NBA Handicapping: Teams that Could Look Different After Break
by Trevor Whenham - 2/22/2013
Now that we are past the all-star break and the Trade Deadline in the NBA, bettors have a big job at hand — determining which teams are really as they have appeared up to this point and which ones are likely to look different the rest of the way than they have so far. Teams that excel down the stretch and those that start to struggle can be useful for astute bettors who can adjust to the changes faster than the general public does.
Here are three teams that seem to be good candidates for a change in circumstances. The three teams here are a good reminder that betting opportunities can be anywhere — we have an elite squad, a solid mid-pack contender, and a hopeless mess of a team. All they have in common is that there is a chance that they can deliver profits for those paying attention:
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The Kings have been a lousy, defeated team for a couple of years now. As of the Trade Deadline, though, there is no illusion left that they are evenly remotely maintaining any hope for the rest of this year — or beyond. Trading away Thomas Robinson after drafting him fifth overall last year is totally bizarre. Trading away an asset like that and not getting any noteworthy return is almost criminal. Robinson has not been very good for the Kings, but they have used him very poorly — short minutes, and in a system that doesn’t suit him. It seems likely that he will start to find himself in a more logical role in Houston. With Robinson leaving, the chemistry and attitude in Sacramento is going to be even worse than it has been — and that’s saying something. This team is just playing out the string — on their season and their time in Sacramento. It would be a miracle if this team puts forth a consistent effort at all. They have already been a bad team, but it’s very likely that things will only get worse from here. At 23-30-2 ATS, the Kings have already been decent to bet against this year. The rest of the way they could be a real treat to oppose.
The Thunder are obviously a very talented team. For a long time, though, they have just been treading water — they are an underwhelming 7-7 in their last 14 games. There are no burning issues — they are healthy, and were comfortable enough with the roster to cast off Eric Maynor at the deadline. It just feels like they don’t feel particularly motivated at this point. They would really have to struggle to lose home court advantage through at least one round, and at this point they are reasonably secure as the second seed. They know that the postseason is what matters, and they seem to be waiting until close to then. That means that they aren’t playing with much intensity on defense and are just letting their offense carry them along. Soon enough, though, the team is going to shift into the next gear that they so obviously have. When that happens this team will be playing way beyond the .500 they have been limping along at for the last month. The trick for bettors is determining when that happens and jumping on it.
Thanks to Derrick Rose, things are certainly going to be different the rest of the way for this team. We just don’t know how yet. Rose has been practicing 5-on-5 with the Bulls this week, and that has sparked a lot of speculation that he is close to returning to action for the first time this year. Bettors obviously think he’s returning because futures odds for the Bulls have fallen significantly recently. The team isn’t saying anything, though. More significantly, Rose and his brother are saying quite a bit. Rose has said he wouldn’t mind sitting out the whole season if he feels like he isn’t quite right. His brother Reggie — who is also his manager — has gone further, and in bizarre ways. Not only did he echo that Rose wouldn’t return if he wasn’t ready, but he expressed major disappointment that the team didn’t make any deadline moves. He said that Deng and Noah are good players, but that there isn’t enough other talent around and that Rose is tired of carrying so much of the burden. It was a very strange rant and a sign that whether he returns or not Rose had a chance to be a distraction — a disruptive force — the rest of the way. For a team that has the potential to be a big threat in the playoffs, this is far from an ideal situation.
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