The NBA season is only a couple of months away. Early team win totals are already out for every team, and the smartest bettors are already getting their money in on the best bets. The West looked as stacked as its ever been, and it suddenly appears to be wide open too. The road to the Finals should go through Los Angeles, as both the Clippers and Lakers stake their claim to the throne. Others like the Rockets, Jazz, and Nuggets will feel they can win the West, and the Warriors haven’t exactly thrown in the towel. It will be a loaded West playoff race, and there isn’t room for everyone. So which West teams will overachieve, and who will fall short of expectations?
All lines below are from Bovada. The odds are ever-changing, so be sure to shop around for the best odds available and get those bets in!
Dallas Mavericks 41.5 – UNDER
The West is so imbalanced that the Mavericks line expects them to finish at or above .500 but still out of the playoff race as the ninth highest West line. In fact, the West is so stacked that the Mavs line is actually five lower than the next closest team, aka the projected West 8-seed (see the Spurs and Blazers below). Either way, an over bet on Dallas puts them squarely in playoff contention, and that might be a year too soon for a team that’s won 33, 24, and 33 games the last three years.
The Mavericks certainly project to be better than last season. They technically traded for Kristaps Porzingis last year but he hasn’t suited up for Dallas yet. He should play this year, and the Mavs also added Delon Wright and Seth Curry to their guard rotation. Still, a bet on Dallas improving by nine wins is squarely a bet on a huge sophomore leap from Luka Doncic. Doncic was incredible as a rookie, but getting to .500 in the loaded West is a step too far until the rest of the team improves around him.
Denver Nuggets 52 – OVER
While it felt like the entire rest of the NBA blew up over the summer, the Nuggets were one of the few teams that stood strong. Denver returns basically its entire rotation, betting on continuity in a league full of change. History tells us that should be good for a few extra early season wins as other teams are still working to develop chemistry. The Nuggets are also betting on their youth taking the next step. That includes MVP candidate Nikola Jokic along with point guard Jamal Murray, both of whom went to the next level in Denver’s playoff run.
There are other reasons to be optimistic about Denver. As good as the Nuggets were last season, they struggled on the wing. Part of that was injuries that limited Gary Harris to 57 games and Will Barton to 43, and neither was particularly effective all season. Healthier years from those two plus a rookie season from Michael Porter Jr. should give Denver many more options on the wing. The Nuggets also added a 3-and-D big man in Jerami Grant, who should fit perfectly next to Jokic. Denver won 54 games last year. They should be as good or better this season.
Golden State Warriors 48.5 – UNDER
The Warriors dynasty may not be over, but the version of the Warriors we’ve come to know so well the last few seasons certainly is. Kevin Durant is gone. Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston are gone. Klay Thompson is still there, but he’s rehabbing a torn ACL and will miss a big chunk of the season. That is a lot of high-IQ basketball to replace.
The Warriors added D’Angelo Russell. How will he fit in? He might have to, since the Ws roster is basically DLo, Steph Curry, and Draymond Green until Klay is back. This team is probably going to start Alfonzo McKinnie, Alec Burks, or Glenn Robinson Jr. at the three, and the other guys will be the top bench scoring options. This roster is thinner than ever and no longer has the usual star power at the top of the roster. Draymond can’t play defense by himself, and the team will miss what Klay and Iggy gave there. Likewise, Steph and DLo can’t be the entire offense. Except… maybe Steph and Dray can? The Warriors have shown they should never be counted out. Could they win 50 and finish back near the top of the West, vaulting Steph into the MVP race? Anything is possible. But there are far more avenues to a season in the 40s or worse.
Houston Rockets 53.5 – OVER
The Rockets routinely hit the over but come off a disappointing season in which they won only 53 games. Now they return mostly the same team with one very obvious change. Chris Paul is gone one year after signing his massive extension, replaced by Russell Westbrook’s giant extension of the same size. And that’s the entire conversation with this team. What will Russ and James Harden look like together? These are not the same two guys that shared the backcourt in Oklahoma City, and even there, Harden had to come off the bench so there were enough shots to go around.
Still, Mike D’Antoni has shown he can adapt his offense around the talent given, so expect this Russ and Harden marriage to work. They’re two of the greatest playmakers in NBA history, after all. Westbrook also offers one very clear, big advantage over CP3. Paul played 58 games the last two seasons. Westbrook goes 150 miles an hour almost 82 games a season. He’s played almost 50% more minutes than CP in the last few seasons. As thin as the Rockets bench is, that’s a ton more minutes from a star player. This may not work in the playoffs, but it doesn’t have to for you to cash in on the over from two stars too good to not win 54 games together.
Los Angeles Clippers 55 – OVER
The Clippers became the class of the West literally overnight, trading away Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a cadre of picks to acquire Paul George and the opportunity to sign Kawhi Leonard. The Clippers have never won more than 57 games in franchise history, so an ‘over’ bet is more or less picking them to have the best year in Clippers history. Of course, they’ve also never had Kawhi and PG. This team just won 48 games, then essentially swapped Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari for PG and Kawhi.
And as great as Leonard was in his playoff run, it’s easy to forget how great Paul George was himself this year. He scored 28ppg and finished third in the MVP race and near the top of the Defensive Player of the Year vote, and that was despite dealing with a shoulder injury much of the year. PG and Kawhi is a huge talent influx, and the bench got even deeper with the additions of veterans like Maurice Harkless and JaMychal Green. This line feels about right for a team that will be focused on preparing itself for May and June, but with this much talent around, they should have a good shot at hitting 55 wins.
Los Angeles Lakers 51.5 – OVER
Lakers exceptionalism is back, and it’s hard to argue with Lakers fans after adding LeBron James and Anthony Davis in successive summers. The Lakers struck out in their pursuit of Kawhi Leonard or a third superstar but still added Danny Green and DeMarcus Cousins to form a very talented quartet. There are plenty of questions still about the team’s veterans, shooting, and defense, but remember, LeBron teams never finish the season with the same roster they begin with. There will be trade additions and buyouts, and this team will get better.
And it’s already pretty good. The Lakers won only 37 games last year, so is Davis worth an extra 15 wins? He might be, but he’s not doing it on his own. LeBron played only 55 games last season but should be healthy and ready to go after his first summer off since high school. And before you worry about the loss of young guys like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart, it’s worth remembering how much of last season they missed injured anyway. Their loss will be felt long term, but it’s not like the Lakers need to replace much from last year. LeBron alone was worth at least 50 wins every season since 2008 until last year’s injury. That 51.5 line is a shoo-in, and you’re getting +110 to take it too. Grab that Bron money while you can.
Memphis Grizzlies 27 – UNDER
The Grizzlies won 33 games last year and 22 the season before, so the 27 line is right about in the middle. The future is finally here for Memphis, and Grit and Grind is finally a thing of the past now that the team has traded both Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. In their place is a new, exciting young core built around rookie Ja Morant and last year’s top pick Jaren Jackson Jr.
The future looks bright for Memphis, but the present could be pretty bumpy. It will be a steep drop-off from Conley and Delon Wright to a rookie 20-year-old point guard. Morant will get his numbers, but most young handlers face a steep learning curve and make a ton of mistakes. Players like Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder likely won’t finish the season in Memphis as likely trade or buyout candidates. There’s one other big factor in play – the Grizzlies owe their pick this season to Boston if it falls outside the top 6, so they’ll have every incentive to tank, and with the new lottery setup, they’ll need to tank hard. They are likely to finish at the bottom of the West, and that means 27 wins is just way too much of an ask.
Minnesota Timberwolves 35.5 – OVER
Last season was an absolute nightmare for the Timberwolves. There was the whole Jimmy Butler saga early, which killed team chemistry and started the Wolves in a big hole right off the bat. The team never recovered, trading Butler and eventually moving on from Tom Thibodeau as head coach. Minnesota dealt with major injuries all year, too. Jeff Teague played only 42 games, and new addition Robert Covington briefly transformed the defense but ended up playing only 22 games himself.
And after all that mess… the Timberwolves still won 36 games. And this line is lower than that? That’s certainly a decision. These Wolves should certainly be better than last year’s version with healthy seasons from RoCo and Teague plus a deeper roster and improved wing play from rookie Jarrett Culver and sophomore Josh Okogie. Plus, Karl-Anthony Towns may finally be ready to take the next step with a team that is fully his own. All that lineup continuity should get the team off to a good early start, too. Minnesota may not be ready to contend for the playoffs in a loaded West, but they’re being overlooked at this easy 35.5 line.
New Orleans Pelicans 40.5 – UNDER
It’s pretty amazing to win 39 games, lose a superstar in Anthony Davis, and then see a projected win total go up to 40.5. That’s exactly what happened for the Pelicans, and it’s a testament to how great an offseason New Orleans had under David Griffin. The Pels got a landfall for Davis, adding a ton of young talent from Los Angeles plus a slew of draft picks. They also won the draft lottery and lucked into Zion Williamson, the most coveted draft pick since this franchise lucked into Anthony Davis.
This is a totally reworked team from last year. Jrue Holiday is back but now Zion is his top running mate, and veterans J.J. Redick and Derrick Favors add depth and leadership to the roster. Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Jaxson Hayes, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker make this one of the more fun watches in the league, but they also give the team a steep learning curve. Anthony Davis was playing at an MVP level for 48 games last year, and even with that, they won only 39 games. To expect a team this young to get to .500 is simply a bridge too far, and it’s expecting too much from Zion. New Orleans will be patient with their young team, and patience means losing early until you figure things out. The public agrees and has bet this line down to -155, but if you wait it out, the line might drop to 40 or 39.5 and give you a better look at a still worthwhile investment.
Oklahoma City Thunder 32.5 – OVER
The Thunder are one of the most difficult teams on the board to peg, but they’re also a team that offers a ton of upside if you feel like you have a good read on their situation. That situation, of course, is referring to Chris Paul, the newest member of the Thunder after OKC blew up the team this summer and traded Russell Westbrook for CP3. The Thunder also traded Paul George, and while the team is certainly set up well long term now, their immediate chances are up in the air.
Many expected Chris Paul to be traded quickly, and perhaps he still will be. But this roster as it stands is not a bad one. Oklahoma City also got Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the PG trade, and they still have Steven Adams and other quality players. As currently constructed, this roster could contend for the playoffs, even in the West. Chris Paul teams have averaged 55 wins a season since he joined the Clippers, and he’s still great even at his age. If CP3 was sure to be on the roster all season, this line would surely be in the high 30s or higher. If he was certain to be traded, it would likely drop well into the 20s. It makes more sense for them to trade him and tank, but the bet here is that there is no taker for Paul’s onerous contract and that the team might actually win some games with him on the roster.
Phoenix Suns 29 – UNDER
The Suns under has been one of the easiest bets on the board in recent years. With a line of 29, Phoenix is projected to finish second to last in the West. But this team won just 19, 21, 24, and 23 games the last four seasons. That’s only 87 wins in four years or, to put it differently, one win fewer than the Warriors had the 2015–16 season alone. Last year’s Suns were so bad that they finished 14 games back… from the 14-seed in the West! That’s not just bad. It’s awful.
Are these Suns really 10 wins better than last year’s team? They’ve added Ricky Rubio to solve their point guard woes, but they’ll need the youngsters to step up if they’re going to get to 30 wins. That means Devin Booker taking a superstar leap, and it means more from Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges. The long term plan is there for the Suns, but 30 wins in this loaded West is a big ask for a team that has been this bad for this long. The offense should be better with a true point guard, but the defense will still be bad. Why is this roster winning 30 games in the West? Who are they beating?
Portland Trail Blazers 46.5 – OVER
At first glance, the Blazers look like a bet on continuity, with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum leading the way. But the rest of the starting lineup will be different on opening night. Jusuf Nurkic broke out a year ago but then broke his leg, and he won’t be back until at least 2020. His spot will be filled by Hassan Whiteside, while Kent Bazemore and Zach Collins step into the starting forward roles with the loss of Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu.
Still, Dame and C.J. have led this team to 53 and 49 wins the last two seasons, both times finishing as the West 3-seed. If Portland can hang in there early on, they should get a boost from a midseason return by Nurkic, and that may happen in more ways than one. If the team is confident Nurk is ready, they may also trade Whiteside’s expiring contract with a young player or pick for a player like Kevin Love or Danilo Gallinari. That could give them one of the league’s best offenses and a great closing stretch and playoff push. Betting the under here is a bet on Portland missing the playoffs or coming close. They’re making the playoffs.
Sacramento Kings 37.5 – UNDER
The Kings were one of last season’s biggest shocks. They smashed their over/under of 26 wins last year, winning 39 games and staying in the thick of the playoff race until the final month of the season. They unleashed a new high-tempo attack led by youngsters De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley and saw a breakout season from no-longer-young shooting star Buddy Hield. Now the Kings have added veterans Trevor Ariza, Dewayne Dedmon, and Cory Joseph along with a full season from Harrison Barnes, and many are picking them to make the leap to the playoffs.
But growth is not linear, and the Kings are about to learn that along with winning comes expectations. Teams will be ready for Sacramento this year, and the fast pace that surprised opponents early last season won’t be a shock this time. Last season’s 39 wins were already the most for Sacramento since 2006, and there are no free wins in the West. Once teams took the Kings seriously last season, they fell off quickly and ended up nine games out of the playoff race. It may be a slight step back this season before a further step forward.
San Antonio Spurs 46.5 – OVER
Death, taxes, and the Spurs. San Antonio simply will not die. Two years ago they lost Kawhi Leonard for almost the entire season and won 47 games anyway. Last year they lost him for real, then lost Dejounte Murray for the year too. They improved by a game, winning 48. This year, the team returns just about everyone. LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan are a touch older, but Dejounte should be healthy and ready to break out, and he and Derrick White make up one of the more underrated young guard duos in the league.
Look, Gregg Popovich simply has this regular season thing figured out. He always gets the team to play defense, and the return of Murray will do wonders there, and he always gets the spare parts to play enough offense to make everything work. The under here would be the worst Spurs season since 1997, before Tim Duncan. Go with history, and enjoy the +115 while you’re at it.
Utah Jazz 54 – UNDER
Before the NBA exploded in July, the Jazz was every NBA nerd’s favorite sleeper. Utah has been a tough out for years, winning 50, 48, and 51 games the last three years. Then they finally made their big move, trading for Mike Conley to upgrade their point guard position and add shooting and leadership. Then they doubled down in free agency, paying big for Bojan Bogdanovic. This offense used to be a lot of hoping for Donovan Mitchell to do something on his own, but it should be more balanced now.
But what about the defense? To clear cap room for Bogdanovic, the Jazz had to move on from Derrick Favors. They’ll also see a big defensive drop from Ricky Rubio to Conley. Rudy Gobert is the two-time Defensive Player of the Year, but he can’t play defense by himself. He’s also played only two healthy full seasons before last year, and each previous time, he played only around 60 games the following season. Utah’s offense should be better, but at what cost? Are we sure this team is five games better than last season? All the better that you can fade the public and get the under at +105.