The Over/Unders for Win totals have been released for the upcoming 2021-2022 NBA season. The line for the Dallas Mavericks has been set at 48.5.
That is tied for the 4th highest win total along with the Golden State Warriors. As any obsessive fan does, I recently tried to project where I expect the team to land at the end of the regular season.
The Jazz, Lakers, and recent NBA Finalist Phoenix Suns have distinguished themselves as the top tier teams in the Western Conference. All three teams have enough depth to survive anything short of a season-ending injury to one of its stars.
The second tier is where things begin to get murky. The Thunder, Rockets, Spurs, Timberwolves, and Kings appear to be heading for the lottery in a worst-case scenario and fighting for a play-in seed if everything breaks right. The Pelicans probably belong in that group but a coaching change and leap by Zion could be enough for them to make a serious run at the playoffs. It is possible but not likely so let’s put them at the top of that tier.
That leaves six teams fighting to avoid the play-in tournament:
- The Memphis front office is comfortable taking a step back this season. They took on Steven Adam’s salary and sacrificed the potential for cap space in order to draft a player they felt could improve their long-term outlook. Their offense lacks spacing but internal improvement from its young core could put them in the playoff hunt.
- After suffering a partially torn ACL, Kawhi Leonard is likely to miss most if not all of the regular season. It would, however, be unwise to completely count out this team. They were able to bring back a core that showed fight and heart after losing their star in the playoffs. They may not have enough firepower to make a run at a title but a top 5 seed is not out of the question.
- Damian Lillard’s future is hanging over the team like a dark cloud. People have rumored a CJ McCollum for Ben Simmons trade for months now. I believe Darryl Morey refuses to come off of his lofty demands for Simmons because he is hoping to trade Simmons for Lillard. It’s impossible to predict exactly what will happen but a move or two could propel this team into a higher tier or they could choose to tear it down and trade everything not nailed to the floor.
- The Warrior’s season depends on one thing- the health of Klay Thompson’s Achilles heel. The Warriors have done a great job of adding talent that could define the post-Steph era but there are still huge questions about their short-term ceiling. If Klay is healthy, they could easily make a run at another NBA finals. If he is a shell of his former self, there simply may not be enough spacing around Steph to make them a serious contender. Rumors are swirling that Klay may not be ready for the start of the season. Keep in mind that it took Kevin Durant 18 months to fully recover from the same injury. The Warriors project as a team closer to the play-in tournament than home-court advantage in the first round.
- Nikola Jokic reminded everyone that he is one of the best players in the league and a known quantity for Denver. What we don’t know is whether Michael Porter Jr. will take another step forward. Interestingly, he and the Nuggets have yet to agree to a contract extension. Porter Jr. is likely looking for the max. The Nuggets probably want to see how this year plays out before committing that type of money to the uber-talented forward. If Porter Jr. is not able to show progress on the defensive end or has a flare-up with his back, the Nuggets could try to squeeze him in Restricted Free Agency. The loss of Jamal Murray certainly lowers their ceiling but their offense is still unstoppable at times and they could ride that offense to a top 6 seed in the crowded West.
- That leaves the Dallas Mavericks. I am a staunch believer that we are underrating this team’s regular-season outlook. As Kirk Henderson recently said on a podcast with Tim Cato, Luka can fall out of bed and win 40 games by himself. Can the rest of the team play well enough to get us the 9 additional wins needed to hit the over? I believe they can and will. The Mavericks finished as a top 6 seed last season despite the awful start during which many of the team’s key rotation pieces missed games due to Covid-19. While the additions of Reggie Bullock and Sterling Brown do little to increase our chances at winning a title, they do provide valuable depth during the regular season.
I expect the public will hammer the under and this line will be a game or two lower by the time the regular season rolls around. The drama surrounding the team’s front office and lack of meaningful offseason activity will leave bettors with a bad taste in their mouths. You could wait and take advantage of the value later or you could bet on the over now and double down closer to the start of the season. Assuming Luka stays healthy, this is an easy over for me. If Kristaps Porzingis is closer to the player he was in the bubble than the one we saw last season, this might be the best bet on the board.