2023 NBA Win Totals: Bet on LeBron and Lakers, Not Kawhi and Clippers
After a fun All-Star Weekend in Salt Lake City, the NBA returns to regular-season action on Feb. 23.
In a tale of two teams in one city, the Los Angeles Lakers and L.A. Clippers have made major moves with eyes on the playoffs and possibly more.
For the Lakers, they needed to shake things up by getting rid of Russell Westbrook and adding more firepower to help LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
The Lakers got far more than they deserved when they made a sweet deal with the Utah Jazz – more on that in a bit – who landed Westbrook only to buy out his contract. The crosstown rival Clippers then signed Westbrook.
Many pundits wasted no time showing how they felt about the move, none more brutally funny than the opinion of veteran L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke, who wrote:
“The Monday news that the Clippers are acquiring the locker room stink bomb that is Russell Westbrook struck the sensibilities like a Westbrook jumper off the side of the backboard.
In keeping with the Presidents Day theme, I cannot tell a lie.
This is really, really dumb.
You may recall Westbrook spending the last season-and-a-half with the Lakers. The Clippers apparently didn’t.”
Maybe this whole thing will work out for the Clippers, but many have their doubts, myself included. In addition to Westbrook, they also added experienced role players Eric Gordon, Mason Plumlee and Bones Hyland.
Meanwhile, the Lakers added former player D’Angelo Russell, who’s still just 26 years old, tough defender Jarred Vanderbilt, three-point sharpshooter Malik Beasley, and shot-blocking specialist Mo Bamba.
So they’ve definitely improved and they realize 38-year-old LeBron James is hungry for one more championship title run before he hangs them up.
The new NBA scoring king is fully aware of what’s at stake, saying, “It’s 23 of the most important games of my career for the regular season. “It’s the type of mindset I have and I hope guys have coming out of the break.”
How this all turns out for the Clips hinges on Westbrook’s play.
"We accept him with open arms, man, let him be himself," Marcus Morris Sr. said on Feb. 10 when he joined George in campaigning to add Westbrook. "We need the personality, we need the veteran [experience]. He's been in the playoffs a lot of times, been to the championship."
"He hasn't had an opportunity to play on a team where he could be himself and be able to play freely. Playing with the Lakers, it's like media, media, media," Morris said, referring to the spotlight of such a high-profile team. "And from the outside looking in, like every time something bad went wrong -- Russell Westbrook. Nobody else was really getting no blame. And it just kept spiraling down."
So now let’s look at the updated NBA season win totals for both the Clippers and Lakers.
Los Angeles Clippers Regular-Season Wins 2022-23
Over 45.5 Wins -110
UNDER 45.5 Wins -110
Los Angeles Lakers Regular-Season Wins 2022-23
OVER 40.5 Wins +112
Under 40.5 Wins -142
This could come down to the strength of each’s schedule. The Clippers have the most challenging remaining slate in the West (second toughest in the league) and are 10-20 against teams above .500. The Clippers have 13 games left against teams above .500.
It should be close but I’m saying is the Clippers wind up with between 43-45 wins but not 46, which is what they’d need for the over.
The Lakers, meanwhile, have the fourth-easiest remaining schedule in the Western Conference.
Russell, who played for the Lakers from 2015-2017, has looked comfortable in his first three games back with L.A.
In his first game dishing to both James and Davis, in a victory over the Pelicans just before the break, Russell had 21 points and seven assists.
Afterward, Russell was all positive vibes:
Following the victory, Russell spoke about what it was like to be on the floor alongside Bron and AD, who make everyone around them better. Via ClutchPoints:
“I think it’s just easy. Those guys play the right way the majority of the time so when you’re two best players are willing passers, selfless out there, trying to screen away, setting back screens, they play basketball out there, so for me, I’ve always wanted to be in that position. I make a cut, maybe I’ll get the ball, but I’m usually the guy making that pass to an open guy, so with LeBron, he’s capable of doing it so it’s like having another point guard out there and I always say there is so much gravity when AD is on the floor because the defense is always trying to stay attached to him. So just learning how to play with those guys is my focus and also getting other guys going, too.”
The Lakers have a tough four-game stretch coming back from the break: at home vs. Golden State, then road games against Dallas, Memphis and Oklahoma City.
Things get a little easier in mid-March, then the season wraps up with potentially huge games vs. the Clippers and Suns.
The Lakers need to go 13-10 in their final 23 games to finish with a 41-41 record to reach and go above the 40.5 over number.
That’s more than a bit realistic and I think they’ll get close to the Clippers’ final total of 43-45 wins.
Book ‘em both: Clippers UNDER 46, Lakers OVER 40.