The East might have the toughest division in the NBA, but the West has the lion’s share of elite teams. The defending champs are running it back in Golden State, as are the reigning Regular Season Champs in Phoenix. The Clippers are deep and healthy, the Nuggets are finally whole, the Wolves have reloaded, and Memphis’ young core is a year older and wiser.
As we creep ever closer to training camp, ever closer to another season of wondering if Kawhi Leonard is healthy, if Russell Westbrook will ever set a screen, if Zion and Luka are in shape, it’s time to look back on the picks I made at the tail end of the NBA’s free agency period. Will I change my mind? Or will I be even more confident in the way-too-early picks I made back then?
Golden State Warriors: Over 52.5 wins
Phoenix Suns: Over 52.5 wins
Los Angeles Clippers: Over 52.5 wins
Los Angeles Lakers: Under 44.5 wins
Sacramento Kings: Under 34.5 wins
The Take: Several of these lines moved since I last covered them, but there’s no reason to change the pick. Despite jumping up two games, I still like the Warriors’ OVER at 52.5 wins for the same reason I liked it at 50.5: It’s been a decade since the last time Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson were healthy and the Dubs won fewer than 53 games. I’m still fading the Lakers at every chance I get, despite that line moving from 45.5 to 44.5 in the last month. The Suns and Clips still feel closer to 60-win teams than 50.
And the Kings. Clearly significant money came in on the over since July, but I took the Kings’ under at 32.5, and the two-win jump this line has seen has me even more confident. You can rely on few things in this world. The Sacramento Kings finding a way to suck is one of those things.
Denver Nuggets: Over 51.5 wins
Minnesota Timberwolves: Under 48.5 wins
Portland Trailblazers: Over 39.5 wins
Oklahoma City Thunder: Under 23.5 wins
Utah Jazz: Over 25.5 wins
The Take: The numbers for Denver and Minnesota have only moved by one win, but they’ve both moved in the direction I picked in July. So we’re definitely not changing those picks, but rather feeling even more confident. I bought the Wolves’ under at 49.5, but 48.5 isn’t enough to scare me off. Same with Denver over 51.5 instead of 50.5.
Apparently picking Portland’s over at 40.5 was a zag, since the market clearly disagrees with me, betting that number down to 39.5. I’m sticking to my guns on that one. I still believe in Damian Lillard, and I think his supporting cast is deceptively talented.
The only change I’m making to my Northwest picks is Oklahoma City. Unfortunately, second overall pick and gangly wunderkind Chet Holmgrem sustained ligament damage in his foot and will miss the season. And that puts the Thunder, who were looking rather frisky, firmly back into tank mode. I like OKC’s UNDER at 23.5 wins without Chet, especially with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander allegedly on the trading block.
Memphis Grizzlies: Over 49.5 wins
Dallas Mavericks: Over 48.5 wins
New Orleans Pelicans: Over 44.5 wins
Houston Rockets: Under 23.5 wins
San Antonio Spurs: Over 24.5 wins
The Take: Memphis’ number has come down by one, and the Mavs’ has gone up by the same. In fact, everyone in the Southwest besides New Orleans has seen their number shift.
And yet, I’m not changing a single pick. I still believe Greg Popovic could win 25 games in the NBA with your rec team’s roster, and I still believe Houston is going to struggle to even be competitive against Western Conference teams.
Most importantly, I still believe in Ja Morant and Luka Doncic. Bettors have brought the Grizz down from 50.5 to 49.5, so my over pick just gets stronger. Dallas’ additions in the front court should offset the loss of Jalen Brunson, assuming Tim Hardaway Jr. and Spencer Dinwiddie return to form. It’s a boring take, but Ja and Luka are good at basketball. And the NBA is a star’s league. Always ride top-end talent.
As always, play safe, and don’t chase.