How Has Off-Season Player Movement Impacted NBA Win Totals?

With the NBA-Preseason in full swing, many sportsbooks have released their NBA win totals for the 2013-14 season.  For those who are unfamiliar with betting win totals, most sportsbooks will set a line for team wins for all 30 teams in the NBA. A bettor will then decide whether to take the Over or Under on that win total. If a bettor took Over 40.5 games, that team would need to win at least 41 to win their bet.

This off-season saw major changes to the NBA landscape with Dwight Howard finally finding a permanent home in Houston, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett moving from Boston to their Atlantic Division rival Brooklyn, Andre Iguodala joining the up-and-coming Warriors, and Doc Rivers taking over coaching duties for the Clippers.

With such major acquisitions for teams in major markets, we were curious to see how the opinions of so-called experts compared to that of oddsmakers. In order to do this, we used ESPN’s forecast (created by using the consensus projections from their expert panel) for the 2013-14 season and compared those to Sportsbook’s NBA win totals to see if there were any major discrepancies.

Team
ESPN Projections
2013-14 Win Totals
Difference
Atlanta Hawks 40 40 0
Boston Celtics 29 28 -1
Brooklyn Nets 53 53 0
Charlotte Bobcats 26 27.5 1.5
Chicago Bulls 55 56.5 1.5
Cleveland Cavaliers 39 40.5 1.5
Dallas Mavericks 39 44.5 5.5
Denver Nuggets 43 46.5 3.5
Detroit Pistons 38 40.5 2.5
Golden State Warriors 50 50.5 0.5
Houston Rockets 53 55 2
Indiana Pacers 54 55 1
LA Clippers 57 56.5 -0.5
LA Lakers 36 34.5 -1.5
Memphis Grizzlies 51 49.5 -1.5
Miami Heat 60 61.5 1.5
Milwaukee Bucks 31 28.5 -2.5
Minnesota T'wolves 40 41.5 1.5
New Orleans Pelicans 37 40.5 3.5
New York Knicks 48 49.5 1.5
Oklahoma City Thunder 58 52.5 -5.5
Orlando Magic 24 24.5 0.5
Philadelphia 76ers 20 16 -4
Phoenix Suns 22 21.5 -0.5
Portland Trail Blazers 38 38.5 0.5
Sacramento Kings 30 32.5 2.5
San Antonio Spurs 55 55.5 0.5
Toronto Raptors 33 36.5 3.5
Utah Jazz 32 25 -7
Washington Wizards 39 40 1

The most striking difference of opinion came on the Oklahoma City Thunder. Despite winning 60 games last season and reaching the Western Conference Semifinals sportsbooks were very bearish on the Thunder’s prospects next season. Part of this is undoubtedly due to Russell Westbrook’s knee injury, which will force the explosive point guard to miss between 4 to 6 weeks.

On the flip side, the team of experts at ESPN are far less optimistic about the Dallas Mavericks than oddsmakers. Last season the Mavs finished with a .500 record (41-41) despite getting just 53 games out of star player Dirk Nowitzki. Over the off-season Dallas lost their second leading scorer in O.J. Mayo, however they seem to have addressed that void in their backcourt with the free agent signings of Jose Calderon, Devin Harris and Monta Ellis.

Another massive discrepancy concerns the Utah Jazz. While the team of ESPN experts project a 32-50 record for Utah, oddsmakers have set Utah’s win total at just 25, and the reasoning is simple — youth and inexperience. The projected Jazz starting lineup (Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter) would be one of the youngest starting fives in the league with an average age of 21.6. In fact, former Butler star Gordon Hayward is the elder statesman of the group at just 23 years old. While there is certainly potential in this group, it’s easy to see why oddsmakers don’t have high expectations for Coach Corbin’s team.

It’s not surprising to see that oddsmakers believe the Miami Heat will lead the league in wins, but the real intrigue regards teams at the other end of the spectrum. After trading away star point guard Jrue Holliday, the 76ers are projected to win just 16 games this season. A win total this low would not only put them in strong contention for Kansas F Andrew Wiggins in the 2014 draft, but also rank as one of the 25 worst seasons in NBA history.

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Which teams do you think are being undervalued by oddsmakers? Do you agree with any of the ESPN expert projections? Make sure to leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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