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NBA picks: Breaking down Southeast win totals, and why Hawks shall be higher regular-season team than Heat

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What’s the defining characteristic of the Southeast division? That query is not rhetorical, I’m genuinely asking. The Atlantic Division is stocked with the East’s big-market blue bloods. The Central Division hosted Michael Jordan and LeBron James for many of their careers, and quite a few the rivalries sprouted up around them. The Southeast division… well, there’s not exactly a correct end to that sentence. It’s where the East slapped its spares.

That makes for a division that rarely finds itself at the middle of the NBA world, which suits us just superb from a betting perspective. In spite of everything, the general public nature of teams just like the Celtics, Nets and 76ers invariably affects their odds. That is not going to be as true for the Hornets and Magic. Within the Southeast we’re getting a much purer distillation of what Vegas and the betting market expect out of the teams in query, and that is going to make our job in picking over/unders just a little bit easier.

All odds via Caesar’s Sportsbook

*Pythagorean Wins represent the variety of games a team could be expected to win based on their point-differential

2021-22 Wins

53

2021-22 Pythagorean Wins

54

2022-23 Win Total Line

48.5

The pick: Under 48.5

Miami is thought for big-game hunting within the offseason, but despite rumors surrounding Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell, the Heat didn’t wind up adding a single external veteran to their roster. P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris left. No. 27 pick Nikola Jovic and quite a few undrafted rookies joined the team in his place. That is the extent of their offseason changes. That is functionally the identical team Miami had last season, minus Tucker.

That is a fairly sizable loss as Miami has no obvious alternative at power forward. Barring a training camp standout emerging, that leaves Erik Spoelstra with two options: go ultra small with someone like Caleb Martin or Max Strus at power forward, or go ultra big with Bam Adebayo at power forward next to either DeWayne Dedmon or Omer Yurtseven at center. That is the Heat we’re talking about, so odds are, they’ll discover someone we have never heard of that may give them 20 competent minutes, but it surely’s hard to assume that player outshining Tucker.

The more pressing concern listed below are the core players. Kyle Lowry is 36. Jimmy Butler has missed between 15 and 23 games five years in a row now, and along with his own thirty third birthday now within the rearview mirror, it feels pretty secure to assume he won’t play 70 games ever again. Victor Oladipo hasn’t played 70 games previously three seasons combined. There’s loads of youth here to theoretically offset a few of the aging and injuries, but it surely’s price noting that Strus, Yurtseven, Gabe Vincent and Tyler Herro are all playing for contracts. This looks like a season of change for Miami.

It is not dissimilar to the 2020-21 campaign by which the Heat followed up a Finals berth with a 40-32 record that translated to lower than 46 wins across a typical 82-game schedule. The Heat finished that season on an 18-8 run and could have made some playoff noise with a more favorable bracket, but the buildup of age, injuries and depth questions weighed them down across your complete regular season. A somewhat similar campaign by which the Heat get off to a slow start, cope with injuries after which develop into the play-in team no one desires to face seems like their likeliest end result.

Is that this the very best option to bet on this team? Perhaps

This feels relatively straightforward. When you’re low on the Heat, you’ll be able to get them at +230 to take part in the play-in round at Caesar’s. That is significantly higher value than taking their under, and in the event that they do go under, it probably means they’re in range for the play-in. Nevertheless, should you’re high on the Heat, there is not any similar value play. The Heat are favored to win the Southeast Division at -160. Either side of their win total is sitting at -115, but betting their total doesn’t force you to take a side on the Hawks as betting their division would. There isn’t a reason to bet on them to make the playoffs, as Caesar’s is offering just -1200 on them to accomplish that. Due to this fact, your best plan of action should you consider in Miami is simply to take the over.

Atlanta Hawks

2021-22 Wins

43

2021-22 Pythagorean Wins

46

2022-23 Win Total Line

46.5

The pick: Over 46.5

There are two primary reasons the Hawks have lost basketball games over the past 4 years:

  • Defense. The Hawks have ranked 18th, twenty sixth and twenty eighth twice defensively since drafting Trae Young.
  • Backup point guard play. Atlanta’s offense scored 10 fewer points per 100 possessions when Young went to the bench last season. That gap actually shrunk from 13.8 points throughout the 2020-21 season and astonishing 15.5 points the 12 months before that.

Adding Dejounte Murray goes a good distance towards fixing each weaknesses. Murray is the very best point-of-attack defender the Hawks have had throughout the Young era, and as each he and DeAndre Hunter are large enough and versatile enough to cover multiple positions, Nate McMillan can safely hide Young on virtually any perimeter player. Throw in some more Onyeka Okongwu minutes and while the Hawks probably won’t be great defensively, they’ll almost definitely post their highest rating since landing Young. To be fair, 18th is not an especially high bar.

If the Hawks can just get to average defensively, they’ll push for 50 wins. That is because Young, by himself, practically guarantees a top-10 offense. The Hawks have finished ninth and second over the past two seasons, but even before the Hawks leapt into the postseason, they were scoring at an elite rate during Young’s minutes. For instance, the Hawks ranked twenty fifth overall in offense throughout the 2019-20 season, however the 111.2 points per 100 possessions they scored with Young on the ground would have placed them thirteenth. That was his second season within the NBA. That is going to be his fifth.

And in some ways, it’s set as much as be a little bit of a breakout campaign for Young. Everyone knows what he can do with the ball in his hands, but with Murray as a secondary ball-handler, he will have more of a chance to indicate off what he can do without it. He’s never been Stephen Curry as a mover, but remember, he just shot over 48 percent on catch-and-shoot 3’s last season. The problem is that he practically never got to take them on an offense that needed him to create the whole lot. Murray eases a few of that burden. Even when his own limitations as a shooter clog the ground a bit for Young within the pick-and-roll, the advantages greater than outweigh the drawbacks.

So long as you suspect that Murray, coming off of an All-Star season, can safely lead Atlanta’s bench units, then you need to be picking the Hawks to win a minimum of 47 games. San Antonio won Murray’s minutes by 1.9 points per 100 possessions a season ago, and the form of players he shared the court with there aren’t dissimilar from Atlanta’s reserves from a talent perspective. If he can keep the Hawks at an identical level, they’ll have their best season of the Young era.

Is that this the very best option to bet on this team? No

When you just like the Hawks? Grab their Southeast Division odds at +170. When you don’t? You’ll be able to still improve odds on them to be within the play-in round (+120) than to go under (-115). I’ll admit, there’s also an element of me that is eyeing their No. 1 seed odds at +1800. The formula here matches for the Hawks to be a worse version of the 2018 Rockets: one elite ball-handler on the ground in any respect times paired with a surprisingly effective defense. Atlanta won’t approach the 65 games Houston won that season, but remember, the No. 1 seed within the East last season won only 53 games. Atlanta’s best-case end result might be in that range, and Boston and Brooklyn are already coping with internal issues before the season has even begun. I do not think the Hawks are going to get the No. 1 seed, but at 18-to-1, it is simple enough to picture a world by which Joel Embiid and Khris Middleton miss games and suddenly a path is obvious. I’m leaning against betting it myself, but it surely’s not crazy.

Charlotte Hornets

2021-22 Wins

43

2021-22 Pythagorean Wins

42

2022-23 Win Total Line

35.5

The pick: Under 35.5

We’re assuming, in the intervening time, that Miles Bridges just isn’t going to play for Charlotte this season. Even under those circumstances, the Hornets are probably going to surprise people within the minutes LaMelo Ball plays with the starters. While helpful, Bridges has never been especially essential to the success of those lineups. The Hornets had a +3.7 net rating when Ball played without Bridges a season ago, based on Cleansing the Glass, and Ball lineups featuring Bridges were 2.2 points worse per 100 possessions than those who didn’t include him in Ball’s rookie season. 

The 2 obviously fit together theoretically. Pair a high-flyer like Bridges with a playmaker like Ball and highlights are going to come back. But what you are seeing in those minutes is one other mouth for Ball to feed. His usage is already quite low by All-Star standards, clocking in at roughly the identical percentage Reggie Jackson’s did. Higher-usage Ball is usually going to learn the Hornets. If his improvement continues unimpeded, he must have an enormous 12 months.

Yet I’m still taking the under for a couple of reasons. First, the non-LaMelo minutes are going to be a disaster. That’s where Bridges was really essential as a play-finisher for Charlotte’s lesser ball-handlers and, especially last season, an additional secondary shot-creator. Charlotte lineups with neither Ball or Bridges got blasted by almost nine points per 100 possessions last season, and Gordon Hayward’s age- and injury-related regression is just going to make those minutes more precarious. 

After which there are the defensive issues inherent in losing your most athletic wing. Bridges is not exactly a stopper and the mixture of Kelly Oubre and P.J. Washington gives the Hornets a good little bit of lineup flexibility, but remember, the Hornets just finished twenty second in defense. They are not exactly positioned to lose players, especially since, for the 900th 12 months in a row, they’ve did not add a legitimate rim-protector at center.

Is that this the very best option to bet on this team? Yes

I say “yes” only in that there is not any other bet on the board I like for the Hornets. I would not bet this either. Steve Clifford has too strong a defensive track record. Ball has an excessive amount of upside. There are only too some ways for either side of this bet to go mistaken for me to credibly suggest putting money on it. So my pick is under, but my advice is to avoid the Hornets.

2021-22 Wins

35

2021-22 Pythagorean Wins

31

2022-23 Win Total Line

35.5

The pick: Over 35.5

Nothing the Wizards does is smart within the context of competing for a championship and even sniffing the second round… but should you’re on the lookout for a company that is going to bump into respectability 12 months after 12 months? Then do I actually have the team for you. The Wizards won 35 games a 12 months ago despite getting:

  • 40 Games out of Bradley Beal, and 40 bad games at that. He’s probably not shooting 30 percent on 3’s again this season.
  • The 44 worst games of Spencer Dinwiddie’s profession. No veteran start line guard should come near 38 percent from the sphere. Monte Morris will likely be deal higher.
  • Only 42 games out of Rui Hachimura, who was coping with a private issue for much of the season.
  • Seventeen games out of trade deadline acquisition Kristaps Porzingis. Okay… it’s hard to expect too way more on this front.

The Wizards had a first-year head coach, significant roster turnover, career-worst performances from quite a few players and injuries across the board… they usually still nearly hit this over. Whether you just like the roster or the organizational direction in a macro sense does not imply all that much here. The Wizards simply don’t tank. They’ve won a minimum of 28 games (or the 82-game equivalent in shortened seasons) for greater than a decade straight.

That streak feels relatively secure just given the amount of NBA-caliber players on this roster. If Beal is out? Morris, Will Barton, Deni Avdija and Delon Wright are all still available within the backcourt. Porzingis needs to sit down for a month? Just slide per-minute megastar Daniel Gafford into his slot and keep Taj Gibson warm for his inevitable foul trouble. It is not exactly advisable to construct a roster around seventh men, however the Wizards have one, and the first advantage of doing so is that it insulates them against the pains of the regular season. They’re rarely going to be terrible. They’ll stack wins against bad teams. All the same questions that exist about their future today will still be asked a 12 months from now, but it surely won’t be because this group won 19 games and gave Tommy Shepherd a lottery pick. 

Is that this the very best option to bet on this team? No

When you’re a Wizards believer, I’d consider Washington at +175 to make the play-in round if only because their history suggests that in the event that they’re healthy and shut, they’ll quit draft capital for an upgrade on the deadline. It’s pretty hard to miss the play-in while you’re really attempting to make it. Two-thirds of the league has to complete in the highest 20. 

Orlando Magic

2021-22 Wins

22

2021-22 Pythagorean Wins

19

2022-23 Win Total Line

27.5

The pick: Over 27.5

I agonized over this line. All conventional wisdom screams “bet against the young team that may tank for the generational prospect.” Anyone has to complete at the underside of the Eastern Conference, and after Detroit’s veteran additions, there aren’t many candidates. But in the long run, I simply couldn’t find enough reasons to think the Magic will lose plenty of games beyond the plain thought that they’d probably prefer to lose plenty of games.

The largest reason young teams are inclined to lose is defense, however the Magic weren’t horrendous defensively last season. It tracks considering their personnel. Jalen Suggs, despite being a rookie, ranked fourth amongst point guards in FiveThirtyEight’s Defensive RAPTOR WAR. Franz Wagner was above-average at small forward by the identical metric. Each stand to enhance merely by not being rookies. Jonathan Isaac, a former All-Defense candidate, is ready to return after missing the past two seasons. Wendell Carter Jr. made significant strides a season ago. This just isn’t your typical group of clueless children. They’ve already shown promise on defense. They’d should be terrible offensively to hit this under even when their defense stays where it was.

And yes, the Magic did rank twenty ninth offensively a season ago. They’ll be fairly low again this season, even with Paolo Banchero presumably posting impressive counting stats. The bar here is just so obscenely low that clearing it need only involve modest improvements from other children. Suggs was a disaster offensively as a rookie. He was also one in all the engines of one in all the best college offenses ever. He isn’t going to shoot 36/21/77 again because, putting aside his status as a No. 4 overall pick, no one shoots that badly twice. That there is an inexpensive amount of cumulative shooting here helps as well. Each Orlando centers can credibly make 3’s. Wagner and Banchero can as well. There’s going to be an inexpensive amount of space for the guards to work with.

The Magic aren’t blasting beyond this mark. The play-in is not awaiting them. But the ground here seems high enough to predict 28-30 wins. Competent defense and the No. 1 overall pick leading the offense makes one other aggressive tank tougher. 

Is that this the very best option to bet on this team? Yes

The East is just too deep for the Magic to compete for the play-in. The West is just too thin for the Magic to compete for the NBA’s worst record. The win total line is the one middle ground here. I do not feel especially confident on this pick and would not advise putting money on it, but when you might have strong feelings on the Magic, the win total is where to bet them.

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