Looking at the Over / Under totals for this coming (82-game) NBA season and what has to go right for each team to hit the Over number:
ATLANTA HAWKS (47.5) – The Hawks are all in, ponying up the cash to keep forward John Collins and keeping the ball in the hands of Trae Young. They came out of nowhere to make it to the EC finals last season, so opponents won’t be caught by surprise this time around.
BOSTON CELTICS (47.5) – Oddsmakers appear to think that last year’s 36-36 season was an aberration. New coach Ime Udoka promises more ball movement and better defense (both were lacking in 2020-21). Can a boatload of above-average veterans (Schroder, Horford, Josh Richardson) lift the overall games of All-Stars Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum?
BROOKLYN NETS (55.5) – Steep hill to climb for a team whose 3-cylinder (Irving, Durant, Harden) engine needs constant repair. Do the stars take things easy, stay healthy and rest up for the playoffs, or do they put the pedal to the metal and lay waste to the league like everyone thinks they can? Answer that and you’ll know whether to play the Over or Under.
CHARLOTTE HORNETS (36.5) – Every team dealt with injuries last season, Charlotte among them. But even with LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward apparently healthy again, books figure that the Hornets are a fringe playoffs contender at best. Lots of young talent that needs to take a step forward in the improved East.
CHICAGO BULLS (39.5) – Bulls could take a step back (despite adding Lonzo Ball) if they have to cut bait with Laurie Markkanen and get nothing in return, but they still have lots of talent. How can a team with Ball, Zach Lavine, DeMar DeRozen and Nikola Vucevic not get to at least .500?
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (28.5) – Are Jarrett Allen and rookie Evan Mobley the new Tim Duncan/David Robinson? And do the Cavs roll with the kids or bleed what they can out of Kevin Love to make a run at the Play-In tournament? Will Collin Sexton blow up team chemistry with crazy shot selection? Should be fun on and off the court with this group.
DETROIT PISTONS (25.5) – Detroit hit paydirt with Jerami Grant and Saddiq Bey last season, then lucked out with the No. 1 pick and grabbed Cade Cunningham. Add in second-year burner Killian Hayes, and the pieces are in place. If the kids don’t freak out early, the Pistons could be trouble faster than anyone thinks.
INDIANA PACERS (43.5) – The Pacers seem paralyzed by fear of falling to the bottom of the conference, so they don’t make big moves that could elevate the franchise. All their key players (Brogdon, Sabonis, LeVert) are in their prime ages (mid- to late-20s), but Indy is still a few stars short of a move up.
MIAMI HEAT (48.5) – Pat Riley will worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes. For today he has added 35-year-old Kyle Lowry to a starting five that was already more than decent. A rebound year from Victor Oladipo and improvement from coming-of-agers Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson would probably mean 50-plus wins in South Beach.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS (54.5) – Would you rather have a trophy or a first-round draft pick? The Bucks figured it out, built around Giannis Antetokounmpo and let nature take its course. Covering 54.5 would mean two wins in every three games for an entire season – tough for a team that could be tempted to rest on its laurels pre-All Star break.
NEW YORK KNICKS (40.5) – Oddsmakers apparently don’t like the off-season moves (Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier) all that much, and that should produce a slew over Over wagers from NY-area fans who figure that they at least have to get to .500. Don’t they?
ORLANDO MAGIC (24) – If the Magic move Terrance Ross and make no new additions, the entire roster will be under the age of 30, and most will be in their early 20s. Thus the low O/U number. If there is one truism in the Association, it’s that young teams lose. A lot.
PHILADELPHIA 76ers (51.5) – Lots of pessimism surrounding this team after yet another playoff flameout, and now management looks like it will have to lower its asking price for one-foot-out-the-door PG Ben Simmons. Philly is just one Joel Embiid injury away from the Play-In tournament.
TORONTO RAPTORS (37.5) – Kyle Lowry is gone, Goran Dragic is on board but doesn’t want to be, and Toronto is rebuilding with a group of veterans. Got all that? Raptors aren’t even 100 percent sure they will play their home games in Canada this season.
WASHINTON WIZARDS (34.5) – Management has plenty of incentive to win at all costs, since its only real All-Star, Bradley Beal, can walk away next summer. Roster has only spotty talent, however, and they need good health for Beal and a strong season from newcomer Spencer Dinwiddie to get to even 35 wins.