For the first time in nine years, the NBA is rolling out its regular season with a late-December start date. Obviously, the current instance is sparked by far different circumstances than the lockout of 2011.
This also comes following the shortest offseason ever, as last year’s unprecedentedly-interrupted campaign did not wrap up until the Lakers’ championship proclamation in October. Uh, that was a very short two months ago.
Nevertheless, basketball is back, playing a 72-game schedule. And so, too, is betting on it. The season starts tonight but there’s still plenty to examine before tip.
Best Over/Under Win Totals
Minnesota Timberwolves Over 29.5 Wins (-115)
If you’re not keen about taking the over involving the Wolves, it’s understandable. This is a franchise that has never been to a championship in its 31 years of existence, and has only advanced to the playoffs just once in the last 16 seasons.
When you search “Wolves History” on Google, they’re not even the first sports team highlighted — that would be the Wolverhampton Wanderers. The goddamn Wanderers are viewed as more relevant.
But how can that continue with this group? Karl-Anthony Towns is indisputably one of the best big men in the league and now he has one of his best friends as his partner in crime in D’Angelo Russell that would comprise a dominant NBA Jam pair.
In Minnesota, there’s enough of a supporting cast to help change the culture. The return of longtime fan favorite Ricky Rubio — a leader on and off the court — certainly creates positive vibes, and he can still play, as evident when he helped engineer the Suns’ improbable 8-0 run in The Bubble.
Drafting Anthony Edwards first overall in last month’s Draft gives the club an instant weapon who will help ensure the Wolves are competitive. Seeking a 30-42 record isn’t asking much.
Washington Wizards Over 33.5 Wins (-140)
Our nation’s capital is about to host a couple of notable reunions. For one, the Oval Office will be reunited with someone competent for the first time in four years. The other — two men reconvening after a longer time apart — is Russell Westbrook and Scott Brooks.
This freakishly good basketball player and above-average head coach accomplished special things during their time together in Oklahoma City. Of course, that also involved Kevin Durant (and James Harden, for a time), but the ingredients are there for the Wizards to contend right now, and perhaps come close to matching the Thunder’s success.
And then there’s Bradley Beal. Long considered one of the true underrated players around the league, Beal has every bit of talent needed to continue serving as a Durant-like threat. I think he’s a top-five shooter.
As far as bigs go, Thomas Bryant proved he could go two years ago in his first full campaign. Then he went out and improved upon that across the board last season. Meanwhile, Davis Bertans has consistently proven he’s lights out from the outside dating back to his Spurs days.
John Wall is gone, but better days are ahead. A motivated Westbrook leading a solid squad through the inferior Eastern Conference has promise, as they should compete for a playoff berth, and at least hover around the .500 mark.
Best Division Future
Nets to win Atlantic (+140)
The no-brainer choice is obviously the Bucks in the Central, where they can easily fend off four mediocre-at-best “rivals” in order to re-solidify their division supremacy. However, at an absurd -4000 price tag, in which it requires a $400 bet just to win 10 bucks, we’ll look elsewhere.
Staying in the East, it’s hard not to be tempted by the Nets, albeit in a tough Atlantic Division. Rookie head coach Steve Nash (boy, is that weird to say) will foster a very player-friendly environment and I’m so sold on the return of a healthy KD, as all indications point to the future Hall-of-Famer picking up where he left off in the 2018-19 Finals. Surrounding Durant and Kyrie Irving with a sound roster has the Nets positioned to be a legit top force.
Best Yes/No Playoffs Future
Sacramento Kings to miss playoffs (-550)
Yes, yes, I know — very unfriendly odds. Typically you avoid such juicy bets that need a team to finish in the top half of the conference for it to lose. But hear me out.
Look at the Pacific Division. The defending champion Lakers are there. Another top contender in the Clippers is there. The Warriors will be back to contending with Steph Curry healthy. And you know Devin Booker and the Suns are moving up.
So where does that leave those poor Kings? How can they finish ahead of any of those teams? That means unless every team in the division makes the playoffs, which is nearly impossible, Sacramento will be on the outside looking in for a league-leading 15th straight year. No disrespect to the notable talents of Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox but their predicament is a fair value at -550 odds.
Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors (+700)
The Steph Curry revenge tour will be worth watching on a nightly basis for many reasons. It’s also something worth harnessing from a betting perspective.
Obviously, MVP winners are tied a lot to team success. Even if the Warriors don’t fully get back to the top of the mountain like they regularly were in the few years prior, any big lift from a 15-50 season would definitely position Curry — and his usual high volume — as a frontrunner.
Let’s not forget this is one of the faces of the league out for blood after having to endure a full year being part of a laughingstock (though he didn’t play in most of the games). The absence of Klay Thompson stings, but Andrew Wiggins could definitely be a formidable Robin. Golden State’s reascension makes it a worthwhile choice to bet Curry for MVP.
Markelle Fuktz, Orlando Magic (+4500)
As pretty as any +4500 wager I’ve seen. Basically, all the former No. 1 overall draft pick has to do is continue the projection of his trajectory he has crafted since first landing with the Magic from Philadelphia. Then Fultz has a good shot at the award. Pun intended, if you’ll recall the one thing that turned Markelle Fultz from unique prospect into hapless punching bag when a shoulder injury early in his career led him to forget how to shoot. It was bad.
However, Fultz looks like he’s comfortably past that now. Not just because he set career highs in points (12.1) and assists (5.1) while surviving a full season for the first time, but his shooting was much improved, clocking in at 46.5 percent.
Everyone loves a comeback story. Fultz is clearly in the midst of one with a sizable ceiling, so if he even gets close to that, he’ll draw real consideration to win this.
Coach of the Year
Stephen Silas, Houston Rockets (+2000)
Wow. Just imagine waiting around, working as an assistant for 20 years, before finally acquiring your first head-coaching gig. And it happens to be this.
Yeah, James Harden is a perennial MVP candidate but his reigning request for a trade from the place he’s called home the last eight years has created quite a mess in Houston. Additionally, Silas will be challenged of managing the minutes of star veteran newcomers John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, both off major injuries.
All things considered, this could actually be beneficial for Silas in regards to Coach of the Year honors. If Harden ends up staying and best buds Wall and Cousins return to form, that means the Rockets will remain in the upper echelon. Credit Silas.