With free agency and the NBA Draft now behind us, we're more than halfway through the offseason and the San Antonio Spurs front office made sure to make an impact. The team picked up several notable free agents, drafted the youngest player in the draft in Josh Primo, and saw the departure of DeMar DeRozan, Patty Mills, and Rudy Gay.
The regular season is now only about two months away, and Las Vegas is beginning to make their predictions as to how the season will play out. Unfortunately for the Spurs, oddsmaker "The Lines" has predicted that the team will only win 28.5 games, making them one of the worst in the league. While losing a player like DeRozan could turn out to harm the Spurs' win column if one or more of the young players don't make another jump, if you think that number feels very low, you aren't alone.
While I wasn't necessarily expecting Vegas to have the Spurs in the 40-50 win range, this prediction felt even more off-base than usual. Typically, the Spurs have been projected to win between at least 30 to 40 games on average over the past couple of decades, dating all the way back to 1996. This past season, they were projected at 29.5 wins.
Oddsmakers and bookies have without a doubt had their fair share of bad days at the SuperBook, if you will, and have gotten their predictions wrong sometimes. The newly released 28.5 projected 2021-2022 season win total for the San Antonio Spurs we got wind of this week, however, is a completely different animal and is downright disrespectful in my mind.
To be fair, I understand that when it comes to record predicting, bookies will typically utilize some type of data platform and/or various projection models to increase accuracy, and to some degree, leave any bias out of the picture. However, at the end of the day, signing off on the over/under win total requires a conscious decision and a human being's signature.
Don't get me wrong, I am all about following the data--numbers do not typically lie. But personally, I would love to hear an explanation as to why a totally revamped Spurs roster, which is nothing like the squad the Spurs fielded last year, moved the needle so little compared to last season. A mere single-win downgrade makes me wonder if whoever approved this chose to just quickly glance at last year’s total and go with one win lower because of the team losing out on their most recognizable players.
A prediction of 28.5 wins feels so incredibly wrong, and quite frankly, like a slap in the face to the Spurs organization that was signed, sealed and delivered by Las Vegas.
The San Antonio Spurs are quietly gaining momentum
The Spurs got better this offseason which, to me, warrants at least a five-win boost to get them past the 30-win threshold. Historically, the Spurs outperform projections of win totals with Pop at the helm who just so happens to be coming off a gold medal showing at the Tokyo Olympics, which he ought to feel pretty relieved about. After all, he described the experience as "the most responsibility [he's] ever felt." Coming into the NBA season without having to look forward to the stress of something like that may do wonders for both him and the Spurs.
Additionally, while he may not care much about this himself, the young Spurs players will surely have their sights set on helping Coach Pop move past Don Nelson as the winningest coach in NBA regular-season history when the Silver and Black take the court this fall.
These reasons alone should be enough for the Vegas bookies to take their data and analytic models with a grain of salt. When factoring in the Spurs' young guns, who have made it clear they have something to prove in the wake of some disrespect, Vegas' original projection can arguably be thrown out the window entirely.
Take, for example, the 2020-2021 New York Knicks, who were projected to win only 22.5 games. They blew that projection out of the water, finishing with a 41-31 record and boasting 4th place in the Eastern Conference: nearly a 20-win total differential.
There is no reason to believe that the Spurs cannot do the exact thing the Knicks did last season, especially if one of their young players makes some serious strides as Julius Randle did in New York. The Spurs certainly have the potential to get back to the postseason, and perhaps even win a few playoff games next season.
Because I am a "glass three-quarters full" type of guy, it's worth forgetting about Vegas for a moment and looking at just a couple of positives that come with next season's low expectations.
In the past, San Antonio has been known to thrive flying under the radar. This allows the Spurs to quietly go about their business toward the beginning of the season and then shock the NBA landscape (and Vegas) next spring when playoff time approaches.
Being able to play with a chip on your shoulder is something that many young players find to be motivational, and it could do wonders for a young group that wants to make a bold statement in a talented Western Conference. It's also reasonable to think that Keldon Johnson wants some respect put on his name considering he just won his first gold medal at only 21 years old.
So, if you're asking me, bet the over. The Spurs have a talented and underrated young group on their hands that will be looking to prove their worth in the absence of the team's familiar veterans. I, for one, can't wait to see that unfold.