NBA Win Total Odds & Pick: Will Trae Young & the Atlanta Hawks Make Another Leap?
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Trae Young #11 of the Atlanta Hawks.
- The Atlanta Hawks are poised for another outstanding season with an over/under of 46.5 wins.
- Matt Moore analyzes the Hawks' win total odds below.
Atlanta Hawks Win Total Odds
The Case for the Over
Under the radar, the Hawks were wracked by injuries. According to ManGamesLost.com, the Hawks had the fourth-most games lost due to injuries, and the fourth-most Win Shares lost to injury.
They lost De’Andre Hunter for 49 games, Bogdan Bogdanovic for 28 games, Danilo Gallinari for 21, Cam Reddish for 46 and Tony Snell for 21. Hunter, in particular, had a huge impact on the defense: the Hawks were 7.0 points better per 100 possessions with Hunter on the floor.
The Hawks cleared their over by six games last season, jumping 23 games year over year (per 82 games), then took off in the playoffs, shushing the higher-seed New York Knicks and stunning the Philadelphia 76ers into a meltdown that will inevitably lead to the trade of their second-best player.
So you have a team with the injury deck stacked against them who still outperformed expectations. It wasn’t flukey, either. The Hawks’ Pythagorean expectation was dead on the mark for their actual 41 (40.9).
They didn’t over-perform vs. good teams, they were tied with the Knicks and Boston Celtics and one game better than the Miami Heat vs. teams over .500. They built their record on consistency against teams under .500.
Hunter should be ready for the start of the season, but his status is worth monitoring. The same goes for Reddish. They lost Onyeka Okongwu until at least January, but they added Gorgui Dieng for depth behind Capela.
The offense is absolutely loaded. The Hawks had the ninth-best halfcourt offense last season per Synergy Sports, and Hawks players shot 58% eFG on shots off passes from Young. He is a one-man engine and his mastery of manipulating the offense took an even bigger step in the playoffs.
John Collins brings floor spacing and versatility, Capela is an elite rim runner, and Bogdanovic found his way into a more established role offensively under Nate McMillan. Keep an eye on rookie Sharife Cooper who looked ready made for the NBA in summer league and early in the preseason.
The Hawks have the fourth-easiest rest-adjusted strength of schedule per PositiveResidual.com. They have one of the lowest average opponent implied title odds.
There’s an intangible element here as well. The Hawks figured out who they were after McMillan took over. They finished with the ninth-best Net Rating league-wide since he became the head coach. Then their playoff run re-defined them.
One of my lingering concerns with this team was chemistry. Collins and Young clashed as recently as early last season and Collins was involved in trade talks through the deadline.
But after the playoff run, Collins re-signed for a huge extension in the offseason. They went through adversity and came out on the other side closer.
Young also learned to trust his teammates in a key environment, not only early in the playoff run against the Knicks, but late in the run when he was injured and needed them to help with the scoring.
There is a trend of a teams’ young star making the leap and that team hitting the over the following season, even with some win regression.
In 2003, Dwyane Wade’s rookie season, he led the Heat to a second-round appearance. The following season, the Heat hit the over. In 2009, Derrick Rose and the Bulls pushed the defending champion Celtics (without Kevin Garnett) to the very limit in one of the best first-round series ever. The following season, the Bulls still hit the over (by a half-game) at 41-41.
In 2013, Steph Curry made the leap and his team upset the Nuggets in the first round. The next season they pushed on their win total. In 2014, Damian Lillard took his Trail Blazers past the Houston Rockets in his first playoff appearance. The Blazers regressed in their win total the following season, but still hit the over.
In 2019, Luka Doncic took the Dallas Mavericks to the playoffs and a tough first-round series against the Clippers. Last season, the Mavericks took a step back … and still hit the over.
I think you get the point here.
It appears the market tends to under-react to those young stars making a playoff leap.
The Case for the Under
The defense just isn’t very good. Even after McMillan took over, it topped out at 15th. Being middle of the road defensively and great offensively is probably enough to get them within range, but it will likely get them hurt vs. the good teams.
The most commonly used defensive scheme in the regular season vs. pick-and-roll is drop, with the big retreating to allow pull-up jumpers while the help either tags the roll man or stays home on shooters depending on personnel.
Collins allowed the highest points per possession mark in the league on such plays (minimum 500 drop possessions), while Capela gave up the 15th-most.
Young’s name is the first to come up when people talk about the rule change to limit offensive foul hunting. Young was 11th in the league overall in free throw rate and first among guards (whether you put Jimmy Butler and Ben Simmons at forward or not).
If Young gets hit with a stricter whistle, he’s in trouble; he shot less than 50% at the rim and 34% from 3. He’ll still put up points, but it’ll hurt efficiency and frustrate his teammates.
If Young adjusts, it likely means more assists, but that requires the others to knock down shots. They lost Snell, a good shooter in limited minutes, Bogdanovic was banged up at the end of the conference finals, Hunter is coming off surgery, Reddish keeps having injury issues, and Capela has wear and tear on him.
Their injury problems may not immediately abate.
The Hawks were 20th in bench Net Rating and arguably got worse with the Okongwu injury and losing Snell.
Atlanta was eliminated on July 3. They enter training camp 86 days later. The 2020 Boston Celtics were eliminated on Sept. 27 and entered training camp on Dec. 1. That was 65 days, so the Hawks got 21 extra days off.
That’s a fair amount, but by comparison, the 2019 Bucks had 128 days off between their elimination to the Raptors and their start of training camp.
So to review, Atlanta has 21 more days than the Celtics got, but 42 days fewer than what a typical schedule looks like for a conference finalist. There has to be some concern about fatigue leading to missed games and lulls.
Hawks Win Total Bet
I am terrified I’m chasing here.
Last year, I thought the Hawks would go under; it was one of my biggest misses. When I went back for the postmortem on that mistake, I underestimated:
- The defense, which finished 18th but was 12th after All-Star once McMillan settled in.
- The fact that the team and superstar disliked Lloyd Pierce enough to basically force him out with McMillan sitting right there to take over.
- Deandre Hunter’s growth as an impact player on both ends, especially defense.
- Trae Young actually trying on defense; I never saw that coming, but his effort, if not impact, was pretty good.
- How bad the division would be; I counted on Orlando staying competitive and the Wizards and Heat not imploding.
So now, after that stellar playoff run all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals — again, the Hawks made the ECF! — the Hawks return most of their team vs. a slightly worse division and have all the momentum.
I don’t want to get caught over-adjusting after underestimating.
But the historic trends favor an over. The schedule favors an over. The roster continuity and quality favor an over. McMillan’s performance favors an over. The division favors an over.
It’s enough to make this a best bet for me on what I think is a soft number at 46.5, and I like it up to 49.5.