The oddsmakers in Las Vegas know an awful lot, but they don't know everything. Especially when it comes to something as tricky as projecting NBA wins over a full 82-game regular season.
Sure, the sheer length of the NBA schedule allows for innumerable variables that could cause huge shifts in the NBA landscape. But a little research and opportunistic thinking can go a long way toward beating the house.
More than that, though, looking at a few NBA over/under win projections gives basketball fans a chance to see just how their favorite team measures up against the competition. Sometimes, oddsmakers put too much emphasis on injuries or a few flashy free-agent acquisitions. In other instances, they don't consider the likelihood of young players improving or old ones falling off.
For the most part, the guys in Vegas who set the lines are amazingly adept at getting equal action on both sides of every line. But occasionally, they just plain get it wrong.
Here are a few NBA over/under win totals that really missed the mark (all over/under figures from Bovada unless otherwise indicated).
The Nuggets are the deepest team in the NBA. They're young, they play at a breakneck pace and they have incredible balance up and down the roster. Oh, and they also brought in Andre Iguodala, one of the NBA's most underrated players, to give them a defensive edge.
Plus, Denver is incredibly young, which means they've got a stable of players likely to improve. Kenneth Faried, who led the team in PER as a rookie, is a dominant rebounder and already one of the NBA's best energy guys.
Danilo Gallinari, JaVale McGee and Ty Lawson are each just 24 years old, with room to get better.
In short, the Nuggets are built specifically to win regular season games. They'll wear out the opposition with their up-and-down attack while substituting frequently from their 10-deep rotation. Denver won 38 games in a shortened season last year, added Iguodala and should see growth from every meaningful player on their roster.
This team could win 60 games, making Vegas' line of 50.5 a little shocking. The Nuggets should easily go way over that figure.
The Portland Trail Blazers might have landed a pair of nice rookies in Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard, but the fact that those two figure to play huge minutes this season makes an over/under of 33.5 wins a pretty obivous error.
There's no question LaMarcus Aldridge is a stud, but aside from him, the Blazers are relying on the newly re-signed Nicolas Batum and the aforementioned rookie tandem to carry a huge load.
The Blazers are in decent shape for the future, but they won just 28 games last season and are handing the offensive reins to a mid-major college star in Lillard. That means there'll be some definite rough patches as Lillard struggles against the steep NBA learning curve.
With little depth and too much responsibility for a pair of young players, expect the Blazers to finish well beneath their projected 33.5 wins.
The oddsmakers know Derrick Rose probably won't play more than a few games this season, right?
Without their former MVP, it's hard to picture the Chicago Bulls getting anywhere close to the 48 wins they'd need to hit the over on this projection. The team lost to the eighth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers after Rose went down in last year's playoffs, showing how much he meant to the team.
Even if Rose returns sooner than expected, he may never be the same player he was.
So, although the Bulls can still be a postseason team on the strength of their elite defense and rebounding numbers, there's no way they'll be able to find enough offense to win consistently without Rose. Take the under here.
Let's assume the worst. If, for some reason, both Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry are sidelined for the entire season by their injuries, the Warriors are still a better team than they were last year.
The Dubs added Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack, giving them two starter-quality players in bench roles. Then they drafted Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green. The rookie trio are all rotation-worthy players and Barnes has shown enough in the preseason to win the starting job at small forward.
So, even if the Warriors' two hobbled cornerstones never play a second of the season, the team has still added five quality players to a core that already included David Lee and potentially breakout-ready Klay Thompson.
The Warriors won 23 games last year, despite actively trying to lose for half of the season. With all the talent they've added, they'd get close to 37 wins even without Bogut and Curry.
The fact that Curry will be ready to go for the season opener (and is playing in a contract year) coupled with Bogut's setback-free, on-schedule recovery means that a win total in the mid-40s is very realistic. If you're looking for evidence of an East Coast bias, this might be it.
Take the over.
The Lakers have the most talented quartet of stars in the NBA. But every single one of them has huge question marks that make a 59-win season highly unlikely.
Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash are surefire Hall of Famers, but they've both also been in the league since 1996. Age and the aggregate toll of so many seasons (and deep playoff runs) have to be considered with these two. If they make it through the season, it'll be because coach Mike Brown has been careful with their minutes and rested them on the second night of back-to-back games. If either gets hurt, 60 wins starts to look even less likely.
Pau Gasol has looked awful in the preseason and questions linger about whether he's gotten over being traded—and then brought back after the league rescinded the deal—for Chris Paul.
Dwight Howard is reportedly healthy and looks good. He's even played in the preseason. But if he suddenly finds himself on the floor with aging veterans battling injuries and a disinterested Gasol, how long will it take for him to start complaining like he did in Orlando?
All the personnel questions aside, there's still the looming issue of uncertain chemistry. It's hard to fathom four star players gelling immediately, especially when they're all learning a new offense. If they're supposed to win at least 59 games, they can't take any time to adjust; they'll have to be terrific from Day 1.
Finally, the Lakers have no depth at all. While that matters little in the playoffs, it's significant in the regular season. With an aging backcourt and a center coming off back surgery, there will be plenty of minutes available for the bench. Unfortunately, the best L.A. has to offer in the substitute department is Antawn Jamison.
The Lakers should win 50 games and make a deep playoff run on the strength of their core of stars, but there's no way they go over 58.