Looking Into Why Vegas Expects Spurs To Regress This Season

With Dejounte Murray back from injury and a returning core that should be much more cohesive after a year playing together, it’s notable that the betting markets aren’t expecting much improvement by the San Antonio Spurs. In fact, Vegas expects the Spurs to have fewer wins this season.

Last season, San Antonio finished with a record of 48-34. Current betting lines have the Spurs winning 46.5 games in the 2019-20 campaign. Vegas has seven teams in the Western Conference winning more games: the Clippers (56.5), the Jazz (53.5), the Rockets (52.5), the Nuggets (52.5), the Lakers (51.5), the Warriors (47.5) and the Blazers (47.5).

If the betting lines are right, the Spurs will make the playoffs as an eighth seed and play the Clippers in the first round. That would be an interesting matchup, to say the least. 

Why Doesn’t Vegas Expect More From The Spurs?

Perhaps San Antonio is just getting overlooked; it wouldn’t be the first time. With splashy moves making headlines in the West, the Spurs spent another summer under the radar. In fact, the two most notable Spurs-related stories this summer were probably the signing that wasn’t and the hiring of an assistant coach.

Are the Spurs being underestimated by Vegas? It’s possible. Then again, FiveThirtyEight’s stats-based projections have the Spurs finishing 12th in the West with a record of 38-44. That’s below teams like the Pelicans, Timberwolves and even the Thunder.

On the surface, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that the Spurs would win fewer games with a roster that looks noticeably better than last season’s roster. But, like usual, the West promises to be a bloodbath and it’s difficult to point to any team that is being wildly overrated. The Clippers and Lakers will surely be better. The Rockets still look like a contender. Young teams like the Nuggets, Jazz and Blazers should improve. The Warriors still have enough talent to make some noise.

Even most of the lower tier teams in the West look improved. The Pelicans, Mavericks, Kings and Timberwolves could all conceivably vie for a spot in the playoffs. Even the Grizzlies and Suns could be better than they were last season. And the Thunder haven’t started tanking just yet. 

Looking at the big picture, I think San Antonio being at 46.5 wins is close to fair. Optimists can argue it should be a couple wins higher but, with the stiff competition in the West, it’d be difficult to argue that the betting markets are way off the mark.

Spurs Considered More Of A Championship Threat

If you want to look at the betting lines through a glass-half-full lens, there are some silver linings. Heading into last season, Vegas had the Spurs winning 43.5 games and San Antonio’s championship odds at 100-to-1. Right now, you can find the best NBA betting lines here, the Spurs not only are expected to win three more games than they were expected to win a year ago, their championship odds are 66-to-1. Still a dark horse in Vegas’ eyes but not nearly as much of a long shot as they were heading into the 2018-19 season.

Considering FiveThirtyEight gives the Spurs only a 22% chance of making the playoffs and virtually no shot of even making it to the NBA Finals, the betting markets aren’t overly bleak by comparison. To go along with their 66-to-1 odds to win a championship, Vegas currently gives the Spurs 30-to-1 odds of reaching the Finals. 

The Spurs have never overcome this long of odds to win a championship before but they were rarely the favorites, either. In fact, only in 2005 were they the favorites heading into the season. Their championship odds before the 2002-03 season were 11-to 1. Before the 2013-14 season, San Antonio’s championship odds were 12-to-1.

The closest the Spurs came to winning the championship as a major underdog was the 2011-12 season. They entered that season with 33-to-1 odds of winning a championship and the clock didn’t strike midnight on that team until they were up 2-0 in the Western Conference Finals. 

With training camp currently underway, we’ll see if the 2019-20 Spurs can beat the odds and emerge as a legitimate contender.