Barring a season of regression or a disastrous injury, the Miami Heat are poised to run away with the Southeast Division title. The Washington Wizards are a trendy pick to nab a playoff spot in the thin Eastern Conference, while the Atlanta Hawks will look to clinch a playoff spot for the seventh-consecutive season.
Atlanta Hawks (2012-13: 44-38 SU, 37-43-2 ATS)
Odds To Win The Division: +1400
Season Win Total: 40.0
Why To Bet The Hawks: Well, they have now made the playoffs six consecutive seasons and posted at least 40 wins in the last five (even including the lockout shortened campaign of 2012). The Eastern Conference is actually weaker this year with only five teams most would feel comfortable guaranteeing will finish over .500. After that, the Hawks are in a small group (with Cleveland, Detroit and Washington) competing for the final three playoff spots. Most feel losing Josh Smith won't hurt too much, considering they never really went anywhere special with him in the first place. He will be replaced by Paul Milsap, which actually could be an upgrade.
Why Not To Bet The Hawks: At the risk of alienating my Atlanta clients, I hate the Hawks. They seem to be the only franchise in the league that doesn't understand the concept, "if you're not good, then you should try and be bad." Interestingly, them not grasping this formula will probably work in the favor of those wanting to bet the Hawks Over the season win total. However, this is the second straight season where the team loses its leading scorer from the previous year and I see them missing out on the postseason for the first time since 2006-07.
Season Win Total Pick: Under 40.0 wins
Charlotte Bobcats (2012-13: 21-61 SU, 31-50-1 ATS)
Odds To Win The Division: +20000
Season Win Total: 27.5
Why Bet The Bobcats: Shockingly, the Bobcats did not finish in last place last season as somehow they were able to dig out of the basement in the season's final days and finish ahead of Orlando. The fact that Charlotte is no longer the worst team in the division helps, but let's be honest, this team has very little in the way of talent. They did sign Al Jefferson, who instantly becomes their best player.
Why Not To Bet The Bobcats: Michael Jordan is a horrendous owner with one of the worst track records when it comes to drafting possibly ever. Over the last two seasons, they have won 28 games combined in 120 games, so asking them to match that total in 82 games, seems like wishful thinking. Last year, Charlotte ranked 26th in points scored, 27th in rebounds, 28th in assists and 29th in points allowed. As a reminder, this is a 30-team league.
Season Win Total Pick: Under 27.5 wins
Miami Heat (2012-13: 66-16 SU, 46-36 ATS)
Odds To Win The Division: -10000
Season Win Total: 60.0
Why Bet The Heat: As you can tell from the odds to win the division, there is no safer pick to win the division than the two-time defending NBA Champion Heat. Not only are they the best team in the league, but they play in the worst division. It would take some sort of catastrophic injury to prevent Miami from winning this division. Chicago and Indiana are both going to be very good and push Miami for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, so winning more than 60 games seems likely.
Why Not To Bet The Heat: It will not take much for Miami to win this division, and perhaps they won't be interested in earning homecourt advantage in the playoffs. They are an older team that probably relies too much on LeBron James, so coach Erik Spoelstra may elect to rest certain members of the supporting cast during the regular season to save them for the playoffs.
Season Win Total Pick: Over 60 Wins
Orlando Magic (2012-13: 20-62 SU, 36-44-2 ATS)
Odds To Win The Division: +20000
Season Win Total: 24.5
Why Bet the Magic: I really don't know why you would. I suppose playing in a weak division that also includes Charlotte gives them a chance at "stealing" some wins. I suppose the starting five isn't horrible.
Why Not To Bet The Magic: Outside of clearly tanking Philadelphia, this looks like the worst team in the Eastern Conference. The Magic's "commitment" to win could probably be called into question as well. Word that they are going to try top draft pick Victor Oladipo at point guard sounds like a desperate move. This appears to be the bottoming out season in post-Dwight Howard Orlando.
Season Win Total Pick: Under 24.5 Wins
Washington Wizards (2012-13: 29-53 SU, 45-35-2 ATS)
Odds To Win The Division: +1200
Season Win Total: 42.0
Why Bet The Wizards: After a dreadful start to the season, John Wall came back and the team was much better. If not for a horrible road record, the Wizards actually could have competed for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They are a trendy pick coming into the year, and should contend with Atlanta for the final playoff spot.
Why Not To Bet the Wizards: They were still only 24-25 after Wall's return, and while that's not bad, it's still a sub-.500 record and the books are calling for a better than .500 finish in 2013-14. How will they handle the pressure of expectations? Can Wall remain healthy for an entire season? Now that he got his contract, will he play as well as last year? He is still a poor shooter than turns the ball over too much. That and injury concerns pretty much sum up the entire Washington roster.
Season Win Total Pick: Under 42.0 Wins