This time last year, I looked at the projected impact of the 2017 NBA offseason and explored NBA win-total over/under trends and franchise results. (Last month, I did the same on the NFL side for ESPN Chalk.)
I'm back with an NBA update for 2018. The table below compares NBA teams' win-total over/unders for the upcoming season (2018-19) with their actual win totals from last season (2017-18). You can think of it as an over/under-based proxy for how each NBA team fared during the 2018 offseason. Here are the results:
And here are a few key observations. (The 2011-12 season is analyzed on an 82-game equivalent basis.)
LeBron Goes West, NBA Wins Follow
- Not surprisingly, LeBron James's move to Los Angeles from Cleveland is projected to supercharge the Lakers (+12.5 wins) and punish the Cavs (-19.0 wins). At least he delivered Cleveland that title in 2016.
- The Western Conference projects to win 43 more games than the Eastern Conference, which would represent the largest imbalance since 2013-14. The last time the East won more games was 2008-09.
- According to Westgate, the West projects to improve by 18 wins over last season, and the East projects to decline by one win. (That's not possible in reality; over/unders usually overestimate actual wins.)
- Vegas projected that LeBron's 2003-04 Cavs would improve by 12.5 wins (they went over by 5.5), 2010-11 Heat by 17.5 wins (under by 6.5), 2014-15 Cavs by 25.5 wins (under by 5.5), and 2018-19 Lakers by 12.5 wins.
The Lakers, Warriors, and Recent Over/Under History
- The Lakers' expected improvement of 12.5 wins ties a handful of teams for the 15th highest projected increase since the 2002 offseason — including, as we saw, the 2003-04 Cavaliers after drafting LeBron.
- The biggest projected improvements since 2002 belong to the 2014-15 Cavaliers (+25.5 projected wins upon LeBron's return) and the 2007-08 Celtics (+25.5 wins with the addition of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett).
- Since 2002-03, Vegas has projected that 21 other NBA teams would improve by 12.5 wins or more. The over/under results are pretty split. Ten went over by an average of 7.2 wins, and 11 went under (5.8 wins).
- The 2018-19 Warriors are the 9th team since 2002-03 with an over/under of 60+ wins. Only two of the previous eight have gone over — the 2016-17 Warriors (66.5, won 67) and the 2012-13 Heat (60.5, won 66).
The Cavaliers, Hawks, and Recent Over/Under History
- The Cavaliers' expected decline of 19 wins is the 6th highest projected drop since the 2002 offseason.
- The top five projected declines since 2002 include the 2010-11 Cavs (-30.5 wins, LeBron's first exit), 2014-15 Pacers (-22.5, Paul George injury), 2015-16 Blazers (-22.5, LaMarcus Aldridge left), 2012-13 Magic (-22.5, Dwight Howard left), and 2003-04 Jazz (-21.5, John Stockton retired and Karl Malone left for the Lakers).
- Since 2002-03, Vegas has projected that 11 other NBA teams would decline by 15.0 wins or more. Seven have gone over their total by an average of 8.6 wins, while four have gone under by an average of 5.0 wins.
- The 2018-19 Hawks project to win 22.5 games, tied for the 15th lowest projection since 2002-03. Bad as nearly all have been, 13 of 16 still went over their win total — so not quite as bad as the books implied.
God Help the Knicks, God Bless the Spurs
- As a Knicks fan who clings to memories of Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, John Starks, and even Latrell Sprewell, you must allow me the opportunity to wallow in Knicks misery every chance I get. (An example.)
- Since 2005-06 (and probably earlier than that), the Knicks have underperformed their Vegas win-total over/under by an average of 5.3 games per season, worst in the NBA. Yet offseason after offseason, Vegas projected that those same lowly Knicks would improve by an average of 4.6 wins, best in the NBA. Needless to say, progress has rarely come. The Knicks have gone under their win total 69% of the time.
- The Clippers (85%) and Kings (77%) have gone under most often, but with less magnitude than New York.
- If the Knicks are the Cleveland Browns, then the Spurs are, of course, the New England Patriots. Starting with the 2005 offseason, Vegas forecast a Spurs decline in 12 of 14 seasons (most in the NBA) to the tune of 4.5 wins per year (most in the NBA). Despite a lofty average over/under of 54.3 wins (most in the NBA), the Spurs went over 77% of the time (tied for most) and overperformed by 3.7 wins per year (2nd to Utah).
Historical win-total over/unders are sourced from Sports Odds History. Current over/unders are from Westgate (October 8). Data was compiled and analyzed by ELDORADO. All charts and graphics herein were created by ELDORADO.