Just three days into the 2021-22 season, the NBA is already off and running. We've had a wild double-overtime finish at Madison Square Garden, a comeback thriller in Charlotte and we're seeing familiar faces in new places. (People have wasted no time in firing off their hot takes, too.) Steph Curry even went off for a classic performance on Thursday night to spoil another team's season-opener.
With our Evan Sidery debuting his "Nothing But Bets" podcast on the Basketball News Podcast Network, we decided to have some fun by predicting how some franchises will fare record-wise in the upcoming campaign, primarily using DraftKings' preseason NBA win totals.
In our latest Roundtable, we asked our BasketballNews.com writers the following question:
Which team will hit its “Under” win total?
Alex Kennedy: The Los Angeles Lakers' projected win total is 52.5, but that seems high to me. Yes, this team is very talented, but given the age of this roster, I feel like they are going to do everything they can to make sure their veterans are ready for the postseason — even if that means sacrificing a few regular-season games here and there. The Lakers’ goal is to win a championship, not compete for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
Nekias Duncan: I'm just not feeling it with the Pelicans this year. It's hard to believe in the defense with some of the moves they made this off-season, and it's hard to trust Zion Williamson — still recovering from a foot surgery we didn't know about until media day — to stay on the court long enough to drive consistent winning. (DraftKings preseason win total was 38.5.)
Spencer Davies: Like most of the general NBA public, I've bought my ticket to take the "Pelicans are a mess" train. They're down Zion Williamson, who can't buy a break injury-wise and, as a result, can't stay physically prepared. They don't really have an identity quite yet, which makes sense with a new head coach in Willie Green; however, trying to figure things out while battling in the West is not exactly something you can be patient with if you're looking for immediate success. Brandon Ingram will likely continue to keep balling out. Nickeil Alexander-Walker is due for a big jump. Naji Marshall is an underappreciated piece to the puzzle. Kira Lewis Jr. intrigues me. Rookie Trey Murphy III is a sniper. They even have a number of acquired respectable vets to help those guys along — it just won't be enough to eclipse 38.5 wins (or make the postseason, for the record, in my opinion).
Ethan Fuller: I just don't see how an Indiana Pacers squad that treaded water this summer will be able to keep pace in an Eastern Conference with a much-improved middle tier. The team is missing their top-two wing options in T.J. Warren and Caris LeVert due to injuries and didn't add substantial talent outside of lottery pick Chris Duarte. Indiana will have to storm out of the gates to stay in the playoff picture, and I worry that time is running out on the current rotation. (42.5 on DK,)
Moke Hamilton: Tough call, but I think I’ll take the New Orleans Pelicans. I’ve seen most books have them around the 39-win mark, and although that’s probably been adjusted with Zion missing the first couple weeks of the season (at least), I think NOLA is going to disappoint this season. I like some of their acquisitions, including Jonas Valanciunas and Devonte’ Graham, but the West has is just so much better around them. I think they’ll end up closer to 30 wins than 40, unless newly-instilled head coach Willie Green has an ace or two up his sleeve.
Evan Sidery: I’m going to roll with the Indiana Pacers here at under 42.5. Although they have a solid roster and a great head coach in Rick Carlisle, injuries have consistently gotten in the way of improvement for them. It's already happening with Caris LeVert and T.J. Warren. I see Indiana struggling to make the play-in tournament as some potentially massive roster changes could be in store next offseason.
Alexander Cohen: The Charlotte Hornets will continue to have buzz around them with the expected improvement of LaMelo Ball, but I would be surprised to see the Hornets win 39 or more games (38.5 on DK). While their consistency in play and availability was sporadic, they lost solid players in Devonte' Graham, Malik Monk, and Cody Zeller over the offseason. They will have to rely on the health of Gordon Hayward and the continued exceptional shooting of Ball and Terry Rozier, which could regress. Kelly Oubre Jr. could fit in beautifully as a stretch-4 with Ball, but if he's not played in that role or doesn't buy into it, they could be in trouble. (And for what it's worth, Oubre suited up at shooting guard and small forward in Wednesday's debut.)
Blake Hairston: Until the Ben Simmons saga is resolved, the Philadelphia 76ers may be hitting under 50.5 wins projected by Caesars (same number at DK). Not having an All-Star caliber player in your lineup is going to hurt. You can only hope the Sixers find a deal for Simmons and get a solid player(s) to fill the void left by Simmons. I have a couple others in mind, but the Sixers are first to mind today.
Mark Gunnels: The Boston Celtics won’t win more than 46 games (46.5 on DK). Aside from acquiring Josh Richardson and bringing back Al Horford, this team didn’t do much to improve their roster in the offseason, and the East continues to get better and better. They’re relying on Robert Williams to be their lone rim-protector, but he’s yet to prove he can consistently be that guy.