Timberwolves, UNDER 44.5 Wins (-134)
Minnesota is such a mess right now that I am left to wonder if coach Tom Thibodeau is intentionally doing a poor job with hopes of getting fired. While this seems crazy, Thibodeau stands to get paid the remainder of his contract if he gets fired as opposed to quitting. He could not do worse managing the Jimmy Butler situation. Butler is 99 percent of the way out the door and the Wolves hold no leverage in a potential trade. This means Minnesota is opening the season with either a disgruntled Butler on the roster or he is getting shipped in a trade for a fraction of his actual value. The presence of Butler in the locker room could wreak havoc on chemistry and the team lacks an identity without him. The most likely situation appears to be the trade with a minimal return. With Butler off the court last year, Derrick Rose led the team with a 26.6 percent usage rating, which likely spells doom for offensive efficiency. The T-Wolves’ win total likely drops if a trade comes to fruition.
Rockets, OVER 55.5 Wins (-125)
This is a curiously low win total. While I believe the losses of Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute will have a negative impact, the Rockets won a league-best 65 games last season. Houston is not a worse team by a 10-win margin. There is a case to be made that had PG Chris Paul not gotten injured, we would be entering the 2018-19 season with the Rockets as defending champions. History has been rewritten on Twitter that the Warriors ruined the NBA and are the inevitable champions every year. Houston had Golden State on the ropes with two chances to knock them out. This displays how great this Houston team really is. The detractors will say Paul will not stay healthy, which leads to fewer wins. He only played in 58 games last year, which is the least amount of games played for him since 2009. If anything, we should expect more games from Paul this season than he played last year.
Knicks, UNDER 29.5 Wins (-143)
The Knicks won 29 games last season and I expect them to take a step back in the win column this year. Their star player, Kristaps Porzingis, tore his ACL at the end of last year and remains without a timetable for a return. Some reports speculate he will miss the entire season. The chance for the Knicks to compete without KP this season is basically non-existent, so there would not be much gained to bring him back towards the end of the season. Even if he does return, the expectation is he misses the majority of the season and returns with a minutes restriction. In addition, the Knicks play in the Atlantic Division, which is arguably the most difficult division in the NBA. The Raptors, Sixers and Celtics are all powerhouse teams which should take steps forward this year. Basically, we are looking at the Knicks playing a more difficult schedule with a lesser roster, but their win total projects them to win more games this year.
DeAndre Ayton to win Rookie of the Year (+150)
Ayton and Luka Doncic (+225) are the two first-year players that I think have a reasonable chance to win Rookie of the Year. It is reasonable to place an equal bet on both, which yields a profit if either of them secures the award. However, at this point in time, I have to lean towards Ayton as my pick to win. I normally don’t put a ton of weight into preseason stats, but Ayton is going nuts in games without meaning. He is averaging 20.5 points, 11.25 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game through Tuesday afternoon. He is also showing to be much farther along on the defensive side of the floor than I expected coming out of the gate. On a barren roster without much competition for playing time, Ayton should continue to rack up counting stats for the Suns.
Ben Simmons to lead the league in assists per game (+1000)
For the odds, Simmons is a good value and most other books list him around +600 to lead the league in dimes. He finished last year fifth at 8.2 assists per game, but his passing numbers increased as the season progressed. Simmons averaged 9.8 assists per game after the All-Star break and 10.4 APG over the final 17 games of the season. Russell Westbrook (+175) led the league at 10.3 APG, which is an attainable number for Simmons when considering his progression throughout his rookie season for the 76ers. There is also concern regarding the health of Westbrook after undergoing surgery for the fourth time on his right knee. The possibility of reduced minutes when he returns makes it more likely for a long shot like Simmons to average more assists on a per game basis.
Odds and lines subject to change. See website for actual odds.
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