One of the biggest changes in the sports landscape for fans actually had nothing to do with the sports themselves. Multiple rule changes were instituted in all of the “Big 4” American sports before the commencement of their most recent seasons, yet only one thing really got fans of all backgrounds excited; the legalization of sports gambling.
That’s right boys and girls! In case you weren’t aware you can now legally bet on sports if your state chooses to allow it. The first big wave of bettable lines came out this summer once the NBA projected win totals were announced for the upcoming 2018-2019 season. As always, certain bets seem to be more popular than others which is why once I went over my takes for all 30 teams, I was surprised to find that some of the ones I felt most confident in were some of the least popular across the board. That either makes me an idiot or a genius and only time will be able to tell.
So taking a look at the current Vegas over/under win total projections, here are my three most unpopular win total takes for the upcoming NBA season.
Denver Nuggets – 47.5
A lot of people are very pro-Denver this preseason and, although I get it, I am not. It’s simple math really. Only eight teams can make the playoffs in the west, the final team to sneak in the playoffs last year had to win 47 games. That team, by the way, was the Minnesota Timberwolves who had to beat Denver in the final game of the season. The winner of that game then had the pleasure of getting throttled by Houston in the first round.
Part of the reason Denver couldn’t pull that game out is that they don’t have any clutch players or go-to guys when they need a bucket. MAYBE Nikola Jokic is that guy but, if a bucket is needed late and I have to choose the best guy on my team and that guy is Nikola Jokic, then I’m really not thrilled with my clutch time options.
Let’s go back to the math for a second. The Western Conference playoff picture can be predicted right now (assuming current rosters hold up). GSW, OKC, San Antonio, Houston, Utah and the Lakers seem like locks to make the playoffs. That leaves two of Minnesota, Denver, L.A. Clippers, New Orleans and Portland to fill out the last two spots and they have to go to Portland and New Orleans. The six teams that are locked in (with the exception of Houston) got better this past offseason and Denver just kind of sat dormant and didn’t do anything other than getting Isaiah Thomas who is 5-foot-9. Take the under on the still too young, no late-game takeover, too-hyped Denver Nuggets.
Indiana Pacers – 48
This seems easy. The world found out last year just how good Victor Oladipo really is. Then this offseason the Pacers added Tyreke Evans who has a chance to compliment Oladipo with his skill set as both an on-ball and off-ball guard. He shot 40% from three-point range last year which was the highest mark of his career. He’s not an accomplished defender, but with the defensive capabilities already stationed in Indiana and the general grit that team plays with, we could see a slightly revamped defensive effort from him this upcoming season. He’ll be a hugely important new piece for them. And let’s not forget that they also signed the guy with best nickname in basketball, Dougie McBuckets. That has to count for something, right?
Back to the math equation. There’s really only four teams who could crack 50 wins in the East and the Pacers are one of them. The Celtics and Raptors are guaranteed to get 50 and the Sixers can get there as long as their preseason trip to China doesn’t throw them too far out of whack.
The rest of the East is filled with mediocre to bad teams that wouldn’t make the playoffs in the much tougher Western Conference. That’s including a Cavs team that LeBron DRAGGED dead and lifeless to 50 wins. About 20 of those wins are about to be vacated with LBJ’s departure which means teams all over the East, including Indiana, could see an automatic one or two extra wins this season. It’s nothing but sunshine and blue skies ahead for the Pacers this regular season, so take Indiana over.
Phoenix Suns – 29
The Suns have cool uniforms and a great color scheme, a new coach in Igor Kokoskov, young guys with a ton of potential and a decade’s worth of awful basketball to make up for this season. They have Devin Booker, who just worked out with all of the Team USA guys (Lebron, Durant, Kyrie, etc.) and there is a history of young guys coming back from that atmosphere changed. We’ve seen the talent from Booker for sure. He’s the only player currently in the league to score 70 points in one game. Seeing the true stars of today’s NBA work on team USA will inspire him to work harder too in order to up his game. Seeing the top level players work out and their work ethic hopefully rubbed off on Booker and this is the season he finally puts it all together.
On top of that, we’re one preseason game in for Phoenix and their number one overall draft pick, DeAndre Ayton, finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. Luka Doncic is the truth from this year’s draft, but Ayton looked like the real deal. Booker had nobody to count on last year, and he may finally have someone to take some of the load off and grab a few rebounds to get some extra possessions. They’re not going to make a surprise playoff push, but Phoenix is better than 29 wins and probably good enough to steal a few throughout the season. Bet on Devin Booker and the Suns over.