The New Orleans Pelicans won 36 games last season and made the playoffs even though Zion Williamson never played a game.
Zion is now back, healthy, and looking better than ever, and the Pelicans are early favorites to make a big jump in the Western Conference.
But the West is deep and talented, so it won’t be easy, with at least 11 teams with eyes on the playoffs. Only the Jazz, Rockets, Thunder and Spurs will likely be tanking, so the West is going to very competitive, which could keep win totals down.
It’s a balanced group with no clear favorite, so we may see a lot of teams bunched up in the middle, and the Pelicans figure to be among them.
Which is why the predicted win total makes sense, but whether it is a good bet depends on your level of optimism about whether Zion Williamson can stay healthy.
Over/under for New Orleans Pelicans win total for 2022-23
According to WynnBET, the over/under for total wins for the Pelicans is currently set at 45.5 wins.
That would have made them the 8th seed last season, so the books are essentially predicting modest improvement for New Orleans. What that win total is really doing is hedging this bet against an injury to Zion, as it might be a game or two higher if you could guarantee he will play the whole season, which no one can.
If Williamson were to miss a lot of time again, you could probably expect the Pels to win a few more games, but not make a huge leap. If he does play the whole season, then over 45.5 wins seems like a lock.
I went through the schedule and saw a path to 50 wins if Zion is in the lineup, which would be a huge jump, but not impossible given his addition as well as improvements from guys like Herb Jones, Trey Murphy III, Jose Alvarado and Jaxson Hayes, not to mention a full season of CJ McCollum in the lineup.
If you are betting, take the over, as the Pelicans could get there without Zion and will almost certainly do it if he plays a full season.