This time last summer, the Cavaliers had little reason for enthusiasm heading into the 2021-22 season.
The team had just spent another draft in the lottery, picking in the top-10 for the fourth time in four years.
There was some cautious optimism around Evan Mobley.
But the team’s other recent lottery picks in Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro, and Collin Sexton were unproven at best, potential whiffs at worst.
And how successful would a lineup featuring Lauri Markkanen, Jarrett Allen, and Mobley fit, anyhow?
Those questions were a big reason why Vegas set the Cavs’ over/under for wins last season at a paltry 26.5.
But as fans know, that number was wildly off; by mid-January, the Cavs were safely “over” with still a month before the All-Star Break.
Did Vegas learn its lesson heading into next season?
On Monday, PointsBet, NBC’s official betting partner, released over/under projections for the 2022-23 NBA season.
And the Cavaliers got a major bump in predicted wins.
The site set the Cavs’ over/under at 42.5 for the upcoming season.
It’s not an unsurprising or random number: the Cavs won 43 games last season.
By setting the projected over/under at 42.5, PointsBet is essentially arguing that last season’s total is a good benchmark for this season.
The 18-win increase is the result of several factors.
First, the Cavaliers crushed expectations last season and crushed them early.
Essentially, Vegas is betting (no pun intended) that the Cavs’ first half of the season, when the team was mostly healthy, was not an aberration.
Second, Vegas is counting on the continued ascent of Darius Garland and Evan Mobley.
Garland broke out last season, securing his first All-Star nod.
And Mobley was the run-away Rookie of the Year until a late injury and surge from Toronto’s Scottie Barnes saw the award head off to Canada.
Collin Sexton really moved the ball better than his statline indicated last year. I’m willing to be he sees a career-high in assists per game next season. He is a much better passer than given credit for. pic.twitter.com/mDYtVadimE
— Mack Perry (@DevaronPerry) July 18, 2022
The Cavaliers more or less answered those questions from last season.
Once thought a hindrance, the pieces added last season helped turbocharger Cleveland’s rebuild.
And so far this offseason, Cleveland hasn’t rocked the boat.
They brought back Ricky Rubio, who gelled fantastically with this Cavs team, and added depth in Raul Neto and Robin Lopez.
Collin Sexton is the team’s biggest unresolved question remaining.
But the Cavs played so well without the guard last season that losing him likely wouldn’t impact the team’s win total.
Two other teams saw their over/under projection boost by ten or more wins.
The Celtics, whose last season over/under was set at 45.5 wins, are up to 55.5 wins.
Boston’s big bump is likely due to the fact that they also obliterated expectations last season, turning in the league’s top defense en route to a Finals appearance.
And the Minnesota Timberwolves saw a 14.5 win-total bump from last year, from 35.5 to 49.5.
That’s due in large part to two reasons.
The Timberwolves, like the Celtics and Cavaliers, exceeded expectations.
And much like the Cavaliers, the Timberwolves saw the rise of a recent lottery pick: Anthony Edwards.
Most career PPG by a player with zero all star selections:
20.3 — Anthony Edwards
20.1 — John Williamson
20.0 — Collin Sexton
19.2 — CJ McCollum
19.1 — De’Aaron Fox pic.twitter.com/q2JaLBnWUH
— StatMuse (@statmuse) July 15, 2022
In addition, the Timberwolves made a major offseason move for Utah’s Rudy Gobert.
Last season, Gobert finished fourth in win-shares with 11.7.
Between an ascendant Edwards and mega-additive Gobert, Vegas’ expectations for the T-Wolves are high.
Last season, the clear breakout teams were the Celtics, Timberwolves, and Cavaliers.
But Cleveland has a chance to prove that breakout wasn’t an anomaly.
And clearly, Vegas agrees.
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