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NBA OVER/UNDER: Money-line picks with the Western Conference’s victory projections

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Are the Vegas experts underestimating the battle-tested Warriors? Are the Lakers locks for 20-plus load-management games with LeBron? BATSBY Sports commits to the over/under win projections for the West clubs.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
2018-19 RECORD: 57-25 (advanced to NBA Finals)
OVER/UNDER: 48.5 (odds courtesy of Westgate Sportsbook)
THREE-YEAR AVERAGE: 61 wins
BATSBY SPORTS PICK: OVER

REASON TO BELIEVE

Right out of the box, this feels like a sucker’s bet.

For the 2015-16 campaign, one year before Kevin Durant would relocate to the Bay Area, the defending-champion Warriors enjoyed a white-hot start of 24-0 … before cruising to all-time seasonal high of 73 victories.

In that vein, three total championships later (2015, 2017, 2018), we’re supposed to fall victim to a 48 1/2-win projection, even though Stephen Curry (two-time MVP; likely the most prolific long-range shooter in NBA history), Draymond Green (the league’s best big-man facilitator), D’Angelo Russell (stealth off-season acquisition) and mayyyyyybe Klay Thompson (might sit the entire season — torn ACL) can’t scrape together 50 victories?

It sounds ridiculous from any angle.

DENVER NUGGETS
2018-19 RECORD: 54-28
OVER/UNDER: 52.5
THREE-YEAR AVERAGE: 47 wins
BATSBY SPORTS PICK: OVER

REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

a) This feels like another trap bet.

The Nuggets are one of the league’s most notable up-and-coming teams; and they’ll be adding a major piece this season, with the better-late-than-never arrival of Michael Porter Jr. — Denver’s No. 1 pick from 2018.

Three years ago, Porter was being hailed as a sleeker version of Kevin Durant, in terms of shooting/scoring prowess and towering over helpless opponents. However, injuries and long rehab stints had momentarily halted these comparisons.

Fast forward to the present: The decks have seemingly been cleared for Porter to ingratiate himself into the Nuggets’ lineup, with the potential of giving Denver a Big Three package of star power (along with Jamal Murray and Nicola Jokic) for the next 7-8 years.

b) The Nuggets (111 points per game last season) ranked 2nd overall in team assists, which speaks to the club’s commitment to sharing the ball and playing with great spacing.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS
2018-19 RECORD: 37-45
OVER/UNDER: 49.5
THREE-YEAR AVERAGE: 33 wins
BATSBY SPORTS PICK: OVER

REASON FOR CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM

Unofficially, the Lakers are early-line favorites to have the most ‘Load Management’ games this season, as a means of resting LeBron James (turns 35 in December), Anthony Davis (perhaps the NBA’s most indispensable big man), Dwight Howard and Kyle Kuzma — the lone young turk who hasn’t been traded by club officials in the last three years.

However, 50 wins still seems like a doable objective for the Lakers, who have a highly favorable schedule in October/November … and could be prohibitive favorites for their 15 combined games with the Knicks, Cavaliers, Bulls, Wizards, Grizzlies, Thunder and Suns.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
2018-19 RECORD: 48-34
OVER/UNDER: 54.5
THREE-YEAR AVERAGE: 47 wins
BATSBY SPORTS PICK: UNDER

REASONS FOR MILD SKEPTICISM

a) Without a doubt, the Clippers have become genuine title contenders with the high-powered acquisitions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

However, let’s not forget, in the George trade with Oklahoma City, the Thunder landed a decade’s worth of draft picks … and point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who enjoyed strong rookie numbers in Los Angeles (averages: 10.8 points, 3.3 assists … while shooting 47.6 percent from the field).

b) The West could potentially have multiple teams of 48 or more victories that don’t make the playoffs. If this speculative prediction holds up, how will the Clippers make a seven-victory jump to cover the Vegas tally?

HOUSTON ROCKETS
2018-19 RECORD: 53-29
OVER/UNDER: 54.5
THREE-YEAR AVERAGE: 58 wins
BATSBY SPORTS PICK: UNDER

REASONS FOR IMPERCEPTIBLE SKEPTICISM

a) This one’s a toughie: The Rockets started out a dreadful 1-5 last year and still posted 53 victories in the highly competitive West; and with Russell Westbrook now in the fold, we’re not anticipating any similarly shaky starts to this season.

That said, it’ll take time for the Rockets to find their optimum rhythm with Westbrook and James Harden patrolling the court together. With separate clubs last year, they were the NBA’s most ball-dominant playmakers … by a healthy number.

b) It’s hard to envision Houston matching its amazing finishing kick of 20-4 from the regular season, setting the Rockets up with the No. 4 seed in the West playoffs.

c) If this Vegas number were 53 1/2 victories, we might have been on-board with the over. So, we’re hardly predicting a sluggish campaign for Houston.

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
2018-19 RECORD: 53-29
OVER/UNDER: 45.5
THREE-YEAR AVERAGE: 48 wins
BATSBY SPORTS PICK: OVER

REASONS TO BE OFFENDED

a) Let’s see, the Blazers arguably have the NBA’s best backcourt (Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum), solid versatility, depth and size in the frontcourt, a ton of off-season motivation (being swept in the West finals) … and they’re supposed to incur a dip of 7-8 wins this season?

At face value, this feels like a preposterous notion.

b) Head coach Terry Stotts has crossed the 50-win threshold three times in the last six seasons. The Blazers also have front-office stability in general manager Neil Olshey.

So, what about Portland’s current status has the Vegas people worried about a mini-implosion?

c) Anfernee Simons, who won’t turn 21 until next June, continues to make strong strides in his player development (great summer league) and could soon emerge as a dynamic asset in the Blazers’ backcourt.

Bottom line: Barring injury, Portland seems like a lock to flirt with 50 wins. Again.

UTAH JAZZ
2018-19 RECORD: 50-32
OVER/UNDER: 54.5
THREE-YEAR AVERAGE: 50 wins
BATSBY SPORTS PICK: UNDER

REASONS FOR MILD SKEPTICISM

a) Of the teams that won’t be on national TV at least 20 times this season, the Jazz might have the greatest odds of capturing a championship this season.

Landing Mike Conley Jr. represents a major upgrade for the Jazz at point guard; and as such, Utah finally might have a super-sized Big Three (Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert) that’s built for sustained playoff success.

Plus, the Jazz ranked 4th in defensive scoring last year and based on analytics (via Basketball Reference), the club should have enjoyed four more wins.

Does this mean the Jazz will go all-out during the regular season to get 55 wins and potentially host two rounds of the West playoffs? Hmm … we’ll see.

b) It might be asking a lot for the Jazz to produce five more victories, factoring in the West’s incredible depth and this fun fact:

Utah has reached the 53-win mark just once in the previous 11 seasons (2010).

SACRAMENTO KINGS
2018-19 RECORD: 39-43
OVER/UNDER: 37.5
THREE-YEAR AVERAGE: 33 wins
BATSBY SPORTS PICK: OVER

REASONS TO BELIEVE

a) Back in July, amid the frenzy of the Pelicans trading Anthony Davis to Los Angeles, I stated on Twitter the Lakers would struggle to have a better regular-season record than the Kings.

The rationale back then: The Lakers had gutted their franchise to acquire Davis, and didn’t have much remaining capital (outside of scant salary space) to fortify the starting five and bench around the James-Davis tandem.

So, in that respect, it’s probably best to keep seasonlong tabs on the Kings, who made solid strides last year and certainly possess a playoff-worthy starting five, barring injury.

The real questions involve the lack of sustained depth, and the adjustment time needed for Luke Walton’s system implementation as head coach.

b) Fox (seasonal averages: 17.3 points, 7.3 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.6 steals) collected 13 double-doubles last year and solidified his standing as an elite-level point guard.

Plus, Fox might be the NBA’s fastest player from baseline-to-baseline. Who wouldn’t want that for 80 games on NBA League Pass?

c) The triumvirate of Fox, Marvin Bagley III and Buddy Hield all have All-Star potential. However, for this to occur, the Kings must adhere to a style of play that’s conducive to winning and being fascinating to watch.

We’ve already sent out a Twitter boast of the former … and hopefully, Sacramento can replicate (or exceed) last season’s No. 9 ranking in team scoring.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS
2018-19 RECORD: 48-34
OVER/UNDER: 46.5
THREE-YEAR AVERAGE: 52 wins
BATSBY SPORTS PICK: UNDER

REASONS FOR MILD SKEPTICISM

a) We’re prepared to look eminently foolish here, given the Hall of Fame track record of head coach Gregg Popovich, who hasn’t posted less than 40 victories since 1998-99; and for that strike-shortened season, San Antonio produced an elite-level 50-game mark of 37-13and ended up as NBA champs!

b) The Spurs were neither stellar nor suspect last season, finishing 18th in scoring and 12th in defensive scoring. What’s more, as part of Basketball Reference’s analytics model, San Antonio should have ended the campaign with three fewer victories.

c) Forty-six wins seems like a good prediction for the Spurs, giving us very little wiggle room when matched against the Vegas projection.

DALLAS MAVERICKS
2018-19 RECORD: 33-49
OVER/UNDER: 39.5
THREE-YEAR AVERAGE: 30 wins
BATSBY SPORTS PICK: UNDER

REASON FOR TENUOUS SKEPTICISM

Here’s another prediction that might be woefully inaccurate by season’s end:

The 1-2 punch of Luka Doncic (reigning NBA Rookie of the Year) and Kristaps Porzingis (back from injury; also in phenomenal shape) could quickly vault the Mavericks to the league’s upper-echelon clubs.

The real pressing question, though: Does Dallas (7th in 3-pointers made last year … but just 21st in scoring offense) have the requisite backcourt strength/depth to help Doncic-Porzingis squeeze out seven more victories this season?

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
2018-19 RECORD: 33-49
OVER/UNDER: 38.5
THREE-YEAR AVERAGE: 38 wins
BATSBY SPORTS PICK: UNDER

REASONS FOR MILD SKEPTICISM

a) Let’s start with the elephant in the room: The Pelicans will be without the services of Zion Williamson (knee injury) for 6-8 weeks, putting a possible Christmas Day return in some jeopardy.

After a strong preseason, Williamson will certainly be missed on the court … along with the club’s marketing department.

b) The Pelicans are nicely positioned for long-term success, acquiring the likes of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart (via trade), J.J. Redick (free agency), Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker (draft).

The club also took possession of a boatload of draft picks in the coming years, as part of the landmark Anthony Davis trade.

However, given the early absence of Williamson and massive roster changeover, 39 or 40 wins might be a stretch for the young Pelicans — unless the scorned trio of Ball, Ingram and Hart are absolutely ready to make the Lakers pay for bailing on them so quickly.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
2018-19 RECORD: 36-46
OVER/UNDER: 34.5
THREE-YEAR AVERAGE: 38 wins
BATSBY SPORTS PICK: OVER

REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

a) There’s plenty to like (or even love) about the Timberolves’ roster, starting with Karl-Anthony Towns (three-year averages: 23.6 points, 12.3 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 2.8 assists, 0.8 steals), Josh Okogie, rookie Jarrett Culver (lottery pick), Andrew Wiggins, veteran point guard Jeff Teague, Gorgui Dieng and do-it-all performer Jordan Bell — perhaps the most underrated acquisition of the off-season.

b) What’s more, Minnesota posted 36 wins last season and sports a three-year average of 38 victories.

c) Bold prediction: The Timberwolves don’t come close to matching last year’s major fade down the stretch, winning just seven games in the final 22.

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
2018-19 RECORD: 49-33
OVER/UNDER: 30.5
THREE-YEAR AVERAGE: 48 wins
BATSBY SPORTS PICK: UNDER

REASONS FOR SKEPTICISM

a) For starters, we’re presuming that point guard Chris Paul will be traded sometime after mid-December — once the field of available trade assets becomes more crystallized.

Come then, Paul’s monstrous salary of $40 million per year might be more palatable to league bean counters, especially for championship contenders in need of a playmaking boost.

b) Speaking of trades, don’t be surprised if Dennis Schroder and Steven Adams are also shipped to contenders before the All-Star break.

Bottom line: The Thunder might possess an absurd number of draft picks over the next eight years … but there’s no shame in stockpiling more for the future. You can never have too much of a good thing.

c) The Oklahoma City fans have seemingly embraced a full rebuild; so it probably behooves the front office to maximize this level of extreme patience, which could rival the 76ers of a half-decade ago.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
2018-19 RECORD: 33-49
OVER/UNDER: 26.5
THREE-YEAR AVERAGE: 33 wins
BATSBY SPORTS PICK: OVER

REASONS TO BELIEVE

a) We’re not expecting the Grizzlies to replicate their four-year average of 35 wins or even last year’s tally of 33. By most accounts, the club’s in the early-to-middle stages of a sizable rebuilding project.

However, you could do much worse than the young core of Ja Morant, Grayson Allen, Kyle Anderson, rookie Brandon Clarke (posted double-doubles during the preseason) and Jaren Jackson Jr., who notched superb rookie averages of 13.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 1.4 blocks last year.

And get this: Jackson just turned 20 in September!

b) Morant elicited comparisons to Russell Westbrook while dominating the competition at Murray State. Will this projection hold up during the regular season? If the kid has the chops to log substantial minutes during October/November/December … the Grizzlies could be decent bets for 27 wins.

PHOENIX SUNS
2018-19 RECORD: 19-63
OVER/UNDER: 29.5
THREE-YEAR AVERAGE: 21 wins
BATSBY SPORTS PICK: UNDER

REASONS FOR SKEPTICISM

a) On paper, the Suns are building a high-upside roster which could garner playoff consideration in a year or two.

But a 10- or 11-win jump for this season, factoring in the franchise’s recent days of off-court turmoil and on-court torment?

Probably not.

b) In the short term, it could get ugly for the Suns in division play, with 16 combined outings against the Lakers, Clippers, Kings and relentless Warriors.

Does 4-12 inside the Pacific seem realistic? If so, what’s the source of the other 26 victories?

c) Phoenix endured four separate streaks of six or more losses, highlighted (or low-lighted) by the ignominious stretch of 17 straight defeats during January-February.

Of equal infamy, when charting the Suns’ 53 losses, 41 involved a point spread of double-digit points.

About The Managing Editor

Jay Clemons remains the only sports writer on the planet to capture Cynposis Media’s national award for Sports Blog Of The Year (beating out NBA.com, MLB.com, PGATour.com, The Players’ Tribune in 2015), along with the Fantasy Sports Writers Association’s pre-eminent award for Best Writer (2008). Through the years, Mr. Clemons has been a key figure with numerous blue-chip sports/media brands, namely the Detroit Lions, Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report and the NBC/Universal family. With Sports Illustrated (2006-11), Clemons served a triple role with SI.com‘s heralded football coverage—editing Peter King’s famed ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’ column, penning award-winning pieces for NFL and then writing/narrating scripted videos within the NFL and baseball realms. In 2013, Clemons’ first year with the company, FOX Sports South enjoyed a monumental increase of approximately 34 million Web hits in a 12-month cycle—merely posting 11 million hits the previous year. 

Then, over a two-month span in 2014, FOX Sports South amassed 19.5 million Web hits—a 60-day record for any FOX affiliate. And in 2015, Clemons claimed the aforementioned Cynopsis Media award on FOX Sports’ behalf, the company’s only national writing award during that period. Clemons, a graduate of Michigan State University  and Wayne State University, has been an on-camera Web-TV host for Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports. In 2015, he also became the first-ever sports journalism professor at Kennesaw State University in suburban Atlanta.

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