- Can the Sixers really top 40.5 wins? Are the Lakers easy money? And which side should you bet the Blazers? Andrew Sharp and Ben Golliver examine the NBA's most notable over/under win totals.
The arrival of each new NBA season brings optimism to all 30 teams and their fan bases. Almost everyone sees the glass half-full entering a new year—or at least until they're asked to put money behind those arguments.
The NBA's over/under win totals for the 2017-18 season were released by the Westgate Las Vegas Sports book last season and they've given us plenty to chew on. The reigning champion Warriors open the season at 67.5 wins, while the Celtics (56.5) own the highest bar in the East. The Bulls check in with the lowest total of 21.5.
But those aren't the most interesting lines presented this season. Andrew Sharp and Ben Golliver examined the most notable over/under lines and highlighted their worst bets on the most recent episode of Open Floor.
(The following excerpt has been edited for clarity. To listen to this entire Open Floor episode, click here.)
Andrew Sharp: The most incredible over/under of the year is unquestionably the Sixers. They opened at 42.5, which is just incredible to me. And they’ve been bet down to 40.5. Where do you stand?
Ben Golliver: Oh, I’m still going under. Let’s be honest, how many young guys are they playing? When your three best players have combined for less than half a season of basketball, it doesn’t matter how good Joel Embiid is. I’m going to be selling on that hard. I’m not even that worried about Ben Simmons’s injury issues—let’s give him 82 games. Rookie point guards just struggle, I think he’s going to be awesome. I’m way higher on him than you are. Maybe I’m not quite as high on Markelle Fultz as you are, but it’s kind of a similar thing with some of these guys when we’re talking about in Boston: They can give you minutes, but they’re not going to give you quality winning minutes straight out of the gate. That doesn’t really happen. So if you’re betting the over on 42.5, then you’re basically part of Joel Embiid’s family at this point. That’s pretty much the only way that would work.
Sharp: I see that, and I’m glad I don’t live in Las Vegas in close proximity to a casino, because I don’t know what I would do. If I could actually put lots of money betting against the 76ers, I would probably take out loans.
Golliver: [Laughs] Reverse mortgage?
Sharp: The Sixers’ under would be my long-term financial plan! That’s probably not healthy…but you’re right. It’s not even a shot at what they have, because I actually like what they have, but when guys are 19 and 20 years old they are going to struggle. As a Wizards fan, John Wall and Bradley Beal are now pretty great, but it took them years to become actually good NBA players. And by that time, the rest of the Wizards were a mess. But it’s going to take Fultz a couple of years, it’s going to take Dennis Smith Jr. a couple of years, before any of the hype begins to be realized.
If Embiid were going to play 82 games, I could kind of understand the idea, but—
Golliver: Nah, but even then! Looking back to last season, my favorite talking point was Minnesota. You fell in love with Minnesota. I think you’re showing a lot of growth on this podcast by selling Philadelphia, because it’s the exact same phenomenon. Minnesota didn’t even come close to that 40.5 line and they had great health from Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. That’s their main young core guys. They really struggled. You can even say Embiid is better than Towns, but is he going to be as healthy? I don’t know. And I think there’s a question mark in terms of, ‘Are they going to have anyone as effective as Wiggins? Or as proven as a Rubio?’ I’m not sure I see it. They have a lot of no-name producers backing up this Big Three. I just don’t know how they got to that number. It feels wildly high.
Sharp: There’s money to be made. Just hop on a flight to Vegas. Next one, the Blazers at 42.5.
Golliver: That’s a really tough one. I’ve seen people argue both ways. Where are you?
Sharp: I really can’t decide. I’d probably go under just because the Blazers have been a house of cards for the last two years or so. In each case they’ve been bailed out by some potentially misleading surges down the stretch, and I think at some point this has to fall apart and they have to choose between Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, and the West is just so stacked that it’s hard to believe they are going to hold up this year.
Golliver: Yeah, it’s weird. I was going to say they were somewhere between last year’s team and the previous year’s team, and they won 41 last year and 44 two years ago, so somewhere in between would be 42.5, where you said the line was. So exactly on that line! My advice would be to stay all the way away, because in a best-case scenario they could be five wins above that. Jusuf Nurkic balls out, all their guys stay healthy, their offense gets unlocked, they have less ego issues after clearing out some salary this summer. I don’t know if they’re going to make 50 wins, but 47-48 seems possible. You seem like you feel the other way, where they could fall way short of that. But I wouldn’t bet on the Blazers either way, just stay away.
Sharp: Yeah, I feel that way about 5-6 teams in the West in part because the conference is so loaded right now, and in part because we don’t know what the hell to expect from Portland, from Memphis, or Denver. Who knows who’s going to play point guard for them? It’s just kind of a crapshoot once you get past those 5-6 top teams in the West, there are 5-6 other teams that could be playoff teams. We’re pretty much on the same page there. What about the Wizards at 48.5?
Golliver: Oof. That’s a tough one.
Sharp: Come on! Hop on the bandwagon with me.
Golliver: All my Wizards takes feel like shots at you. It’s really hard to separate my personal feelings toward you and my feelings toward the franchise. I feel like that’s pretty close to their best-case scenario. What do you see as their ceiling next year? Are they better than a 51-win team? Really?
Sharp: Well, it’s tricky. Because it has to be factored in that they sort of lived their best-case scenario last year and only won 48-49 games. Health-wise, they were super thin as we all saw in the playoffs, but everyone stayed healthy all year, so it wasn’t really a problem in the regular season. That’s true again. So in that respect it’s probably wise to short Wizards stock right now. But I just have a weird feeling that we’re going to get to March and the Wizards, every year it’s a new fake-good team, potentially challenging the Cavs, and I have a feeling it could be the Wizards. Well, it’s not being optimistic, but I promise you when we get to March I won’t be sitting there like a Hawks fan two years ago saying: If the Wizards just play the right way they can beat the Cavs! I promise I’m not going to be that guy. But I think they could be the fake challenger of 2018.
Golliver: They’ve got a cohesive, well-tested starting five that you can put against anybody. Yeah, I can hear that argument already. I think the best argument for the Wizards going over is that they had to work out a lot of kinks at the beginning of last season, and they still got to 49. So let’s say they don’t have to work out any kinks, they hit the ground running and maybe 52-53 is in play. Then again, you lose Beal or Wall at all, and they’re toast. Or if you lose Otto Porter or Marcin Gortat or Markieff Morris and things get pretty dicey pretty quickly. Maybe you can get past a Markieff injury or some of the younger guys, but still. You get nervous real quick.
Sharp: Beal is the one guy they really can’t afford to lose, because Beal is probably a 25 point per game scorer at this point in his career. Even if Wall had to miss a couple of weeks, Beal could carry them for a little awhile. But if you take Beal off the court, Wall has nobody to pass to and it could get pretty ugly. But good news: Beal is easily the most fragile player in the Wizards’ rotation! So, bet carefully. But I would absolutely never bet a Wizards over/under because my head is so screwed up by this team. But if I had to choose… I’d take the over.
Golliver: I think I would probably go under because now I’m seeing their starters combined to miss like less than 20 games. They all played large minutes. I have a hard time believing that’s going to happen, but it did kind of cancel out that slow start.
Sharp: Anyone who thinks I’m just a shameless Wizards homer, go back to last year’s podcasts in last November and listen to how dark it got talking about the Wizards and how down I was on everyone. But I’m coming into this year full of optimism, which I’m sure will end well. Last one, Lakers at 33.5?
Golliver: Under. Always under on the Lakers and Knicks, it’s the easiest money. Those are the ones that are always skewed. You’ll get burned by the Knicks every five years. But the Lakers have a rookie point guard, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope isn’t that good and tricks people…
Sharp: What about Brook Lopez?
Golliver: Oh yeah, he’s really had a lot of overs on the over/under win totals in recent years. Brook Lopez hasn’t won 33 games in the past five seasons combined in Brooklyn! If you bet L.A., you’re betting on huge strides from Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram, which isn’t impossible, but you also need Lonzo Ball to hit the ground running, and I think there’s going to be some bumps form Lonzo. I’m hyped to watch him play, there’s no question about it, but it’s tough to do it when you’re a one-and-done young guy with a lot of pressure. I don’t know. I’m skeptical.
Sharp: Yeah, he’s 19. It’s going to be a mess. Just like Fultz in Philly. Dennis Smith Jr. is the same thing. I mostly included them because I never fail to be amazed by the Lakers’ over/under, especially the last few years. Like I know with the Sixers we said it’s not a good idea to do long-term financial planning with some of these over/under winnings, but had you gone back 4-5 years and just bet the under on the Lakers every year, you could probably put a kid through college. The Lakers in the West are going to be in for a rough ride this year.
Click here to listen to this entire episode of Open Floor from Sharp and Golliver.