Friday, December 9 2022

By Ric Bucher
FOX Sports NBA Writer

NBA training camps open this week, so it’s time for all the offseason social-media posts. We will get video clips of improved team chemistry (Brooklyn Nets), new skills (Russell Westbrook’s shot) and improved health (Jamal Murray’s knee). The resulting information will surely shift oddsmakers’ win total lines for the season.

Based on my preliminary discussions about this season with GMs, scouts and executives, this could be one of the most competitive years we’ve seen in some time, as far as parity goes. Nearly a dozen teams are being given a chance to be the last ones standing when we get to June. 

What does that mean for win totals? 

Let’s dive in!

LeBron James ‘in awe’ of potentially becoming NBA’s all-time leading scorer | UNDISPUTED

LeBron James is on the cusp of surpassing Kareem Abdul Jabaar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

We will see less separation between the truly elite squads and the very good ones. This means more of a dog fight for the conference’s best record and a lower win total for the team that gets it. That’s what we witnessed in the Eastern Conference last season. The Miami Heat came out on top with 53 wins, the fewest by a conference winner in an 82-game season since the Detroit Pistons went 50-32 to win the 2002-03 Eastern crown. 

That is why it would be wise to take advantage of where a few of these win totals are set right now. So without further ado, here are all win totals for this season at FOX Bet, as well as, my top five wagers that appear ripe to be exploited.

NBA 2022-2023 Win/ Loss Totals at FOX Bet*

Boston Celtics: 54.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total

Los Angeles Clippers: 52.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

Milwaukee Bucks: 52.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

Phoenix Suns: 52.5 
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

Golden State Warriors: 51.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

Denver Nuggets: 50.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

Philadelphia 76ers: 50.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

Memphis Grizzlies: 49.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

Dallas Mavericks: 48.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

Miami Heat: 48.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

Minnesota Timberwolves: 48.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

Brooklyn Nets: 47.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

Atlanta Hawks: 46.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

Cleveland Cavaliers: 46.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

Los Angeles Lakers: 44.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

New Orleans Pelicans: 44.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

Toronto Raptors: 44.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

Chicago Bulls: 43.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

New York Knicks: 39.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

Portland Trail Blazers: 38.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

Charlotte Hornets: 36.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

Washington Wizards: 35.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

Sacramento Kings: 32.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

Detroit Pistons: 27.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

Orlando Magic: 26.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

Utah Jazz: 26.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

Oklahoma City Thunder: 25.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

Houston Rockets: 23.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

Indiana Pacers: 23.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

San Antonio Spurs: 23.5
Under -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total), Over -110 (bet $10 to win $19.09 total)

*as of 9/29/2022

Brooklyn Nets

Let’s begin with the Brooklyn Nets and their current win-total line. This number jumped from 45.5 when it was unclear if Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were going to get their desire to be elsewhere fulfilled to as much as 51.5 after the team announced that they and Durant were committed to staying together. 

That is expecting them to make an eight-win improvement over last season’s 44. This number also expects them to be a cohesive, no-distraction outfit for the entire season. That is expecting far too much.

Kevin Durant ‘wasn’t surprised’ he wasn’t traded, Kyrie claims to lose out on $100M | UNDISPUTED

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving offered some explanation to the Nets off-season.

Let’s start from a purely clinical point: It’s rare when there are more than three 50-plus win teams in the East; it’s only happened twice in the last 10 years. Currently, the Celtics, Bucks and 76ers are considered locks to cross that threshold. This leaves, at best, the Nets battling the Heat — last year’s top team with 53 wins — the Bulls, Cavaliers and Raptors for that fourth spot, even IF this is one of those rare years with four 50-plus win teams. 

There is reason to be more optimistic about at least two of those teams — the Cavs and Raptors — because they have fewer questions. The Nets’ Ben Simmons hasn’t played in a year and is coming off of a back surgery. Kyrie Irving is a question mark, period. And how long KD accepts being a Net — “happy to be” is not even on the board — is also a question mark. 

Throw in that they have a host of undersized guards — Irving, Seth Curry and Patty Mills — and only one returning rim protector from last season, Nic Claxton, betting that Brooklyn is a sub-.500 team seems like an easy choice.

PICK: Brooklyn Nets under 47.5 wins

Toronto Raptors

I’m not sure if the Raptors will reach 50 wins, but they don’t have to with a win total line set at 44.5. Why the oddsmakers are expecting them to take a step back from last year’s 48-win squad is not clear.

What is clear to me is I expect the Raps to replicate last year’s win total — at worst. Why? Because they played last season at a major disadvantage thanks to Canada’s stringent COVID-19 regulations that, for one, restricted home attendance.

Practically their entire team, including support staff, attended the UCLA pick-up runs this summer. It’s rare when one team has enough players at a summer run to put five on the floor together — Toronto had a starting five and subs.  At one point, I saw Scottie Barnes, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Chris Boucher on the floor together. 

This group is young, and while that can be a team’s downfall in the playoffs, as it was last year against the 76ers, it’s less of a factor during the regular season, when younger legs and flexible rosters are more advantageous than experience. 

As much as the Cavs might’ve improved on paper by adding Donovan Mitchell — he’s a talent upgrade — there’s still a question of how well he’ll fit. I like teams that already have displayed good chemistry and have continuity over teams that are adding a piece, particularly one that soured on his previous situation.

I don’t know if the Raptors have enough talent to go deep into the playoffs, but I know they have the talent, coaching and mindset to be a nightly pain in the butt to play during the regular season.

PICK: Toronto Raptors over 44.5 wins

San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder

My next two picks are in the Western Conference at the other end of the spectrum: the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, otherwise known as entrants in the Victor Wembanyana Sweepstakes. 

The only way a generational talent like Wembanyana — already a lock to be the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft — ever winds up in a place like San Antonio or OKC is if he’s drafted there, so you can rest assured the Spurs and Thunder have their eyes on the bottom of the standings, not the top. 

I’ve seen this movie before. When Spurs coach Gregg Popovich tanked to get Tim Duncan in the 1997 draft, he wasn’t obscene about it the way, say, the Philadelphia 76ers were during The Process. They didn’t even have the worst record that year. 

Pop has a well-earned reputation for coaching his teams hard and angling to win as many games as possible no matter how short handed they may be, but even that didn’t prevent them from three consecutive trips to the lottery. I’m guessing Pop is willing to suffer through a fourth in order to enjoy another run of postseason appearances. And with the other perennial tankers — Detroit, Orlando and Houston — already overloaded with extremely young talent, the Spurs can afford to win 20 or 21 games and still be at the bottom. 

The only team they have to worry about is the Thunder, who won 24 and 22 games the last two seasons *without* Wembanyana as a potential door prize. OKC lost rookie Chet Holmgren to a season-ending injury, leaving the Thunder’s projected big-man rotation as of now at Darius Bazley, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Aleksej Pokusevski and rookie Ousmane Dieng, Wembanyana’s fellow French national. They are 21, 21, 20 and 19 years old, respectively. Veterans Mike Muscala and Derrick Favors are waiting in the wings, and that’s where I expect they’ll stay. 

I’m a big fan of Josh Giddey, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lu Dort, but that’s the extent of the proven talent cache. Win-total lines for both the Spurs and Thunder are set at 23.5, and I’d grab the under on both.

PICK: San Antonio Spurs under 23.5 wins 

PICK: Oklahoma City Thunder under 25.5 wins 

Los Angeles Lakers

And, finally, we have the Los Angeles Lakers, with a win-total line set at 45.5. 

To reach that mark, they would have to have a winning record and make a 12-win improvement over last season, when it could be argued they had a team far better tailored than this one to the strengths of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, their incumbent stars. 

LeBron is at his best with the ball in his hands, surrounded by veteran role players who are effective without it. The Lakers’ only veterans aside from Davis are all point guards — Russell Westbrook, Pat Beverley and Dennis Schröder — and two of them (Westbrook and Schröder) are not particularly effective off the ball. 

Davis prefers playing power forward over center, but for that to happen, Damian Jones or Thomas Bryant will have to show out, and neither one of them has ever been an impact player on a winning team. 

Even if James and Davis can stay healthy and play 70-plus games, the requisite pieces for success simply aren’t there. The notion that James and Davis can produce a winning squad regardless of what they have around them appears to be quaint at this point; James and Davis were 11-11 when they both suited up last season, and four of those wins were against two of the three worst teams in the league, Detroit and Houston.

Lakers fans, it’s not being disloyal to bet the under on your team. If you’re right, you win. And if you lose, well, that means your team won. Look at it this way: it’s probably the only no-lose situation the Lakers will offer this season.

PICK: Los Angeles Lakers under 45.5 wins 

Editor’s Note: All picks listed were made at the time of writing.

Ric Bucher is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He previously wrote for Bleacher Report, ESPN The Magazine and The Washington Post and has written two books, “Rebound,” on NBA forward Brian Grant’s battle with young onset Parkinson’s, and “Yao: A Life In Two Worlds.” He also has a daily podcast, “On The Ball with Ric Bucher.” Follow him on Twitter @RicBucher.

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