NBA Offseason Review and Betting Futures
On the heels of a summer that featured unprecedented superstar movement, bettors will have to be prepared for a massively altered NBA landscape. With training camp just over a month away, most of the offseason player movement is finished (save for the exciting Dwight Howard Sweepstakes) and it’s time to review some of the insanity that unfolded, and start to dive into how this chaos may affect the NBA season. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest moves and the impact on the betting markets.
It’s only fitting that Los Angeles. took so much of the limelight in the Summer of the Stars. After an embarrassing public courting, complete with an in-season trade request and the end of the Magic Johnson Era, the Lakers traded for MVP-candidate Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans. Surely, Davis’ presence alone will lead to better results than the Lakers got from LeBron’s first season. However, they had to dump much of their young core, including Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Hart. They also had to let go of three first round picks, including the fourth-overall selection in this year’s draft. The Pelicans even got them to throw in a couple of pick swaps in the future for good measure. While this hurts them in the future, the Lakers simply had to go all-in on the remaining years of The King’s career.
On offense, a LeBron and Davis two-man game promises to present a formidable challenge to defenses across the league. And, Davis’ defensive presence should go great lengths to lessen the toll on the aging James. The news of another long-term injury for recent free agent signing DeMarcus Cousins stretches the already questionable depth further still. However, if the two superstars stay healthy, it’s very difficult to imagine them winning less than 50 games. Davis and James playing full seasons is hardly a guarantee, though. That, combined with potential organizational dysfunction, make a current win total line of 51.5 fairly unappealing either way. It might be better to just sit back and enjoy the show.
Just across the hallway, is one of the few teams that improved themselves even more than the Lakers. By adding reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and MVP finalist Paul George, the Clippers have taken the biggest offseason talent leap since Lebron and Bosh joined Miami. While they did have to part with a staggering amount of draft capital, and potential star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the books have rightly responded by making them the favorites to win it all. Their depth should be superior to the Lakers, and their perimeter defense might be historically great. By re-signing defensive stud Pat Beverley to play point guard, the Clippers have reason to believe they will be able to suffocate the new pace-and-space NBA to a degree we have not yet seen.
Still, a win total of 56.5 seems drained of most of its value. The big men rotation of Ivica Zubac, Montrezl Harrell and JaMychal Green could be problematic. Also, it’s difficult to predict how many games Leonard and George end up playing. Kawhi played only 60 games last year, and while that load management helped keep him on his feet for a championship run, a similar output this year will make 57 wins a tall order. It stands to reason that Kawhi sitting out will impact this Clippers team far more than it did a Raptors club that featured outstanding continuity. George too has had his own injury history, including a bum shoulder that was a huge factor in Oklahoma City’s quick first-round playoff exit last season.
The End of An Era?
Did the Warriors dynasty come to an end when the injuries to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson led to their ‘upset’ finals defeat against the Toronto Raptors? No doubt, this season will bear little resemblance to the absurd five-year run that came before. The impact of Kevin Durant’s exit was well-illustrated against Toronto, and Thompson’s shooting, defense, and ability to switch make him vital to so much of what the Warriors do. He might not play a minute in the regular season. Adding D’Angelo Russell is interesting, but his reliance on the pick-and-roll places him at odds with the system Steve Kerr has carefully crafted. How their offense adapts will say much about their chances for success. On the other end of the floor, however, the situation borders on dire. Klay and KD were top-shelf defenders, and gone too is dynasty mainstay Andre Iguodala. That is a ridiculous amount of defensive ability stripped from the roster. All of this means that even more will be asked of Draymond Green, and it’s hard to see what else the man can possibly do. I’d be thinking OVER before UNDER when it comes to Warriors betting totals this season.
How much have their prospects worsened in terms of the season win total? Well, the books have the Warriors total at 49.5, down from last year’s 62.5. With Curry and Green returning, and the potential of D’Angelo Russell, we may have seen something of an over-correction here. That said, last year they ended up comfortably under the line, winning 57 games.
Westbrook for Paul
Never one to be outdone, Daryl Morey leapt into the fray, trading Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Russell Westbrook. While Paul’s relationship with James Harden had reportedly broken, his close friendship with Westbrook may help to overcome the immense uncertainty this move creates. It is almost impossible to envision exactly what this new arrangement will look like. Last time they played together, back in Oklahoma City, Westbrook was a budding superstar and Harden was the NBA’s most exciting sixth man. Somehow, Russell will have to learn to play off Harden, who was by far and away the NBA’s usage rate leader, at 40.5%. In fact, the gap between him and the runner-up, Joel Embiid, was larger than the gap between Embiid and LaMarcus Aldridge, who ranked 31st. In fact, Harden’s usage rate last season was the second highest in league history. Who holds the record? One Russell Westbrook. How Harden and Westbrook co-exist will be one of the most fascinating storylines of the season, but the unknown makes playing either way on a win total of 54.5 a guessing game.
Assuming Paul stays with the Thunder, a win total line of 31 seems low, even in a loaded Western Conference. Sure, they won’t be good, but managing to get Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari from the Clippers gives them some potential and some proven scoring. Steven Adams’ offensive game will expand with the departure of Westbrook and George, and he should get a lot of easy looks at the basket playing pick-and-roll with a true point guard. They have a great home crowd and if they can even muster .500 record on their floor, their win total could be in reach. Unfortunately, Paul could leave at any time, and the Thunder may prefer to tank.
New Orleans Pelicans (Over 39 Wins):
No small market team was more active this offseason. New VP of Basketball Operations David Griffin put on a rebuilding masterclass, helping New Orleans quickly move on from the Anthony Davis debacle. The draft pick bounty aside, Griffin fell backwards into potential franchise player Zion Williamson. Keeping hold of All-Star Jrue Holiday, while adding underrated Derrick Favors and ageless J.J. Reddick, drags this team out of the tank zone. Throw in the former Lakers and you’ve got a solid and versatile group. If Zion plays at a Rookie-of-the-Year level, they can contend for a playoff spot. Even if he develops a little more slowly, there’s a lot to work with here. Look for rookie Nickeil Alexander-Walker to play himself onto an All-Rookie team. Also, Griffin is now armed with a massive war chest of assets, so adding another star during the season is very possible. I think they have a great chance of exceeding their win total of 39 wins.
Indiana Pacers (Under 47.5 Wins)
There’s a lot to like in Indiana. They added Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. Warren, and Jeremy Lamb. They look to get star Victor Oladipo back from injury. They’re finally putting Domantas Sabonis in the starting lineup. They have the potential to be very good. But, there’s a ton of turnover here. The opening day lineup could feature four new starters. Thad Young, gone to the Bulls, was an important defensive cog. Bojan Bogdanovic, off to the Jazz, was a key offensive player, particularly in the absence of Oladipo. If an early season adjustment period prevents them from taking advantage of a soft opening slate, the total could be too much to overcome as the schedule toughens up later in the year. Their win total sits at 47.5, which feels a bit high.