Moore: Why the OKC Thunder’s 30.5 Win Total Is an Overreaction

Moore: Why the OKC Thunder’s 30.5 Win Total Is an Overreaction article feature image

Photo credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Steven Adams

  • Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook recently released their 2019-20 NBA win totals, and the Oklahoma City Thunder currently sit at 30.5.
  • Matt Moore (@HPBasketball) walks through the Thunder's offseason, how they project moving forward and why there's value on their win total bet.

With the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook releasing their 2019-20 NBA win totals, we now have a complete set of odds to compare and contrast. The numbers are, of course, largely in line with one another, but one where there is at least some variance is with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

DraftKings still has yet to post a number for OKC’s season wins since the Russell Westbrook trade. PointsBet posted the highest number at 35.5, while FanDuel went slightly lower at 34.5. Caesars and Westgate, however, went more conservative, with Caesars posting 31 and Westgate all the way down at 30.5 wins.

In my first impressions piece, I noted that this bet has to be a stay-away. There’s too much confusion over where the Thunder are headed in terms of rebuilding, and they’re not going to let it be known, either.

What we can say for certain:

  • If they receive anything close to a good offer for Chris Paul’s contract, to a team Paul is willing to play for, they’ll move him. It’s unknown what the market for him is, but it’s likely it improves after the signings from this summer are eligible to be traded. Plus, a team like the Heat may feel differently if they start off sluggishly in the first two months of having Jimmy Butler and may feel more pressure to take on his contract.
  • If the Thunder deal Paul, it’s likely they make more deals, clearing Steven Adams, Andre Roberson or both. They are in asset accumulation territory.
  • However, if a deal for Paul never materializes, it’s just as likely they play out the season and will have enough talent to be competitive, if not outright good.

So, let’s say instead of wanting to not fall victim to the hands of fate, you’re willing to take a strong opinion on how this will play out. There is, in fact, value to be had. This will either wind up being a team desperately tanking towards a sub-25-win season, or they will be in contention for .500 and hang around the playoff picture late into the season.

The Thunder are more volatile than maybe any other team, so conventional wisdom suggests it’s unlikely they wind up anywhere near the range of their number.

However, if we think they’re going to trade everything off, when would that be? Could it be as late as February? And if so, could they be at 25-plus wins by then anyway, putting the lower numbers at risk?

That was my initial thought, as I had the Thunder in the high 20s on my first run of win projections. Oh, they’re going to trade everyone and be terrible. But then I thought about it.

On the flip side, if they don’t trade Paul, you’re talking about a team with Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams. Further, even if they do trade Paul, they might wind up being competitive. They’re not brutally young and inexperienced; they’re not lacking in defense, scoring, coaching, athleticism or shooting.

Chris Paul shot 36% from 3-point range last season in a down year. Gallinari shot 43%. SGA shot 37%. Adams had a down year defensively last year but remains one of the best interior defenders in the league.

Now, they play in the Western Conference death gauntlet, where every team is good all the time, but even then they should be able to find enough weak spots in the schedule to pick up a decent amount between teams in their tier in the West and beat up on East teams.

This is important to note: In order for the Thunder to be truly terrible — sub-30 wins — they’d have to either lose their faces off with an all-time top-10 point guard in Chris Paul, who’s not so far over the hill that he’s bad, plus Gallo, Shai, Adams and a decent bench — or they’d have to trade all of them off within a month for players who were so bad they couldn’t win even on accident with them.

Keep in mind that all the prospective trade targets make enough money to require a decent chunk of salary in return, which is usually attached to pretty good players.

The higher figures are likely more in line with where the Thunder will finish; they’re an incomplete roster of players playing at a crossroads on their way to new destinations. They’re still not going to win 45-plus. But the lower numbers in Vegas seem like an overreaction. The over looks to have value at 30.5.

If you need a hedge, you can get the Thunder to miss the playoffs at -500 at FanDuel, compared to -3000 at Westgate.

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