Team previews, odds, best bets for all 30 NBA teams

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The VSiN experts have been hard at work this fall, writing up team previews and predictions for all 30 NBA teams, including their favorite individual season win total wagers.

Here are team previews for all 30 NBA franchises:

Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics

Head coach: Joe Mazzulla (first year)

Additions: Danilo Gallinari, Malcolm Brogdon

Losses: Aaron Nesmith, Daniel Theis

Draft: JD Davison (Round 2, Pick 53)

Projected starters: Marcus Smart (PG), Jaylen Brown (SG), Jayson Tatum (SF), Al Horford (PF), Robert Williams III (C)

It has hardly been a positive offseason for Boston after its berth in the NBA Finals. The Celtics’ offseason addition of Danilo Gallinari was lost for the season due to a knee injury, and starting center Robert Williams had to undergo his own knee procedure which will sideline him for 8-12 weeks. On top of that, it seems Ime Udoka’s time in Boston is all but done after he was suspended for the season. Still, the Celtics are a highly rated team with championship aspirations in a highly competitive Eastern Conference.

The loss of Williams is a massive blow for the Celtics, who are not exactly replete with depth at the center position. Al Horford will be part of the team’s starting five at the beginning of the season, but the rotation behind him will consist of Luke Kornet or Grant Williams as a small-ball option. Perhaps Kornet becomes more effective in a Robert Williams role — being lined up on the worst offensive player and then playing off them as a help defender — but his numbers are not great in his first few years in the league. He is also not the lob threat that Williams is, which eliminates that facet of Boston’s game. Center has become a position which most teams just fill with veteran bodies and put little resources into, but it was an integral part of what the Celtics did last season and the lack of depth at the position will hurt them at times once the regular season begins.

Once the Celtics are healthy, they are going to be a threat to win the Eastern Conference. The addition of Malcolm Brogdon gives them another combo guard who can assist with the playmaking this team was lacking. In clutch minutes last season, Boston had a -9.5 net rating and averaged just 0.977 points per possession, both marks ranking 26th in the league. The Celtics’ offense sputtered in close games, so the presence of Brogdon should help alleviate that issue, and he fits with any combination of Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Those four are each fantastic defenders as well, so even without Williams this team will be able to defend at a very high level. Smart, Brown and Tatum held opponents to 101.7 points per 100 possessions when on the floor together and Brogdon improved Indiana’s defensive rating by 5.5 points per 100 possessions last season. That makes for a very switchable and capable group of defenders, and bettors should expect Boston to finish as a top defensive unit again, especially once Williams makes his way back to the floor.

Boston has the highest win total on the board (53.5) at multiple shops and for good reason, but one must wonder what an extended absence of Williams does from a wins perspective. He underwent surgery at the end of September, and if his recovery takes 12 weeks, we won’t see him on the floor until January. The market rates the Celtics as the best team in the league, and thus their win total is shaded a touch higher than it should be. Given the depth concerns at center and Williams’ absence, it would not be the smartest investment to bet this team Over its win total. 

Win total recommendation: Under 53.5

Brooklyn Nets

Head coach: Steve Nash (third year)

Additions: T.J. Warren, Royce O’Neale, Markieff Morris

Losses: Andre Drummond, Bruce Brown, Goran Dragic, Blake Griffin, James Johnson

Draft: None

Projected starters: Kyrie Irving (PG), Seth Curry (SG), Royce O’Neale (SF), Kevin Durant (PF), Ben Simmons (C)

There is no denying the Nets’ potential if health improves, certain players buy into their roles and all the pieces fall into place. That is a big ask for a team which has shown none of those qualities since coming together, and there is no faulting anyone doubting their ability to be successful. However, if this team finds its potential, the league is in trouble.

Steve Nash has a few options for his regular starting lineup. He could roll with Nic Claxton at center and Ben Simmons at power forward, which could work, though it would put two non-shooters and poor free-throw shooters on the floor together. The defensive potential of that pairing is there, but for the sake of this preview, we have rolled with a lineup which is likely going to be the closing lineup for Nash if it’s available. Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry, Royce O’Neale and Kevin Durant are all shooters who need to be respected by opposing defenses. O’Neale shot 38.0% on catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts last season and Curry hit 47.0% of those attempts, making them perfect complements to two ball-dominant players like Irving and Durant. Simmons fits well in this offense in a Draymond Green-type role, facilitating and screening as Irving and Durant operate off ball. Simmons and O’Neale also give this lineup two solid on-ball defenders who can take on an opponent’s better offensive weapons. Overall, this lineup has high upside on offense with enough on defense to allow it to be on the floor in clutch minutes.

Brooklyn’s depth could also turn out to be a strength this season. Patty Mills and Joe Harris are career 38.9% and 43.9% 3-point shooters, and both can fill different roles off the bench. Mills played some point guard last season for the Nets — Brooklyn was outscored by 3.7 points per 100 possessions in those minutes — and Harris is an underrated team defender. Cam Thomas is a one-dimensional scorer, but he can handle the ball and facilitation has been stressed as part of his offseason regiment. The signing of T.J. Warren could turn out to be a brilliant one if he can stay healthy. That is not to say the depth is perfect. The Nets lack a true backup point guard with the ability to play downhill and draw fouls, and the roster lacks true centers behind Claxton, as Day’Ron Sharpe is severely undersized for the position. Perhaps Thomas emerges as a better point guard option this season, but one can clearly see some flaws with the team’s depth.

This is an extremely talented roster overall, and when a team has scorers at the level of Irving and Durant, it is going to be a threat to win a title. However, this team has been held down by so much nonsense unrelated to basketball, it’s hard to fault a single person who does not believe this roster will stay intact for an 82-game schedule. That doesn’t even factor in the lengthy injury history of Durant and Irving, who are almost guaranteed to miss an extended period. Are the Nets capable of winning 50 or more games this season? Absolutely. Is it likely given what we know? No. The high win total on Brooklyn is 51.5 at FanDuel and that is a number to go Under on, even at the -142 price.

Win total recommendation: Under 51.5

New York Knicks

Head coach: Tom Thibodeau (third year)

Additions: Jalen Brunson, Isaiah Hartenstein

Losses: Alec Burks, Kemba Walker, Taj Gibson, Nerlens Noel

Draft: Trevor Keels (Round 2, Pick 42)

Projected starters: Jalen Brunson (PG), Evan Fournier (SG), RJ Barrett (SF), Julius Randle (PF), Mitchell Robinson (C)

New York might not have landed both of its coveted targets in the offseason, but it landed one and that makes it a successful summer for the Knickerbockers. The expectations should not be too high, but New York will be a respectable club with a realistic opportunity to find its way back to the postseason by way of the play-in tournament.

When Evan Fournier, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson were on the floor together last season, they were outscored by 5.3 points per 100 possessions. Even with Tom Thibodeau on the bench, those four had a defensive rating of 115.8 and opponents took advantage of a poor interior defense which allowed 67.5% shooting at the rim. On offense, they fared no better, ranking in the 36th percentile of lineups in offensive efficiency at 110.5 points per 100 possessions. Despite those pedestrian numbers, the Knicks are running it back once more, but with Jalen Brunson filling the role of point guard. How much better does Brunson really make this lineup? In his minutes at point guard last season, the Mavericks were + 6.4 per 100 possessions, and he’s a solid passer who assisted on 23.8% of the made baskets when he was on the floor. However, in two of four seasons he made the Mavericks’ defensive rating worse in his minutes on the floor, and last season they gave up 2.7 more points per 100 possessions with him out there. Can he positively contribute to a bad defensive unit like the one New York is going to roll out to start games?

The Knicks’ bench is the best thing the team has going for it, and it is full of young pieces. Third-year player Immanuel Quickley has been stupendous in his time as a pro, and last season the Knicks outscored opponents by 6.7 points per 100 possessions. He improved as a passer as well and assisted on 23.5% of the made baskets when on the floor. If Thibodeau really buys into him as the primary option off the bench, he is a real candidate for Sixth Man of the Year or Most Improved. Isaiah Hartenstein is a great rim protector. When he was on the floor, opponents’ rim shooting dropped by 6.2% and he blocked 3.3% of shot attempts. Obi Toppin is a great offensive asset who injects some speed into the Knicks. New York’s transition frequency increased by 2.7% in his minutes, and in his minutes at power forward, the Knicks were + 8.0 per 100 possessions. Then there is Quentin Grimes, a young piece who is coming off a brilliant summer in which he led the Knicks to a berth in the Summer League championship.

New York was one of the most overvalued teams in the preseason last year due to an overachieving season that captured the hearts of the betting market. The expectations are not there this year, so we see a consensus win total of 38.5 at most shops. This starting lineup does not excite anybody, but Brunson is a good player and some of the potential lineups we could see him in have potential considering the reserves this team has built up. I hate to say it as the resident “New York Hater,” but 38.5 is too low.

Win total recommendation: Over 38.5

Philadelphia 76ers

Head coach: Doc Rivers (third year)

Additions: P.J. Tucker, De’Anthony Melton, Danuel House, Montrezl Harrell

Losses: Danny Green, DeAndre Jordan, Paul Millsap

Draft: None

Projected starters: James Harden (PG), Tyrese Maxey (SG), Tobias Harris (SF), P.J. Tucker (PF), Joel Embiid (C)

When last season ended, Philadelphia had some clear flaws it needed to address, and the team did just that with the acquisitions it made via trade and free agency. Now the 76ers come into this season better than they were, and with a full offseason to get James Harden acclimated to the system, this team is truly a contender in the Eastern Conference.

The primary issue Philadelphia needed to fix was its production when Joel Embiid left the floor. Last season, the 76ers went from an offensive rating of 116.9 to 109.7 when Embiid left the floor and were outscored by 3.4 points per 100 possessions without him out there. Even the minutes with Harden on the floor but without Embiid were a nightmare (-11.6 net rating), but this season should be better with a deeper bench. De’Anthony Melton is a great option off the bench who averaged 10.8 points per game and shot 48.4% on corner 3-point attempts last season. He can also run the point, and that showed when Memphis was + 7.8 in the minutes he was at the position. The team also brought in Montrezl Harrell, a dynamic offensive weapon who has improved his team’s offensive rating every season but one when he was on the floor. Danuel House is a decent 3-and-D wing to add to the bench, and with stayover pieces like Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton, Doc Rivers has a much deeper bench than he had last season.

Not only is the depth improved, but so is the starting lineup. When Embiid and Harden shared the floor, this offense scored 124.1 points per 100 possessions and posted a + 15.8 net rating. Those two should still form one of the more devastating offensive duos in the league, but now they have a true primary defender in PJ Tucker who can also add to the offense with his ability to hit corner 3-pointers (41.0% last season). In our projected starting lineup we have Tyrese Maxey, and he and Harden give the 76ers two ball-handlers on the floor at once. Philadelphia’s transition frequency increased with Maxey on the floor, and he improved the 76ers’ overall efficiency in transition as well as their points added per 100 possessions in the fastbreak. Those four with Tobias Harris, who is a great pull-up shooter (43.9% from 3-point range), give the 76ers’ starting unit versatility in scoring options.

There is no perfect team and Philadelphia is far from that. There are still concerns about the backup center position as there remains no true big behind Embiid, and the defense for this bench is still going to be an issue. However, the top end of the roster is among the best in the NBA, and if Harden finds the version of himself who was an MVP candidate in his first season in Brooklyn, this team is a threat to Milwaukee and Boston in the East. It is surely a threat to win quite a few games in the regular season. The lowest total in the market is 50.5 at DraftKings, a total worth playing at a modest -120 (54.5% implied probability) price.

Win total recommendation: Over 50.5

Toronto Raptors

Head coach: Nick Nurse (fifth year)

Additions: Otto Porter Jr., Josh Jackson

Losses: Svi Mykhailiuk, Yuta Watanabe

Draft: Christian Koloko (Round 2, Pick 33)

Projected starters: Fred VanVleet (PG), Gary Trent Jr. (SG), OG Anunoby (SF), Scottie Barnes (PF), Pascal Siakam (C)

Injuries were the story for Toronto throughout the 2021-2022 season, and they played a huge role in a first-round loss to Philadelphia. The additions the Raptors made in the offseason were few, but they are near-perfect fits for this roster. This team does not project to be among the contenders, but with positive health this will be one of the hardest outs each night and possibly in the postseason.

Our projected starting lineup for Toronto is the one it used most last season. However, the returns were average so it will be interesting to see if Nick Nurse makes any adjustments as the season progresses. When Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam shared the floor, they only outscored opponents by 1.8 points per 100 possessions. Defense was this lineup’s calling card. They allowed just 107.8 points per 100 possessions, 90.7 points per 100 plays in halfcourt settings and were among the best lineups in the league at forcing turnovers (16.9% turnover rate). Those steals turned into points, as this group added 2.7 points per 100 plays in transition off steals last season, and that figures to be one of its strengths yet again. Having said that, offense is not an overall strength for this team and it’s why there is a gap between the Raptors and the elites of the Eastern Conference.

Toronto finished just 16th in non-garbage time offensive efficiency last season (112.9) and what was supposed to be their best lineup averaged just 109.6 points per 100 possessions. This is because they have almost no presence offensively in halfcourt settings. For the season, the Raptors ranked 26th in halfcourt offensive efficiency (91.3) and their most used lineup was not much better at 94.4 per 100 plays. What this team is missing is a true north-south presence which can attack the basket, draw fouls and finish within 4 feet. This team was 24th in offensive free throw rate (17.8) last season and 26th in frequency of attempts at the rim (30.2%). Those are similar figures to what this team has put out each of the last two seasons and its weaknesses remain, so the Raptors will likely finish in the same area of the standings this season.

There is a lot to like about the Raptors. They have a dynamic young piece in Scottie Barnes and they are one of the most athletic teams in the league with length and speed. However, when their best addition is Otto Porter Jr. and the front office does nothing to address its biggest weaknesses, it’s hard to invest in this team’s regular-season and postseason success. The SuperBook has the highest win total on the board at 47 at a -110 price on both sides. Better health should lead to more consistency for Toronto, but to invest in this team to match or surpass its win total from last season is not the way to go.

Win total recommendation: Under 47

Central Division

Chicago Bulls

Head coach: Billy Donovan (third year)

Additions: Andre Drummond, Goran Dragic

Losses: Troy Brown Jr.

Draft: Dalen Terry (Round 1, Pick 18)

Projected starters: Coby White (PG), Zach LaVine (SG), DeMar DeRozan (SF), Patrick Williams (PF), Nikola Vucevic (C)

After a Cinderella start to the season that saw Chicago in control of the top seed in the Eastern Conference for a stretch, the Bulls turned back into a pumpkin in the second half. They went 8-15 SU/9-14 ATS with a -7.1 net rating after the All-Star break, and were unceremoniously ousted from the postseason by Milwaukee. Unfortunately, injuries are already threatening to derail a new season in the Windy City.

Readers of this guide will notice immediately that the projected starting point guard for Chicago is not Lonzo Ball. That is because Ball’s injured knee continues to bother him, and he is expected to be reevaluated in 4-to-6 weeks after undergoing yet another procedure. Billy Donovan has said that point guard will be decided in camp, but for the sake of this guide we have penciled in Coby White. When White ran the offense with Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan on the floor, the Bulls posted a + 8.7 net rating and averaged 121.5 points per 100 possessions. Statistically, he was one of the better options at the position, is coming off a career year and started 54 games for Donovan in his first season as head coach. That being said, this figures to be a lineup with quite a few shortcomings on defense and it’s likely that net rating is not going to be replicated.

Defense was an issue for Chicago last season, and Ball’s absence was a massive reason why this team finished 22nd in non-garbage time defensive efficiency (114.1). When he and Alex Caruso were not on the floor, the Bulls’ lineups ranked in the 10th percentile of defensive efficiency (119.1) and they were outscored by 3.2 points per 100 possessions. Caruso is healthy as the season begins, so he will be able to raise this team’s floor on that end – he improved their defensive rating last season by 8.5 points per 100 possessions when on the floor – but he is really their lone plus-defender with Ball sidelined. Patrick Williams projects to be a decent defender, but he has yet to have a positive statistical impact on that end of the floor in his career, and Ayo Dosunmu was very poor on defense his rookie season. Even if Caruso plays a full year, it’s hard to see this team finish much higher than it did in the defensive standings.

There were plenty of indicators in the first half of last season that Chicago was not the team its record said it was, and sure enough the Bulls were exposed. This season, they will not have Ball to begin the year, and their defense projects to be much closer to the unit which allowed 117.9 points per 100 possessions after the All-Star break. Having a full season from Patrick Williams will help the Bulls, but his presence does not improve them drastically from a power rating standpoint. There is a wide variety of win totals in the market with the consensus 41.5 available at most shops. However, those who are looking to bet this win total Under should go shopping at SuperBook, where the Bulls have a 43.5 win total at -110 odds. With the Eastern Conference improving around them, it’s hard to see Chicago winning 44 or more games this season.

Win total recommendation: Under 43.5

Cleveland Cavaliers

Head coach: J.B. Bickerstaff (third year)

Additions: Donovan Mitchell, Robin Lopez, Ricky Rubio, Raul Neto

Losses: Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton, Rajon Rondo, Brandon Goodwin

Draft: Ochai Agbaji* (Round 1, Pick 14), Khalifa Diop (Round 2, Pick 39), Isaiah Mobley (Round 2, Pick 49), Luke Travers (Round 2, Pick 56)           

Projected starters: Darius Garland (PG), Donovan Mitchell (SG), Isaac Okoro (SF), Evan Mobley (PF), Jarrett Allen (C)

Cleveland turned heads when it swooped in and acquired Donovan Mitchell in September. The move is one that puts the Cavaliers in the mix for the next few seasons, but they are hardly a perfectly constructed roster this season. Still, they have one of the best defensive frontcourts in the league and a backcourt loaded with talent that will make them a brutal out every night.

Mitchell might be the big name, but the backbone of this team is going to be the frontcourt pairing of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. When those two were on the floor together, the Cavaliers were incredible on defense. Opponents averaged just 105.7 points per 100 possessions, shot 54.4% at the rim and put up 87.8 points per 100 plays in halfcourt settings in those possessions, all numbers which ranked in the 94th percentile or better. However, despite such a dominant defensive output, Cleveland only outscored opponents by a paltry 2.9 points per 100 possessions due to an offense which scored just 108.6 points per 100 possessions. That is where Mitchell comes in. Mitchell gives the Cavaliers a shot creator and scorer that they desperately lacked last season. Darius Garland filled the role admirably, but when he left the floor, it was clear they had no other outlet offensively. In the possessions with Garland on the floor last season, Cleveland averaged 115.2 points per 100 possessions compared to 106.1 per 100 possessions when he was off the floor. Mitchell’s presence clearly alleviates those scoring issues, and there will likely be plenty of lineups in which those two are staggered to give the Cavaliers a primary scorer on the floor as often as possible.

There are still plenty of flaws with this roster though. The one that looms largest is the lack of a true wing that can challenge others along the perimeter. Isaac Okoro is somewhat undersized for that role at 6-foot-6 and he has never been an overly positive defender. He also has no value on offense and opposing defenses regularly played off him, allowing him to take open shots and he could not make them pay as he shot 35.2% from deep last season. The only other player that at least fits the physical profile of a wing is Cedi Osman who has been a turnstile on defense throughout his career. There is also the matter of how that primary backcourt of Garland and Mitchell operate on defense. Cleveland could play a decent amount of drop coverage to mask the defensive shortcomings of its backcourt, but that style has its limitations, especially when your big is not Rudy Gobert. Mobley and Allen are incredible defenders, but their presence can only cover up so much if there are breakdowns at the point of attack.

It is easy to see why the betting markets got so high on Cleveland with the addition of Mitchell. It gives a young, upstart team an offensive star that fills one of the biggest holes on its roster. However, the excitement about the addition of Mitchell is causing the masses to overlook the flaws this team still has when it comes to roster construction. The move of adding Mitchell is one that allows the Cavaliers to build for the next few seasons, not this one. Every win total for Cleveland is set for 47.5 and that is too high for this team. Most might see a team that won 44 games last season and believe that Mitchell adds those four wins this season, but it’s not that simple. Look for this team to stay Under its win total despite the splashy move.

Win total recommendation: Under 47.5

Detroit Pistons

Head Coach: Dwayne Casey (fifth year)

Additions: Kemba Walker, Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel, Bojan Bogdanovic

Losses: Jerami Grant, Luka Garza, Frank Jackson

Draft: Jaden Ivey (Round 1, Pick 5), Jalen Duren (Round 1, Pick 13), Gabriele Procida (Round 2, Pick 36)

Projected starters: Cade Cunningham (PG), Jaden Ivey (SG), Saddiq Bey (SF), Bojan Bogdanovic (PF), Isaiah Stewart (C)

Detroit got off to a rocky start in the 2021-2022 season, but the youngsters in the Motor City finished the season strong and they look like a group primed to turn some heads this season. The Pistons may have only gone 10-14 SU after the All-Star break, but they were 18-6 ATS in those contests and at one point covered 10 straight and 14 of 15 games, which is a great indication of growth.

If the Pistons are going to capitalize on the momentum captured at the end of last season, then Cade Cunningham is going to have to pick up where he left off. Due to an ankle sprain, Cunningham missed some time to start the year and subsequently got off to a slow start by averaging 15.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists on 38.1% shooting from the floor in his first 29 games. As he got healthier his game improved, and he averaged 19.2 points on 44.2% shooting from the floor over his last 35 games. He improved Detroit’s net rating by 4.0 points every 100 possessions and assisted on 28.2% of made baskets in those possessions. Cunningham is going to be the driving force for this team, but there are still plenty of young pieces that will grow with him. Saddiq Bey has been a great pro since being drafted, and while his efficiency dipped in his second season, he showed growth as a passer (13.8% assist rate) and is a career 39% shooter from the corner. Rookie Jaden Ivey fits perfectly in this lineup as a secondary ball-handler that can play off-ball next to Cunningham or as the primary guard when he is off the floor. Isaiah Stewart has been a decent rebounder (11.2% offensive rebounding rate) and shot blocker (2.2% block rate) in his time in the league as well.

It's not all youngsters either. Bojan Bogdanovic comes over in the offseason via trade and should take over the starting power forward job. Bogdanovic might not be as effective as he once was, but he’s still an efficient shooter who shot 41.4% of his corner 3-point attempts and 38.9% overall last season. Alec Burks is dealing with a foot injury that will limit him to start the season, but he’s a solid scoring threat off the bench who shot 40.5% or better his last two seasons in New York. These two will improve one of Detroit’s biggest weaknesses last season, as the Pistons finished 29th in 3-point percentage (33.2%). Then there is Cory Joseph, who has improved the Pistons’ net rating each of his two seasons with the team and can play some solid defense on opposing guards. He and Cunningham worked well together when on the floor, and the lineup with the most possessions that featured those two posted a + 4.2 net rating, which is a massive positive for a team like the Pistons.

Detroit has a solid mix of young and veteran players this season and should the youngsters like Cunningham and Bey continue their current trajectory this team is a great candidate to improve on its standing from last season. In the offseason, the Pistons have been one of the movers on the board. Circa Sports opened them at a market low of 26.5 and this team is 29.5 at a vast majority of shops now. There is still some value in that number, but it is very slight and should only be played if bettors can get -110 odds or better.

Win total recommendation: Over 29.5

Indiana Pacers

Head coach: Rick Carlisle (second year)

Additions: Aaron Nesmith, Daniel Theis

Losses: Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. Warren

Draft: Benedict Mathurin (Round 1, Pick 6), Andrew Nembhard (Round 2, Pick 31), Kendall Brown (Round 2, Pick 48), Hugo Besson (Round 2, Pick 58)

Projected starters: Tyrese Haliburton (PG), Chris Duarte (SG), Buddy Hield (SF), Jalen Smith (PF), Myles Turner (C)

Indiana has entered a partial rebuild and its put this roster in a weird spot. There are talented veterans like Buddy Hield and Myles Turner, as well as potential young stars in Tyrese Haliburton and Chris Duarte. Hield and Turner could be traded before the season begins, which would accelerate a youth movement that desperately needs to happen.

The backcourt is a position of strength for this team, and the best piece is Haliburton. In 26 games for the Pacers last season, Haliburton averaged 1.279 points per shot attempt and improved their net rating by 3.2 points per 100 possessions in his time on the floor. He put up 17.5 points and 9.6 assists per game and flashed his potential as a cornerstone piece for Indiana’s future. Duarte had his moments as well, albeit nowhere near what Haliburton showed in his short time as a Pacer. As a rookie, Duarte averaged 13.1 points and 4.1 rebounds on 43.2% shooting from the floor while putting forth some decent play on the defensive end. He’s also a solid rebounder who grabbed 12.1% of available defensive rebounds while on the floor. When he and Haliburton were on the floor, Indiana’s defense allowed just 107.2 points per 100 possessions, and some of those lineups showed real potential on both ends. Rookie Bennedict Mathurin should fit nicely with these two given his ability to shoot and defend, giving Rick Carlisle three young guards with some high ceilings to work with.

While backcourt depth should not be a problem for Indiana, frontcourt depth is another conversation entirely. Turner is a known commodity, but if he is shipped off at some point then the center position becomes very thin. Isaiah Jackson was decent in 32 games last season as a rookie, but with him at center the Pacers allowed 120.6 points per 100 possessions. He grabbed 12.0% of his teammates’ missed shots and blocked 4.7% of opposing shot attempts in his time on the floor, but if his role is expanded those numbers will dip and his weaknesses as a defender will be exposed. Goga Bitadze is a solid offensive option at the five and improved Indiana’s offensive rating by 7.0 points per 100 possessions in his time on the floor, but he is a poor defender, and the Pacers had a 119.3 defensive rating with him at center while opponents shot 69.5% at the rim in those minutes. Jalen Smith is an intriguing prospect and a good rebounder, but he is still an unknown with just 66 games played in his career.

The consensus win total for Indiana is 23.5, which is the second-lowest total on the board at almost every shop in the country, and it is hard to argue against that number. Guard might be a position of strength, but this might be one of the worst frontcourt rotations in the league, especially if Myles Turner is traded, which is a very real possibility. There is also the risk of this team punting on the season after the All-Star break and tanking for a shot at the top pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. With that in mind, the only recommendation would be to look Under, but it’s not a bet worth making either way.

Win total recommendation: Under 23.5

Milwaukee Bucks

Head coach: Mike Budenholzer (fifth year)

Additions: Joe Ingles

Losses: None

Draft: MarJon Beauchamp (Round 1, Pick 24)

Projected starters: Jrue Holiday (PG), Grayson Allen (SG), Khris Middleton (SF), Giannis Antetokounmpo (PF), Brook Lopez (C)

Injuries at the beginning and end of the season to key players are what sunk Milwaukee’s chances at a second consecutive title last season. The Bucks will have to navigate some injuries once more as the season tips off, but if this team is healthy once the postseason begins it is one of the best in the league with one of the best players in the world on its roster.

The unfortunate part about what Milwaukee is dealing with when it comes to injury is that it is clustered at one position along the wing at small forward. Khris Middleton is not going to be ready at the beginning of the season as he continues to recover from a wrist injury, and Joe Ingles is recovering from a torn ACL. That means that it is very likely Pat Connaughton will be a regular member of this starting lineup when the season begins, and it’s also part of the reason why the front office brought back reserve forward Jordan Nwora who played in 62 games for them last season. Obviously, the core pieces remain at key positions for Milwaukee, but being thin at one of the most important positions in basketball could mean a somewhat slow start for the Bucks, much like last season when the Bucks were just 31-21 through 52 games.

Once healthy, however, this is going to be a fantastic team. Their primary trio of Jrue Holiday, Middleton and Antetokounmpo are arguably the best in the NBA and when those three were on the floor together last season they outscored opponents by 12.6 points per 100 possessions. Lopez is coming off his worst season as a Buck, but that is due in large part to him recovering from back surgery. Now that he had a full offseason with no surgical procedure, he should be able to produce similarly to the player he’s been for a majority of his Milwaukee career. This team also made one of the better moves this offseason in adding Ingles. Once he and Middleton are available, the Bucks have a fantastic small forward tandem and it gives Milwaukee shooting off the bench, something they missed dearly when they shot 29.5% in their series loss to Boston.

Simply put, the Bucks are once again one of the best teams in the NBA. Antetokounmpo is the second choice to win MVP at DraftKings and tied with Draymond Green for the fourth-highest odds to win Defensive Player of the Year. If he is active, Milwaukee is going to compete for a title, and its depth will be much greater with Ingle come playoff time. However, the regular season is a different story, especially with the injuries at small forward. The Bucks’ win total is 52.5 across the board, which is representative of their power rating, but not of their actual situation. This team’s goal will be health this season, and that could lead to a lower seed once again as they look to maintain their key pieces’ bodies entering the playoffs. Factor in improvements to Eastern Conference foes like Philadelphia, Atlanta and Cleveland as well as a full season of a fully realized Boston team, and looking Under the win total for Milwaukee makes all the sense in the world.

Win total recommendation: Under 52.5

Southeast Division

Atlanta Hawks

Head coach: Nate McMillan (third year)

Additions: Aaron Holiday, Frank Kaminsky, Maurice Harkless, Justin Holiday, Dejounte Murray

Losses: Danilo Gallinari, Kevin Huerter, Delon Wright

Draft: A.J. Griffin (Round 1, Pick 16), Tyrese Martin (Round 2, Pick 51)

Projected starters: Trae Young (PG), Dejounte Murray (SG), De’Andre Hunter (SF), John Collins (PF), Clint Capela (C)

The 2021-2022 season was a disappointing one for Atlanta, which was coming off a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals. So, the Hawks’ front office got busy and made one of the biggest moves in the offseason: trading for Dejounte Murray. Now, Atlanta is primed for another run at a title with one of the best backcourts in the league.

The obvious strength of this team will be its offense, largely due to the presence of Trae Young. Young is coming off an incredible season in which he averaged 28.4 points and 9.7 assists per game on a career-high 1.211 points per shot attempt. With Murray alongside, things can only get better for Young and this Hawks offense, which finished second in non-garbage time offensive efficiency (116.3). Murray can play either guard spot and is a triple-double waiting to happen. He averaged 21.1 PPG, 8.3 RPG and 9.2 APG last season, and is a quality defender who improved the Spurs’ defensive rating by 2.4 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor. He and DeAndre Hunter – if he can stay healthy – give the Hawks two plus-defenders that can match up with the opponents’ primary threat both along the perimeter and on the wing. Clint Capela is a known rim protector who blocked 2.3% of opponent shot attempts when he was on the floor. 

Defense is where this Hawks team can show some real improvement with Murray in the fold. Atlanta finished 26th in non-garbage time defensive efficiency last season (114.8) and had the 14th-best net rating (+ 1.5) despite having the second-best offense. Murray’s presence should bring this team’s defensive floor up, and bettors should expect a higher defensive ranking as a result.

Atlanta has some quality depth to lean on as well. Bogdan Bogdanovic has been great since joining the team, improving the team’s net rating when he is on the floor each season, including a career-best + 5.8 efficiency differential last season. He’s also a great shooter who hit 47.3% of his corner 3-point attempts. Onyeka Okongwu showed some incredible improvement last season, and with him on the floor the Hawks were + 4.9 per 100 possessions. He also has an incredible knack for extending possessions (12.3% offensive rebounding rate) while also serving as a deterrent at the rim (3.2% block rate). The depth does drop off somewhat after these two players, though. Aaron Holiday figures to be the primary backup point guard, and his brother Justin is one of the first wings off the bench (along with Maurice Harkless). If rookie sharp-shooter AJ Griffin – shot 44.7% for Duke last season – can find his stroke early, then this bench gets better, but health will be key for Atlanta this season.

It's hard not to like what the Hawks did this offseason in adding Murray. He fits well next to Young and getting Young in more off-ball sets will add a fascinating wrinkle to this offense. The depth is somewhat concerning, but they still have quality pieces to form a solid rotation should this team have a healthy season. The market consensus on the win total for this team is 45.5 with a high of 46.5 at SuperBook and Circa and a low of 44.5 at Barstool. The price on the Over 44.5 is -134 (57.3% implied probability) which is a fair price for that number. Atlanta will prioritize winning a top seed this season unlike some of the contenders around them and is very much a contender to go over 44.5 wins.

Win total recommendation: Over 44.5

Charlotte Hornets

Head coach: Steve Clifford (first year)

Additions: None

Losses: Miles Bridges, Montrezl Harrell

Draft: Mark Williams (Round 1, Pick 15), Bryce McGowens (Round 2, Pick 40) 

Projected starters: LaMelo Ball (PG), Terry Rozier (SG), Gordon Hayward (SF), P.J. Washington (PF), Mason Plumlee (C)

Charlotte’s promising youth movement has hit a small bump in the road. The Hornets’ core remains, but Miles Bridges is gone and in a desperate move the team brought back Steve Clifford for a second stint (Clifford previously coached the Bobcats/Hornets from 2013 to 2018). The culture here had gone sour under James Borrego, so it will be fascinating to see how a young team responds to the grizzled, defensive-minded Clifford.

How Clifford meshes with a young team with flawed defenders is the biggest question for Charlotte heading into the season. The Hornets posted the third-highest transition frequency rate in the NBA last season, starting 16.8% of their possessions with a transition play, according to Cleaning The Glass. They were also highly efficient in transition, leading the league in points added per 100 possessions through transition offense (+ 4.2) while ranking third in overall offensive efficiency in transition (132.8 points per 100 plays). Overall, the Hornets finished sixth in non-garbage time offensive efficiency (114.8) and they were analytically sound in their approach, ranking second in frequency of corner 3-point attempts (11.9%), third in rim frequency (37.7%) and 10th in overall 3-point frequency (38.8%). 

Clifford’s teams have never been fast paced, though: In his three seasons in Orlando, the Magic finished no higher than 17th in pace and were 10th and 11th in percentage of plays in half-court settings the last two seasons. Clifford has already made comments about adjusting his philosophies as a head coach, but on the surface this seems to be an odd fit.

Then there is the matter of this team as a defensive group. Despite finishing the season as one of the best offensive teams in the league, they only outscored opponents by 1.2 points per 100 possessions because of a defense that allowed 113.6 points per 100 possessions. Charlotte was awful on the perimeter, allowing the second-highest rate of wide-open 3-point attempts (22.3%) with an opponent shooting percentage 37.7%. Will Clifford’s defensive system be able to get a better defensive effort from a team that lacked intensity on that end of the floor? Who is this team’s best defender? It might be Terry Rozier or PJ Washington, the latter of whom has had the bigger impact statistically on the defensive end of the floor, but this team lacks a truly impactful defender. Even with Clifford on the bench, it's hard to see a high jump in the defensive standings given this team’s personnel.

Charlotte has surpassed its win total each of the last two seasons thanks to a great young core that has been incredible on offense. However, this team is clearly worse with the loss of Bridges and their coaching hire in the offseason seems to be a contrasting one. The Hornets might still be the 10th-best team in the Eastern Conference, but their record will suffer given how much better conference foes like Philadelphia, Atlanta and Cleveland – even Detroit – got in the offseason. The betting market has accounted for the Hornets’ regression, and we see that in the market consensus win total of 36.5 with a high of 37 at Circa Sports. Under would be the only way to look for this team, even given the market adjustment.

Win total recommendation: Under 37

Miami Heat

Head coach: Erik Spoelstra (15th year)

Additions: None

Losses: P.J. Tucker, Markieff Morris

Draft: Nikola Jovic (Round 1, Pick 27)

Projected starters: Kyle Lowry (PG), Tyler Herro (SG), Jimmy Butler (SF), Caleb Martin (PF), Bam Adebayo (C)

After a successful season in which Miami won the top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Heat enter the new campaign with an arguably worse roster and questions about depth. However, this is where the Heat love to be – it would be fitting for a blue-collar team like Miami to surprise the league yet again with another big season despite the personnel issues it faces.

When Erik Spoelstra met with the media on the first day of training camp, he mentioned that changes would be coming for Miami, and a look at our projected starting lineup reflects those changes. Tyler Herro is thrust into a starting role at shooting guard and Caleb Martin joins the starting rotation as a power forward. The move for both comes out of necessity, as this Heat roster does lack some real depth. PJ Tucker’s departure leaves a hole at the 4 –one which could be filled by Jae Crowder should he be acquired, something the Heat are reportedly exploring – and that means Miami’s potential starting group is very undersized. Herro and Martin are both listed at 6-foot-5 and Kyle Lowry is 6-feet tall. Even Bam Adebayo is undersized as a 6-9 center, which means this team could be hurting on the glass against teams with size. Lowry, Butler and Adebayo are all incredible defenders though, and they are all sound enough with their rotations that even a weak link on that end of the floor like Herro can be accounted for. The Heat finished fourth in non-garbage time defensive efficiency last season (109.2) and fifth in half-court defensive efficiency (92.0), and there is no reason this team should not be a top 10 unit once again, albeit probably closer to 10th given the absence of Tucker.

Offensively, this team should still be an effective unit as well. Last season, Miami thrived in transition, ranking first in offensive efficiency in transition off live rebounds (129.6) and second in points added per 100 possessions through transition offense off live rebounds (+ 1.9). They were a great shooting team as well, leading the league in 3-point percentage (38.6%) while finishing second in above-the-break shooting (37.2%) and fourth in corner shooting (41.5%). However, where this offense comes from once Spoelstra goes to the bench is a question. 

Herro averaged 20.7 PPG in 56 games off the bench, and if he shifts to the starting lineup then the best scorer off the bench is one of Gabe Vincent, Max Strus or Victor Oladipo. One could point to the likes of Oladipo taking that role of bench scorer, but his efficiency dipped dramatically in the postseason where he averaged 10.6 PPG on just 0.973 points per shot attempt. How will he look over the course of a regular season?

Miami is still going to be a good team, and as Spoelstra has shown he will get the most out of any roster he is given. But the way this team is priced should give bettors pause. The market consensus win total is 49.5 – five more wins than their divisional rival Atlanta – and there is not much separating these two right now. In fact, there might not be much separating them from Cleveland, either, and there is still the overall parity of the conference. It will be a sweat, but going Under and expecting 49 or fewer wins is the way to go for Miami this season.

Win total recommendation: Under 49.5

Orlando Magic

Head coach: Jamahl Mosley (second year)

Additions: None

Losses: Robin Lopez

Draft: Paolo Banchero (Round 1, Pick 1), Caleb Houstan (Round 2, Pick 32)

Projected starters: Cole Anthony (PG), Jalen Suggs (SG), Franz Wagner (SF), Paolo Banchero (PF), Wendell Carter Jr. (C)

Contrary to popular belief, there are quite a few things to like about the Orlando Magic this season. However, injuries continue to hamper this team and the group is dealing with them at three key cogs at the start of training camp. If the Magic can get healthy, there is potential for real growth this season.

The strength of this team is absolutely its frontcourt pieces. Franz Wagner had a rookie campaign which would have won him Rookie of the Year in any other season. He averaged 15.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists on 1.119 points per shot attempt, and when he was on the floor he improved the Magic’s net rating by 8.8 points per 100 possessions. Wendell Carter Jr. had his best season as a professional in 2021-2022 and his + 10.0 efficiency differential was the best on the team. When Wagner and Carter shared the floor, Orlando was just -0.1 per 100 possessions and opponents put up just 110.4 points per 100 possessions. Added to that mix this season is No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero, which gives the Magic a frontcourt of three skilled 6-foot-10 forwards which could cause problems for smaller squads to match up with.  How those three eventually fit together will be fascinating to watch, but if that trio is to have success, this backcourt needs to be available, which is already starting to be an issue.

As of this publication, three backcourt pieces are set to miss time as the season approaches. Markelle Fultz is out indefinitely with a toe injury, Jalen Suggs is recovering from a procedure on his ankle and Gary Harris underwent his own surgical procedure on his left knee. That means at the start of the season the backcourt rotation will be Cole Anthony and either R.J. Hampton or Terrence Ross at the 2. Anthony led the team in scoring last season, and when he was on the floor the Magic scored 5.5 more points per 100 possessions. He’s never been an overly efficient scorer, so with the pieces like Wagner and Banchero one would hope his field goal attempts go down while his efficiency rises this season. He is also a solid rebounder for a guard (14.8% defensive rebounding rate) which adds to his value when on the floor. Once healthy it was expected that Gary Harris would fill the shooting guard spot, which would give the Magic an adequate backcourt to go to battle with this season. However, it’s unclear what his timetable will be.

Orlando was a terrible team to bet on last season, covering just 44.4% of its games with an abysmal 14-26-1 ATS record at home. However, there seemed to be hope that this team was going to be much more competitive given its talent level, but injuries threaten to derail that. We also do not know what the front office’s mindset will be once we get past the All-Star break. Will the Magic look to tank and find their way to the top of the draft lottery, or will this team put forth an effort to win games? Those questions are always impossible to answer at this point of the season, and it is why I usually defer to the Under with lesser teams such as Orlando. Both FanDuel and SuperBook are high at 27.5 and that is a number to get Under on.

Win total recommendation: Under 27.5

Washington Wizards

Head coach: Wes Unseld Jr. (second year)

Additions: Will Barton, Monte Morris, Delon Wright, Taj Gibson

Losses: Kentavious Caldewell-Pope, Ish Smith, Raul Neto, Thomas Bryant

Draft: Johnny Davis (Round 1, Pick 10), Yannick Nzosa (Round 2, Pick 54)

Projected starters: Monte Morris (PG), Bradley Beal (SG), Will Barton (SF), Kyle Kuzma (PF), Kristaps Porzingis (C)

The 2021-2022 season was a disappointing one for Washington. Bradley Beal played in only 40 games and was done before February, the team won just 35 games and they missed the play-in tournament by eight games. This season looks somewhat more promising, and should Beal stay healthy this team has the potential to find its way into the play-in tournament once more.

Washington’s goal in the offseason was to add depth and shooting to this roster, and the front office did just that in the trade for Monte Morris and Will Barton. Those two should slide directly into the starting lineup for the Wizards – although there is a strong case to be made for Delon Wright as the starting point guard next to Beal – and they immediately upgrade this team. Morris shot 39.4% on 3-point attempts last season and Barton hit 36.8% on 424 attempts. They bring a boost to a team that finished 27th in 3-point frequency (32.7%) and 25th in 3-point shooting (34.8%) a season ago. Morris shot 42.1% on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers as well and Barton was at 38.2% on those attempts, so both will fit next to a ball-dominant star like Beal who finished in the 98th percentile or higher in usage rate each of the last three seasons. Having those three on the floor with Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis will likely make Washington a subpar defensive team that struggles to rebound at times, but the upside with this starting five is great and it will help the Wizards finish higher than 22nd in non-garbage time offensive efficiency like they did last season (110.9).

Washington also has some quality depth on this bench as well. As previously mentioned, Delon Wright is a quality guard who had a career high in points per shot attempt in Atlanta (115.6) and finished in the 91st percentile at his position in assist-to-usage ratio (1.45). Deni Avdija could be in the mix for the starting small forward spot, but no matter the role he’s emerged as a solid defender who can rebound well (17% defensive rebounding rate). Daniel Gafford is a great offensive rebounder who grabbed 11.4% of his team’s missed shots while on the floor, as well as rim protector. When on the floor, he blocked 3.4% of opposing shot attempts and opponent rim shooting dropped by 6.2%. There are some quality young pieces here too like Rui Hachimura, second-year pro Corey Kispert and rookie Johnny Davis, all of whom will contribute this season.

In the grand scheme of things, the Wizards are not winning a title anytime soon. This is a team with flaws that can be exploited by the best teams in the league in a playoff series, but when it comes to the regular season this team should have enough to push for a spot in the play-in tournament, barring any health issues for Beal. The lowest win total in the market is 34.5 at Barstool and if you have access to it, that is a number worth looking to play Over. Two seasons ago (in a 72-game schedule), this team won 34 games and the roster today is better today. With Beal available and a deep bench, this team should be able to find its way back in the play-in and potentially back into the postseason.

Win total recommendation: Over 34.5

Northwest Division

Denver Nuggets

Head coach: Michael Malone (eighth year)

Additions: Bruce Brown, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Ish Smith, DeAndre Jordan

Losses: Will Barton, Monte Morris, Austin Rivers, Bryn Forbes, JaMychal Green, Facundo Campazzo, DeMarcus Cousins

Draft: Christian Braun (Round 1, Pick 21), Peyton Watson (Round 1, Pick 30), Ismael Kamagate (Round 2, Pick 46)

Projected starters: Jamal Murray (PG), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG), Michael Porter Jr. (SF), Aaron Gordon (PF), Nikola Jokic (C)

For the second consecutive season, Nikola Jokic starts out as reigning MVP, but now that Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are back in the fold, this is no longer about individual accolades for “The Joker.” Denver is now among the contenders in the Western Conference, and after improvements to the team’s depth in the offseason, it seems another deep postseason run is in store for the Nuggets.

The return of Murray means the return of one of the best two-man games in the NBA. Two seasons ago, the Nuggets outscored opponents by 11.8 points per 100 possessions when Murray and Jokic were on the floor together. Denver’s 124.9 offensive rating with those two on the floor ranked in the 99th percentile of qualified lineups, according to Cleaning The Glass. When Murray and Jokic shared the floor with the primary lineup of Porter and Aaron Gordon, that net rating jumped to + 17.0 with an offensive rating of an astonishing 127.0 per 100 possessions. It would be foolish to assume that the Nuggets will return to those astronomical heights right away, but it should give bettors an idea of how good this team can be once the continuity returns. The change for this group is the addition of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but he is a perfect fit for this offense. Caldwell-Pope shot 42.0% on catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts last season, and the looks he will get this season will be even better with Jokic on the floor. Porter hit 46.5% of his catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts in his last full season, so Denver gets two knockdown shooters in this lineup to terrorize opposing defenses. Caldwell-Pope is also a plus defender who can match up with an opposing backcourt threat on any night.

This team is not top-heavy either, as the bench has greatly improved from a season ago when it was a complete waste. Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland impressed in his rookie season with 10.1 points per game and 1.108 points per shot attempt, and he should be improved this season. He and Ish Smith will be the primary reserve guards for Michael Malone, which is a much better rotation than the one Denver was stuck with. Bruce Brown comes over via free agency to give this bench some versatility. Brown is an extremely smart player that averaged 1.152 points per shot attempt last season while also assisting on 11.6% of his teammates’ made baskets when on the floor. Jeff Green is a steady presence that can serve as a small-ball center as well, and that could be needed. The biggest hole on this roster is backup center, with DeAndre Jordan filling that role.

Denver is among the highest-rated teams this season and for good reason. Jokic has cemented his status as one of the best players in the world, and the return of key role players such as Murray and Porter, along with a strengthened bench, give this team real potential. Their win total varies from shop to shop, with lowest in market at 49.5 at DraftKings and 52 posted at Circa Sports. Positive Residual rates the Nuggets’ schedule as the easiest in the NBA, so playing Over 49.5 with a fair -140 price tag (58.3% implied probability) should be the way bettors look.

Win total recommendation: Over 49.5

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Minnesota Timberwolves

Head coach: Chris Finch (third year)

Additions: Rudy Gobert, Kyle Anderson, Austin Rivers, Bryn Forbes, Eric Paschall

Losses: Patrick Beverley, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Josh Okogie

Draft: Wendell Moore Jr. (Round 1, Pick 26), Josh Minott (Round 2, Pick 45), Matteo Spagnolo (Round 2, Pick 50)

Projected starters: D’Angelo Russell (PG), Anthony Edwards (SG), Jaden McDaniels (SF), Karl-Anthony Towns (PF), Rudy Gobert (C)

In an offseason filled with player acquisitions, there was none more impressive than Minnesota’s snagging of Rudy Gobert for a plethora of picks and players. Future implications aside, the move makes the Timberwolves a formidable force in a Western Conference that is loaded to the hilt with competent basketball teams.

Minnesota was a competent defensive team last season. It finished 13th in non-garbage time defensive efficiency (111.6) and second in turnover rate (16.2%), but with Gobert on the floor this team’s floor should be 10th at worst. Despite some uneducated attempts to paint Gobert as a liability, the man is an incredible defender. With him on the floor last season, Utah allowed just 106.9 points per 100 possessions — a rating which is identical to Boston for the season — and when he sat the Jazz’s defensive rating ballooned by 8.4 points per 100 possessions. With Gobert on the floor, Karl-Anthony Towns will be able to shift to a Robert Williams-type role, helping on opponents who get to the painted area. That’s 7-foot-1 Gobert and 7-foot Towns defending the rim for the Timberwolves. Gobert’s presence also helps the Timberwolves ease the pain of having below-average defenders at the point of attack such as D’Angelo Russell.

The best part of the acquisition of Gobert is he fits in on offense as well. With Gobert taking the minutes at center, Towns now slides down to power forward, and Towns’ shooting ability will allow Minnesota to maintain proper spacing with both he and Gobert on the floor. Towns shot 41.0% on 4.9 3-point attempts per game last season, but expect that average to increase in a new role. Anthony Edwards is a high-volume shooter as well, so there is no worry that the paint will get clogged up. Gobert himself offers Russell a lob threat on pick-and-rolls as well, which is a facet of Gobert’s game Utah criminally underutilized. Last season the Timberwolves finished seventh in offensive efficiency in non-garbage time minutes (114.7), and there is no reason to believe they cannot finish in that range again.

It should also be noted that Minnesota added to its depth this offseason despite shipping off pieces such as Patrick Beverley and Malik Beasley. Kyle Anderson is a rock-solid pro and defender who gives Chris Finch an intriguing piece to plug in at either forward spot in smaller lineups. Austin Rivers is a productive combo guard that improved Denver’s net rating in both seasons with the team. Other key role players such as Naz Reid and Jaden McDaniels return for a bench that finished eighth in scoring (38.2 points per game) last season.

In the big picture, Minnesota still has some obvious weaknesses when it comes to competing with the best teams once the postseason begins. The regular season is a different animal though, and this team is built for regular-season success. The lowest win total in the market is 48.5 with a modest -120 price (54.5% implied probability) on the Over. For a team which can win 50 games or more, that is more than a fair price for bettors.

Win total recommendation: Over 48.5

Oklahoma City Thunder

Head coach: Mark Daigneault (third year)

Additions: None

Losses: Isaiah Roby

Draft: Chet Holmgren (Round 1, Pick 2), Ousmane Dieng (Round 1, Pick 11), Jalen Williams (Round 1, Pick 12), Jaylin Williams (Round 2, Pick 34)

Projected starters: Josh Giddey (PG), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (SG), Luguentz Dort (SF), Darius Bazley (PF), Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (C)

Being one of the best worst teams in the league is not much of an accomplishment, but that is exactly what Oklahoma City was last season. The Thunder were 49-31-2 ATS (61.2%), which was second best behind only the Grizzlies, who finished 51-29-2 ATS (63.7%). Oklahoma City’s young core returns this season, but the question remains as to whether this team will actively try to win or throw another season away in a seemingly never-ending quest for top draft picks.

The recognizable name in this group is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is widely considered one of the league’s best players under the age of 25. Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 24.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.9 assists last season, and when he was on the floor he improved Oklahoma City’s net rating by 3.5 points per 100 possessions. However, he is much older than the core of this roster, so it would not be a shock to see him dealt by the trade deadline. He would fetch a hefty haul for a front office obsessed with hoarding draft capital. Luguentz Dort is nine months younger than Gilgeous-Alexander, and the Thunder signed him to a 5-year, $87.5 million extension, which likely means he’ll be around for a while. Dort emerged as an incredible defender who improved the team’s defensive efficiency by 2.4 points per 100 possessions in his time on the floor. He’s also worked to become a better scorer and has improved his points per shot attempt each year in the league.

Dort and Gilgeous-Alexander aside, there are plenty of other young pieces that have some intriguing talent on this roster. Josh Giddey is coming off an incredible rookie season that would have won him Rookie of the Year in most years. Giddey put up 12.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game. His assist rate of 32.4% ranked in the 100th percentile at his position and Oklahoma City’s defense improved by 4.0 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor. Tre Mann averaged 10.2 points per game and shot 42.2% on corner 3-point attempts in his rookie season. Then there is perennial breakout candidate Aleksej Pokusevski, who continues to show flashes when he hits the floor. Bettors will have to wait to see No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren, as he has been ruled out for the season, but do not sleep on rookie Jalen Williams out of Santa Clara or Jaylin Williams out of Arkansas.

The Thunder are an extremely well-coached team under Mark Daigneault, and that was a massive reason why they were such a great cover team. This season should be very similar in terms of their competitive nature. However, given the rumors swirling around a potential Gilgeous-Alexander trade and the injury to Holmgren, it is hard to realistically invest in this team going Over its win total.

Win total recommendation: Under 23.5

Portland Trail Blazers

Head coach: Chauncey Billups (second year)

Additions: Gary Payton II, Jerami Grant

Losses: None

Draft: Shaedon Sharpe (Round 1, Pick 7), Jabari Walker (Round 2, Pick 57)

Projected starters: Damian Lillard (PG), Anfernee Simons (SG), Nassir Little (SF), Jerami Grant (PF), Jusuf Nurkic (C)

The Trail Blazers’ front office has retooled the roster once more in an effort to give Damian Lillard a chance at competing for a title. General manager Joe Cronin put together a group with sturdy pieces, but where it stands in the pecking order of a loaded Western Conference does not seem high enough to achieve Lillard’s lofty goals.

First and foremost, Damian Lillard is back. After missing 53 games recovering from an abdominal procedure, Lillard rejoins Portland fully healthy for the first time in years. It’s worth pointing out that Lillard put up his lowest points per shot attempt (1.108) since his rookie year and hit a career-low 34.1% of 3-point attempts last season as he was hampered with an injury. With the abdominal issue behind him, Lillard should be able to put up a statistical season on par with his reputation as an elite scoring guard.

Anfernee Simons is an excellent two-guard to play next to Lillard, and he is coming off a career year in which he started 30 games and averaged 17.3 points and 3.9 assists per game. He played 77% of his minutes at point, but when he was at shooting guard the Blazers averaged 116.5 points per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning The Glass. Nassir Little is a great young wing who improved Portland’s net rating by 11.5 points per 100 possessions when was on the floor and can bottle up opponents on defense. He’s a superb rebounder, as well, who finished in the 82nd percentile in both individual offensive and defensive rebounding rate. Portland also added Jerami Grant in the summer via trade. Grant regressed somewhat into a high-volume scorer in his time with the Pistons, but he finished in the 75th percentile or better in assist rate at his position. In a more team-oriented system, he could flourish as a third option like he did when he was in Denver. Do not forget about Jusuf Nurkic either, who improved Portland’s net rating by 15.2 points per 100 possessions in his time on the floor last season.

On the bench, Gary Payton II comes over via free agency and gives Chauncey Billups a fantastic on-ball defender who can hit a corner 3 with some consistency (36.6%). Josh Hart put up 1.284 points per shot attempt in 13 games for Portland last season, and he too can provide some steady defense in the backcourt. Trendon Watford and Drew Eubanks were thrown into the fire over the final 20 games or so. Both showed some promise and now come off the bench as reserve frontcourt pieces. Then there is rookie Shaedon Sharpe, who is a wild card but also a physical specimen who will have some ridiculous highlights when he hits the court.

The market consensus for Portland’s win total is 39.5 with a low number of 38.5 at Circa. If bettors have access to the low number at Circa, then that is a number worth looking at Over the total. This Trail Blazers team still has some real flaws, and even with solid individual defenders this team still could find itself in the bottom of the defensive efficiency standings. However, with Lillard back, the upside is real for this team and 39 wins or more could certainly be achievable, which would put them in the mix for a play-in berth.

Win total recommendation: Over 38.5

Utah Jazz

Head coach: Will Hardy (first year)

Additions: Malik Beasley, Talen Horton-Tucker, Stanley Johnson, Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton, Jarred Vanderbilt

Losses: Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, Royce O’Neale, Eric Paschall, Hassan Whiteside

Draft: Walker Kessler (Round 1, Pick 22)

Projected starters: Mike Conley (PG), Collin Sexton (SG), Malik Beasley (SF), Lauri Markkanen (PF), Walker Kessler (C)

The rebuild is on in Salt Lake City. Danny Ainge was hired as CEO of Basketball Operations in December, and in his first summer he stripped the roster down to its studs. The name of the game is asset acquisition for Ainge, and with pieces on this team that still have some value, don’t be surprised to see even this version of the Jazz look much different by the time the trade deadline passes.

One could look at Utah’s roster right now and argue that not all of the talent was sapped away in the offseason. Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson remain and both are solid contributors. The problem is multiple reports have suggested that Ainge believes Clarkson could fetch a first-round pick on his own, and it is likely he is moved either before the season begins or right before the trade deadline. The same has been said of Malik Beasley, who came over in the Rudy Gobert deal. Conley could be harder to move given the $22.7 million he is owed this season and $24.4 million he is potentially owed next season, but he too is unlikely to be on this roster by season’s end. Should these four find different homes, Tim Hardy would be left with a barren roster of young players, some of whom are untested and others who have shown very little in their time in the NBA.

Should Utah continue its dismantling of this roster, that would make Collin Sexton the team’s best player. Sexton played in just 11 games last season due to injury but was showing signs of developing into an efficient scorer. He had improved his points per shot attempt and true shooting percentage each of his first three seasons in the league. Outside of Sexton, there is not much young talent to point to. Nickeil Alexander-Walker is a fine reserve guard but has largely been an inefficient shooter in his career. Talen Horton-Tucker has some potential as a defender but needs the ball to provide anything on offense and, even then, he is extremely inefficient (1.005 points per shot attempt). Jarred Vanderbilt is the most intriguing piece behind Sexton, as he showed real development in his two seasons in Minnesota, specifically as a rebounder.

This win total was the one that saw the most movement in the offseason. Circa opened Utah the highest in the market at 33 but the consensus number now is 25.5, which is much more in line with what this roster is — and what the objective of this front office is. Ainge and the front office want assets and high draft picks. Much like San Antonio, this franchise would like one of the three worst records and a 14% chance of landing the first overall pick, which will likely be French prospect Victor Wembanyama. Even with a 7.5 win adjustment on this total, it would be foolish to look anywhere but Under for the Jazz this season.

Win total recommendation: Under 25.5

Southwest Division

Dallas Mavericks

Head coach: Jason Kidd (second year)

Additions: JaVale McGee, Christian Wood

Losses: Jalen Brunson, Trey Burke, Boban Marjanovic

Draft: Jaden Hardy (Round 2, Pick 37)

Projected starters: Luka Doncic (PG), Spencer Dinwiddie (SG), Reggie Bullock (SF), Dorian Finney-Smith (PF), JaVale McGee (C)

The Dallas Mavericks not only failed to improve their team from last season, but the team clearly got worse with the departure of Jalen Brunson. For a team that finished 52-30 and six games ahead of the play-in getting worse could still mean finishing comfortably inside the top six of the Western Conference, but with contenders like the Clippers and Nuggets emerging with better health, the margin for error for this team is slight.

What immediately sticks out is the lack of true ball-handlers and point guard depth. Spencer Dinwiddie only started seven of the 23 games he played for Dallas last season, but with Brunson in New York he is thrust into the starting lineup. That means the primary backup point guard heading into the season is Frank Ntilikina, which is far from ideal. When Doncic left the floor last season, the Mavericks’ offensive rating dropped by only 3.3 points per 100 possessions because Brunson was available to run the offense. However, in the minutes with neither Doncic nor Brunson, the team’s offensive rating plummeted to 108.4, which was a full 7.0 points per 100 possessions worse than the minutes with Doncic, and that team will be taking the floor when he rests this season. Offensive efficiency from the bench is a potential problem for Dallas heading into the year.

There are positives for this team not named Luka Doncic though. The Mavericks made it to the Western Conference Finals with a 5-out style of offense and they have the personnel to pull that off with the addition of Christian Wood from Houston. Wood is a face-up scorer who shot 38.8% on 332 3-point attempts last season and could fit well at center in those lineups alongside Doncic and Dinwiddie. Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith are good defenders with Finney-Smith potentially embarking on a Defensive Player of the Year campaign this season. JaVale McGee is a solid rim protector, and when he was on the floor for Phoenix last season, opponent shooting at the rim dropped by 6.8%. The Mavericks finished eighth in non-garbage time defensive efficiency (110.3) in 2021-2022 and they should challenge for a top ranking once more this season with their personnel.

The highest win total on Dallas in the market is 49, which is available at Circa, SuperBook and Barstool Sports, and I would look to play that number Under. Doncic is going through an extremely busy summer that includes playing in the EuroBasket League, so one would assume he will enter the regular season in the best shape he ever has. He is also the favorite to win MVP at multiple shops and he could put together a season in which he is the best player in the league. However, this team lost quite a bit when Brunson departed and the response to that was to a floor-spacing forward and a lob threat that do not address this team’s weaknesses. Add the improved Clippers, Nuggets and Timberwolves to the mix among others and it’s clear to see 50 wins or more are not probable for Dallas this season.

Win total recommendation: Under 49

Houston Rockets

Head coach: Stephen Silas (third year)

Additions: Sterling Brown, Trey Burke, Boban Marjanovic, Dennis Schroder

Losses: Christian Wood

Draft: Jabari Smith (Round 1, Pick 3), Tari Eason (Round 1, Pick 17), TyTy Washington (Round 1, Pick 29) 

Projected starters: Kevin Porter Jr. (PG), Jalen Green (SG), Jae’Sean Tate (SF), Jabari Smith Jr. (PF), Alperen Sengun (C)

Over the course of the last 13 games of the 2021-2022 regular season, Houston went 3-10 SU and 8-4-1 ATS while putting forth some competitive efforts against Minnesota, Brooklyn and Toronto. In the grand scheme of things, a 12-game sample size of spunky basketball does not mean much, but this team is young and rife with talent. If what this group showed on the court to close the regular season is legitimate, the Rockets enter the new season with real intrigue surrounding them.

At the center of the good vibes for Houston is second-year guard Jalen Green who averaged 22.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game on 47.8% shooting from the floor over his last 25 games. When he was on the floor the Rockets were outscored by 11.7 points per 100 possessions, but their most used lineup with Green – which included Kevin Porter Jr., Eric Gordon and Jae’Sean Tate – posted a + 2.2 net rating. He’s part of a backcourt with Porter Jr. that has real upside. Porter emerged as a shooting threat last season – he shot 38.2% on 406 3-point attempts – and his passing ability was on display as he assisted on 30.2% of his teammates’ made baskets. These two are an above-average scoring duo, but their defense will ultimately hold them back. When Green and Porter were on the floor, opponents averaged 117.3 points per 100 possessions and placed them in the 17th percentile of qualified lineups.

The other young cornerstone is Alperen Sengun, a 6-foot-10 center who showed the ability to bring the ball up, run in transition and defend the rim (2.3% block rate) for Houston. Sengun is also a brilliant passer for a big man, and he assisted on 19.2% of his teammates’ made buckets when he was on the floor in his rookie season. Jae’Sean Tate was a solid wing defender who improved the Rockets’ defensive rating by 4.6 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor and with rookie Jabari Smith Jr., Houston might have two decent wing defenders it desperately needs on a team that finished 30th in non-garbage time defensive efficiency (117.8) last season.

One can see the foundation upon which the Rockets are building, but it is still a long climb to the top and Houston is still clearly one of the worst teams in the NBA. Their bench scoring should regress somewhat after finishing fifth in points last season due to Sengun transitioning to a starting role, but they still have Garrison Mathews (10.0 PPG) and Kenyon Martin (8.8 PPG) among the reserves. The success of this season comes down to improvements this team makes on defense and given what we know about the current personnel there is not much to expect when it comes to that end of the floor.

Their market consensus win total is 23.5, which would mean four more wins from last season and that is not an unattainable goal for this team. If Green and Sengun take positive steps forward in their development and new faces like Smith, Eason or Washington provide positive impacts, it’s more likely this team achieves 25 wins or more than fall under their consensus win total.

Win total recommendation: Over 23.5

Memphis Grizzlies

Head coach: Taylor Jenkins (fourth year)

Additions: Danny Green

Losses: Kyle Anderson, DeAnthony Melton

Draft: Jake LaRavia (Round 1, Pick 19), David Roddy (Round 1, Pick 23), Kennedy Chandler (Round 2, Pick 38), Vince Williams (Round 2, Pick 47)

Projected starters: Ja Morant (PG), Desmond Bane (SG), Dillon Brooks (SF), Brandon Clarke (PF), Steven Adams (C)

Expectations are high for Memphis this season, and rightfully so, after a 54-win season that ended in the Western Conference semifinals. Those who believe the Grizzlies will be just as spirited this season could be correct when all is said and done, but the preseason markets seem to be forgetting a major injury and a couple of departures that could shape Memphis’ regular season.

At the end of June, it was announced that Jaren Jackson Jr. was set to miss four to six months recovering from a procedure on his right foot. Jackson is an extremely important piece for Memphis as he averaged 27.3 minutes per game last season, and when he was on the floor the Grizzlies’ defensive rating improved by 4.8 points per 100 possessions. Some would argue that Memphis went 20-5 without Ja Morant last season, so they can surely overcome the absence of Jackson until December, but that ignores another key factor: Kyle Anderson’s departure in free agency. Without Morant on the floor last season, the Grizzlies posted a + 7.8 net rating, but both Jackson and Anderson were on the floor for a vast majority of those minutes. Remove both of them from the equation as well and that net rating plummets to -5.9 per cleaningtheglass.com. Yet, the betting market seems to believe the machine will keep chugging along without them. Do not forget either that DeAnthony Melton – a 10.8 point-per-game scorer who played in 73 games last season – is gone as well.

The depth for Memphis is still solid, but many of the rotation players will have larger roles this season and what that does for this team remains to be seen. The big positive is John Konchar, who appeared in 72 games and was wildly efficient averaging 1.23 points per shot attempt while hitting 41.7% of his 3-point attempts. He is now likely the second guard off the bench behind Tyus Jones and will certainly average more than 17.1 minutes per game. However, Xavier Tillman only averaged 13.2 minutes per game and in his time on the floor the Grizzlies’ offensive rating crashed by 7.7 points per 100 possessions. He’s now one of the primary reserve forwards with Jackson’s absence to begin the season. Ziaire Williams has some intriguing aspects of his game, but the reality is when he was on the floor Memphis’ net rating worsened by 2.3 points per 100 possessions, and he is likely to see a bump in the 21.7 minutes per game that he averaged a season ago.

Ja Morant is still a member of this team, and with an electric guard like him on the floor this team will be a threat on any given night. The questioning of the depth in this piece is more to get bettors to really evaluate this team from a preseason pricing standpoint. Despite three key pieces from last season not being available, the betting market is all-in on pricing the Grizzlies among the Western Conference elites. Circa and SuperBook posted their win total at 51, which is just a half-win shy of the Los Angeles Clippers, while other shops like DraftKings and FanDuel have a more realistic 48.5 win total. Either way, bettors have their options with this team and should have the best total available to them.

Win total recommendation: Under 51

New Orleans Pelicans

Head coach: Willie Green (second year)

Additions: None

Losses: Tony Snell

Draft: Dyson Daniels (Round 1, Pick 8), EJ Liddell (Round 2, Pick 41), Karlo Matković (Round 2, Pick 52) 

Projected starters: CJ McCollum (PG), Brandon Ingram (SG), Herbert Jones (SF), Zion Williamson (PF), Jonas Valanciunas (C)

New Orleans ended last season on a high note, fighting its way into the postseason and then pushing Phoenix to six games in the opening round. This season the core of that group returns and added to the mix – barring yet another health issue – is Zion Williamson, who could push this team higher than some expect in the Western Conference.

Offense is going to be the name of the game for the Pelicans this season. CJ McCollum turned out to be an excellent option at point guard for them when Willie Green made the switch in February last season, and he is expected to run the offense once more. In lineups with McCollum at point, New Orleans averaged 120.7 points per 100 possessions, and when Brandon Ingram was on the floor with him they outscored opponents by 9.0 points per 100 possessions while posting a 122.3 offensive rating. Those lineups were efficient in every facet of offense. They averaged 1.421 points per play in transition, 1.021 per play in halfcourt settings and posted an effective field goal percentage of 57.4%. Their most effective grouping had Jaxson Hayes at power forward, but with Williamson available he likely slides into that role, which will give the Pelicans three ball-handlers in their starting lineup. Williamson is a force at the rim that has attempted 82.2% of his attempts as a pro within four feet of the basket. He fits in well next to jump-shooters like McCollum and Ingram and will not crowd the paint with Valanciunas due to his ability to work from the perimeter. His presence will maximize what was already a deadly offensive lineup. Do not forget about Herb Jones either, a second-year wing who will undoubtedly be in contention for Defensive Player of the Year.

The bench is a plus too. Jose Alvarado and Devonté Graham are the primary reserve guards who have differing strengths that blend well. Graham is a scoring guard with the ability to knock down 3-point shots – although his 3-point shooting dipped last season to 34.1% – and Alvarado is a defensive-oriented guard that improved the Pelicans’ defensive rating by 3.6 points per 100 possessions in his time on the floor last season. Trey Murphy will see his minutes jump after a strong rookie campaign in which he shot 38.2% on 3.0 3-point attempts per game. The frontcourt rotation is stout as well with Larry Nance Jr. and Jaxson Hayes as the first forwards off the bench for Green.

Betting markets clearly have respect for New Orleans this season. DraftKings has them favored at -165 (62.3% implied probability) to make the postseason, which is somewhat high for a team with a consensus win total of 44.5. Keep in mind that Minnesota was the highest-seeded play-in team with 46 wins last season and this year the conference is even deeper. Despite all the positives for the Pelicans, the markets do seem a touch high. Their defense is still going to be a question outside of Jones and Williamson’s availability is an unknown. If bettors can get a plus price on Under 44.5 that would be the way to go, but the bigger edge is on + 135 (42.6% implied probability) or better to miss the postseason.

Win total recommendation: Under 44.5

San Antonio Spurs

Head coach: Gregg Popovich (27th year)

Additions: Isaiah Roby, Gourgi Dieng, Alize Johnson

Losses: Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker IV

Draft: Jeremy Sochan (Round 1, Pick 9), Malaki Branham (Round 1, Pick 20), Blake Wesley (Round 1, Pick 26)

Projected starters: Tre Jones (PG), Devin Vassell (SG), Doug McDermott (SF), Keldon Johnson (PF), Jakob Poeltl (C)

Despite having arguably the greatest coach of all time on the bench, the San Antonio Spurs project to be the worst team in the NBA this season. Their win total is the lowest on the board at every shop and they are a 25-1 (3.8% implied probability) longshot to make the playoffs. The roster has some redeeming qualities, but with an incredible prospect like Victor Wembanyama coming out this season it’s likely San Antonio will do what it can to maximize its chances at the top pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.

The brightest spot on this roster is Keldon Johnson. A fourth-year pro, Johnson was among the best players for Gregg Popvich last season, improving the Spurs’ net rating by 5.5 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor while averaging 17.0 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Johnson can score at all three levels and was quietly lethal from the corner last season, hitting 49.5% of his corner 3-point attempts. He is clearly the Spurs’ best player, and playing along the wing with him will be Devin Vassell, who showed real improvement in his second season. Vassell was a net positive for San Antonio in his time on the floor (+ 0.5 efficiency differential), and his efficiency numbers improved despite a leap in usage rate (17.3%), which is a positive sign. He and Johnson give the Spurs a pair of talented wings under the age of 23 to build on, but the rest of this roster has some real shortcomings.

Tre Jones is a solid combo guard, but he only averaged 15.4 minutes in 69 games last season and in those minutes the Spurs’ net rating dropped by 2.6 points per 100 possessions. He is now their starting point guard. Joshua Primo is another young building block, but he was an inefficient scorer at 0.964 points per shot attempt last season. He is now going to be a primary bench piece for this young team. There are plenty of veterans like Doug McDermott, Jakob Poeltl and Zach Collins on this roster as well, but Poeltl is a trade candidate with an expiring deal and McDermott could fetch a first-round selection at the deadline from a contending team. Those two should play a prominent role for San Antonio at the beginning of the season, but do not expect them to be on this roster past the trade deadline.

Last season the market was too low on San Antonio and the Spurs ended up surpassing their win total with 34 wins and a berth in the play-in tournament. This season the market is right in rating San Antonio so low. The roster has been stripped down and will likely be gutted further at the deadline. Throw into this mix a once-in-a-lifetime prospect like Wembanyama and it’s likely this franchise will be tanking to solidify a spot as one of the worst three records in the league. Only 23 wins to surpass this total is an extremely low bar, but with motivation to lose it’s hard to recommend playing this total any way but Under.

Win total recommendation: Under 22.5

Pacific Division

Golden State Warriors

Head coach: Steve Kerr (ninth year)

Additions: Donte DiVincenzo, JaMychal Green

Losses: Gary Payton II, Otto Porter Jr., Andre Iguodala, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damion Lee, Nemanja Bjelica

Draft: Patrick Baldwin Jr. (Round 1, Pick 28), Ryan Rollins (Round 2, Pick 44), Gui Santos (Round 2, Pick 55)

Projected starters: Stephen Curry (PG), Klay Thompson (SG), Andrew Wiggins (SF), Draymond Green (PF), Kevon Looney (C)

The Warriors enter the 2022-2023 season as the reigning NBA champions, but offseason additions and better health make the team arguably better than the one that hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy last season.

The starting lineup is a familiar one, as it’s the same group which played the most possessions during Golden State’s title run a few months ago. With those five players on the floor, the Warriors outscored opponents by 17.1 points per 100 possessions due to a surprisingly suffocating defense which posted a 101.2 rating. However, the group did not play a single possession together in the regular season due to various injuries. Steve Kerr enters this regular season with his full complement of players healthy, and this starting five could be one of the best in the league. Klay Thompson now has a full offseason under his belt, and he showed improvement in postseason play, raising his non-corner 3-point shooting by 3% (to 42%) and effective field-goal percentage by 1.2% (to 53.2%). The postseason version of Thompson, along with the trio of Stephen Curry, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green — a trio which outscored opponents by 10.7 points per 100 possessions when on the floor together in the regular season — raises the ceiling of a 53-win team from last season.

Golden State’s depth takes some hits with the departures of key components such as Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr., but the additions of Donte DiVincenzo and JaMychal Green, along with the assumed development of their young players, help blunt some of that pain. DiVincenzo has been somewhat inconsistent since his 2019-2020 season in which he averaged 1.120 points per shot attempt with a 54.2% effective field-goal percentage, but he is a capable 3-point shooter (36.8% last season with Sacramento) and underrated perimeter defender. Green is a floor-spacing big who can fill the role of Nemanja Bjelica while also rebounding a little bit. If Jonathan Kuminga or Moses Moody fail to progress in their development, the Warriors might be hurting for depth along the wing, but both showed enough for a franchise which has an incredible track record of player development. Just look at Jordan Poole, who averaged 18.5 points per game on 1.207 points per shot attempt last season and enters this season as the favorite to win Sixth Man of the Year.

Despite all of the positives, Golden State has just the fifth-highest win total on the board at some shops and is the second choice at best to win the title. Those who believe the Warriors are better this season can find a low total of 51.5 at DraftKings. Circa Sports hung 53 on Golden State’s win total — a number that is a better representation of what the Warriors project to be and was available as of late September — for those who are looking to play the Under. Injuries are always a worry for teams with win totals in the 50s, but this team won 53 games with multiple injury issues last season.

Win total recommendation: Over 51.5

Los Angeles Clippers

Head coach: Ty Lue (third year)

Additions: John Wall

Losses: Isaiah Hartenstein

Draft: Moussa Diabate (Round 2, Pick 43)

Projected starters: Reggie Jackson (PG), Paul George (SG), Kawhi Leonard (SF), Nicolas Batum (PF), Ivica Zubac (C)

The Kawhi Leonard-Paul George era for the Clippers resulted in a disappointing playoff loss in the Orlando bubble in 2020 and a berth in the Western Conference finals in 2021, but this team is now one of the deepest and best in the NBA and very well could win the first title in franchise history.

John Wall might have been the highlight of the Clippers’ offseason, but it’s hard to project him into the starting lineup over Reggie Jackson. In the 2020-2021 season when Jackson, George and Leonard were on the floor together, the Clippers outscored opponents by a staggering 25.0 points per 100 possessions. Their offensive rating of 129.2 ranked in the 100th percentile of qualified lineups that season, and their defensive rating of 104.3 was in the 96th percentile. The degree to which those three thrive will likely vary, but given the statistical returns of previous seasons and the rapport the three share, it’s unlikely Wall pushes Jackson out of the primary starting lineup. Nicolas Batum is a perfect power forward to go with that trio, giving the Clippers four shooters on the floor as well as a switchable forward who can guard all five positions.

With Wall, the Clippers arguably have the deepest bench of any team in the NBA. Norman Powell is a fantastic catch-and-shoot threat (41.9% on 3-pointers last season) and has always been an efficient scorer. Robert Covington is a solid, switchable defender who has improved his team’s net rating every season in the league. In 25 games for the Clippers last season, he improved their net rating by 15.4 points per 100 possessions. He is also an effective catch-and-shoot threat (37.5% on 3-pointers last season). Marcus Morris is another sturdy defender who can switch onto multiple matchups — and even play a small-ball center role — and space the floor. Then there is Wall, who is a luxury for a team that needs a true point guard. Wall has never been an overly efficient scorer, but on a team loaded with catch-and-shoot threats, he can attack the rim and pull opposing defenses in. Wall has finished in the 95th percentile or higher in each of his last six seasons in assist rate and is exactly what this Clippers have been missing.

The Clippers are brimming with talent. So much so there is barely enough room to mention players such as Terance Mann, Luke Kennard or Amir Coffey, all of whom will have roles as well. There are many handicappers who view this team as the best in the Western Conference and it’s hard to disagree. The market consensus on the Clippers’ win total is 52.5 (with a low of 51.5 available at William Hill for Over bettors). The team has been cautious with regular-season minutes and it would be foolish to believe stars such as Leonard and George will be playing in all 82 games. However, the Clippers’ depth gives them an opportunity to finish Over the win total.

Win total recommendation: Over 51.5

Los Angeles Lakers

Head coach: Darvin Ham (first year)

Additions: Patrick Beverley, Lonnie Walker, Troy Brown Jr., Thomas Bryant, Damian Jones, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Dennis Schroder

Losses: Malik Monk, Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza, Wayne Ellington, Dwight Howard

Draft: Max Christie (Round 2, Pick 35)

Projected starters: Patrick Beverley (PG), Kendrick Nunn (SG), LeBron James (SF), Anthony Davis (PF), Thomas Bryant (C)

After missing out on a berth in the play-in tournament, the Lakers did little in the offseason. Rob Pelinka added some youth and athleticism to the bench, but the core of a disappointing 33-win team remains and the question of what to do with Russell Westbrook continues to pester this team. In a loaded Western Conference, it’s hard to see much upward mobility for the Lakers.

Westbrook’s role is the biggest conundrum but it is one the team has brought on itself. Last season showed us that the trio of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Westbrook do not work together. With those three on the floor, the Lakers were outscored by 3.0 points per 100 possessions and their most used lineup with that trio had a -11.3 net rating. The defense was average at best, but the problem was an offense that averaged 109.0 points per 100 possessions with those three on the floor. The clear and obvious answer is to remove Westbrook from the equation and slot in a guard who can work better off the ball, and that player is Patrick Beverley. Beverley is a better shooter (37.8% career) who can work as a catch-and-shoot threat (38.5% last season), which is a perfect fit next to James. Beverley is also the better defender, so a lineup with Davis, James and Beverley has three adequate defenders at their respective positions. Add Kendrick Nunn to the mix and that gives the Lakers two respectable shooting threats around James.

While the bench looks somewhat more athletic, it is littered with players who have some real flaws. Lonnie Walker regressed in a big way in his final season in San Antonio, lowering the Spurs’ net rating by 4.9 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor while shooting an abysmal 32.1% on 3-point attempts. He’s also never been a plus-defender. Troy Brown is a solid rebounder who finished in the 84th percentile or better at his position in both offensive and defensive rebounding rate in his first three seasons in the league, but he’s never been a great defender and adds little on offense. Juan Toscano-Anderson showed some promise in 2020-2021, but he could barely find the floor last season with Golden State and problems on defense and with turnovers. That isn’t to say there aren’t bright spots. Austin Reaves showed some real upside last season, averaging 7.3 points and 3.2 rebounds per game on an efficient 1.228 points per shot attempt. With Reaves on the floor, the Lakers’ net rating jumped by 7.2 points per 100 possessions, and he should be an important bench piece this season.

The reality is the Lakers do not have the roster to compete with the teams at the top of the Western Conference. Should James and Davis turn in healthy seasons — both played fewer than 60 games last season — the Lakers’ record should be better than 33-49, but how much better is the question. Westbrook still has something to give in an altered role as a cutter and a screener, but he has shown little willingness to change his game. If that’s the case, it’s hard to expect much more from this team. The consensus win total is 44.5 with a high of 45.5 at DraftKings. The Lakers should be better with improved health, but it’s unrealistic to expect 46 or more wins in a conference full of teams that have improved.

Win total recommendation: Under 45.5

Phoenix Suns

Head coach: Monty Williams (fourth year)

Additions: Josh Okogie, Damion Lee, Duane Washington Jr.

Losses: JaVale McGee, Aaron Holiday

Draft: None

Projected starters: Chris Paul (PG), Devin Booker (SG), Mikal Bridges (SF), Cameron Johnson (PF), Deandre Ayton (C)

It’s been a noisy offseason in Phoenix, from the drama surrounding Deandre Ayton and the potential acquisition of Kevin Durant to the recent controversy with Robert Sarver, who is now in the process of selling the team. That all followed an unceremonious ending to what looked to be a promising season, and now the Suns are running it back with a group that has won 115 games over the last two seasons in the hopes of finally winning a title.

The Suns’ projected starting five was their most used lineup last season and for good reason. The group posted a + 8.1 net rating when on the floor together, averaging 118.3 points per 100 possessions while allowing 110.2 defensively. The problem with this group — and the flaw that has been exploited in the last two postseasons — is the way it runs its offense. Phoenix generates a vast majority of its offense from mid-range. The starting five took 49.2% of their attempts from that area of the floor, and while they shot a staggering 50.3% on those attempts — 47.7% on long mid-range shots — they had nearly no presence inside. Only 19.6% of their attempts came at the rim and the Suns finished 27th in offensive free throw rate as a team. So when the offense gets stagnant, there is no easy basket to get. However, the problems only seem to manifest in the postseason when opponents are more focused on game plans. The Suns thrive during the grind of the regular season.

The team also got somewhat deeper in the offseason despite the departure of JaVale McGee. The other usual suspects such as Cameron Payne, Landry Shamet and Cameron Johnson are still on the roster. Shamet is a sneaky good ball-handler and a career 39.0% 3-point shooter, and Johnson is coming off a career year in which he put up highs in points (12.5 per game), 3-point percentage (42.5% on 5.9 attempts per game), rebounds (4.1 per game) and points per shot attempt (1.262). Johnson will likely grab the starting power forward spot with the planned departure of Jae Crowder. Dario Saric is back from a knee injury that caused him to miss last season, and he gives Phoenix a great pick-and-pop threat at the 5 who can stretch the floor more than Deandre Ayton can. Additions such as Damion Lee and Duane Washington Jr. give the Suns some depth in the backcourt that was lacking last season, and Josh Okogie is a stout guard who can defend relatively well. It could be argued that this is the deepest bench Monty Williams has had.

Potential relationship issues between Ayton and Williams aside, Phoenix has another squad capable of piling up regular-season wins. There is quite a discrepancy in the market for the Suns’ win total, with DraftKings on the low end with a total of 51.5 and Circa on the high side at 54. The play here should be Over on the low total of 51.5 at DraftKings, as the consensus number is more like 53.5. This should be another dominant regular-season squad, but in the grand scheme of winning a championship, it’s fair to question the Suns’ chances.

Win total recommendation: Over 51.5

Sacramento Kings

Head coach: Mike Brown (first year)

Additions: Kevin Huerter, Malik Monk, Sam Merrill

Losses: Donte DiVincenzo, Maurice Harkless

Draft: Keegan Murray (Round 1, Pick 4)

Projected starters: De’Aaron Fox (PG), Kevin Huerter (SG), Harrison Barnes (SF), Keegan Murray (PF), Domantas Sabonis (C)

In a desperate effort to reach play-in contention, the Kings made a surprising move last season in acquiring Domantas Sabonis at the trade deadline. It was hardly the only move they made at the deadline but it was the most impactful, and now Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox will have a full season together to try to take the Kings to the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-2006 season.

Bettors only got a small glimpse of what this team could be with Sabonis and Fox, as the former was shut down due to injury after just 15 games in a Kings uniform. However, in that short sample size, Sacramento showed signs of having a very capable offense with those two on the floor. Sabonis put up 18.9 points, 12.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game, and when he was on the floor with Fox, the Kings averaged 116.2 points per 100 possessions. With those two on the floor, the Kings took 38.2% of their attempts at the rim, shot 69.4% in that area of the floor and ranked in the 97th percentile of qualified lineups in free throw rate. That will likely be their identity this season, and the other pieces in the starting lineup — Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes and Keegan Murray — will hopefully provide enough shooting for a team which finished 26th in 3-point percentage (34.7%). Off the bench, Sacramento has some electric offensive weapons as well. Malik Monk is coming off his most efficient season (1.198 points per shot attempt) and Richaun Holmes is an even more efficient scorer who has ranked in the 91th percentile of points per shot attempt at his position in three of the last four seasons. This should be an effective offensive team — it might even finish 10th or higher in offensive efficiency — but it’s a flawed roster that lacks great defenders, and that will likely be its downfall.

In lineups with Fox and Sabonis, the Kings were outscored by 2.7 points per 100 possessions despite a 116.2 offensive rating. Opponents shot an insane 73.8% at the rim and averaged 118.9 points per 100 possessions, and those problems are not going away. Davion Mitchell improved the Kings’ defensive rating by 4.3 points per 100 possessions and Kevin Huerter is a fine NBA defender, but those two are this team’s best defenders. If the Kings can somehow finish inside the top 20 in defensive efficiency it would be a massive win considering the makeup of the roster.

This was one of the hottest win totals in the market during the offseason. The consensus opener was 32.5 but has since moved to 34.5, which is the market consensus now. Sacramento’s goal this season is to make the postseason and it has done enough to compete for that goal, but a berth in the play-in tournament is its most likely way in. There looks to be very little edge in the current market with this win total, but if forced to choose it seems Under the high total of 34.5 is the way to go. Having high upside on offense is always a good thing, but defense could ultimately hold this team back.

Win total recommendation: Under 34.5

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