“Welcome to NBA 2019-2020! Fasten Your Seatbelts, It’s Going To Be Turbulent!”
Unlike past years when it was all about people complaining about the superteam Warriors, this year it’s all about parity. There are at least 8 different teams where you can build a reasonable hypothesis that they can capture the crown. Last year, there was one team that won 60 games – the Milwaukee Bucks, this year I can’t see anyone winning more than 56.
Wash, Rinse, Repeat
The West is loaded, and the East is not going to be very good. There are 11 or 12 teams out West that can make the playoffs, and there are 5 or 6 teams in the East that could end up with the worst record in the league. Teams play 52 of their 82 total games inside their conference, so win-totals out West need to be decreased and totals in the East increased.
There are many different levels of confidence in my picks so I grade them in 5 different categories based on how much I’m going to bet on each total.
Parking Meter Change
Espresso And A Little Dolce
A Nice Lunch With Maybe A Beer Or Glass Of Wine
Dinner At A Semi-Fancy Restaurant, Multiple Drinks And An Uber/Lyft Home
Long Weekend At A Destination City
With the ground rules established and orchestra done playing the overture let’s raise the curtain and have at my annual NBA 32-Team Over/Under Mega-Preview:
PARKING METER CHANGE
Los Angeles Lakers – 51.5 Over
I am so torn by this team. I think they have a better chance to win the championship than they do to win 55 games. They are fragile and old and don’t give a hoot about win totals, but LeBron and AD do make sweet music together. This is a tough one to call because 48 seems to be the magic number to make the playoffs out West, and unless 1 of the Big 2 misses a boatload of games they are going to get in.
Houston Rockets – 52.5 Under
I kept trying to type “Over,” but every time I did, it came out “Under.” There is an inner voice deep inside that is screaming at me that this 2-headed monster is going to devour itself and end with a win total in the 40s. I wouldn’t wager too much on my inner voice because it also screamed that Hilary would win in a landslide.
Utah Jazz – 55.5 Under
Are they 4 ½ games better with Mike Conley than they were with Ricky Rubio? Maybe, but for that to be the case, Mike Conley has to suit up as much as he did in 18-19, which was 70 games, and not like in 17-18, when he only played 12 games.
The starting five looks strong and cohesive with Mitchell, Conley, Bojanovich, Gobert, and Ingles, but things drop off quickly like the Wasatch Mountains when you head to the bench. 55 ½ is a very big number; I’m going under by a smidge.
Miami Heat – 43 ½ Under
Is the East so bad that this Dali-esque roster can get to 44 wins? I don’t think so. Their early schedule is one of the league’s toughest, which won’t give Jimmy Butler time to get all warm and fuzzy with his new mates.
Golden State Warriors – 47.5 Over
The Clippers made the playoffs in the West last year with 48 wins. I think the Dubs are going to squeak their way into the postseason, and 48 seems about right again for the 8th seed. It’s gonna be tight, but I can’t see a team with Steph Curry and Draymon Green not making the playoffs.
ESPRESSO AND A LITTLE DOLCE
Memphis Grizzlies – 26.5 Under
Ja Morant has the tools to be a superstar, but the poor decision-making that he got away with in the Ohio Valley Conference because of his insane athleticism is not going to work in the Association. The Grizz are committed to letting him learn on the job, and that is not a recipe for on over.
New York Knicks – 28 Under
The Knicks’ off-season strategy seemed like when you’re on a road trip and starving, and you come across a gas station convenience store, and you just rush in and grab whatever is left on the shelves.
I don’t dislike Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, and Marcus Morris, but they are not the centerpieces for the rebirth of the once semi-proud Knicks. This team of mismatched toys is going to win more games than last year’s Zion-inspired bricks, but they would have to win 11 more to hit the total and I don’t see that happening on 33rd and 8th.
Indiana Pacers – 47.5 Under
They were pretty good last year, but they weren’t the same team without Oladipo. When he comes back from his ACL tear and how close he is to 100% are going to determine this one. I’m betting with history, and he has almost no impact except to disrupt the team’s rotation.
Philadelphia 76ers – 55 Under
It’s a shooters league and they don’t have any real shooters. They have some great basketball players –Embiid, Simmons, Harris, and Horford, but none of them are can shoot as well as the departed JJ Reddick or Jimmy Butler. This team won 51 games last year, and I think they got worse in the off-season. How does that translate into 4 more wins?
Toronto Raptors – 46 Over
The Raptors have gone over the total for the last 8 years. If not for that stat I’d probably be tickling the under, but you’re not going to get rich betting against 8 for 8.
Oklahoma City Thunder – 32 ½ Under
How many games is Chris Paul going to play before he gets hurt or traded? Is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander going to step up to the next level after an exceptional rookie year with the Clippers? How will they survive in a post-Westbrookian world? Too many questions that don’t add up to 33 wins.
Atlanta Hawks – 33.5 Over
Trae Young and the Hawks should be in or on the cusp of a playoff spot come April. The former Sooner had a rookie campaign that would have handed him the ROY in many seasons, but Luka shaded him. They added De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish, the rest if the core got more mature. Jabari Parker is going to add more firepower, and I think these birds will fly easily over the total.
Phoenix Suns – 27.5 Under
They should be able to win 28 games with this roster, but I’ve been saying that about the Suns for the last few years and then they go out and underperform. Is Devin Booker a winner or a guy that scores a lot of points on a lot of shots? Does De’Andre Ayton just look and move like a superstar big man or will he actually help the Suns escape the valley of putrid basketball?
The Suns will continue to set in the West.
Dallas Mavericks – 40 ½ Over
Jordan and Pippen. Batman and Robin. Jay-Z and Beyonce. Porzingis and Dončić.
Luka was a revelation last season, and with Zinger back on the floor, this Mavs teams has a chance to be a great one in the future. This team will not be great this year (beyond the Big 2, the cupboard is a bit bare for this edition of The Cubans), but you don’t have to be great to be a 41-win team.
Charlotte Hornets – 22.5 Under
Not only did they lose Kemba, but their 2nd-best player from last year, Jeremy Lamb, is now a Pacer. Could Bridges or Monk step up and be Ballers and carry this team? I obviously don’t think so if I’m going under 22 ½.
A NICE LUNCH WITH MAYBE A GLASS OF WINE OR BEER
Boston Celtics – Over 46 ½
Bye-bye Kyrie. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. The Celtics were 12-3 without Kyrie in the line-up in 18-19 and went to the conference finals without him the year before. The Celtics were 37-30 with him in the line-up in 18-19 and were given a soul-sucking beating by the Bucks in the 2nd round of the playoffs last year.
Add Kemba Walker and a healthier Gordon Heyward into the mix, along with Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and you’re looking at a 50-win team in the mediocre East.
Side note, watch out for Carsen Edwards, the new microwave who will come off the bench bombing for the 3rd best team in the East.
Brooklyn Nets – 43.5 Under
They better start well (their exhausting trip to China ain’t gonna help) or Kyrie’s brand of leadership is going to chafe some of the young Nets who stepped up last year. I think all the hype and talk of the Nets’ owning New York is going to pep up some opponents who got caught sleeping on the Boys from Brooklyn last year.
Chicago Bulls – 32 Over
Wendell Carter, Zach Lavine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markaneen. There are a lot of wild cards in that deck, and I think one will break out and lead the Bulls to a 35+ win season. I’d rate this higher, but they only won 22 games last year.
Milwaukee Bucks – 57 ½ Under
Career and comeback years for a whole cast of characters last year, the endless drumbeat of “is Giannis going to re-sign” talk, and the switch from hunter to hunted are all reasons why the Bucks are going to regress. I don’t think they’re going to fall far, but when your total is 57 ½, you don’t have to fall far to miss the mark.
Cleveland Cavaliers – 22.5 Under
They may not win the least amount of the games in the league this year, but they’re going to come close. Collin Sexton and Darius Garland – neither of those names gets me excited. Tristan Thompson – he excites Khloe Kardashian, but not me. Kevin Love, he could coax 30-32 wins out of this motley crew with his shooting and rebounding, but only if he had a time machine that took him back to 2014.
I wonder if John Beilein is going to be happy he left Ann Arbor when he’s sitting on the beach somewhere in the Spring of 2021 drinking a Piña Colada on Dan Gilbert’s tab.
DINNER AT A NICE RESTAURANT, MULTIPLE DRINKS, UBER/LYFT HOME
Detroit Pistons – 36 ½ Over
This is a playoff team that won 41 games last year and has the whole crew back, yet that total is 36 ½… weird.
Are they are a marquee team? No. Is Blake edging towards the downside of the mountain? I wouldn’t argue with you on that. But overall, they are a better team than they were last year with the addition of Derrick Rose, and the East is worse. So how in the hell is the number 36 ½ on Motown hoopers weird?
Portland Trailblazers – 46 Over
For the sake of pizza, this team won 53 games last year. Sure, they lost 2 rotation players in free agency, but they have the best healthy backcourt in the game and, this might be held against me in a sanity hearing, but I think Hassan Whiteside is going to help a lot in the absence of Nurkić.
Denver Nuggets – 52.5 Over
They won 54 games last year, and they basically have the whole team back, and oh yeah Michael Porter has shown big flashes that he could be the special player everyone thought he was going to be when he showed up with his entourage at Mizzou. I’d probably bang the over a little harder if a little voice wasn’t whispering in my ear about Jokić playing 12 straight months of hoop without a break.
Orlando Magic – 40 ½ Over
The young team wins 42 games last year, re-signs all their big names in the offseason, and their total goes down by a game and a half. The total on the Magic Kingdomers seems a bit goofy at 40 ½. This is a 45-win team, and you should bet accordingly.
Minnesota Timberwolves – 33.5 Under
Danger Will Robinson!!!!! (Is that reference too old?) These Wolves could be one of the worst teams in the league. I think they will be the worst in the team in the West. Phoenix will win more games. Could the Wolves implode all the way down into the teens? Yes.
Washington Wizards – 27.5 Under
Take Bradley Beal off this team and their current roster could pass for a G-league team. John Wall is nowhere near coming back, and Isaiah Thomas’ beat-up body seems older than the other Isaiah Thomas’. The Wizards could be locked into a battle with the Cavs for league’s worst team.
LONG WEEKEND IN A DESTINATION CITY
Sacramento Kings – Over 36.5
Marvin Bagley III had one hell of a rookie season. Buddy Heild and D’aron Fox are a damn good backcourt. They won 39 games last year and added Harrison Barnes, Trevor Ariza, and stat-stuffer DeWayne Dedmon. This is a team on an uptick.
I know the West is a challenge almost every night, but 36 ½? 36 ½ is just way too low.
San Antonio Spurs – 46.5 Under
The trend is your friend, and I see this team about to take a very large regression. Take a look at their roster. Who do you think has big upside – Derozan, Gay, Aldridge, Carrol, Murray? Maybe Dejounte Murray, but not enough to carry this team through the Battan Death March of the West to 47 wins. I see a team past their sell date and have a chance to spiral to a 35-win season.
New Orleans Pelicans – 39.5 Over
All aboard the Zion express as it’s about to leave the station. He’s a bigger, more athletic Barkley and, batteries not included, he’s ready to play right out of the box. They got a nice haul in the hostage release deal with the Lakers, and we might even be hearing “Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Pelis” at playoff time in the spring.
Los Angeles Clippers – Under 56 ½
Kawahi just got paid and he moved to La-La Land. He’s never played the full 82 and only suited up 60 times last year, never mind the 12 he played the year before that. Paul George is already hurt and is expected to be out at least 10 games.
I do like the next 4 guys in their rotation with Montrez Harrell (who I love), Lou Williams, Patrick Beverly, and Mo Harkless, but after that, they fall off like the San Andreas Fault. There is no way in hell you’re getting to 57 wins in the Western Conference with no depth and 2 superstars with spotty injury histories. It ain’t gonna happen. I’d even tickle the Clips at 13-1 not to make the playoffs.