Bucks, Thunder and Spurs are undervalued

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In Tuesday’s Post, VSiN’s analytics expert named his three teams most likely to stay under their 2020-21 win total (Hawks, Nets, Hornets). Here are three of Drew Dinsick’s projected Over-achievers (totals by BetMGM): 

Bucks Over 49.5: For the second consecutive season, the playoffs were a disappointment for the top-seeded Bucks. While their lack of playoff success has caused consternation, the Bucks clearly have figured out the regular season and stand alone as the strongest team in the Eastern Conference. 

The Bucks are slightly less deep this season and may have growing pains early as they incorporate new pieces, but their regular-season rating from 2019-20 suggested they were even stronger than their superlative record of 56-17; their Pythagorean win expectation was 59 wins. The Bucks had the top defensive rating of 102.9 points allowed per 100 possessions, a top-10 offensive rating of 112.4 points scored per 100 possession, which gave them a league-leading +9.5 net rating, which was three points clear of the next-best team and the highest net rating since the 2016-17 Warriors. 

Even if the Bucks take a small step backward, they have the talent to stay in play for the top overall record again this season. Fair price by my numbers is 54.5 wins, so I will gladly back the Over. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo; Shai Gilgeous-Alexander; Derrick White
Giannis Antetokounmpo; Shai Gilgeous-Alexander; Derrick White
Getty Images (3)

Thunder Over 22.5: The Thunder lost a lot of top talent after playing well enough to earn a No. 5 seed in the Western Conference last season. Chris Paul is now a Sun, Danilo Gallinari is a Hawk and Steven Adams is a Pelican. The team’s young core remains intact, however, and led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort with contributions from veterans Al Horford and George Hill, Oklahoma City will still compete, especially in games out of conference. 

The low total reflects an aggressive adjustment considering the current roster. My fair number for Oklahoma City is 32 wins. It’s possible the veterans could be dealt during the season as this team positions itself for the future, but I expect general manager Sam Presti to repeat the approach used last season, when the Thunder played out the full season with its opening-day roster. It’s unlikely the Thunder will be in the playoff mix, but 24 wins is imminently attainable even if the veterans are moved during the season, so the Over is the look. 

Spurs Over 28.5: Much was made of the youth movement for teams such as the Heat and Suns in the bubble, but the Spurs also relied heavily on young talent, with key players such as Dejounte Murray and Derrick White taking meaningful steps in their progression. It is clear that the organization is ready to move on from LaMarcus Aldridge as a featured player, and, with the young players continuing to mature, it is clearly the right decision. 

Coach Gregg Popovich and his outstanding staff will continue to get the most out of their talent, which brings the Over on this low total into focus. The Spurs managed 32 wins in 71 games last season, underachieving their Pythagorean expectation by one game. Expecting this team to repeat that level of success or improve upon it is reasonable, so the Over is a nice play with my fair total of 32 wins. 

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