The NBA bubble is no more, and a new season — one that’s sure to be unlike any other — is upon us.
The 2020-21 season begins Dec. 22 as the league resumes non-bubble ball for the first time since shutting it all down in March due to COVID-19. Undoubtedly, the strange circumstances and long layoff for some teams could lead to unpredictable results.
That won’t stop us from weighing in on some 2020-21 win total over/unders, though. Here are four teams we like to exceed their total.
(Win total numbers based on FanDuel odds.)
Chicago Bulls (28.5 wins)
There’s certainly a chance for some growing pains with first-year head coach Billy Donovan. The flipside to that is Donovan is a proven winner with no fewer than 44 wins in any of his seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Bulls aren’t as good as OKC. But there’s some good roster continuity.
If Coby White shows he can handle the responsibility of running point, that should make those around him — players like Zach Lavine, Wendell Carter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen — even better. It’s not the greatest division, either, outside of the Milwaukee Bucks.
San Antonio Spurs (29.5 wins)
So, speaking of coaches, Gregg Popovich still is calling the shots in San Antonio, right? That’s certainly a start. Last season was brutal for the Spurs, so some natural progression should be in store with the rebuild continuing.
According to draft experts, the Spurs won by getting Florida State product Devin Vassell at No. 11. Vassell’s NBA.com draft report labeled him as a “smooth athlete with a well-rounded game,” which seemingly makes him the perfect Spur.
There’s a good young core being built in San Antonio, and pairing that scrappiness with Popovich could surprise some teams and get the Spurs to the over.
Denver Nuggets (44.5 wins)
Remember the Nuggets? The 2020 Western Conference runner-up Nuggets? Few teams in the bubble improved their future stock more than Denver, and perhaps no player improved his future stock more than Jamal Murray, who solidified himself as a superstar.
Murray alone is reason to believe in Denver’s continued ascent. As is Nikola Jokic, who looks like one of the best big men in the NBA. But imagine if Michael Porter Jr. joins them? MPJ showed glimpses of the lottery promise he displayed at Missouri before missing his entire “rookie” season with a back injury.
Expectations are deservedly high in Denver, and as long as the Nuggets themselves don’t buy into the hype, they should be an uncomfortable matchup every night.
Toronto Raptors (42.5 wins)
Bet against the Raptors at your own discretion. They’ve built a very good thing in Toronto, obviously, although they’ll have to bring that “thing” to Tampa, at least to start the season. That could be tricky, but there’s no denying the talent, with the likes of Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry.
The Malachi Flynn pick was lauded by most. Nick Nurse still is the head coach. There’s a lot to like about the Raptors, despite their frontcourt shuffle. Perhaps the biggest reason to be high on Toronto is the division.
Hear us out: The Celtics have obvious injury concerns with Kemba Walker, as well as some roster turnover. We just don’t know what the 76ers are going to be under Doc Rivers, and it’s possible a franchise-altering James Harden trade could happen at some point. The Nets are obviously loaded, but that could turn ugly at any point given what we know about Kyrie Irving.
The Raptors being good — winning at least 43 games certainly would qualify as good — shouldn’t surprise anyone.