Sports Christmas in September – The NBA Over/Unders: Part 1
July and August are lean months on the sports calendar. Sure, you’ve got mid-season baseball, a golf major here, a tennis major there; but on the whole, most sports fans aren’t glued to their couches during the dog days of summer. That all changes in September as the temperature cools a bit and a hint of Pumpkin Spice Latte wafts through the air. Before you know it, you’re drafting a fantasy football team, making fun of crying frat guys wearing neckties on TV in packed SEC stadiums, and trying to decipher LeBron James Instagram posts. These are the good days of sports: when your college and NFL teams still have a chance at the playoffs and you can convince yourself that your NBA team’s addition of a backup point guard from Slovenia might be what it takes to challenge Golden State.
Over the next week, Quibbl Sports will help you get ready for the Fall in all of its sporting glory, but today we begin with my own personal September Christmas: the release of the NBA Over/Under Win Lines. If you’re not familiar, each year a collection of Las Vegas casinos announce their predictions for how many regular season games they think that each NBA team will win. To degenerate gamblers, it’s the chance to make up for last weekend’s college football losses, but to NBA fans, it’s the first look into how “the smart money” feels about each team’s summer acquisitions.
You can find the Eastern Conference projections below, in descending order, as well as some of our picks:
|Eastern Conference||2017-18 Over/Under||2016-17 Wins|
This landscape is still feeling the aftershocks of the conference-shaking trade that saw last year’s East runner-up Boston Celtics acquire Kyrie Irving from last year’s East champion Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn Nets 2018 first round draft pick. Who won the trade? I don’t care! I’m sure First Take will hash it out over the next month. Either way, the Celtics and Cavs are locks for the Eastern Conference Finals next May, and I like the over on both—even if LeBron takes his annual vacation to Miami next March to get out of the Cleveland winter. Are these teams better? Boston is, Cleveland probably isn’t, but it’s all irrelevant – the bottom of the East has somehow found new, creative ways to crater, which means there are plenty of games to be won on cruise control for the two teams that have distanced themselves from the pack. Sorry, Toronto.
That’s not to say there isn’t some major movement in the rest of the Eastern Conference over/unders. Chicago is projected to lose 19 more games than last year. Take a look at that Jimmy Butler-less roster, led by want-away grandpa Dwyane Wade, and it makes sense. The Atlanta Hawks, who have quietly made the playoffs every year since you first heard Outkast, are suddenly terrible and projected to win 17 fewer games—another under that I would take.
It’s not all so sad. Look at what a summer of hype has done for the Philadelphia 76ers: 15 more projected wins. Yes, it will be fun to see if first-overall pick Markelle Fultz, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can grow out of diapers and win meaningful NBA games, but I’m pumping the brakes and staying away from this one—especially given the recent injury histories of Embiid and Simmons.
You know who I do kind of like here? The Wizards. They rallied last season to finish at 49 wins, almost knocked off the Celtics in the Eastern semi-finals and return most of their roster. They could be the new Atlanta Hawks: kinda good, winning a playoff series or two every year, but never really challenging for a title. Feel the excitement, Washington DC? Should John Wall have signed that contract extension this summer, cementing his team into salary-cap mediocrity for the next half decade? Probably not, but just try and tell a guy to walk away from $207 million. Regardless, they’re my Eastern Conference surefire lock for the over on 47.5 wins.
While you wait for our Western Conference summary, do you think we missed any easy bets in the East? Want to remind me that the Heat ended 2016 on fire and that in-the-zone Dion Waiters is Jordan-esque?
Comment below and make sure to predict your NBA Over/Unders on Quibbl