- The pick: Over 35.5
- Confidence: 3 out of 10
The case for the over: I will go to my grave saying this team should have been better the past two seasons. The Hornets, since the start of the 2016-17 season, have gone 1-14 in games decided by three points or fewer. That is unbelievable.
As a result, their Pythagorean expected win total was at 42 last season. Forty-two! Against an actual result of 36! That’s literally the difference between making the playoffs and probably being a little rowdy in Round 1, and missing the playoffs and the front office and coaching staff getting replaced.
You can talk about executing in the clutch, but at some point, this goes beyond execution. The Phoenix Suns were 6-5 last season in games decided by three points or fewer. The Knicks in 2016-17 were 7-10. To go 1-14? That’s cosmic interference.
The case for the under: Too much instability. The Hornets took the call when it came to Walker trade rumors last season.
Even though Walker adamantly told the media he wanted to stay and the team rightfully clarified they simply fielded calls instead of shopping him, once you rub that lamp, the genie’s almost always out.
If they struggle again, those conversations could arise again, from the Hornets or Walker’s side.
There’s the risk of other trades changing the makeup, as well. New GM Mitch Kupchak hasn’t had a great run since fielding the 2010 championship Lakers squad.
They’ve had injury issues to boot, from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to Nicolas Batum to Cody Zeller.
There’s just so much potential for bad juju here.
I’m too alarmed by everything that has bizarrely gone wrong with this team to feel confident in the over, and this team is too good on paper to believe they won’t take advantage of a weak East. Can’t go near it.