NBA Win Futures Report

The NBA regular season is in the books, and it’s time to review how the NBA win futures turned out—how each team performed against its Over/Under win expectation in Las Vegas at the start of the season.

I’ve broken the league down into three categories—landslides, where a team made or missed its number by double digits. Then the decisive category, where a team was 2.5 games or more away from the number. Then we close with those on the margin, within a game and a half either way.

One of the things I like the most about this mode of analysis is that it usually exposes teams that whose disappointments got hidden—maybe it was a team expected to be a little below .500 and therefore off the media radar. But they end up being absolutely terrible. It doesn’t affect national coverage, but if you’re a fan there’s a big difference between rooting for a team that goes 40-42 and one that goes 20-62. The Over/Under results expose that.

Here’s the breakdown, with comments following each section. Each team’s margin against the number is listed, followed by their actual won-loss record. The last letter is a full disclosure note. TheSportsNotebook made public selections on all these teams back in October, and that indicates whether I won or lost the pick.

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Phoenix: +27 (48-34), W
Charlotte: +16.5 (43-39), L
Portland: +15.5 (54-28), W
Toronto: +12 (48-34), L

Denver: -10.5 (36-46), W
Detroit: -11 (29-53), W
New York: -12.5 (37-45), W
Milwaukee: -13.5 (15-67), L

Comments: Phoenix was in the playoff picture in the West all year long, so even though they ended up just missing, they at least got credit for their amazing overachievement all year, a landslide winner even when measured against fellow landslides. Milwaukee had no expectations coming into the year and still managed to be the league’s biggest disappointment against the number. The ownership change announced yesterday can’t take effect soon enough.

The teams that are basically exposed here are Detroit and Denver. The Pistons were supposed to at least be in the conversation for the playoffs, especially in the East. The Nuggets had some trepidation, after a coaching change, but this is a team that was the 3rd-best in the West last season and never even sniffed playoff contention this time around.

Of course this doesn’t mean New York is off the hook, but I highly doubt you needed an Over/Under win summary to know the Knicks haven’t met expectations.


San Antonio: +7.5 (62-20), L
Dallas: +5.5 (49-33), L
Washington: +5.5 (44-38), L
Oklahoma City: +4.5 (59-23), W
Philadelphia: +2.5 (19-63), W

Sacramento: -4 (28-54), W
Boston: -5 (25-57), L
New Orleans: -6.5 (34-48), W
Cleveland: -7 (33-49), W
Miami: -7.5 (54-28), W
Brooklyn: -8 (44-38), W
LA Lakers: -8 (27-55), L
Chicago: -8.5 (48-34), W

Comments: I really should re-think the numerical criteria for this group, because anything that calls the 76ers “decisively” Over has to be flawed, doesn’t it? Then again, it does make you wonder—how bad did people really think Philly was going to be? They went on a historic losing streak, got universal condemnation for tanking and still ended up beating the number with room to spare.

A big congratulations to Greg Popovich, Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs. To beat a big number is hard enough, especially with a veteran team. The Spurs not only did it, they went Over by a lot. Miami, Brooklyn and Chicago all faltered against big numbers although I think these are all classic cases of public money driving numbers on popular teams too high to be realistic.


LA Clippers: +1.5 (57-25), L
Indiana: +0.5 (56-26), W
Golden State: -0.5 (51-31), W
Orlando: -0.5 (23-59), L
Utah: 0 (25-57), P
Minnesota: -1 (40-42), W
Houston: -1 (54-28), W
Atlanta: -1.5 (38-44), L
Memphis: -1.5 (50-32), L

Comments: Indiana and Orlando played head-to-head last night, with the right to claim an Over on the line. It makes you wish Brent Musberger and Charles Barkley could have called the game—these are the only two guys in the broadcasting world who would have appreciated the gambling implications.

TheSportsNotebook finished with a nice 17-12-1 record this year. I do the win futures predictions in the NBA, MLB and the NFL, and this was a needed good run after a tough year in the NFL last season. I’m just as proud of the fact that the winning record wasn’t built on the marginal teams going my way—I was 4-4-1 on the nine teams that were basically coin flips. I’ll enjoy this while it lasts, which in the world of handicapping, is never very long.