NBA Win Total Odds & Pick: Does Donovan Mitchell Make the Cleveland Cavaliers Elite?
David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Darius Garland #10 of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Cleveland Cavaliers Win Total Odds
The Case for the Over
- The Whole Formula
The Cavaliers were on track to win 47/48 games and compete for a top-five seed before their injuries hit in full force late-season. They lost Darius Garland, Lauri Markkanen, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen for long stretches in March and April, resulting in them sliding to the play-in and eventually out of the playoffs.
But when they were healthy, they were a beast, top-four in adjusted net rating, even with a lesser offense. This team’s combination of size, speed, and strength just beat up teams.
They check all the boxes defensively. They allowed the lowest field goal percentage at the rim and the ninth-lowest 3-point rate. They fouled at the fifth-lowest rate and the fifth-lowest eFG% overall. Their problem was offense, which ranked 20th in adjusted offensive efficiency, per Dunks And Threes.
Cleveland was 19th in 3-pointers made per 100 possessions, had the fourth-highest turnover rate, was 26th in catch-and-shoot efficiency, and 21st in pick-and-roll efficiency.
Good for them; they got Donovan Mitchell. He will bomb 3s and create offense for himself and the two great bigs they have. Mitchell took a step back as a passer the last two seasons, but it’s hard to figure out how much of that was him and how much of that was his frustration with Rudy Gobert.
If Mitchell goes back to the passing he showed his first two seasons, their offense will skyrocket up the ranks. Even if he just comes in and gets his, it will be better. Mitchell’s a downgrade defensively from the looks Cleveland had, but their other defenders are so good it may not matter.
The bench got wrecked in the Mitchell trade, but they still have a total of eight players with at least five years of NBA experience. Kevin Love might get moved for money reasons, but they can bring in younger players that can play more positions in a deal if they need to. I’m not a Cedi Osman guy, but he was 71st percentile on jump shots last season.
When Ricky Rubio returns, that’s a huge boost; the Cavs had their best net rating of any player with him on the floor.
If you believed in this team last year, you should believe in them this year.
The Case for the Under
- The Mitchell Impact on the Number
Let’s talk about the number. The Cavs were at 41.5 at open that immediately got bet up to 42.5/43.5 across the board (because it was a ridiculous number).
Then Cleveland trades for Mitchell, and it re-opens at 47.5.
So just to be clear here, Mitchell, whether by himself or in conjunction with the Cavs’ roster, is worth five full wins across 82 games in the NBA.
So what’s LeBron James worth? 40?
It’s just hard to get to a point where you can concretely say Mitchell would take a 35-win Cavs team to 40 or a 45-win Cavs team to 50, which is what this implies.
JB Bickerstaff had literally never coached a team that had gone over their win total until last year. Now, all of a sudden, a team that had 22 wins in 2020-21 is an Eastern Conference contender just out of the blue?
Teams that were in the 80th percentile in outperforming their win total over the last 10 years are 24-20-1 to the under. That’s 53% which isn’t anything to write home about, but it does suggest some measure of regression.
If Garland or Mobley aren’t as good as last season, or if Mobley just remains stable year-over-year, there’s room for them to have a good season and go under.
The Cavaliers really had something with their three-big lineup we were all skeptical of last season. Those lineups had a 109 offensive rating, which for the Cavs is very good, and a 102 Defensive Rating, which for any three-man lineup in the NBA is good. That Net +7 was excellent. They lost that by trading Markkanen.
Sure, they got a better player back. But what if Garland and Mitchell don’t mesh? Or Mitchell and Allen? Or Mitchell and Mobley, which would be disastrous long-term?
There are certainly low-end outcomes with a decent probability that would net the under.
Cavaliers Win Total Bet
It’s a soft over. I bet the number at 41.5 when it came out initially, so I’m not going to add to my position with the best of the number. As of this writing, BetMGM has the lowest number at 46.5.
As far as trends go, teams that make a double-digit jump over their projected win total (like the Cavs did last year) and then have a win total of 45 or more the following season are 10-1-5 to the over the following season.
I personally won’t bet it, as I believe Mike Budenholzer’s reign over the division is worth respecting, but if any team is going to knock off the heavy favorite Bucks, it’s going to be the Cavs.
As for the win total, I don’t think Mitchell’s addition was factored correctly, and I think some trepidation about a one-year outlier is warranted, but it’s not enough to get me to bet the under.