Eric Wong and Cole Huff here, to bring you some of our favorite NBA futures bets for the season ahead.
We’ll start by picking some over/unders for team wins, and follow with some yes/no bets on whether certain teams will make the playoffs or not, including one wager where we simply don’t see eye to eye.
Regular season wins – Over/Unders
Eric: Memphis Grizzlies – Over 41.5 wins, -110
I’m surprised by this line for Memphis, given that they won 38 games and lost 34 last season, despite missing Jaren Jackson Jr. for a huge chunk of the season. They showed serious guile and guts in knocking out both the Spurs and the Warriors in the play-in tournament, which gave their youngsters some much-needed playoff experience. Speaking of which, Memphis is loaded with young talent, and their bench has proven to be deep, trustworthy, and ready for bigger roles. In fact, with the exception of Ja Morant, the Grizzlies are built to withstand injuries and still be successful. I think they have a very strong chance of winning 42 games or more this year, and I think a more proper line would have been 43 or 43.5.
Cole: Washington Wizards – Over 33.5 wins, -120
I feel similarly about the Wizards, who just made it to the playoffs this past season. Russell Westbrook and his statistical contributions are gone, but the front office did a fantastic job of recouping talent and depth that should improve the team on the margins. I really like the additions of Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, and KCP, who were all part of the Westbrook trade, while better health from Deni Avdija and Thomas Bryant could go a long way in the team’s success. Of course, a lot will ride on the shoulders of Bradley Beal, who is coming off the best season of his career. However, the addition of a healthy Spencer Dinwiddie could relieve some of the burdens. I expect first-year head coach Wes Unseld Jr. to have this team back in the play-in tournament, at a minimum — leading to my optimism in betting Washington surpasses 33 wins on the season.
Eric: Houston Rockets – Under 27.5 wins, -120
To win the over on this bet, the Rockets would need to win over a third of their games. It’s hard to envision that happening, given how inexperienced this squad is. For every insane highlight-reel play that Jalen Green is going to make, he’s also likely to make a bad pass, a blown defensive assignment, and an errant shot that he probably shouldn’t have attempted. And while Kevin Porter Jr. will play at an elite level against certain teams, he’s also going to be swarmed by the better defenses in the league, thus getting him out of his comfort zone. Bringing in a veteran like Daniel Theis can only help so much, especially since vets like Eric Gordon and Danuel House may be on the move prior to the trade deadline.
Cole: Philadelphia 76ers – Under 50.5 wins, -115
Well, it looks like Ben Simmons lost the staring contest between he and the Sixers front office. An incredibly awkward situation only gets more awkward as he’s reported back to Philly after refusing to communicate with any of the teams‘ members throughout the off-season. Do they plan on using him much? I mean, it wouldn’t be wise to pay someone $33 million this season to only spectate. We also shouldn’t forget that Simmons is still a very good NBA player who has established himself as one of the best and most versatile defenders in the league, and is a talented playmaker for others. You simply need that caliber of a player during the 82-game stretch, especially considering many games Joel Embiid has missed with injuries throughout the years. With Embiid’s load management and potential injury-related DNP’s (knocks on wood), Philly will often find themselves at a talent disadvantage if the Simmons situation isn’t smoothed over. This feels like an easy under given all the tension and the inevitable chemistry issues that will follow.
Making the playoffs – Yes/No
Cole: Indiana Pacers – No, +135
Indiana was on the outside looking in to the playoffs last season, after being bounced from the play-in tournament. A similar series of events could transpire this year as the Eastern Conference got even better, from top to bottom. I like Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis quite a bit, but I wouldn’t call them an ideal 1-2 punch for a team with playoff aspirations. Maybe it does work out for them, but it’s hard to see them stealing a spot from any of the teams that made the postseason in 2020-21. Additionally, I like the Bulls’ and Hornets’ chances a lot more. Count me out on the Pacers making the playoffs.
Eric: Los Angeles Clippers – No, +225
Oddsmakers seem too optimistic about how the Clippers are going to perform this season, given that Kawhi Leonard is going to miss the majority, if not all, of the regular season. Yes, I expect their veterans to step up and do all they can to make the postseason, but there’s only so much you can ask out of their old guys. The key quartet of Nicolas Batum, Marcus Morris, Serge Ibaka and Eric Bledsoe will all be 32 years old or older by the time New Year’s Day rolls around, and even at their peaks, they were never Top 50 players. By contrast, think about how young, athletic, talented and hungry teams like the Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings and Minnesota Timberwolves are. If two of those teams are much improved, the Clippers are going to have a very tough time this season. I think more accurate odds on the Clippers not making the playoffs would be around -110, so getting +225 odds make this look like an excellent wager.
Or does it???
Cole: Los Angeles Clippers – Yes, -275
What the Clippers did this off-season was get younger and more athletic, while retaining their key veterans in free agency. They drafted three rookies, who likely won’t see much time (Brandon Boston Jr. might surprise), while third-year wing Terance Mann could be in for a breakout season after a coming-out party during the postseason. Meanwhile, Justise Winslow and Eric Bledsoe will replace the much older and oft-injured Rajon Rondo and Pat Beverley in the backcourt to bring the Clippers more size and lineup versatility. These changes to the rotation should allow for Nic Batum, Marcus Morris Sr., and Serge Ibaka to maintain similar production to last season, while putting less tread on their tires throughout the 82. Most importantly, Ty Lue’s coaching will inch the Clippers closer to their ceiling than their floor. They won’t be in the top half of the playoff picture come April, but I like the Clippers’ chances at making the postseason as a 6-seed, even without Kawhi.
(Photo of Josh Allen: Bryan M. Bennett / Getty Images; The Athletic may receive an affiliate commission if you open an account with BetMGM through links contained in the above article.)
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