What Vegas thinks of the Spurs' chances this season

Kevin C. Cox

Oddsmakers have set their over/unders for how they expect NBA teams to perform this season. Will the Spurs beat their predicted season win total?

Bookmakers in Vegas and offshore have set their regular season win total over/unders for all teams in the NBA. The Spurs are at a consensus 55 ½, which means that they have to win 56 games for the over to win and anything less is a win for the under. Let's consider the Spurs' chances of winning 56 games next season.

These odds are from Bovada.lv:

2013-2014 NBA Regular Season Win Total Over/Unders (Highest to Lowest)

Miami Heat 61½
Los Angeles Clippers 57
Chicago Bulls 56½
San Antonio Spurs 55½
Houston Rockets 54½
Indiana Pacers 54½
Brooklyn Nets 52½
Golden State Warriors 51½
Oklahoma City Thunder 51½
Memphis Grizzlies 50½
New York Knicks 49½
Denver Nuggets 46
Dallas Mavericks 43½
Minnesota Timberwolves 41
Cleveland Cavaliers 40
Detroit Pistons 40
Atlanta Hawks 39½
New Orleans Pelicans 39
Washington Wizards 39
Portland Trailblazers 38½
Los Angeles Lakers 36½
Toronto Raptors 35½
Sacramento Kings 31
Milwaukee Bucks 29
Boston Celtics 27½
Charlotte Bobcats 26
Utah Jazz 25
Orlando Magic 24
Phoenix Suns 21
Philadelphia 76ers 17

56 wins represents a 68% winning percentage - slightly better than 2 out of 3. The good guys have won 72.8% of their regular season games in the last two seasons.

2012:
Record: 50-16
Winning percentage: 75.8%

2013:
Record: 58-24
Winning percentage: 70.7%

For further comparison, here are the Spurs over/unders for the last 3 seasons, their actual win number, and the percent difference.

2010-2011:
Over/under: 50.5
Actual win total: 61
Percent off: +20.8%

2011-2012:
Over/under: 46.5
Actual win total: 50
Percent off: +7.5%

2012-2013:
Over/under: 54.5
Actual win total: 58
Percent off: +6.4%

Now let's look at the factors that could lead to the Spurs once again overachieving and, in this case, hitting that 56-win total, as well as a couple of things that could keep them under.

Continuity

This Spurs team is bringing back 9 players from the ‘12 team and 12 players from the ‘13 team. That's a whole lot of continuity and corporate knowledge right there. Neal was the only player who played over 15 minutes per game who isn't returning, and I think Bellinelli is an upgrade. The Spurs should be racking up wins at a high clip to begin the season as other teams struggle to find their identity while the Spurs will just be fine-tuning their well-balanced machine.

Schedule

In the first quarter of the season there are 5 BABAs, but Houston is the only team we play on the SEGABABA that made the playoffs last season. There are a several reasonably tough road games, at Denver, New York, Utah - who are always tough in SLC where they have won 74% of their games the last two seasons, Memphis, and OKC- who is likely to still be without Westbrook. The only home games the Spurs won't be heavy favorites in are against Houston on the SEGABABA, and Memphis and Indiana who will visit the ATT Center to bookend the first 20 games -- overall a relatively easy start to the season. The Spurs should win at least 15 of these games and it wouldn't be very surprising to see them go 16-4 or 17-3.

The second quarter of the season has 6 BABAs, but only one SEGABABA against a playoff team from last year. It also has the season's only FOGAFINI, which is in Utah and is a great spot to leave a couple veterans in San Antonio for two days' rest before visiting the Clippers who, along with Golden State and Memphis, are the toughest road games during the second quarter. OKC, Houston, Brooklyn, New York, and the LA Clippers are the toughest home tests.

The third quarter of the season has only 3 BABAs: Chicago at home, and on the road against Brooklyn and Portland. OKC makes a visit to the Alamo City as the other tough home game this quarter, before San Antonio heads on a three-game trip at Atlanta, Miami, and Houston. The Spurs make their RRT during this quarter and the schedule is favorable for them. They face 7 teams that'll probably be sub-.500. They also have the Brooklyn SEGABABA and they visit the LA Clippers after the All-Star break.

The final quarter of the season has the Spurs playing SEGABABAs at Golden State and OKC, as well as home against Portland, New Orleans, and Phoenix. There are plenty of tough games in the run up to the playoffs. The Spurs are at home against Miami, Denver, Golden State, and Memphis; they also go on the road at Chicago, Golden State, Denver, Indiana, OKC, Dallas - who may be battling for a playoff spot - and Houston.
This is where it is hard to gauge what PATFO is going to want to do. More on that below.

The Spurs win when the Big 4 play

I know, real big surprise, right? Well, let me show you just how much they win. Remember from earlier that over the past two regular seasons the Spurs won a ridiculous 73% of their games, which would translate to 60 wins.

Here are the win percentages for the big four, followed by the next 6 players in minutes played:

Tim: 74.2%
Tony: 74.6%
Kawhi: 75.4%
Manu: 77.7%


Tiago: 72.8%
Gary: 73.1%
Danny: 73.3%
DeJuan: 73.6%
Boris: 76.8%
SJAX: 77.3%

Boris and SJAX only played in the 18-2 run to finish the 2011-2012 season, which skews their percentages. Last year the percentages were a bit more realistic: 73.3% for Boris and 72.2% for SJAX.

The Spurs win games; they win a little more often when they have their big guns in.

The Rest and Injury Factors

These are the things that could keep the Spurs under 56 wins.

We all know that Pop likes to sneak in as much rest for his veterans as he can, while also trying to get a top seed. Pop knows home-court advantage helps, but he's more concerned with navigating the regular season and getting to mid-April healthy, as we saw in 2012 where people thought he was "giving" the top seed to OKC when he rested the Big 3 against Utah late in the season. The Spurs lost that one and the next before winning 10 straight with 2 more full games of rest for the Big 3 while tying Chicago for best record in the league.

The risk for injury is also a concern as the Spurs stars age. Hopefully Manu's off-season training program pays off and Kawhi's knee is fine.

Last season Tim sat out of 13 games entirely, Tony missed 16 as he had an injury that kept him out for 8 games, and Manu missed 22 - including 9 at the end of the season when he strained his hamstring. Kawhi missed 24 games including 18 where he had a knee issue.

It's hard to know exactly how much Pop was resting his players or intends to rest them this season. Tim wasn't injured except for that scare with his knee that turned out to be just a mild ankle sprain. I LOVE that Punisher brace! He missed 4 games there.

In total the Big 4 missed 75 combined games out of 328 possible last season and still won 58 games.

My Take

This is a very good basketball team that fully intends to compete for a championship. If Pop were trying to win as many games as possible this group could probably win 65.

Barring a catastrophic injury, I see this team at 45-15 through the first 60 games of the season. With 22 games left the Spurs would only have to be a .500 basketball team to go over 55 ½ . The Spurs likely will be playing at least 10 playoff teams in that last stretch, but 8 of the other teams should be in tank mode. I think 14-8 over that stretch is reasonable.

Prediction: The Spurs win 59 games and are the top seed in the West.

Miscellaneous

A few quick thoughts on some plays I think have value.

The Houston win total is too high. It's at 55 at some books. I don't believe in Dwight Howard. When I heard that Dwight was complaining that someone was wearing his number I doubled my bet. He needs to be in the gym working on his game - not worrying about number 12. He is pure knucklehead. I will be looking to fade the Rockets early in the season.

I also think the 57 line for the Clippers is too high. 58 wins is tough to do; in fact, only an average of 2.5 teams a year during the past five seasons win at least 58 games (I corrected for the strike-shortened season).

The Spurs are paying 12 to 1 to win the championship. This is an implied 7.7% chance. Here are the odds on the other contenders:

Miami: 2 to 1 (implied 33% chance)
OKC: 6 to 1 (implied 14%)
Houston: 9 to 1 (implied 10%)
Brooklyn: 9 to 1 (implied 10%)
Chicago: 9 ½ to 1 (implied 9.5%)
LA Clippers: 11 to 1 (implied 8.3%)
Indiana: 12 to 1(implied 7.7%)

If you like San Antonio's chances, now's the time to get action. That 12 to 1 is going nowhere but down -- at a couple of the sharper books it's already at 10 ½ to 1.

If you like the Spurs to go over for the regular season win total I recommend waiting, as 67% of the action is on the under. We may see a move down to 55 before the season starts.

And here's last thought. Currently, books have the Rockets favored slightly over the Spurs to win the Southwest Division.

Houston is +130 (meaning you would win $130 on a $100 bet)
San Antonio is +140 ($140 profit on $100 bet)

There is no way that Houston should be favored over the Spurs in anything before the season starts. I really like the play on San Antonio here.

Of course, it goes without saying that nothing -- not even the Spurs' perennial excellence --  is certain. If you do gamble, keep within your means.

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