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As I mentioned a few newsletters ago, I am dipping my toes back into the water of making preseason predictions and picks this year. It’s something I’ve mostly eschewed the past few seasons because it’s largely a hopeless exercise (in terms of accuracy) and I don’t have much faith that my particularly esoteric brand of basketball expertise translates well to prognostication.
But I forgot how fun it is!
I’ve already shared predictions for some categories like scoring champion and best lineup, and teamed up with Ben Ladner to share picks for the standard slate of postseason awards. Today, I’ve gone through and predicted win totals for every NBA team and compared them to the over/under lines, courtesy of our friends at WynnBet. If you’re looking for actual betting advice though, I’d skip this entirely or just bet the opposite of what I have.
Western Conference NBA win predictions
1. Utah Jazz — 54 wins (over 52.5)
2. Phoenix Suns — 52 wins (over 51.5)
3. Denver Nuggets — 50 wins (over 47.5)
4. Golden State Warriors — 50 wins (over 48.5)
5. Los Angeles Lakers — 48 wins (under 52.5)
6. Portland Trail Blazers — 46 wins (over 44.5)
7. Los Angeles Clippers — 44 wins (under 45.5)
8. Memphis Grizzlies — 44 wins (over 41.5)
9. Dallas Mavericks — 41 wins (under 48.5)
10. Sacramento Kings — 40 wins (over 36.5)
11. New Orleans Pelicans — 38 wins (under 39.5)
12. Minnesota Timberwolves — 35 wins (under 35.5)
13. San Antonio Spurs — 26 wins (under 28.5)
14. Houston Rockets — 25 wins (under 27.5)
15. Oklahoma City Thunder — 22 wins (under 23.5)
The places where my picks diverge most significantly from the over/under lines are the Dallas Mavericks (under), Los Angeles Lakers (under) and the Sacramento Kings (over). In the case of Dallas, I think Jason Kidd is an enormous net negative just as a coach and has the potential to push things in an extremely chaotic direction from a personality standpoint. Considering how tenuous things already appear to be between Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis I think this is one that could go off the rails quickly and spectacularly.
For the Lakers, I don’t trust Russell Westbrook, I worry about injuries and with the veteran leadership on this team, I don’t think they have any incentive to push for regular-season wins. They have the talent to hit way higher than 48 wins but I don’t think they need to get there. For the Kings, call it the Tyrese Haliburton bump.
Eastern Conference NBA win predictions
1. Milwaukee Bucks — 55 wins (over 54.5)
2. Brooklyn Nets — 53 wins (under 56.5)
3. Boston Celtics — 49 wins (over 46.5)
4. Atlanta Hawks — 48 wins (over 46.5)
5. Philadelphia 76ers — 48 wins (under 50.5)
6. Miami Heat — 47 wins (under 48.5)
7. Chicago Bulls — 45 wins (over 42.5)
8. Indiana Pacers — 42 wins (under 42.5)
9. Charlotte Hornets — 41 wins (over 38.5)
10. Toronto Raptors — 40 wins (over 35.5)
11. New York Knicks — 38 wins (under 41.5)
12. Cleveland Cavaliers — 32 wins (over 26.5)
13. Washington Wizards — 30 wins (under 33.5)
14. Detroit Pistons — 26 wins (over 24.5)
15. Orlando Magic — 20 wins (under 22.5)
In the East, the places my picks differ the most from the over/under lines are the Cavaliers (over), the Raptors (over), and the Nets, Knicks and Wizards (under). In the case of Cleveland and Toronto, I like the mix of young players and veterans and I think both teams will be hungry enough to chase every win right up until the last day of the season, even if it’s clear they’re not going to be a playoff team.
For the Knicks, I’m thinking we’ll see some regression from Julius Randle, a lot of missed games from Kemba Walker and some erosion of the Thibodeau bump from simply playing competently and aggressively. The Wizards are going to play Kyle Kuzma and Rui Hachimura a lot, enough said there. And for the Nets, I see them kind of like the Lakers. They’ll have some injuries and are focused on the playoffs. There’s no reason for them to mash the throttle down trying to get the number one seed.
Western Conference teams have posted a winning record against Eastern Conference teams in 12 straight seasons. Will that change in 2021-22?
This week, The Long Two breaks down how much the Brooklyn Nets will miss Kyrie Irving on the court and how good the Raptors’ young core has looked.