NBA Eastern Conference Over/Unders
With the NBA Regular Season fast approaching, it’s that time of year again. Everyone has optimism for their team, we can’t see what the rookies will bring to the table, and we are dying to start constructing narratives for the new season. This piece gives my picks for the Over Under lines for the Eastern Conference, and my picks for the Western Conference will be out tomorrow. Later this week I’ll put out my picks for awards, and playoff predictions.
Boston Celtics: 51.5
The Celtics play in the worst division in basketball, and added Al Horford to a team that almost won 50 games last year. They may have overachieved a little bit last year, but they have real depth that is important in sustaining an 82 game NBA season. They’ll win a lot of games simply by having fresher guys, and more playable options a 8–12 in their rotation.
Pick: Over, 53–29
Toronto Raptors: 49.5
Kyle Lowry had a career year last year, as did DeMar DeRozan. They set a franchise record for wins, and made the conference finals with DeMarre Carroll missing all but 26 games. Add that together, and it seems like the Raptors should be right back at the same level this year, but Carroll and Lowry are both on the wrong side of 30 which is particularly troubling for Carroll. They also lost Scola and Biyombo, severely hampering their center depth. Sullinger figures to get a lot of minutes at backup center. Yikes.
Pick: Under, 48
New York Knicks: 38.5
This Knicks teams would have been great in 2010–11. We know the story on Rose’s injuries, and he is now facing legal trouble as well. Their backup point guard, Brandon Jennings, still doesn’t look fully recovered from his Achilles injury. Carmelo had knee problems two years ago and is 32 now. Joakim Noah has shoulder issues, and is an aging big man. Phil Jackson is still trying to force the triangle on this team in 2016. They have no bench depth whatsoever. This is a perfect recipe for disaster, despite the lone bright spot in Kristaps Porzingis.
Pick: Under, 34
Philadelphia 76ers: 27.5
The Process is finally yielding some real fruit: Joel Embiid is going to play real NBA minutes against real NBA players this year, the most exciting thing about Philadelphia basketball in recent years. Philly is a complicated situation; even more so after the recent Ben Simmons injury. We all know about their logjam in the frontcourt, and it seems that Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel are the odd men out in the long term. The 76ers can probably get real assets for Noel, but that remains to be seen for Okafor. They still have no real guard talent, especially with Jerryd Bayless missing time. No guards and an extremely young roster overall is going to make it tough to win games on a nightly basis. Dario Saric will surprise a lot of casual fans with his uncanny passing skills. The guy is like a 6'10" Croation version of Manu Ginobli.
Pick: Under, 25
Brooklyn Nets: 20.5
The Jeremy Lin/Brook Lopez pick and roll is about all this team has going for it. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson may take another step towards being a great defender in this league. There has been speculation that the Nets may trade Brook Lopez for some draft picks, which the team desperately needs.
Pick: Over, 21
Cleveland Cavaliers: 56.5
The defending champs are bringing back the same roster, sans Mo Williams. The only question mark is JR Smith, who the Cavs will likely re-sign (though that’s starting to become a question more than an assumption). Coming off the championship, and playing in a conference without much to challenge them at the top, the Cavs have more reason than ever to take it early in the regular season.
Pick: Under, 54
Detroit Pistions: 45.5
Reggie Jackson will miss 6–8 weeks, and is targeting a late November, or early December return. This is devastating news for the Pistons, who were playing the corpse of Steve Blake at backup point guard last year. Ish Smith should be able to fill in the starting role reasonably well, but the question mark at backup is as big as ever. With that said, Boban Marjanovic will bolster the team’s front line depth, Stanley Johnson stands to take a step forward, and Tobias Harris should fit in even better now that’s he’s had an offseason with the team.
Pick: Over, 46 (Higher before the Jackson injury)
Indiana Pacers: 43.5
The Pacers lost Ian Mahinmi, and George Hill while picking up Al Jefferson and Jeff Teague. This seems like a big step back to me, as I’ve never been a big believer in Teague (and have always liked Hill) and Jefferson’s defense is, uh, not great, especially at this age. Monta Ellis is another year older and still can’t shoot. A lot of that won’t matter though, because Paul George is still good. Like, really really good. Myles Turner looks promising, too.
Pick: Over, 45
Chicago Bulls: 38.5
The Bulls had one of, if not the biggest roster turnovers in the league, in terms of big names. They shipped out Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, while adding Robin Lopez, Rajon Rondo, and Dwyane Wade. This team figures to be a spacing nightmare, even with Wade’s reported insistence that the team is going to shoot lots of threes. Rondo hasn’t been a plus defender in years, but Robin Lopez is still a decent starting big man. Doug McDermott is looking improved as a defender, and Jimmy Butler is an All Star. They’re still not sure what they have in Bobby Portis. This should be an interesting team, despite the fact that they will likely play some ugly basketball.
Pick: Under, 36
Milwaukee Bucks: 39.5
The Khris Middleton injury is devastating for the Bucks. He was probably their most consistent player last year, though Giannis was their most enthralling star. Age controversy aside, I’m not sure I like Thon Maker, but hopefully we get a good look at him, and see less Greg Monroe. I’m optimistic we will see a lot from Jabari Parker this year, and how can you not like a team with Michael Beasley on it?
Pick: Under, 35
Atlanta Hawks: 43.5
The Hawks traded away Jeff Teague, giving Dennis Schroeder the keys to the offense. They were essentially forced to choose between keeping Paul Millsap and Al Horford, and they chose Millsap. Given the power forward market, I think they made the right choice. They were able to land Atlanta native Dwight Howard for 3 years/$70 million. Schroeder and Howard in the pick and roll stands to make up for the offense lost with the departure of Horford (though Howard has historically begged for post touches instead of the pick and roll). Howard also adds some on the defensive end, and should help the Hawks shore up the lackluster defensive rebounding numbers Horford put up.
Pick: Over, 47
Charlotte Hornets: 39.5
This line is absurdly low, for a team that won 48 games last year without their best defender in MKG. They should be just as good this year despite adding 7'2" defensive ghost Roy Hibbert. There might not be a whole lot to get excited about in Charlotte, but they should be a good team.
Pick: Over, 46
Washington Wizards: 42.5
Last year was sort of weird for the Wizards; it never felt like they hit a stride. Otto Porter’s big leap never materialized, Beal was oft-injured as we’ve become accustomed to, and the Kevin Durant sweepstakes always made it feel like the focus wasn’t really on the guys that played for the Wizards in real life. They added Ian Mahinmi which opens up a possible deal to acquire a desperately needed wing. They also brought in Trey Burke who should help add some backcourt depth for the inevitable 15 or so games that Beal will miss.
Pick: Over, 44
Orlando Magic: 36.5
They replace Scott Skiles with Frank Vogel, and swapped Victor Oladipo for Serge Ibaka. Ibaka will probably help clean up after Vucevic on the defensive end, but on the whole I don’t think the needle has moved much here. We can all hope for more Mario Hezonja this year though.
Pick: Under, 34
Miami Heat: 36.5
Even Pat Riley has admitted that the Heat are in rebuilding mode. Dwyane Wade departed for Chicago after being offended that the Heat wouldn’t simply pony up to pay him back for all the cuts he’s taken over the years. Chris Bosh may never play in the NBA again, which is devastating news for all of us, really. Chris makes the NBA a better place both on the court and off. The Heat’s roster now features Goran Dragic, 30, and Hassan Whiteside, 27. While those two are great, the rest of their roster includes Wayne Ellington, Tyler Johnson, Dion Waiters, and Udonis Haslem (still!). Justise Winslow may be good, but he didn’t show much offensively last year.
Pick: Under, 33
Thanks for reading, and check back tomorrow for the Western Conference!