Welcome to Part 1 of my third annualish Win Totals Over/Under Prediction article where I give my overview of the state of each team. The over/under numbers that I’m predicting against are listed as the Vegas betting totals for NBA wins. Each of my picks (over or under the listed win total) are what my bet would be for whether the team wins more or less than the win total listed by Vegas.
Every year there are surprises, trades, injuries, and other factors that will make some of these predictions look absurd. In my inaugural predictions, I went 19-11. Last year I went 17-13. Reading back through, some of these misses were understandable (injuries to Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, & Paul George), and some that were a bit less understandable – for example, I wrote such gems as “I’m not sold on Garland” and “Mobley figures to be years away from being a difference maker” while predicting under 26.5 wins for the Cavs. They won 44.
Note: Each of these over/under predictions is independent of the others.
Atlanta Hawks – 45.5
2021-22 Record: 43-39
I reluctantly took the over (47.5) last year, despite having little confidence in the ceiling of the roster. I’m still not sold on Trae Young as the best player on a championship team, but the Hawks have done well to surround him with long, athletic wings that can make up (at least partially) for his defensive liabilities, and another year of chemistry and development is exactly what this team needs. The Hawks may not be a top 5 team in the East, but they’re closer to that group than they are to the lottery. The addition of Dejounte Murray makes this team a lock for the playoffs, barring a major injury.
Hawks win 48 games and hit the over.
Boston Celtics – 53.5
2021-22 Record: 51-31
The Celtics won 51 games and went to the Finals, and the only player in their (top 8) rotation older than 27 was Al Horford. They lost Daniel Theis, but his minutes are easily replaced by the Williamses (Grant and Rob), and they addressed their biggest issue in the Finals with the offseason addition of Malcolm Brogdon. This is a team that is built to win for a long time, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see another few Finals appearances from them over the next 5 years. Still, 54 wins is a lot (only 2 teams hit this mark last season, and 0 from the East), and the Celtics are going through an unexpected coaching change. I’m confident the Celtics will be ready for the playoffs, but I’m not sure they’ll be firing on all cylinders to start the season, or that they’ll worry enough about seeding to push hard down the stretch.
50 wins and an under.
Brooklyn Nets – 50.5
2021-22 Record: 44-38
I can’t stress how high I am on the Nets. This is the best roster in the NBA, and I don’t think it’s particularly close. Ben Simmons is the most underrated player in the NBA, Kyrie Irving with a full season is still a top 5 point guard in the NBA, and Kevin Durant at full strength is still one of the 2 or 3 best players in the NBA. Sure, there’s a ton of drama surrounding the Nets, but more often than not, talent wins out. Winning solves a lot of problems, and I expect this team to win a lot. Aside from their stars, Brooklyn also has an excellent supporting cast: Patty Mills, Markieff Morris, & Royce O’Neale are as solid as they come, TJ Warren showed elite flashes (not just as bubble Michael Jordan) before his injury, and Joe Harris & Seth Curry are elite floor spacers around the Nets’ big 3. Nic Claxton, Cam Thomas, Kessler Edwards, Yuta Watanabe, and Day’Ron Sharpe will also have an opportunity to contribute, and based on last year’s efforts, they should have no problem filling out the rotation. I’m not quite to Nets vs. the field in the East, but it’s close, and they’re my clear favorites.
Brooklyn wins 58 games for the 1 seed and the over.
Charlotte Hornets – 35.5
2021-22 Record: 43-39
I was expecting to take the over on the Hornets, because the under is betting that they’ll win 8 fewer games than last season, and LaMelo Ball is so damn good. But he’s out for the start of the season with an ankle sprain and there’s already suggestions that they should start tanking. It would make sense – the rest of their roster is painful, especially without Miles Bridges. They don’t have a single player outside of Ball who would start for a playoff caliber team. You could probably argue a few of those: Kelly Oubre Jr. (borderline), Terry Rozier (has a case, but is better suited for a 6th man role), and maybe Gordon Hayward (fair, but just look at this haircut – you just absolutely cannot trust this guy). There’s a chance LaMelo could elevate his teammates and get the Hornets into the play-in, but that’s not what I’m betting on.
Hornets win 28 games for an embarrassing under.
Chicago Bulls – 41.5
2021-22 Record: 46-36
My write-up for the Bulls was one of my most spot-on predictions last year, and I still feel the same way about this team – they should be a playoff team. Chicago will be without Lonzo Ball for at least a few months, and likely a bit longer, but this team is solid top to bottom. They don’t have a lot of high-end talent (no disrespect to DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, but they’re not top-30 players), but they have an 10-man rotation (even without Ball) of above average players. They’ll take care of business against the bottom-dwellers of the league (of which there figure to be many), and should cruise to a similar win total to last season.
45 wins and the over.
Cleveland Cavaliers – 47.5
2021-22 Record: 44-38
Following up one of my best predictions of last season with one of my worst. “27 games is not a lot, but this team is going to be very, very bad” was about as wrong as you could be about the Cavs last season. They’ll look to build on their successes with the addition of Donovan Mitchell. He’s a great fit next to Darius Garland, and Cleveland will have one of the best backcourts in the league along with one of the biggest frontcourts. If the top of the East wasn’t so strong, I’d probably have the Cavs higher, but they’re clearly one of the top 6 or 7 teams in the conference, and there’s enough bad teams they should be able to handle to make 48 wins at least possible. Still, while Mitchell raises their ceiling, I’m not sure how much he raises their floor – if at all. I’m reluctant to take the under again, but I think Cleveland overachieved last season, and aside from a major leap from Mobley, I don’t think this team is primed to win a lot more games.
45 wins and a reluctant under.
Dallas Mavericks – 48.5
2021-22 Record: 52-30
Luka Dončić carried an underwhelming roster last season to 52 wins and Conference Finals berth, but despite his greatness, that seems like an outlier. With Jalen Brunson signing in New York, they lost their clear 2nd best player. They added Christian Wood (who is awesome, and I expect to thrive next to Luka), but I’m not sure how well this roster fits together without Brunson. Last season, I wrote “they look closer to 45 wins and I’m betting the under [48.5].” Well it didn’t work last season, but with an improved West and a worse roster in Dallas, I can ‘confidently’ say that the Mavs look closer to 45 wins and I’m betting the under.
Denver Nuggets – 49.5
2021-22 Record: 48-34
I’m not sure why the Nuggets over/under is 49.5 when they won 48 games last season without 2 of their 3 best players (Jamal Murray missed the entire season, and Michael Porter Jr. played just 9 games). Even if Murray and Porter Jr. aren’t 100% of their former selves, this team is going be one of the best in the league. Unless Jokić sustains an injury, this is absolutely a 50-win team, and one of the easiest picks of the year.
Detriot Pistons – 29.5
2021-22 Record: 23-59
I expected this over/under number to be closer to last season’s total of 23, and I was fully prepared to bet the over based solely on my confidence in Cade Cunningham leading this young roster to be better than expected. But the over/under of 29.5 is in line with a vastly improved team. Detroit was one of the worst teams in the league last season, and the additions of 32 year-old Kemba Walker and rookie Jaden Ivey just aren’t moving the needle enough for me to think the Pistons will compete for a spot in the play-in. They’ll almost assuredly be in the Wembanyama sweepstakes, and 30 wins is a lot for a team that doesn’t have have any key players in their prime. The only Detroit players who might even be in their rotation that are between the ages of 24 and 30 are Nerlens Noel and Hamidou Diallo (28 and 24 respectively) and neither of them figures to play a major role. I’m a huge fan of Saddiq Bey and Cade Cunningham, so I’ll be rooting for this prediction to be wrong, but this team is closer to 20 wins than 30 wins.
I’ll take the under.
Golden State Warriors – 51.5
2021-22 Record: 53-29
I know this will make me sound like a hater, but the Warriors won one of the least impressive championships in NBA history last season. They beat a Nuggets team without 2 of their 3 best players, a Grizzlies team that limped past the 7-seed Timberwolves before Ja Morant got injured, a Mavericks team with only 1 star, and an underwhelming Finals opponent in a Celtics team whose best player laid an egg during the series. This isn’t to discount the title or suggest the Warriors aren’t deserving – they are! They showed up and played their best basketball at the right time, led by an all-time performance from Steph Curry. But this is one of the few occasions in my lifetime where the defending champions bring everyone back, and I’d be shocked if they make the Finals again next season. I think the Warriors finish closer to the play-in game than the 1 seed, not to mention what might happen if Draymond is traded. Golden State has said he’s not going anywhere, but after punching Jordan Poole, and the fact that they’re looking at nearly half a billion dollars in a tax bill, it’s more likely than you might think. If he is traded, the Warriors are in trouble. Green has been a far bigger part of the Warriors’ success than he’s given credit for, and Andrew Wiggins’ “improved defense” absolutely cannot make up for Green’s generational impact.
Warriors slump and win 48 games. Under.
This ends part 1 of my predictions. Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of the season predictions dropping over the next 2 days.
[…] Over/Under Prediction article where I give my overview of the state of each team. You can find Part 1 here. The over/under numbers that I’m predicting against are listed as the Vegas betting totals for […]
[…] Over/Under Prediction article where I give my overview of the state of each team. You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here. The over/under numbers that I’m predicting against are listed as the Vegas […]