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Could Duke Beat the Cavs? Hypothetical Spreads for Blue Devils vs. All 30 NBA Teams

Could Duke Beat the Cavs? Hypothetical Spreads for Blue Devils vs. All 30 NBA Teams article feature image
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Photo credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson

  • We're jumping into everyone's favorite bar conversation: Can a college team (like this season's Duke squad) beat the worst NBA team?
  • We consulted the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino SuperBook to set a line on Duke vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers, then set odds on Duke vs. every NBA team.

The worst team in NBA history by win percentage is the 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats, who went a miserable 7-59.

The 2018-19 Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t quite that bad: Their league-worst -12.0 point differential would put them right around a pace of 15 wins.

But lately, they’ve been really bad. Over the past month, the Cavs have a -18.7 point differential, going just 1-15 over that the stretch. For reference, that 2011-12 Bobcats team had a point differential of -15.5.

Meanwhile, the No. 1 ranked Duke Blue Devils are cruising through another season and just took down their top ACC rival this weekend in Virginia. They’re absolutely loaded with young talent — notably Zion Williamson, who is projected to be the first pick in this summer’s NBA Draft.

Of course, this has yet again sparked every sports fan’s favorite bar conversation: Could Duke beat an NBA team? More specifically, could they beat this terrible Cavs one?

We’ll never know the answer to that question — which is what makes it so fun to debate — but we can get an expert’s take on it. So we talked to Jay Kornegay, the Vice President of Las Vegas Hotel & Casino SuperBook.

His answer? In a hypothetical neutral-court game, the Cavs would be favored by 22.5 points over the Blue Devils.

Let’s take it further, though.

We can use that 22.5 number to calculate the hypothetical spread for Duke vs. every NBA team using our NBA Power Ratings. Of course, there are other factors, like teams easing off the gas. But, hey, this is hypothetical.

Let’s have some fun with it!

Duke vs. All 30 NBA Teams: Hypothetical Spreads

Who you got? Warriors -39.5 on a neutral court against Zion, R.J. Barrett & Co.?

And to complete this crazy hypothetical exercise, let’s take this to the ultimate extreme.

Using kenpom.com, we can estimate the spread between Duke and the worst statistical team in college basketball, Maryland Eastern Shore.

That spread would be Duke -60.8, which means a hypothetical line between the Warriors and Maryland Eastern Shore would be Warriors -100.3.

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