There’s no way to guess at just how exactly the Las Vegas people develop these NBA win total lines. I mean, sure, there’s arguably a complicated mathematical algorithm laying out in the desert somewhere right now, presumably catching some rays like a lizard trying to warm itself in the sun after a job well done, but who has the time to figure that whole thing out? I’m ready to trust any organization that non-ironically calls itself the SuperBook to get it right no questions asked.
So the Raptors’ over/under win total line is set at 49.5. Let’s talk about it.
Back in early August, I rifled through every month of the Raptors’ incoming schedule to determine a win total. Wouldn’t you know it, but I arrived at a single profound number: 50. For most teams, this would be a monumental achievement, and in truth, this would be true of Toronto — in any other year. But the team just came off an eye-popping 56-win campaign, so 50 wins (just a half game over the line) suddenly feels like a modest step down.
So why the anticipated drop? Looking internally, we have to assume the loss of Bismack Biyombo will account for some change. For most of the season he was a bit of an up-and-down player, but there’s no denying the role he had in anchoring the team’s defense (and ably starting in place of Jonas Valanciunas after the big man was felled by injury). Big Biz’s absence has to account for a couple of wins at least.
The other big matzah ball hanging out there is these damn Boston Celtics. Look, the Eastern Conference is still largely in shambles. There are more, let’s say, tough teams but still not a ton of actual talent. The Celtics though, the Raptors’ only division rival and sure challenger for the two-seed, will make those easy 16-0 or 15-1 days versus the Atlantic a thing of the past. That’ll account for a win or two, presumably.
After that, anyone from the Magic, down at 36.5 wins to the Pistons at 45.5 wins, will be able to mix it up with the Raptors on any given night. Let’s say some things go one way or the other and that’s a couple wins right there off the top. We’re getting to that 50-win range now. Still on the over, but skirting pretty close to it.
On the flip side, and this is something that’s hard to discount, is the fact of the Raptors’ possible internal improvements. Kyle Lowry is Kyle Lowry. DeMar DeRozan, sigh, is probably DeMar DeRozan. But there are all kinds of interesting tangents to explore after that — what if Valanciunas gets 10 percent better? How about a full season of DeMarre Carroll? Does Cory Joseph adjust more to the increased workload? What of Norman Powell? And all this without addressing the improvement at power forward with Jared Sullinger slotting in to replace an ageing Luis Scola (miss you, big lion). See what I mean? There’s room for growth.
Yes, the frontline is a concern (I’ll keep saying that until we figure out who’s playing backup centre for real), but there are just as many reasons to believe the Raptors can maintain their standing as there are to doubt it. Anyway, that’s my case.
Now what you got?
Update: Poll now included!