The 2013-2014 wagering year was a strange one for me personally.
By the way, for your information, the "wagering year" is defined as the last week of August (early season college football bets, season win total and futures bets in college and NFL) through late June (NBA Finals, the occasional Tiger Woods wager back in the day). July and August are the "wagering offseason" (baseball, soccer and the occasional awards show -- yeah, you heard me! Don't judge!).
So back to 2013-2014. In football wagering last season, I was a mess, barely cracking the 40 percent mark in my NFL and college football Best Bets I posted here, to the point where I created a a quasi-Mendoza Line benchmark for negativity called the Pendergast Line. Yeah, it was BAD.
I was a goddamn BEAST!!
Yeah, you're reading those numbers correctly. Who has two thumbs and went 21-7-2 on his season win total picks? THIS GUY (pointing at myself like a total smug douche bag)!!
(Point of information: Who has two thumbs and only fired actual money on the Denver UNDER and Rockets OVER picks, meaning I essentially netted out losing one bet's worth of juice? This guy [pointing two middle fingers at myself, totally self-loathing]...)
Furthermore, of the seven that I missed, five of them were on teams that were off the posted total by less than three games (three of those were within one game!). Of the teams who were nine games or more off of their posted totals (In other words, teams where in retrospect, there was HUGE value), I went 9-1 picking them! When it comes to these NBA season win totals, I can sniff out value, baby!
(The only outlier last season was Phoenix, who won 28.5 games more than their posted total of 19.5, and I took them UNDER 19.5. Hey, I'm still a partial idiot. Always will be.)
So let's get down to business. Here are my five favorite posted win totals, and then I'll give my rapid-fire picks on the rest of them...
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS UNDER 58.5 The gravitational pull of the public and the rhetoric of the square bettor will drive a "take Cleveland" narrative. Do NOT fall into this trap. REPEAT, do NOT fall into this trap! Consider the following:
1. On the surface, you're blending a whole bunch of new parts together. Granted, they are All-Star caliber and generally (offensively, at least) unselfish parts, but chemistry takes time. Even the Heat in LeBron's first year there took awhile to ramp up, and that was with better pieces (Bosh, Wade, lots of vets) in their respective primes. This will take a little while, even in the Eastern Conference. 58.5 doesn't give you much margin for error.
2. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving are going to be asked to defend for the first time in their careers, and I'm using the word "asked" loosely. They will be commanded to defend by LeBron. Hell, you can already see LeBron preparing the city of Cleveland for an inevitable blow-up around December or so, essentially saying, "We need to get into a few fights to become a real team." (I'm paraphrasing, but I think LeBron, totally self-aware, knows what he's in for at the defensive end.)
3. There are a LOT of key pieces on this team who have dealt with injury issues the past few seasons -- Irving, Love, Varajeo, hell, even LeBron started to have some back trouble last season. He responded by dropping like 25 pounds in a week this offseason (it's just not fair). Point being, 58.5 is a number for a fully healthy team. This team won't be fully healthy, and LeBron will take some nights off. Book that.
I still think they should be favored to win the East (LeBron in May and June, and whatnot), but 58.5 is a super-aggressive number. Fading it. What about LeBron's old team?
MIAMI HEAT OVER 44 Miami will have its own set of adjustments to go through this season with no LeBron, but this is still a team in the weaker Eastern Conference with Chris Bosh (presumably back in "Toronto, low post touches galore" mode), Dwyane Wade (presumably with a chip on his shoulder and maybe breathing a sigh of relief with the specter of LeBron gone), and Luol Deng (who is a good player, even if Danny Ferry thinks he's too African or something). I just don't think a Pat Riley-led franchise with three borderline All-Star players (when healthy, fair point) will become Atlanta all of a sudden.
PHOENIX SUNS UNDER 43.5 Now about those Phoenix Suns, the massive outlier of the 2013-2014 NBA wagering season. They really did have an amazing season last year. I could see where it could happen pretty easily with a team missing their Vegas posted total by going under their posted total by 28.5 games. (Think David Robinson's injury in 1996-1997. Or if LeBron were to get hurt in Cleveland, that sort of thing.) But going over by that much? Truly amazing, great coaching, and the evolution of a star in Goran Dragic (who you may have heard was a Rocket at one time, and left because they didn't want to give him a player option for a fourth year). This is a classic downward regression candidate (which, if it's like last season, means they'll probably win like 55 games).
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS OVER 15.5 How do you know you're doing the "tanking" thing correctly? By having a 16.5 game posted total in 2013-2014, having the NBA Rookie of the Year on your roster, bringing in a potential 2014-2015 Rookie of the Year in Nerlens Noel, and then still having Vegas move your total down from the year before. Here's what I'm banking on with Philly: Assuming you win 10-12 games by accident in the NBA, just by showing up, there's a start, but where do the other 5-6 wins come from? Well, at some point, if you're a head coach and a player on this team, doesn't pride kick in? Doesn't hearing the public talk about how awful you are and how you're set up by design to be atrocious grate on you? Call it the "Major League" effect, as in the movie. Just please don't have them removing a piece of clothing off a cardboard Sam Hinkie cut out after each win. Nobody needs to see that.
HOUSTON ROCKETS OVER 48.5 Yeah, I'm going in on the Rockets. On paper, did they get worse? Maybe. In our hearts, did they get worse? For some, possibly. (For teenage girls, definitely. What up, CP?) However, if you had to ask yourself, "What did this team need an influx of the most?" after losing in the first round to the Portland Trail Blazers last April, it would be "perimeter defense and some toughness." Well, they brought in a nice dosage of that, signing Trevor Ariza (version 2.0, high level wing defender and shooter, and half the price of Parsons), adding role players like Joey Dorsey (again, version 2.0, overseas Defensive Player of the Year), getting Patrick Beverley back to full health, and a healthier, leaner, hungrier Dwight Howard. I also think a little bit of the pressure that accompanied this team in Dwight/James Year 1 has subsided, since obviously expectations appear to be down (at least in Vegas). This team still has literally two of the best players at their respective positions. Also, they have a ton of assets to add a piece. This isn't a homer pick; empirically, this pick makes sense to me. A lot of sense.
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The rest of my picks...
Atlanta Hawks OVER 42.5 Boston Celtics UNDER 27.5 Brooklyn Nets OVER 41.5 Chicago Bulls OVER 55.5 Dallas Mavericks UNDER 49.5 Denver Nuggets UNDER 41.5 Detroit Pistons OVER 36.5 Golden State UNDER 52.5 Indiana Pacers UNDER 32.5 LA Clippers OVER 56.5 LA Lakers OVER 29.5 Memphis Grizzlies OVER 49.5 Milwaukee Bucks UNDER 24 Minnesota Timberwolves UNDER 28.5 New Orleans Pelicans UNDER 43.5 New York Knicks OVER 39.5 Orlando Magic UNDER 26.5 Portland Trail Blazers UNDER 49 Sacramento Kings OVER 29.5 San Antonio Spurs OVER 57 Toronto Raptors UNDER 48.5 Utah Jazz UNDER 26.5 Washington Wizards UNDER 48.5
(NOTE: As of writing, there is no line available on the Charlotte Hornets or Oklahoma City Thunder.)