brad Botkin
The Magic are hoping a healthy Jonathan Isaac and an improved Aaron Gordon will help put them on the path toward relevance -- yeah, probably not this year. Nikola Vucevic is a consistent scorer, but it's hard to see how the Orlando offense, 25th in the NBA last season, got any better this offseason. Isaac will help defensively, as will rookie Mo Bamba if he's able to contribute at all. The Magic won 25 games last season, and it's hard to justify expecting a six-win improvement looking at that roster. - Colin Ward-Henninger
Two things that concern me with Philly: One, the loss of Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli, while not the sexiest of names, is going to hurt the Sixers. There were times that those two flat-out carried them in the playoffs, and without them, the spacing on this team could be a problem given its sudden lack of collective shooting. Two, Ben Simmons was exposed a bit in the playoff loss to Boston last season. For all his talent, he still can't shoot (unless he's pulled off some kind of summer miracle), and that's still a big problem that teams will look to hammer on even more after Boston rendered him nearly unplayable in crucial stretches of that series.
Finally, Philly got to 52 wins last year on the strength of a crazy run to end the season, winning its final 16 games. Problem is, only three of those wins came against playoff teams. Half of the wins came against the Hawks, Nets, Hornets and Knicks. Somewhere in there, I'm smelling a regression, or at the very least I don't see the Sixers making a three-win improvement from the 52 they won last season. Take the under. - Brad Botkin
Winners of a league-worst 21 games last season, the Suns look like they're ready to actually start trying to win -- spending $15 million on Trevor Ariza was a clear indication. An eight-game improvement, however, is quite a stretch given the unknown commodities littering the Phoenix roster. Brandon Knight at point guard is a scary prospect, and we have no idea how the Suns' young players like Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender will evolve. Devin Booker will get his buckets, but the team still seems too inexperienced and incoherent to make a big leap next season. - Colin Ward-Henninger
Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers look like a regression candidate after getting swept by the No. 6-seed Pelicans in the first round of last season's playoffs, but a seven-game drop-off in wins is a bit dramatic. Portland brings back all its key pieces, including first-team All-NBA point guard Damian Lillard and his cohort CJ McCollum. With those two surrounded by Jusuf Nurkic, Al-Farouq Aminu and a healthy Mo Harkless, it's hard to see the Terry Stotts-led Blazers falling off a cliff. - Colin Ward-Henninger
Twenty-six is not a lot of wins, but the Kings have arguably the worst roster in the NBA. With Luka Doncic there for the taking, Sacramento instead decided to go with Marvin Bagley, which could hurt its prospects to win in the short-term given Doncic's proven professional success. Even with improvement from De'Aaron Fox and a potentially exciting red-shirt rookie season from Harry Giles, this team has the makings of an NBA doormat. It's tempting to take the over, but the Kings are going to be real bad. - Colin Ward-Henninger
San Antonio Spurs
Coin flip here, but if any team deserves the benefit of the doubt it's the Spurs. They won 47 last year and essentially flipped Danny Green for DeMar DeRozan, as Leonard only played nine games last season. From that standpoint, they should be a 50-win team on paper. Problem is, as I've cited before, the West somehow get even tougher as games agains the Lakers, Mavs and OKC will be a lot tougher than they were last season. I think the Spurs get over this number, particularly in Dejounte Murray makes a leap, but it'll be close either way. - Brad Botkin
I'm not sure people realize how good the Raptors are going to be defensively. With Kawhi Leonard and OG Anunoby, they have two guy who can legitimately guard the best perimeter scorers in the league without help. Kyle Lowry remains a bulldog at the point, and with long, athletic defenders like Delon Wright, Danny Green, Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka, they are going to have all kinds of versatility in terms of switching everything and being able to run out a host of different lineups.
Look, the Raptors won 59 games last season, and they've significantly upgraded from DeMar DeRozan to Leonard. The only reason this number is this low is the uncertainty around Leonard's health, but the guy passed his physical and we should assume he's ready to go with a lot to prove. I have the Sixers winning in the low 50s, and in the depleted East, there are going to be at least two teams that get over the 55-win mark. Boston will be one. Barring injury, I would be shocked if the Raptors aren't the other. - Brad Botkin
I'm buying everything the Jazz are selling. Donovan Mitchell is a star, and when Rudy Gobert came back from injury last year they were the best defensive team in the league my a country mile. They're the new Spurs -- nothing flashy, bringing back the same guys who just get a little better playing together every year. Defense. Ball movement. Role-player studs like Joe Ingles and Ricky Rubio. A lot of teams have a drop-off after a surprisingly successful year -- the Jazz won't be one of them. Still, with all of that said, they won't win 50 games because the West improved more than they did. They'll be a better, and more dangerous team than its record will indicate. - Brad Botkin
Let's make this very simple: If you can't win 45 games in the East with John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter, you have big problems. This team loves to talk about itself being in the "elite" conversation, calling itself a Finals contender and everything else. So far the Wizards have never been close to elite, and they won't be this year, either. But 45 wins isn't elite. In the East, it's barely worth mentioning as a good team. You have to think Washington can be at least that. - Brad Botkin