On Tuesday, we introduced the (goofy) idea of investing in NBA teams’ win totals, and unveiled the Brew Hoop W-Index (BHWI). Today, our writers reveal their choices and tell us why they bought what they did. First, here’s the current BHWI leaderboard:
Remember, our “Portfolio Value” counts money left behind in the budget against us...but in this case, everyone spent close to their allotted budget. There’s also a fair amount of overlap on investments; everyone is buying stock in the much-improved Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Charlotte Hornets, Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, and Phoenix Suns are popular picks. But enough about all that, what do our writers say?
Note: investments will be shown using the format “Team Name (number of shares)”
Portfolio: Minnesota Timberwolves (5), Charlotte Hornets (5) Detroit Pistons (5), Milwaukee Bucks (5), Boston Celtics (5)
How could I not invest the Timberwolves? They seem like a sure bet to considerably improve on their win total from last season, but that was the only Western Conference team I wanted to invest in considering the amount of talent that left the East.
The Hornets and Pistons are in my portfolio because they have the best chances to improve by their divisional opponents getting worse. The Hornets, who finished 4th in the Southeast Division, got better while the 2nd place Atlanta Hawks got worse and the 3rd place Heat remained neutral. I can see the Hornets improving on their win total mainly due to Atlanta’s rebuild. The Pistons are a similar story, they finished last in the Central, but the 3rd and 4th place Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls got worse, with the Bulls getting significantly worse. Assuming Kyrie Irving does leave the Cleveland Cavaliers, there’s another opportunity for the Pistons to steal another win or two.
The same logic with the Pistons was applied to the Bucks. While the Bucks remained neutral in the off-season, they will also grab more wins against the Pacers, Bulls, and Cavs. Giannis Antetokounmpo will get better which adds to that expected win improvement.
The Celtics adding Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward improves their chances of win improvement, even though they were already a 50+ win team. Their division did not get worse overall, but the Toronto Raptors stayed neutral and I do not have confidence in the New York Knicks, 76ers, or Nets to be a threat to the Celtics’ win improvement.
Portfolio: Philadelphia 76ers (10), Minnesota Timberwolves (10), Charlotte Hornets (5), Brooklyn Nets (5), Los Angeles Lakers (5)
I decided to sink a majority of my budget ($590) into just two teams, Minnesota and Philadelphia. I think the Timberwolves had the most productive offseason of any team and are a safe bet to improve on the 31 wins from a year ago. KAT was perhaps the biggest All-NBA snub last season and if he is able to duplicate his post-New Years Day numbers for an entire season (27.6 ppg/13 rpg/.582 FG%) not only will he be an All-NBA member, he could be in the MVP conversation. Adding Jimmy Butler gives Minnesota a second All-NBA player and a proven closer, this team lost 22 games in which they held double-digit leads last season, the most in the league by a wide margin. That alone should be enough to get any team over the 31 win mark. Then you factor in players like Wiggins and Teague and this team is set up to compete with anybody, at least on paper.
The Sixers are definitely my biggest risk, simply because it is so unclear what Embiid, Simmons or Fultz will give the team. If Embiid can stay healthy and either Simmons or Fultz can live up to their hype, watch out. If not, I might be in trouble. But as James Caan once said in The Gambler, “If all my bets were safe, they just wouldn’t have any juice.” I’m BUYING the process.
I chose to spend the remaining $410 of my budget buying minimal shares into the Hornets, the Nets and the Lakers. The main thing that appealed to me about the Hornets is that they are in the East. While the Hornets really didn’t make any major moves this offseason, other teams around them got significantly worse (see: Hawks) and I expect a bounce-back season that could see Charlotte in the 2018 Playoffs.
The Lakers are another team that I invested in but am not 100% sold on. The summer saw a lot of turnover in Tinsel Town, three of their five current starters were not even on the roster last season. That is probably a good thing though, as the Lakers are in the worst four-year period of its existence. I believe both Randle and Ingram will take major steps this season while Brook Lopez will provide experience and consistency to make up a strong front-court unit.
I am buying into the Nets because there is nowhere to go but up. They can’t possibly lose 60+ games for a third straight season can they? Can they?
Portfolio: Brooklyn Nets (10), Philadelphia 76ers (5), Minnesota Timberwolves (5), Charlotte Hornets (5), Denver Nuggets (5), Phoenix Suns (5)
I struggled a bit with managing my $1,000. I was either significantly under my allotment, or a few dollars over. After much maneuvering, I’m fairly satisfied with the spread of my selections. I had just enough money to make an extra investment with the Nets, being that they were the cheapest team. With their most notable offseason acquisition arguably being D’Angelo Russell, I’m hopeful there might be even the slightest bit of new life breathed into the team.
My other selections are a little more self-explanatory. The 76ers’ improvement is guaranteed with the return of Embiid and Simmons. The addition of Thibodeau’s former players Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson — along with Jeff Teague — add a handful of guys who will make positive impacts on the immediate and future climate of the Timberwolves. I picked Charlotte mainly because they improved their second unit this summer and partially because I’m semi-delusional and think if Dwight Howard has finally found his fit, he can still contribute nicely with lots of double doubles.
Finally, I invested in the Nuggets because I think 2017 might be the year people stop sleeping so hard on them. Jokic certainly turned a lot of heads last season, and Millsap was a great pickup for them. Denver is a group of young guys with something to prove, and I think they are making the right moves to ensure their efforts will be enough to convert into more wins. As for my selection of Phoenix, quite honestly I couldn’t afford to invest in any other team. There wasn’t much reasoning besides that.
Portfolio: Brooklyn Nets (15), Minnesota Timberwolves (5), Philadelphia 76ers (5), Charlotte Hornets (5), Milwaukee Bucks (5)
I decided to lean heavily towards Brooklyn as their record should improve and I like the moves they made this offseason. Russell has shown flashes and a change a scenery will be best for him. Acquiring Carroll and Crabbe, while not franchise defining moves, do help the Nets at the wing position and three point shooting which is an area the Nets badly needed help.
Any time you add a Top-15 player to your team, your win total should increase unless a major injury or suspension occurs. Butler playing alongside Towns, who I believe is the second best young player in the NBA, and Andrew Wiggins will give Minnesota a core that will be competitive all season under Tom Thibodeau. The Timberwolves blew a lot of leads in the second half last season and I don’t see that happening as frequently. Assuming Wiggins isn’t the biggest sieve in the NBA, there isn’t any reason Minnesota can’t win more than 31 games, and compete for a playoff spot.
The Eastern Conference got weaker with Atlanta (Millsap), Chicago (Butler), and Indiana (George) all losing their best players to Western Conference teams. The biggest benificiary will be the Charlotte Hornets who will expect to be in the playoffs come April. Even with Dwight Howard on the roster, I think Walker can carry the Hornets to 40ish wins.
Milwaukee won 42 games last year and the majority of that roster is coming back. I expect a bounce back year from Mirza which can make the difference in a game or two. A healthy Kris Middleton will be very beneficial to lighten the load off of Giannis and having a very good two-way player should make the defense better. D.J. Wilson and Sterling Brown are the two most likely that will have to pick up where Michael Beasley and Jason Terry left off but I feel confident. The combination of having Giannis and the previously mentioned weaker East should give the Bucks a minor improvement record wise.
The biggest wildcard in my opinion are the Philadelphia 76ers. The team has plenty of young talent on it’s roster with Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz. The biggest question is health; Simmons missed all of last season, Fultz has already had a slight brush with the Philly injury curse, and we all know about Embiid. If this group can stay even 60% healthy, I can’t see why they can’t improve in a weaker eastern conference.
Portfolio: Denver Nuggets (10), Charlotte Hornets (5), Dallas Mavericks (5), Minnesota Timberwolves (5), Brooklyn Nets (5)
I tried to stretch most of my investments out across a number of teams. Personally, I don’t think the Bucks are that worthwhile of an investment given their relative success last year and the modest expectations for their improvement. If you’re gonna aim, aim high. With that said, I tried to find teams that I thought both underperformed last year and look ripe for improvement this year. The only one I’m a bit wary on is the Nets given the loss of Brook Lopez as a consistent threat, but I think the steadying backcourt of Jeremy Lin and feisty breakout potential of D’Angelo Russell makes them a worthwhile stab among these stocks.
My biggest bet with Denver for much of the same reasons Rachael outlines above. S/o to Rachael for not eschewing the Nuggets, can’t wait to bask in our winnings over the other guys. Sure they play matador defense, but there’s a reason they signed the defensively stout and reliable Paul Millsap in the offseason. I expect him to not only play well with Jokic in the frontcourt, I expect harmonious songs to be plucked about their ball movement. Gary Harris should improve, Jamal Murray could become an off-the-dribble threat to complement Jokic’s passing artistry and they have some fairly competent bench pieces to file in around that. I don’t think losing Gallinari will hurt them considerably, and I expect a mile-high ROI on them.
Minnesota is there for obvious reasons. Charlotte, for as hum-drum as most people are about them, actually had a +0.1 net rating last season despite their 36-46 record. Whatever you want to say about Dwight, I think they have enough pieces for a 6-10 win uptick this year. Lastly, I think Dallas will gel further with another year with relatively the same cast, plus Dennis Smith Jr. feels primed to add a dimension J.J. Barea just can’t reach.
Portfolio: Minnesota Timberwolves (5), Milwaukee Bucks (5), Philadelphia 76ers (5), Brooklyn Nets (5), Phoenix Suns (5), Boston Celtics (5)
I considered dumping the majority of my budget into teams that were sure-fire bets to improve from last year, but I decided that I wanted to diversify my investments instead. Splitting my $1,000 between Minnesota and Brooklyn would have been easy (and possibly lucrative), but I still have my doubts about Brooklyn’s roster and how well Tom Thibodeau can preserve the energy of his players, and if Thibs’ heavy minutes demands could result in injury for the Wolves’ young core players.
Long story short, Minnesota still has a chance at making a huge improvement, while Brooklyn, Phoenix, and Philly have nowhere to go but up (I’m hoping). Philadelphia could be particularly lucrative, but any significant improvement there will be due to Joel Embiid’s health, or the NBA readiness of both Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz (no sure bets). Lastly, Milwaukee will probably be around the same win total, as will Boston, but both of them play in the significantly weaker Eastern Conference, which assuages any concerns I have about the return I can get on their win totals.
We will likely revisit this piece after ~20 games of the season have passed, and depending on how everyone feels we’ll open the markets back up to see what changes people make. How do you think everyone did? Who do you think will have the best start to the season, and who will be looking up from the bottom of the leaderboard? Who are your picks for the W-Index? Let us know in the comments!