Setting The Pick – Win total predictions
Opening night in the NBA is less than two weeks away, so now’s the time to get your future tickets in the door.
The dust has settled on the trade front, save for James Harden. There are essentially no outstanding transactions that’ll cause paradigm shifts this year.
We’re early enough into the preseason to capitalize on initial rotation decisions and eye tests.
There was a lot of change across the league during the off-season and we’re finally getting to witness how it all comes together.
Looking at the win totals available on FanDuel, here are three lines that I’m most bullish on.
Toronto Raptors, Over 36.5 Wins
This might feel like a homer pick, but if you pay attention to the tone of Raptors Nation, the fan base is pretty pessimistic. Media Day compounded those emotions, as every question for team president Masai Ujiri seemed to press him for a definitive direction on the organization’s future.
Actions speak louder than words, and Toronto being involved in the Damian Lillard sweepstakes was a good indicator. Even though a deal wasn’t complete, the fact that serious calls were made suggests they have little desire to execute a full rebuild.
The reality is, the Raptors are likely stuck somewhere in the middle.
While I’m not suggesting Toronto jumps back into playoff contention immediately after last year’s disappointing performance, this number is far too low.
The Raptors finished last season with 41 wins, but their record didn’t reflect their abilities.
Toronto held a plus-1.5 net rating, good for 11th-best in the NBA. With that efficiency, their expected win total was 44.8 according to Cleaning The Glass.
Their offence and defence both ranked in the top half of the league, yet they finished .500.
Another critical factor to point out: Toronto gets a full season of centre Jakob Poeltl.
During their 26 games post-trade, they went 15-11 with minimal practice time to integrate the Austrian.
Don’t forget this is a team that threw an incredibly raw rookie, Christian Koloko, into the starting lineup for 19 games.
There’s no denying VanVleet’s impact on winning; he got paid by Houston for a reason.
Nurse is the most accomplished head coach in Raptors history, but it was clear by the end of the season, the friction was burning within the locker room.
Dennis Schroder can’t fully replace VanVleet’s production, but his recent performance and leadership for Germany in the FIBA World Cup is a promising sign.
Everything we’ve heard during training camp and beyond suggests new coach, Darko Rajakovic, has the positivity needed to right the ship. Sometimes it takes a new voice to bring about significant change.
Golden State Warriors, Over 47.5 Wins
While the Raptors lost a key locker room voice in VanVleet, the Warriors lost a major distraction in Jordan Poole.
There’s no questioning his offensive ceiling, but his scuffle with Draymond Green to open last season cast a bleak shadow all year.
On top of their tarnished chemistry, Poole himself had been a questionable influence on winning.
Of the seven Warriors who started more than 36 games last season, Poole was the only one with a negative net rating.
In fact, the starting five without Poole was No.1 in the NBA (min. 500 possessions). They were plus-22.1 per 100 possessions according to Cleaning The Glass.
The biggest problem for the Warriors last year was the bench. With the exception of Donte DiVincenzo (who started 35 games), every non-starter finished with a negative net rating.
James Wiseman was particularly bad, going minus-22.8 per 100 possessions. The Warriors rightfully swallowed their pride and gave up on him as a project.
Having a proven veteran like Paul to facilitate their second unit should keep them competitive against opposing benches. What was once their weakness could change into a strength.
If you recall, alarm bells were screaming after the Warriors went through an 11-game road losing streak. Much of that fell on the bench and their lack of focus.
Golden State ended up 11-30 on the road, a jarring 26.8-win percentage versus 80.5 at home. That’s a difference of 22 wins.
I’m willing to bet that statistical anomaly won’t repeat. In the nine years Steve Kerr has coached this team, their worst home-away differential was 11 wins in 2020-21.
Add in the fact that Curry missed 26 games and Andrew Wiggins was away from the team for over half the season (non-injury related), four more wins isn’t a big ask for a team that is down to their final years as legitimate championship contenders.
Memphis Grizzlies, Over 45.5 Wins
You might be noticing a theme with these picks. I like finding opportunity in situations where public opinion is disproportionally negative.
Memphis didn’t endear themselves to the NBA world last year.
As a young, scrappy team, the Grizzlies talked a big game but weren’t able to deliver.
While they fell short in the playoffs, their youth is a major asset during the regular season.
They’ve cleared 50-wins two years in a row and come into this season determined to silence the doubters.
After being the heart and soul of Boston, expect him to be a vocal leader for this young squad that will hang their hat on defence.
The Grizzlies now roster two DPOYs in the starting unit and welcome back a healthy Steven Adams who was quietly critical to their success.
The Kiwi went down with a right knee injury in January and ended up missing the rest of the season.
In the 42 games he was healthy, Memphis went 28-14.
During that stretch, the Grizzlies had the No. 1 defensive rating.
His presence on the floor gives Jackson Jr. more autonomy to roam and provide help defence against opponents who underestimate his length.
The Grizzlies will be offensively challenged over Morant’s 25-game suspension, but history suggests they can sustain.
They finished 11-10 without Morant last season and went 20-5 two years ago.