Wednesday, October 20, 2010

2010-11 NBA Win Over/Under Predictions

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

For the record, we were 3-2 in O/U predictions in 2009-10, with the 60% success rate dropping our lifetime percentage since we started The Painted Area to a still-robust 65.4%.

Here are our year-by-year records for the four years we've been publishing our picks:
    Season  TPA  
    06-07 6-1
    07-08 3-4
    08-09 5-2
    09-10 3-2
    Total 17-9
For 2010-11, let's go straight to the data. What we've done below is:As always, these are for entertainment purposes only.
    (O/U Line - JH/KP/KD - '09-10)
    MIA 64.5 - 66/60/70 - 47
    ORL 56 - 55/52/60 - 59
    BOS 53.5 - 51/42/50 - 50
    CHI 47 - 48/51/49 - 41
    ATL 46.5 - 46/35/48 - 53
    MIL 46 - 49/42/48 - 46
    CHA 39 - 30/32/38 - 44
    NYK 36 - 37/44/41 - 29
    PHI 35.5 - 43/33/35 - 27
    IND 34.5 - 31/34/28 - 32
    WAS 33 - 30/22/31 - 26
    DET 31.5 - 32/27/19 - 27
    CLE 29.5 - 29/39/12 - 61
    TOR 26.5 - 22/35/31 - 40
    NJN 25.5 - 26/40/27 - 12

    (O/U Line - JH/KP/KD - '09-10)
    LAL 57 - 56/46/57 - 57
    OKC 52 - 49/48/47 - 50
    POR 51.5 - 55/55/50 - 50
    SAS 50.5 - 54/49/55 - 50
    DAL 50.5 - 48/48/52 - 55
    UTH 49 - 47/41/52 - 53
    HOU 47.5 - 46/36/46 - 42
    DEN 43.5 - 46/49/50 - 53
    PHX 41.5 - 38/37/52 - 54
    NOH 41 - 45/49/44 - 37
    MEM 38.5 - 36/39/40 - 40
    LAC 37 - 27/27/38 - 29
    GSW 32 - 32/49/21 - 26
    SAC 28.5 - 28/43/26 - 25
    MIN 23.5 - 26/30/13 - 15
Here are what we're calling the consensus picks from Hollinger/Pelton/Dwyer - teams for which at least 2 of these 3 esteemed gentlemen are in concert on picks at least five wins above or below the line:
    CHA Under 39.5
    NYK Over 36
    DEN Over 43.5
    LAC Under 37

Quite honestly, we're finding this to be a difficult year for O/U predictions, mainly because there are several lines that we like, but very few that we love.

With that said, here are our picks for 2010-11:
  • CHA Under 39
  • NJN Over 25.5
  • POR Over 51.5
  • SAS Over 50.5
  • DET Under 31.5
  • CHI Over 47
  • GSW Over 32
Here's our rationale on the team picks:
CHARLOTTE UNDER 39 (44 last season)
Quite simply, the Bobcats lost two starters in Ray Felton and Tyson Chandler, and essentially did not replace them. This team has an absolute hole in the middle with Nazr Mohammed trying to repeat a Fluke Rule year at age 33, and DeSagana Diop trying to plug the gap defensively. Hugely reliant on continued production in heavy minutes from Stephen Jackson, who is 32.

A few things make me mildly nervous, most notably that Larry Brown is an awesome coach, who has finished under .500 just five times in 30 seasons of pro coaching, and four of those losing seasons occurred in his first year with a new club, when his rebuilding was just getting under way. The Bobcats improbably led the league in defensive efficiency last season, and LB will probably find a way to keep them among the league leaders in D again. But, really, this team might finish 38th in the league in offense this season. We see them around 35 wins this year.

NEW JERSEY OVER 25.5 (12 last season)
Yup, a 14-win increase is a big jump for a team that won 12 last season, but there are a couple enormous upgrades we really like here.

First is at coach, where Avery Johnson gets to press the reset button on team culture after 64 disastrous games of Kiki Vandeweghe trying to hide under his Moe Greene glasses on the sidelines. We could see Avery lifting the Nets from 25th in defensive efficiency up to near the middle of the pack, even with subpar personnel on the interior.

Second is that even though the offseason acquisitions of decent players like Travis Outlaw, Troy Murphy, Jordan Farmar and Anthony Morrow don't seem like much, consider the players that Jersey got rid of. The Nets had one of the most god-awful collections of wings in league history. Jarvis Hayes, Trenton Hassell, Rafer Alston, Bobby Simmons and Eddie Najera combined to start 67 games even though none of them had a PER in the double digits. Josh Boone started another 28 games inside. God-awful to average is a big upgrade: we see the Nets getting into the low 30s.

PORTLAND OVER 51.5 (50 last season)
Don't have much analysis for this one. Quite simply, this is a team that won 50 games despite losing over 300 man-games to injury last season. Despite the continued uncertainty about Greg Oden's health, Portland remains a deep team. With merely average luck on injuries this season, we see this club easily improving by at least a couple games.

SAN ANTONIO OVER 50.5 (50 last season)
Yes, the Spurs "only" won 50 last season, but they had the point differential of a 57-win team, and, oh by the way, prior to that they'd won more than 50 every season since 1997-98 (pro-rating the lockout year). Even with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili aging, we see this as an improved team, with Tony Parker healthy and Tiago Splitter imported to restore preeminence to the interior D. Plus, San Antonio's quietly built some impressive young depth with unheralded pieces like George Hill and DeJuan Blair; maybe Gary Neal and James Anderson can continue the trend this year. We're sticking with the Spurs going over 50.

DETROIT UNDER 31.5 (27 last season)
In fairness to the Pistons, they were hit pretty hard by injuries last season. A guy like Ben Gordon should have a bounce-back year, and the talent on the perimeter is decent with Rodney Stuckey and Rip Hamilton back there, too. But, man, does that frontcourt ever look stinky. This team was 26th in defensive efficiency last season even with Jonas Jerebko (already out for most of this season) and with Ben Wallace turning back the clock at 35. Lottery pick Greg Monroe does not figure to fortify the defensive backline. We see this club challenging Toronto and Phoenix for the "honor" of worst defensive team in the league, with not much firepower to offset it.

CHICAGO OVER 47 (41 last season)
The Bulls had one of the more bizarre offseasons we can remember, as they significantly improved their team, yet the summer has to be considered a major disappointment overall given that they were the odds-on favorites on July 1 to land LeBron plus Bosh or even Wade.

Still, we had the Bulls tabbed for 54 wins when we participated in ESPN's Summer Forecast in early August. We're a little nervous with Carlos Boozer out for several weeks, especially given his history of extended absences for non-catastrophic injuries. We're also a little nervous that Chicago had the point differential of a 35-win team last season, and overachieved to hit the .500 mark.

We're sticking with this team hitting the 50-win mark, though, not just for the upgrade in players, but at coach, as well. We think that Tom Thibodeau will be a very good regular-season coach in the Van Gundy mold who gets his players to compete every night, and we love the hiring of Ron Adams, probably the assistant coach of the year in '09-10 as the architect of Oklahoma City's defensive improvement, as an assistant as well. We see this team as a top-5 defense, maybe even top-3.

GOLDEN STATE OVER 32 (26 last season)
We connected on Golden State under 35.5 last season, and it was a gut pick, as the Warriors definitely had enough talent to beat the number. A key line of our rationale was this: "We think that Nellie has lost it for good, and we're predicting that it all implodes this season."

Even though the Warriors lost talent on balance this summer, we're going with our gut again, this time in the opposite direction, with the sense that Golden State will start to take a few steps forward into the sunshine of the post-Cohan era.

Similar to our reasoning about the Nets above, even if Keith Smart is slightly below-average - even just moderately sane and coherent (and we have to admit we're at least a little concerned after seeing Monta Ellis played 44 minutes tonight) - it's a big step forward from last season's rudderless ship.

In addition to Nellie's insanity, Golden State was also clobbered by injuries last season. The returns of Andris Biedrins and Brandan Wright - in concert with the additions of David Lee and Lou Amundson (well, when he returns from injury) - should give a huge boost on the boards to what was one of the worst rebounding teams ever seen last season. The bench is loaded with question marks, though guys like Reggie Williams, Rodney Carney, Wright and Amundson do have a fair amount of upside, relative to their roles, as well.

All told, this was Kevin Pelton's most eye-popping projection in terms of improving teams: he has the Warriors winning 49 games. While you may scoff, recall that his most outlandish projection last season called for Memphis to win 43 games when its O/U line was 27.5, and essentially no one else had them pushing .500. The Grizz went on to win 40, and Pelton was generally money on his key projections last season.

Other predictions we considered, but opted against in the end:

LAL Under 57 (57 wins in '09-10): We're going to predict them to win the West, but we think this team is more vulnerable than most others do, with age starting to creep in - Andrew Bynum is the only key player on the right side of 30.

BOS Under 53.5 (50): In mid-July, this would have been a no-brainer, but the C's did a nice job of filling in major holes as summer wore on. We're still skeptical Boston can improve on last year's 50 wins, given its age, and Perk's lengthy absence, but the late moves gave us cold feet in the end.

WAS Over 33 (26): We love John Wall and find it hard to believe he won't catalyze more than a 7-game improvement over last year's disaster, but the numbers uniformly speak to the contrary, so we'll respect them in this case.

LAC Under 37 (29): Sort of a similar story here, somewhat in reverse. Hollinger and Pelton both have L.A. at 27 wins, well under the number, which makes it tempting, but Blake Griffin has just looked too damn good for us to go there. Too uncertain for our blood.

DEN Over 43.5 (54): Geez, speaking of uncertainty.... Even with some injury issues, this one would be a complete no-brainer if not for the Melo situation, which makes it a total stay-away.

NYK Over 36 (29): Pelton's numbers love this one, but trading Randolph and Gallinari for Melo could be a "be careful what you wish for" kind of thing.

OKC Over 52 (50): So hard to think the young Thunder won't improve by more than two games, especially with the solid addition of rookie Cole Aldrich, but one just has to respect that the top eight OKC players averaged 78.5 games played last year, and that'll be really tough to replicate.

PHX Under 41.5 (54): Should be a colossally bad rebounding team, and then there's the issue of the 17 small forwards. But just couldn't pull the trigger on such a big slide, especially after underestimating them so much last season.

NOH Over 41 (37): Really wanted to go for this one, as I love this starting lineup, but that bench is seriously thin. One injury could crush an over pick on a team this thin.

ORL Over 56 (59): Wasn't really considering this one too much until very recently, but man, they are 6-0 with a +25 average differential in the preseason. I know, I know, it's preseason, but +25! Per game! I do think this team is being underestimated, and I do think they'll end up with the second-best regular-season record.

MIN Over 23.5 (15): Couldn't go with Minny after my Over 25.5 pick got crushed last year, and it sounds crazy, I know, but see below....


Something we're keeping an eye on again is the 2006 research by Roland Beech of which showed that preseason records may have predictive value for regular-season records.

Specifically, Beech found that teams which win less than 30 games one season and then have a winning record the following preseason tend to see substantial improvement.

So far this is based on a small sample size, so these are fairly rough generalizations. The teams which met this criteria the past two seasons - Minnesota in 2008-09 and the L.A. Clippers in 2009-10 - both failed to live up to the promise, though key injuries played a major role both times. Blake Griffin's season-ending injury in the final preseason game devastated L.A.'s year, while Al Jefferson's torn ACL in January, 2009, snuffed out the growth of a Timberwolves team which was actually playing quite well at the time.

The only team which meets Beech's criteria in the 2010-11 preseason (through Tuesday's games) is the Minnesota Timberwolves, once again. After last season's 15-win disaster, they are 5-2 in the preseason with one game left. Kevin Love has been an absolute beast, averaging a 19-11 in just 26 minutes per game, and shooting a ridiculous .591 from downtown.

Despite the giveaway of Al Jefferson, I did really like the quiet acquisitions of Nikola Pecovic, Michael Beasley, Martell Webster and Anthony Tolliver. Going over 23.5 wins is certainly a reasonable proposition.

OK, thanks everyone. We'll check back after the season to see how we did. Finally: Remember, this is not a competition, it is only an exhibition - please, no wagering.


At 10:54 PM, Anonymous Filipe said...

Nets are my favorite over/under this year. I think must people don't get how much they underachieved last year despite some truly awful rotation guys. If they'd won opening night against Minny (they lost at the buzzer after blowing a huge lead), Frank would never got fired, the team would never felt over to collective depression (the Nets actually become part of my league pass rotation, specially if I heard they are keeping a geme close, I'd never watch a bunch of guys so sure they will blew a game they are leading by 6 later in the 3rd quarter, they made me watch to much bad basketball) and I d say they go 20-62. I don't think calling Vandeweghe coaching bad does it justice, that was the worst coaching job I've seen as an NBA fan (they'd won more games with insane Nellie, I'm pretty sure of that). So even if one don't like Avery Johnson he is a huge improvement there, and between that and the mental issues, I'd say the Nets would be around their o/u before their improvements. And that was a team that gave 3300 combined minutes to Hassell, Hayes, Alston and Simmons last year (I'm pretending the 1000 minutes Boone got don't count under the assumption that he could be a 4th/5th big in a lottery team, those other guys shouldn't have ever being in a roster last year). So I'd take the over on this easy.

I also really like the Knicks over. I can't see they not getting at least 37-38 wins, unless Amar'e gets hurt.

I'd never pick them but I have a good feeling on Denver under, I had them going 41 before Melo drama started, I think people underrated how central Billupus were from there improvement and that team (and Billups himself) never looked th same after he got hurt and given how mediocre he were this summer, I don't trust him, then add K-Mart and JR are locks to be pretty unhappy and trusting NenĂª to be healthy again might not be a good idea, I just don't like them. I'd be tempted by Washington under but that is such a weird team that I can picture then winning 40 and getting the 8th seed and going 11-71 and getting worst record and neither scenario would shock me, but I have strong feeling for the worst case scenario given that we can't be sure if Howard gonna give them anythiung (and they are so bad at SF they experiment with Kirk there) and I don't trust Arenas, if they can't get much from those two the only one besides Wall fans could trust would be Wall's backup (I like Blatche in my fantasy team in a real one I'd actually think Yi might be their best big man). One should remember that Wizards record is useless given that most of those wins happened with Jamison, Butler and Haywood playing, they actually had the worst post deadline record and played like that. They added Wall, Arenas, Kirk, Howard and Yi while losing Miller, Foye and Livingston, that's on paper a very good improve, but does that add 25 wins? I think they need that to get to 34 and I don't think that happens unless everything works as well as possible.

On a complete unralated note am I crazy on thinking that Charlotte should consider experimenting with Diaw playing point center (or in certain matchups a ridiculous tall line up of Diaw, Jack, Wallace, Tyrus and Nazr)? He might be their only guy above average on running an offense.

At 2:53 PM, Anonymous Arjun Chandrasekhar said...

some over/unders I like and/or find interesting:

Nets: over - they've upgraded at coach, starting power forward, and pretty much every bench position, plus lopez will improve and devin harris should bounce back. This team is definitely more talented than its record from last year.

LA Clippers: i just can't decide. On paper they look awesome: blake griffin and chris kaman will be a formidable frontcourt, gordon is a legit blue-chipper, and baron davis (who always plays better the better his teammates are and the closer he gets to the end of his contract) could push them to new heights. then again their coach is vinny del negro and their owner is donald sterling. i just can't decide whether the positives outweight the negatives.

Portland: over - they have to have fewer injuries, they get a full year out of marcus camby, and if they get a full year out of oden I really think they'll get 60 wins. if portland stays healthy then it wouldn't surprise me at all to see them win the west theyre so deep talented and athletic.

At 1:52 PM, Anonymous Mack said...

To me, everyone who took the over on the Knicks are insanely wrong. You showed good judgment not to get on that bandwagon.

At 1:57 PM, Anonymous Mack said...

Oops. I guess you got on the Knicks over bandwagon lower in the article but just didn't promote others getting on it with their money.

D'Antoni will be lucky if he still has his job in May.

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