NBA Win Total Odds & Pick: Can the Boston Celtics Replicate Their Success?
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Jayson Tatum #0 and Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics.
Boston Celtics Win Total Odds
The Case for the Over
- They Were Two Wins Short of a Title
- An Us Against the World Mentality
This was the best team in the league from Jan. 31 through Game 2 of the NBA Finals. It all fell apart vs. the four-time champions, but the Celtics were the best team in basketball for over four months.
If that’s who they really are, then this number is doable.
They lost Udoka, and there’s no way to pitch that as a positive. But what are the real reasons to think they’ll slip? They became the favorites after trading for Malcolm Brogdon, who gives them just the guard that they need. Brogdon can shoot, set up the offense without having to run it, and overall just supplement an already good team.
Boston has an inherent advantage over most teams because they play playoff ball year-round. They switch in pick and roll unless it’s with Robert Williams, who’s an elite drop coverage center.
From that Jan. 31 mark on when the Celtics took off, they were second in 3-pointers made per 100 possessions and fourth in 3-point percentage. They were also 10th in second-chance points and ninth in points in the paint per 100 possessions in that time. They won in the paint and at the perimeter.
That’s a great formula for success, and they did it on the defensive side, too.
Boston was second in points in the paint per 100 possessions allowed, fifth in opponent 3-pointers made per 100 possessions, and fifth in opponent 3-point percentage after Jan. 31.
So if that’s who they are, then this team should be considered the best team in the league.
Let’s talk about motivation.
I’ve often preached that motivation, not injury, is the biggest edge in the regular season. In a season that long, especially coming off a Finals appearance with an almost automatic playoff birth, getting up for the random games can be a challenge.
But after the Udoka Scandal put them on tilt to start the preseason, with Marcus Smart saying it had been “hell” on the team, the Celtics have looked awesome in preseason. The Celtics have more of an “us against the world” mentality than any other team. That provides motivation in a spot where they have very little.
You won’t feel bad about this bet. You won’t feel like you have no chance. It’ll probably be close in the final weeks of the season. If they’re within the range they showed last year they’ll go for the best-seed possible.
The Case for the Under
- All the Bad Vibes
- All Of the Trends
- Simply Too High
Sure, the Celtics might circle the wagons and rally around the interim coach Joe Mazzulla. But they can do that and still go under.
The Celtics traded for Brogdon and then were pushed up to favorite status for the title with the highest win total on the board. That alone was an overreaction, considering the landscape. Then all the bad stuff started.
Danilo Gallinari tore his ACL in EuroBasket play, that’s the year for him, and he was being counted on to replace some of the depth lost by the trade for Brogdon. They brought in Blake Griffin as a replacement; Griffin was pretty much excised from the rotation in Brooklyn last year. That’s not promising.
Then Robert Williams needed surgery on his knee after playing through the injury in the playoffs last season, and the recovery date got pushed back to 8-12 weeks.
In the meantime, the Celtics only really have Al Horford to play center. That’s mostly fine; Horford was dynamite last season. Luke Kornet will nominally play early in the season, and maybe it’ll be OK, but it’s concerning, especially with Horford going into his sixteenth season in the NBA.
Boston was involved in trade talks for Kevin Durant through the summer, with Jaylen Brown at the center of all the talks. No deal was made, but Brown also knows the team isn’t so dedicated as to not shop him in various upgrade deals.
Then, on top of it, Udoka was suspended for the season with a strong possibility he’ll never coach the Celtics again.
Udoka started off as perhaps being considered a huge mistake of a hire and ended the year being regarded as a top-10 coach in the league. The players bought in. Will they buy into Mazzulla? Can Mazzulla handle the big egos in a locker room with strong personalities and career agendas while also doing the little game management stuff and handling late-game situations?
All of this might not matter if the win total mark was easier. But it isn’t. A lot of the research I’ve done over the offseason says that over the past 10 seasons, 50 wins is a bit of a key number.
Teams with a win total of 50 or more are 31-16-1 to the under the last 10 years (64.5%). Teams with a win total of 54.5 or more are 16-10 (61.5%) to the under. Teams that were top-10 in both offensive and defensive ranking went 17-12 (59%) the following season to the under.
The trends don’t just stop there. Last 20 years, the title favorite before the season begins has gone 13-7 to the under on their win total, and 7-3 in the last 10 years. The Celtics were downgraded after the Udoka news at several books from +500 to +600, so they no longer fit this category, but given that they would have before the Udoka news and their win total only slight moves, it’s still worth considering.
The Celtics are going to be fine, they’re going to be good, maybe great. All of those things can be true, and they can still win fewer than 54 games. The trend is that the market tends to overestimate the teams they rate as great.
On the basketball side, I will admit to a little hesitance here as to who the Celtics really were. We just don’t see teams go from middle-of-the-pack to all-time elite in the span of a single season. The Celtics didn’t just become good, they became one of the best teams in league history over that span.
This for a team without a top-five player, for a team without a real pick-and-roll game (57th percentile), with a mostly-perimeter-based offense, with compromised depth after a deep playoff run.
Is that sustainable? Are the odds of it not being sustainable enough to generate value on the under? I think so.
Celtics Win Total Bet
This is a max bet of five units for me.
I bet it before the Udoka situation and injuries pushed it down. I still like it at 53.5 to the under, but obviously not as much as at 55.5 or 54.5. There is a 54.5 juiced under available at PointsBet (-140) and BetMGM (-130). Make sure you shop around for this one.
I don’t expect the Celtics to win fewer than 48 games, but that six-win margin really matters when you get to this number. We just have too much history that these high numbers wind up being too high a bar to clear.
I don’t think the Celtics are a team you should fade for title expectations, and while I like the value on the Sixers, I wouldn’t be shocked if Boston still won the division. This team is still very good and has a reason to band together with a foxhole mentality.
But ultimately, I’m still not sold that this team is elite simply based on one incredible multi-month run, and the number is high enough to bet against.