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NBA Handicapping: ATS Studs and Duds
by Trevor Whenham - 11/28/2012

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New Jersey Nets power forward Kris Humphries

It seems like the NBA season only just began, but we are already about 20 percent of the way through. That means that the sample size is now big enough that we can look at which teams have done well in covering spreads, which ones have struggled, and what we might learn from that. Here are the ATS studs and duds from the first month of the NBA season:

Studs

Memphis Grizzlies (9-3 ATS) - The Grizzlies have been the best team in the league to this point in the season, so it’s a real indicator of their strength so far that they are also the best team in the league against the spread. That shows that they aren’t just winning but are winning impressively. Most striking is that they are actually covering spread on the road (4-1 ATS) at a better rate than they are at home (5-2 ATS). Whether the Grizzlies can maintain their torrid start remains to be seen, but this is unquestionably a talented and well-built team and one that won’t get as much public attention as some of the higher-profile teams. There is a solid chance that they will still be worth betting on down the road.

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New York Knicks (9-4 ATS) - The Knicks have an interesting trend going so far this year. They have won nine games, and they have covered the spread each time. They have lost four games, and they haven’t covered any of those games. All you have needed to do to this point, then, is figure out whether they are going to win — it’s like betting moneylines, only the payoffs are better when they are favored. The problem, though, is that after starting out 6-0 they have gone just 3-4 since. This team certainly isn’t getting any stronger.

Brooklyn Nets (8-3-2 ATS) - The shiny new surroundings are treating the Nets well so far. Not only are they a nicely profitable 8-3-2 ATS on the year, but they are an even nicer 7-1-2 ATS in their last 10. At 5-1-2 ATS at home, they are clearly comfortable in their new surroundings, too. As long as Deron Williams keeps playing like he has been there is at least a chance they can keep their spread-covering ways up.

Denver Nuggets (10-5 ATS) - The Nuggets have been streaky so far this year. They didn’t cover their first two. Then they covered five straight. Then they didn’t cover three before again covering their last five. They have been a decent 6-4 ATS on the road as well, so they are reasonably effective away from home — especially for a team that boasts just an 8-7 record overall.

Duds

Chicago Bulls (3-10 ATS) - Wow, do the Bulls ever need Derrick Rose back. With their point guard in the lineup the Bulls are one of the truly elite teams in the league. Without them, though, they are pretty lousy. Their record is an underwhelming 6-7, and since they aren’t covering spreads at even the rate they are winning games they aren’t even as strong as people expect — and people don’t expect much from them without their superstar. We have not yet been given any indication of when Rose might return, but since he was only hurt in April it could be a very long time yet. Until he is back, betting against the Bulls could continue to be an attractive option.

Phoenix Suns (5-10 ATS) - At 7-8 the Suns really haven’t been that bad — especially considering that the departure of Steve Nash signaled a shift of eras in Phoenix. Their defensive play has been brutal, though, and that’s the biggest reason why they have struggled to cover spreads at the same rate they are winning games — despite low public expectations for them. They are an ugly 2-6 ATS at home, where they should be stronger, so it’s hard to be optimistic going forward — especially considering that they are healthy so they aren’t likely to improve dramatically in a hurry.

Sacramento Kings (4-8-1 ATS) - For the Kings the issues are simple — they are short on talent, and Keith Smart is a remarkably bad coach who is ill-prepared to handle the challenges of running a team in the league. He has found ways to misuse every player on his team at some point, and he has undermined the confidence of his key players. The lack of progress that Tyreke Evans has made under Smart is particularly striking and concerning. The only way that the Kings are ever going to get better is to fire Smart and start over, so as long as he is employed betting against them is likely to be a sound long-term policy.

Dallas Mavericks (6-9 ATS) - At full strength the Mavs aren’t going to be as good as they have been in recent years because of how much they have lost. Dirk Nowitzki has yet to play a game yet, though, and isn’t likely to for three more weeks or so. Without their best player this team is really going to struggle to meet expectations. Once the big German returns we’ll essentially have to evaluate this team from scratch, because everything will change then — both on the court and in the eyes of the betting public.

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