NBA oddsmakers set an identical 56.5 over-under win total line from last year for the Cavs. LeBron James and company nipped it late with 57 victories, eventually winning the championship title. How will this season play for Cleveland? Find out inside.
Online sportsbooks released O/U win total futures for the 2016-17 NBA season last week with the reigning champion Cleveland Cavaliers set at 56.5 victories. The franchise went 57-25 last year. Too high? Too low? Past numbers set for LeBron James-led teams suggests it is right on the mark, but we're leaning under. Here's why.
Firstly, the Cavs brought in no one of significance in the offseason. They did lose C Timofey Mozgov, an above-average defensive specialist, and backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova. Dellavedova's departure hurt less than Mozgov's in the grand scheme of things--until last week when Mo Williams announced his retirement unexpectedly. Now the team is left without a true second-string point option.
Head coach Tyronn Lue claimed the franchise is taking a “committee” approach at backup point guard for the season. How often does this strategy work in any sport? Whether it's a closer role in baseball, or at running back or quarterback in football, it is almost always a band-aid fix that falters in the long run. With Kyrie Irving's injury history, he needs someone to take away minutes or he won't see the playoffs. For a futures bet, that likely means more games missed late in the season and fewer wins.
Ditto with LeBron. He's getting older, and “freshness” played a significant factor down the stretch last season. James sat out as a healthy scratch for three games in the final two weeks of the regular season, even when Toronto still had a chance to claim the top playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Expect James to sit a few late in the year again, which may make or break a futures bet. He means more to this team than Vegas can put a number on. Since returning to Cleveland, the Cavs are 4-15 SU and 1-17-1 ATS with LeBron out of the lineup, losing on average by 9.8 points.
Here's a table of the future win totals for LeBron-led teams and actual results since 2005:
One factoid that sticks out from the table is that margins for futures win totals and actual results are extremely tight with James' teams. We project 55 wins for Cleveland but find much more value in other NBA futures markets. Lean under, but keep it small. This bet will likely play out in the final game of the year with LeBron watching in street clothes.