LeBron James’ first season in Los Angeles didn’t go as planned, with the Lakers winning only 37 games.
The 2018-19 NBA regular season has come and gone. What better way to prepare for the playoffs than by taking a look back at some of the teams that overachieved and underachieved against Las Vegas projections.
Here is a look at the 10 teams that had the most variance compared to their preseason over/unders.
All odds are from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.
Teams that exceeded expectations
Sacramento Kings (O/U: 26)
Final record: 39-43
As disappointing as the Lakers season was, the Kings exceeded all expectations, despite having the league’s second-lowest payroll. Armed with a young, dynamic backcourt featuring lightning fast De’Aaron Fox (17.3 PPG, 7 APG, 1.7 SPG) and go-to scorer Buddy Hield, Sacramento has been a revelation: Fox, with his knee-jerk drives and end-to-end finishes, as well as Hield (20.8 PPG on 42.6 percent 3s) with his hyperefficient shooting. Also, rookie Marvin Bagley III (21.6 PPG per 36 minutes) continues to excel, showcasing his smooth offensive arsenal in both the half-court and open floor as the season progressed. Harry Giles III (17.9 PPG, 9.7 RPG per 36 minutes) appears to be rapidly accelerating into a very good young (he turns 21 this month) and versatile big as well. Few rosters in the league possess as much upside and long-term growth opportunity as this one.
Milwaukee Bucks (O/U: 48.5)
Final record: 60-22
Mike Budenholzer deserves to win Coach of the Year. The metamorphosis of this team on both sides of the ball is a direct correlation to his innovative coaching style. Offensively, Coach Bud has unleashed Giannis Antetokounmpo with his patented four-out, one-in system predicated on spacing, dribble-drive and kick-out 3-point shooting. Giannis is the frontrunner for MVP, averaging career bests in points, rebounds, assists, field goal percentage, offensive rating and win shares. Additionally, the Bucks have enjoyed a defensive transformation, both from Giannis and collectively as a unit. Instead of blitzing offenses as it did in years past, Milwaukee has elected to sag its bigs and protect the rim. As colleague Kirk Goldsberry pointed out on the ESPN podcast, Hoop Collective, no team in the league surrendered more points at the rim than the Bucks last year. This season, however, the Bucks have skyrocketed up the ladder, ranking first in that category.
Los Angeles Clippers (O/U: 37.5)
Final record: 48-34
Mike Budenholzer has been outstanding. So too has Mike Malone, Kenny Atkinson, Nate McMillan, Terry Stotts, Dave Joerger, Nick Nurse — and Doc Rivers. After the Clips traded away their best player in Tobias Harris, we expected to see a regression. Instead, Rivers has managed to not only keep his team afloat but rally its way into arguably the most notable playoff surprise. Rivers’ coaching performance should go down as the best of his career. He has unlocked 30-year-old Danilo Gallinari, who is enjoying career highs in scoring, field goal percentage and 3-point percentage, as a legitimate No. 1 option (19.9 PPG), while also featuring new additions Landry Shamet and Ivica Zubac (give credit to the Clippers’ shrewd front office as well).
Teams that underwhelmed
Washington Wizards (O/U: 46)
Final record: 32-50
The Wizards’ season quickly went south following John Wall‘s season-ending heel surgery after Christmas. A poorly constructed roster lacking offensive synergy put an abundance of pressure on Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr., both of whom played well but lacked the necessary support to compete in the rugged Eastern conference. Trading Kelly Oubre Jr. and then Porter signaled the end of any type of playoff push. A silver lining for Wiz fans? Long-time pariah Ernie Grunfeld is finally out of a job.
Los Angeles Lakers (O/U: 48)
Final record: 37-45
An absolute dumpster fire in Tinseltown was highlighted by Magic Johnson’s abrupt resignation as team president on Tuesday. For the first time in 14 seasons, LeBron James will not participate in the playoffs. Has his poor health affected team results? Certainly. But Bron’s injuries have hardly been the only reason the Lakers have underwhelmed. In reality, a poorly constructed roster with a dearth of shooters plagued this season before it began. Only the lowly Phoenix Suns, at 32.9 percent, shot the long ball worse than this bunch. It’s not hyperbole to suggest this will go down as the most disappointing season in franchise history.
New Orleans Pelicans (O/U: 45.5)
Final record: 33-49
After capturing the first postseason series win in a decade, the hapless Pelicans promptly fell apart. This one surprised me too: “Playoff Rondo” may have left, but Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis remained, and Julius Randle signed on as a strong third option. But then Davis could not stay healthy. More important, he and agent Rich Paul concocted a plan to ensure everyone in basketball knew that “The Brow” wanted out. While I do believe New Orleans genuinely wanted to make the playoffs and build on the success of 2017-18, the Davis saga was an unavoidable circus that halted all hope of another playoff run. “That’s all, folks.”
New York Knicks (O/U: 27.5)
Final record: 17-65
Credit James Dolan’s woeful Knicks for managing to take this once-proud organization to new levels of misery. To be sure, we all knew this season would be a disaster, but the Knicks have taken it to another low in trading cornerstone Kristaps Porzingis and losing a franchise-worst 18 straight games. Zion Williamson is certainly worth tanking for — so too is promising point guard Ja Morant — but at what cost? And how much more can Knicks fans take?
Boston Celtics (O/U: 59.5)
Final record: 49-33
After coming within a single game of the Finals, the Celtics returned all of their players — including Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, neither of whom played during the postseason. Somewhere along the way, though, things went awry. Terry Rozier has not been “Scary Terry,” and Hayward still looks like a guy trying to figure it out after his catastrophic injury. The C’s biggest enigma has been Jayson Tatum. After a brilliant rookie season and playoff run, the second-year forward has regressed, enduring dips all across the board (roughly 6 percentage points from 3 and 4 points in offensive rating, per Basketball Reference). Tatum is a marvelous talent, but his inability to get to the free throw line is an alarming issue, and so too is his lack of cohesion with Kyrie Irving.
Cleveland Cavaliers (O/U: 31.5)
Final record: 19-63
The Cavs rank dead last in defensive efficiency, with a 114.9 clip, and just 25th in offensive efficiency. But all is not lost. While the Hawks’ Trae Young has enjoyed a terrific rookie year, point guard Collin Sexton has quietly put together a nice season of his own. The eighth pick in the draft has averaged nearly 17 PPG on a surprising 40.8 percent from 3-point range, showcasing his explosive ability to get downhill out of screen-and-rolls. It would behoove the Cavs — who locked up Kevin Love long-term last summer — to add another wing, ideally Zion or perhaps RJ Barrett. Maybe then the sting of LeBron leaving suddenly would not be so sharp.
Phoenix Suns (O/U: 29)
Final record: 19-63
Devin Booker is a scoring machine and emerging superstar who recently compiled consecutive 50-point games. Rookie center Deandre Ayton has been a highly efficient scorer who looks like a dominant big for years to come. Then again, first-year head coach Igor Kokoskov was undoubtedly given a losing hand. Consider the severely limited roster — and then consider the timing of GM Ryan McDonough’s unprecedented dismissal. Nine days before the season started! Yes, nine! Owner Robert Sarver has been a cataclysmic failure in the same light as his counterpart in New York, James Dolan. Even a basketball lifer like Kokoskov, however, could not have foreseen his first season as an NBA head coach going this poorly.