Thursday, October 23, 2008

2008-09 NBA Win Over/Under Predictions

Alright, it's time for the annual October favorite here at The Painted Area, as we offer our predictions for picking NBA regular-season win over/unders.

After turning in our best-ever season O/U performance (6-1) in 2006-07, the first year we went public with our recommended O/U picks, we limped home to a 3-4 mark last season - our first sub-.500 year ever (though we did salvage a .500 record overall with a win in a supplementary LeBron ppg prop).

And since we crowed about kicking Bill Simmons' butt in '06-07 (he went 4-6), fair play dictates that we note he trumped us last year with a 4-2 record.

As if anyone cares about this competition but us, here's the overall record comparison:**********************
OK, first, let's go straight up with the data. What we've done below is:
    a) sorted each conference in order of the over/under line for season wins,
    b) provided predicted '08-09 wins from ESPN's John Hollinger and Yahoo!'s Kelly Dwyer, and
    c) provided '07-08 wins.
As always, these are for entertainment purposes only. Remember, this is not a competition, it is only an exhibition - please, no wagering.
    EAST
    (O/U Line - JH/KD - '07-08)
    BOS 54.5 - 60/56 - 66
    DET 50.5 - 54/55 - 59
    CLE 48.5 - 47/47 - 45
    PHI 48.5 - 50/51 - 40
    ORL 47.5 - 46/53 - 52
    TOR 47.5 - 47/48 - 41
    CHI 40.5 - 39/41 - 33
    WAS 37.5 - 36/34 - 43
    MIA 37.5 - 39/44 - 15
    ATL 36.5 - 31/36 - 37
    CHA 36.5 - 40/33 - 32
    IND 34.5 - 41/37 - 36
    NYK 31.5 - 28/23 - 23
    MIL 30.5 - 32/30 - 26
    NJN 27.5 - 27/22 - 34

    WEST
    (O/U Line - JH/KD - '07-08)
    LAL 54.5 - 57/57 - 57
    HOU 52.5 - 56/57 - 55
    UTH 51.5 - 58/57 - 54
    NOH 51.5 - 50/54 - 56
    SAS 48.5 - 47/51 - 56
    PHX 46.5 - 45/48 - 55
    DAL 46.5 - 45/46 - 51
    POR 44.5 - 42/44 - 41
    DEN 42.5 - 41/37 - 50
    GSW 37.5 - 40/30 - 48
    LAC 33.5 - 30/32 - 23
    MIN 32.5 - 31/29 - 22
    SAC 27.5 - 23/29 - 38
    OKC 26.5 - 20/20 - 20
    MEM 23.5 - 26/26 - 22

**********************
THE PAINTED AREA'S 2008-09 RECOMMENDED O/U PREDICTIONS

OK, without further ado, here are our favorites for 2008-09:
- LAL - Over 54.5
- POR - Over 44.5
- CLE - Over 48.5
- NYK - Over 31.5
- WAS - Under 37.5
- ATL - Under 36.5
- DET - Over 50.5


Here's our rationale on the team picks:
LAL OVER 54.5 (57 last season)
We said it after the Finals and we'll say it again now: we think that, if the Lakers can keep their key players healthy, they have a chance to win 70 games.

We think that the uninspiring manner in which they succumbed to Boston in the Finals is still preeminent in people's minds, and obscuring the fact this team has overwhelming talent that goes 10 deep with all kinds of versatility and size.

We're still not entirely convinced that this team is mentally fit to withstand the rigors of the playoffs, but we think they're going to absolutely roll people in the regular season (esp. with the expected decline of a few Western powers), and easily beat a high 54.5 number.

POR OVER 44.5 (41)
A month ago, I would have thought that this number was insanely low. Now, the sober analysis from Hollinger and KD has given me pause - played over their heads last year, no injuries (other than Oden, of course).

Still, by adding Oden, Rudy, Jerryd Bayless, and Nick Batum (despite losses of James Jones and Jarrett Jack), I just can't believe this team won't improve by at least four games this season. Health - given the histories of Oden, Roy and Aldridge - does make me nervous, but still, I'm going to go for it.

CLE OVER 48.5 (45)
We're going against the wishes of both Professor Hollinger and Captain KD (who both have the Cavs at 47 W's), and that's never comfortable.

We just think that lots of things went awry for this team last season, whether it was injuries or Varejao's holdout or a disruptive midseason trade.

We still like the direction of this franchise, esp. after they took Boston to the wire in May (playing LBJ 43+ mpg helps, no doubt). It's a little bit of a gut call but we think LBJ can carry them over the 50 threshold, and we think there's an outside chance that Wally's expiring deal could bring back a very nice piece come Feb.

NYK OVER 31.5 (23)
Again we're going against the grain of Messrs. Hollinger/Dwyer, and again we think you simply can't underestimate the chaos of last season. Tumultuous, nearly-all-time-bad chaos in this instance.

Put last year's roster (essentially this year's roster, give or take) in an average NBA setting and we think they were about a 30-win club. Now simply put them in a professional culture and a positive atmosphere, with an above-average coach... well, we think these simple changes will do wonders, and we think this club can push up close to 35 W's.

ATL UNDER 36.5 (37)
We see several teams in the Eastern Conference improving in '08-09 - Atlanta was going to have to upgrade just to keep up. Instead, they lost Josh Childress and added no one of value. Their bench is ridiculously bad. We see them taking a step back.

WAS UNDER 37.5 (43)
The losses via injury of Arenas and Haywood leave Les Boulez painfully thin, and they also have key players like Jamison and Daniels on the wrong side of 30.

We have all kinds of respect for Tough Juice, and worry that he might have us chewing on straws with worry come April, but we still feel pretty comfortable with this under, given the overall improvement of the East.

DET OVER 50.5 (59)
We're a little nervous b/c we thought Flip Saunders was a very good regular-season coach, and now they have a rookie on bench in Michael Curry. Still, we're going with the Pistons over 50.5, based in no small part on recent history.

Namely, they've been over 50 each of the last five years, averaging 56.8 W's over that time. And they won an even 50 in the two years prior to that.

And it's all the same cast of cats - even though they're getting up there, Joey D has done a great job of supplementing the vets with youthful energy from Stuckey, Johnson and Maxiell. This team should be able to withstand some injury, which they seem due for at some point this century.

Other thoughts:
In general, we were tempted by about 10 other numbers, and had a hard time narrowing down to our 7 favorites. All in all, the numbers that were set were really good this year.

We came into this ready to go under on teams like PHX, DEN, and GST (and SAS to a certain extent), as we think those teams will take big slides, and over on teams like MIN and LAC (see Roland's Teams to Watch below) but the O/U numbers that were set anticipated big declines and improvements for all of those clubs, and made things too challenging - their numbers are just about where we see those teams finishing.

**********************
HOLLINGER'S TEAMS TO WATCH
Here are the teams which are at least five games over or under the line in John Hollinger's projections:

BOS - Over 54.5 (60)
ATL - Under 36.5 (31)
IND - Over 34.5 (41)
UTH - Over 51.5 (58)
OKC - Under 26.5 (20)

KD'S TEAMS TO WATCH
Here are the teams which are at least five games over or under the line in Kelly Dwyer's estimations:

UTH - Over 51.5 (57)
GSW - Under 37.5 (30)
ORL - Over 47.5 (53)
MIA - Over 37.5 (44)
NYK - Under 31.5 (23)
NJN - Under 27.5 (22)
DEN - Under 42.5 (37)
OKC - Under 26.5 (20)
(We're giving Kelly a mulligan on his Kings prediction...)

Going under on the Thunder and over on the Jazz seem to be the two on which John and Kelly are most in agreement.

ROLAND'S TEAMS TO WATCH
Roland Beech of 82games.com did some research which showed that preseason records may have predictive value for regular-season records, in the following instances:

a) When a team which won less than 30 games the previous season has a winning record in the preseason,
b) When a team wins 75% or more of its preseason games, and
c) When a team loses 75% or more of its preseason games.

All of this is based on small sample sizes, so these are all pretty rough generalizations which need to be taken with a grain of salt, but the win correlation for teams who have satisfied a) above since '02-03 is especially strong - those teams improved by an average of 17.5 games a season.

The one team which satisfies this criteria this year is Minnesota (6-2 preseason). I was enticed by the T-Wolves, but the O/U line of 32.5 (won 22 last year) already seemed to reflect that this squad is poised for improvement. Tempting, but I see Minny right in that low-to-mid 30 range - wish the line was lower.

BILL SIMMONS' PICKS
Update (10/29): Bill Simmons made his picks on his podcast - he discussed all 30 teams with his buddy, the immortal "House", and here's ultimately what they jointly recommended:

BOS - Over 55.5
CLE - Over 47.5
CHA - Under 35.5
LAL - Over 55.5
SAC - Over 27.5
NOH - Over 51.5
PHI - Under 48.5

We'll check back after the season to see how everyone did. Alright, good night and good luck.

8 Comments:

At 2:53 PM, Anonymous Hylas said...

Thanks for the post. Like you I derive no pleasure from gambling on those lines (unless you mean it in a Simmonsesque "if only gambling was allowed" way), but to be quantify feelings about certain teams is a very educational endeavor: for one, you are forced to admit certain biases, i.e. you irrationally like one team and hate another; and you get feedback on your guesses, that makes you question your own expertise. Of course, I'm mostly talking about myself, not you guys, since you have a pretty decent track record. I'll not bore you with the details, but while my picks looked mostly great after a third of the season, I was lucky to be 5-6 at the end. Stupid trades!

Anyway, here are the picks I like:
Detroit over 50.5
Phoenix over 46.5
Houston under 52.5
Portland under 44.5
Cleveland over 48.5
Milwaukee under 30.5
New Orleans over 51.5
New York over 31.5

DET, CLE, NYK need no further explanation, particularly Detroit strikes me as a no-brainer. Phoenix is just so talented, and LBJ and Chris Paul are both going to have monster seasons. Milwaukee will be better at tanking than their number suggests. HOU and POR had both absurdly long winning streaks last season, and I think that seriously inflated their record. Both teams have to handle high expectations, and will struggle to integrate new players. Oden might be great down the line, but in his first season I'm not sure he will be a huge upgrade over Przybilla. Rookies often do many things very well, but they just have to learn some nuances of the pro game that help win games. The rookies will get big minutes -- a good idea! -- but not great for winning _now_. Houston is very difficult to read; maybe their defense gets worse (even after adding Artest), as they are another year removed from Van Gundy's reign?

On an unrelated note (since he's now playing for SAC), is there a more overrated player than Bobby Jackson? He totally killed the offensive flow of Houston in last season's playoffs, but the commentators couldn't stop talking about his veteran leadership.

Sorry for hijacking the comments section, I intend it with the fullest appreciation of your work!

 
At 11:50 PM, Blogger M. Haubs said...

Please: no apologies necessary - we're thrilled to have such a thoughtful post in our comments.

I'm thinking I may have been a bit irrationally exuberant re: the Blazers. They are so young that they might not realize the returns on their talent in '08-09. But maybe I'm just overreacting to one game!

 
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Of course, I'm mostly talking about myself, not you guys, since you have a pretty decent track record. I'll not bore you with the details, but while my picks looked mostly great after a third of the season, I was lucky to be 5-6 at the end. Stupid trades!

 
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