To say the NBA’s All-Star Game is the midseason point of the season is not accurate, considering every team in the Association has less than 30 games remaining in their 82-game regular season. But it’s the only break the league gets, so let’s take a look at some pre-break trends as well as what futures options might be your best value bet going forward.
It might surprise you which team was the best against the spread in the first 55 or so games: the Philadelphia 76ers, who went 35-20-1 ATS. That ties the Memphis Grizzlies for the most ATS wins so far; the 20 ATS losses are the second-fewest in the NBA behind the Knicks’ 19.
The Sixers started very slowly under new coach Doug Collins with a 5-14 record but enter the break at 27-29 and in seventh in the East. Their recent surge – winning seven of 10 – has likely turned the Sixers from sellers at this week’s NBA trade deadline to standing pat; i.e. Andre Iguodala isn’t going anywhere. Philly is a stellar 19-10-1 ATS on the road and has covered in seven of its past nine away from the City of Brotherly Love. The Sixers, who already have matched last year’s win total, open the second half with three very winnable games vs. the Wizards, Pistons and at the Cavaliers.
The two worst ATS teams should come as no surprise: the Cleveland Cavaliers, who set an NBA record with a 26-game losing streak in the first half, and the Washington Wizards, who opened the season with 25 consecutive losses before winning, naturally, at Cleveland. The 25 straight road losses was the third-longest road losing streak to start a season in NBA history. The record is 29 in a row by the 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks. Washington easily has the worst ATS road mark at 8-19 while Cleveland has one of the worst home marks at 9-16-1. The Atlanta Hawks actually have the worst ATS home mark at 9-17. In their final home game before the break the Hawks blew a 22-point lead to lose to Charlotte. Atlanta’s largest blown lead was coughing up a 23-point margin to the Houston Rockets on March 7, 2001. Atlanta is 2-6 ATS in its past eight home games.
When looking at NBA futures odds, it’s hard not to want to jump on the Chicago Bulls’ bandwagon, with Derrick Rose and Co. at +350 on Sportsbook.com to win the East and +900 to win the NBA title. Chicago gets back star center Joakim Noah on Wednesday in Toronto. Noah had missed the past 30 games after thumb surgery, yet Chicago managed to go 22-8 without him thanks to the emergence of Rose as an MVP candidate. Rose has had Noah and Carlos Boozer on the court at the same time in just nine games so far and yet Chicago is only two games behind the Heat (-110 to win East) and Celtics (+125 to win conference) for the top spot in the East. The Bulls already have beaten Miami, Boston, the L.A. Lakers, Orlando, Dallas and San Antonio this season at less than full strength. Noah was averaging 14 points and 11.7 rebounds before he went down. If the Bulls can add a shooting guard upgrade – Cleveland’s Anthony Parker or Denver’s J.R. Smith? – Then watch out. Rose is at +220 to win NBA MVP, just behind leaders LeBron James and Amare Stoudemire at +200. Take that bet on Rose now.
The best value out West probably is Dallas to win the conference at +250, behind the Lakers (+130) and Spurs (+160). I happen to think that owner Mark Cuban makes a move by Thursday’s deadline. But if not, the additions of Rodrique Beaubois (and Peja Stojakovic) have already made this team that much better. The lightning-quick French guard already has joined the starting lineup despite playing in just two games after breaking his leg in the summer. If the Mavs can pawn off Caron Butler’s expiring contract for a good defender (Tayshaun Prince?) then Dallas might be the team to beat not just in the West but the entire NBA.