Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver breaks down the best NBA bets this season on SI.com today. The basketball scribe likes the Golden State Warriors to go over 66.5 wins, the New York Knicks to go under 40 and isn’t so hot on the Miami Heat (35).
The Minnesota Timberwolves’ line of 41.5 surprised him, and many others, given that the Wolves won 29 games last season. That’s a 12.5-game improvement, topping all teams including the Los Angeles Lakers and Knicks, who Vegas projects will finish eight games better than they did last season.
“Surely, intelligent viewers can agree with Las Vegas that Sam Mitchell—how to put this —’wasn’t getting the most out of his talent,'” he writes, “but even a substantial coaching upgrade is unlikely to move the needle that much unless it comes coupled with an infusion of serious talent.”
He offers this: Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins have been good so far and could improve, Kris Dunn could win Rookie of the Year and Brandon Rush and Cole Aldrich were good low-cost pickups in the offseason.
But 42 or more wins this year? He’s not going that far.
“Can Minnesota surpass .500 for the first time since 2005 (!) and go over on 41.5 this season?” he asks, rhetorically.
“Yes, it’s plausible, but that feels an awful lot like a best-case scenario. Towns would need to evolve into an All-Star, Wiggins would need to dramatically improve his efficiency and all-around contributions, Zach LaVine would need to become a passable defender, Dunn would need to play like an average starter, Thibodeau would need to take the team’s defense from terrible to respectable, and there still wouldn’t be much margin for bad luck or injury.”
He also adds that Minnesota plays in the Northwest Division, where three teams (Oklahoma City, Portland and Utah) expect to make the playoffs, and all five should be relevant.
“I’d take the under, even if it means deflecting ‘You’re a scrooge!’ accusations,” he writes. “Here’s banking on a win total in the high 30s this year followed by the long-awaited trip to the playoffs in 2018.”[Sports Illustrated]