Welcome to the 2018-19 NBA season. Listed below is our preview of each team in the Eastern Conference. Note that all teams are listed alphabetically with the opening Westgate SuperBook season win totals on 8/5/18 contained in parenthesis. Be sure to join me this season for my top selections on the NBA card at Against The Number!
Atlanta Hawks (23.5) – Behind a bevy of young talent, the Hawks are building for the future. Rookies Trae Young, Kevin Huerter and Omari Spellman will team with last year’s 1st round pick Taurean Prince for new GM Travis Schlenk, who spent his time helping build the Warriors in Golden State. To no surprise, Schlenk is using the Warriors blueprint to rebuild this franchise and it starts with new head coach Lloyd Pierce. Veteran Vince Carter will be relied on to temper the youth movement. John Collins and Jeremy Lin will also be contributing pieces. Betting nugget: The Hawks are 5-14 ATS as favorites against foes coming off consecutive losses, including 1-6 ATS away.
Boston Celtics (57.5) – Biggest additions this season are the return to health of All-Star F Gordon Hayward who missed last season with a broken leg, All-Star G Kyrie Irving who was ruled out for the season on March 11 with knee surgery, and G Marcus Smart who tore ligaments in his thumb on the same day. Hayward played five minutes, Irving only 60 games, and Smart 54 games, with all three sidelined for the playoffs. In addition, Jaylen Brown, Jason Tatum, Al Horford, Terry Rozier and Aron Baynes make this team the deepest in the Eastern Conference. As long as they don’t worry about who starts they are the team to beat in the East. – Betting nugget: The Celtics are 128-95-2 ATS away behind Stevens, including 16-4 ATS as a dog of 11 or more points (10-0 in non-conference games), but only 1-7 ATS as a favorite of more than 8 points.
Brooklyn Nets (32.5) – Mark it down. In the final season of his rookie contract, Nets PG D’Angelo Russell could be in for big campaign. If he irons out his inconsistency issues he could be headed for a big payday. His backcourt mate, Allen Crabbe, is a 40% shooter from outside the arc, while F DeMarre Carroll is coming off a career year. Vegas likes them as their season win total is up 6 games from last season. – Betting nugget: The Nets are 22-12 ATS when coming off a win against foes coming off a win since Russell joined the team in 2015, including 14-4 ATS away.
Charlotte Hornets (35.5) – The season win total this year is 7 games lower than last year, and for all the right reasons. New GM Mitch Kupchak welcomes former Spurs assistant James Borrego as his new head coach and with it a roster overhaul is in the making. Future Hall of Fame PG Tony Parker comes over from San Antonio to back up Kemba Walker. They’ll rely on high-fling rookie Myles Bridges (No. 12 pick in this year’s draft) to team with last year’s top rookie Malik Monk to from a new young nucleus. And it’s time for Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky to stand and deliver. – Betting nugget: The Hornets are 14-7 ATS in their franchise history as division games against foes off a SU favorite loss, including 6-0 ATS when Charlotte is coming off consecutive losses.
Chicago Bulls (27.5) – Despite a 9-27 finish to the season last year, and behind a healthy Jabari Parker and Zach LaVine, this year’s season win total is up 6 games from last season. But then again it had nowhere to go but up. Accused by many of “tanking” late last year, the Bulls slipped into the No. 7 spot in the draft where they selected 19-year-old Wendell Carter Jr. Along with first team All-Rookie F Laurie Markkenen (15.2 PPG and 7.5 RPG) the Bulls are young and talented and should they come together they figure to challenge for a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Betting nugget: The Bulls are just 3-13 ATS as favorites against Western Conference opponents the last two seasons.
Cleveland Cavaliers (30.5) – Yes, with the King taking his act to Hollywood, the biggest team drop in season wins total from last year to this was made by the Cavs (53.5 in 2017-18). So the roller coaster ride for Cleveland continues with F Kevin Love as the new anchor. First round draft choice Collin Sexton has the ability and the temperament to be in the league Rookie of the Year talk. With head coach Tyronn Lue now sitting squarely on the hot seat sans James, he’ll need career years from George Hill, Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith to turn down the flames. Betting nugget: The Cavaliers are 9-1 ATS as double-digit home dogs.
Detroit Pistons (37.5) – The Pistons welcomes the NBA Coach of the Year, two beasts under the basket, and the return of an All Star point guard… yet they are not projected to make the playoffs. Dwane Casey led the Toronto Raptors to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs last season, while Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond figure to effectively patrol the paint. And Reggie Jackson returns to distribute the ball after missing 37 games last season with an ankle injury (they were 27-18 in games he played). If Stanley Johnson can finally live up to his ability, Detroit’s stating five could seat to only Boston in the conference. – Betting nugget: The Pistons are 16-5 ATS as a home dog in division games when coming off a loss.
Indiana Pacers (47.5) – One of the largest moves in win totals from last season to this (Pacers were 31.5 wins last year), Indiana did a nice job in the offseason keeping players in place while adding key pieces to bolster the attack in Tyreke Evans and Doug McDermott. If G Victor Oladipo retains his All-Star status, this cohesive crew of unselfish players – 7 of which averaged double-digits last season – should be back in the playoffs by season’s end, especially with seven of it’s top nine salaried players in the final year of their contracts. – Betting nugget: Indiana is 12-32-1 ATS at home off a loss in double no-rest games against Eastern Conference foes.
Miami Heat (41.5) – Vegas sees similar result for the Heat this season as last when the win total was 43.5 and Miami won 41 games during the regular season. Back making his final curtain call, veteran Dywane Wade’s farewell tour will find him in the company of leading scorer Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson, Hassan Whiteside and James Johnson who each averaged double-digits. In addition, former first round F Justice Winslow and rugged glassman Bam Adebayo seem poised for a breakout year. If they improve any at all they could make it one step further to the second-round of the playoffs this season. – Betting nugget: Miami is 8-28-1 ATS at home against division foes coming off a SU underdog win.
Milwaukee Bucks (46.5) – Like Miami, the Bucks season win total was adjusted only slightly from last season to this. Milwaukee’s biggest offseason move was the hiring of Mike Budenholzer (Atlanta), as it’s new head coach. In the process the Bucks brought hack Ersan Ilyasova, a former Buck who played with Budenholzer in Atlanta, and veteran C Brook Lopez. But all hopes are pinned on the ‘Greek Freak’ star C Giannis Antekounmpo, a legitimate MVP candidate. PG Eric Bledsoe, in has free agent season, will steer the ship while 20 PPG Khris Middleton should be highly productive following a devastating hamstring tear. Color the Bucks playoff bound this season. – Betting nugget: The Bucks are 11-26-1 ATS at home against losing foes the last two seasons.
New York Knicks (29.5) – Not much movement from last season’s 30.5 win total as the Knickerbockers are once again starting from ground zero this year. Or perhaps we should say sub zero with their best player Kristaps Porzingis out until February with a torn ACL. New head coach David Fizdale takes over for Jeff Hornacek and he immediately selected 6-foot-9 F Kevin Knox, only 19 years old, with the No. 9 pick in this year’s NBA draft. Fizdale had the league’s seventh-ranked defense in his one full season at Memphis. They’ll need him to crack the whip, as they’ve been a worse-than-average defensive team in 16 of the last 17 seasons. The good news is G Tim Hardaway Jr. saw his scoring average rise to 17.5 PPG. The bad news is he was the worst 3-point shooter in the league of 59 players with at least 350 attempts. – Betting nugget: The Knicks are 3-16 ATS as a home dog without rest following a SUATS loss.
Orlando Magic (31.5) – Here we go again. Since drafting Dwight Howard and seeing him depart eight years later in 2012, Orlando has won 30 or more games once in six seasons. Behind emerging star F Aaron Gordon, the Magic hope 7-foot rim protector Mohamed Bamba, their top pick in this year’s NBA draft will help erase memories Howard’s fleeting career in the Magic Kingdom. New head coach Steve Clifford immediately acquired PG Jerian Grant from Chicago and added former first-rounder Jarell Martin from Memphis. Clifford knows the Southeast Division from his days in Charlotte, a team he lead to the playoffs. If Nikola Vucevic effectively anchors the middle and SG Evan Fournier continues to ascend the Magic will be better than the Mickey Mouse reputation that precedes them. – Betting nugget: Orlando is 1-19 ATS in its last twenty games as a division favorite.
Philadelphia 76ers (54.5) – Is the Sixers’ 12 game projected season win total of 54.5 this year (up from 42.5 last year) warranted? Perhaps. But you can’t argue with success and Philadelphia has enjoyed unprecedented achievement the past two seasons. That’s confirmed by the fact that they witnessed the league’s biggest increase in winning percentage, improving from 10-72 in 2015-16 to 52-30 last season when they won their last 16 games of the regular season and blew out the Miami Heat a first-round playoff series. They paid the price for success in the offseason, though, when GM Bryan Colangelo resigned in June and two key reserves Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova were lost in free agency. New GM Elton Brand is tasked with replicating last year’s winning ways. With a starting lineup that includes four players – Robert Covington, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and Ben Simmons – that are 6-foot-9 or taller, the Sixers should be a good defensive team. The question is will they be better. – Betting nugget: Philadelphia is 10-1 ATS as a home dog against non-conference opponents.
Toronto Raptors (55.5) – Yes, it was a good season in Toronto last campaign. The won a franchise-record 59 regular season games, and were the only team to rank in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency. But after a third straight playoff exit at the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, sweeping changes were made. NBA Coach of the Year Dwane Casey was shown the door and All-Star G DeMar DeRozan was traded for Kawhi Leonard in a stunning swap of MVP candidates. Former assistant Nick Nurse takes over and with it look for bombs away to be the mantra in Toronto. In Nurse’s two seasons as coach of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers (2011-12 and ’12-13), the team took 33 percent of its shots from 3-point range, a rate that was four times the G League average. If Leonard is healthy his addition could be a home run. If not, the Raptors will have swung for the fences and struck out. Stay tune – Betting nugget: The Raptors are 15-3-2 ATS in its last twenty games as dogs of more than 3 or more points in non-conference games.
Washington Wizards (44.5) – The Wizards were the class of the Southeast last season. The question is with LeBron James now performing in Los Angles, can they compete for more than a division title this season? The starting guard tandem of John Wall and Bradley Beal is arguably the best in the league. Solid additions of Dwight Howard, Austin Rivers, and Jeff Green dramatically improve the depth on the roster. Ironically, Howard replaces Martin Gortat, who was Howard’s backup in Orlando. Meanwhile, Otto Porter Jr. inked a big contract two seasons ago and delivered on his promise when he averaged 14.7 and 6.4 points and rebound per game last season. With the Wizards looking for their first 50-win effort and trip to the conference finals in the Wall-Ball era, look for a deeper bench to provide the path. – Betting nugget: The Wizards are 3-11 ATS as double-digit favorites when playing without rest.
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