I’m going to give a few of my favorite picks in this story, but first, a disclaimer: I’m not a winning sports bettor, and neither are any of your other favorite writers.
There’s a strong selection bias at play any time you read free gambling advice on the internet. There are a few exceptions — and I’ll give you one if you stick with me until the end — but for the most part, only the losers have the willingness to part with tips.
With that out of the way, let’s look at the totals that are out so far.
The Clippers are my extremely early pick to win the title. They’re also a great candidate to rack up regular season wins because of their tremendous depth.
Generally, teams that have no weak links up and down their rotations overperform in the regular season. The Clippers have star power, and no bad players will be soaking up minutes when they come off the bench.
The Clippers only won 42 games last season, but this is going to be a completely different team. Kawhi Leonard missed all of last season, and Paul George only played in 31 games. They should also benefit from a full season of Norman Powell, Robert Covington and offseason addition John Wall.
On top of everything else, the Clippers have arguably the most underrated coach in the league in Tyronn Lue. I like this team to pulverize the rest of the league during the regular season.
Thunder under 25.5 wins
The Thunder have been shamelessly tanking for two seasons, holding out some of their best players to get better draft positioning. This upcoming draft class features two of the best prospects that we’ve seen in recent memory in Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson.
Even beyond that top two, the first five players in the draft are going to be much stronger than an average year. Surely, the Thunder will be trying to lose again.
The Thunder also have four draft picks to play in Chet Holmgren (No. 2 overall pick), Ousmane Dieng (No. 11), Jalen Williams (No. 12) and Jaylin Williams (No. 34). Young players are almost never productive as rookies, and they will add to that loss total while they learn how to play in the league.
The Thunder have hit 22 and 24 wins in the last two years. If the four rookies presumably play a decent amount of minutes, then their win total should drop. With such a loaded draft and development as their main priority, that seems like a safe bet.
Bulls over 41.5 wins
The Bulls won 46 games last season and made marginal improvements to the back end of their roster. They replaced Tony Bradley’s ineffective backup center minutes with Andre Drummond and added some emergency guard depth in Goran Dragic.
That might not be enough to keep up with the rest of the Eastern Conference, which got a lot better post-trade deadline and during the offseason, but it shouldn’t precipitate a five-game drop in wins either.
Vegas seems to be counting on the idea that DeMar DeRozan can’t perform at the level that he did last season. The Bulls were one of the best clutch teams in the league behind DeRozan’s play. Going by their net rating, they should have been below .500. But DeRozan stole them a ton of wins late in games, leading the league in fourth quarter points.
The other question mark with the Bulls is the health of Lonzo Ball, who is still recovering from a knee injury that he suffered in January. Bulls executive vice president Arturas Karnisovas, speaking on NBA TV during Summer League, said that the injury was progressing but “not at the speed that we would like.”
The Bulls were just 24-23 in games that Ball missed last season, as compared to 22-13 in games that he played. His health is an obvious concern, but even if he only plays a small chunk of the season, they should be above .500 on the year.
It is really tough to beat Vegas without using some sort of modeling, as I’m trying to do here. Medvedovsky hasn’t released his projections yet, but my best bet is to see what DARKO has to say in a few months.