Will Hot ATS Teams in the NBA have Longevity?
by Trevor Whenham - 01/24/2007
At the very simplest, successful handicapping comes down to this - you have to figure out which teams are worth betting on, and then you have to bet on them. It doesn't sound that hard and, when we are rolling well, it isn't. If that's the approach that you want to take then you need a consistent league, and the NBA is at least as good as any other. Teams in the NBA often go on streaks, and the public often doesn't react to these streaks as strongly or as quickly as they might be expected to. That can mean profit. Here's a look at the five most profitable teams against the spread in the NBA so far this year to see which ones stand a good chance of remaining profitable, and which may be due for a downward adjustment.
Phoenix Suns - 25-15-1 ATS - It seems hard to believe that a team that wins so convincingly and so consistently can be such a profitable bet, but the Suns are doing it. They are consistently a winning bet because they win more than anyone would imagine possible. They had a 15-game winning streak snapped right before Christmas, looked briefly mortal by losing two of three, then put together another huge streak, winning their 14th in a row on Tuesday night. Steve Nash and the rest of the boys aren't shaving until they lose again, and it seems quite possible that they could start tripping over their own beards before that happens. Nash has two MVP trophies in a row, and he is playing better ball now than he did in either of those years.
Over the current 14-game streak, the Suns have won by an average of more than 14 points per game. Though the Suns face spreads larger than 14 points more often than any other team, they still obviously can't be burdened with a spread that big every night. They've covered a remarkable 64 percent of those 14 games. That means that as long as the Suns offense keeps clipping along, which it seems like it will do as long as Nash stays healthy, then the teams' betting record should be able to stay healthy no matter how deep the public's love affair with the team gets.
Toronto Raptors - 26-15 ATS - The Raptors are fighting for first in what has the potential to be the worst division in the history of basketball. The Eastern Conference isn't exactly a powerhouse, but the Atlantic Division is just terrible. The Raptors have the ingredients for a successful ATS team - they are an anonymous, somewhat competent team that is far enough out of a major media market to keep any improvements or trends out of the eyes of the casual betting public. Right now they are in the midst of a decent stretch of play that is going largely unnoticed. They are 7-4 in their last 11 games, and they are 9-2 ATS in that stretch. They are a young and raw team that is improving and learning to play together. Those 11 games also correspond precisely with the time that Chris Bosh returned from a lengthy injury. He's playing very good basketball and so is his team. They will continue to benefit from weak competition, so they could continue to be a good bet until they show that they are tired of playing well. Or until Bosh gets hurt again.
Indiana Pacers - 24-16-1 ATS - The Pacers are the only team with a winning record in the league that has scored fewer points per game than they have allowed. That means a few things. First, it's pretty remarkable that they have managed to pull that off. It also means that there is no reason for the public to have a very good perception of the team. A team that is not well liked by the public, but which can win more than it loses, is going to be a good bet. It's not that easy with the Pacers, though. They have only played two games since their eight-player trade with the Warriors, so the new players haven't gotten used to their surroundings, and the team hasn't decided how much they are going to miss their former teammates. Until that happens there is no way to tell for sure whether the Pacers will remain a good bet, or if their opponents will suddenly look pretty attractive.
Dallas Mavericks - 23-16-4 ATS - You can take much of what I said about the Suns and apply it here. The Mavs have won 21 of their last 22, including a win over Phoenix. They are a ridiculously good team. They have achieved their results in a different way than Phoenix, though. Dallas scores 12 fewer points per game than the Suns, but they allow 10 fewer as well. Unlike the Suns they actually play defense. During the 22-game stretch they have gone 11-7-4 ATS. Though that is a pretty profitable run, it is the four pushes that concern me going forward. That means that the lines are pretty accurate, and that the bookmakers and the public have a pretty good fix on the team. In fact, besides the four pushes there were eight games in the 22 in which the final score was within a basket of the spread. That means that an extra basket here or there, a bit of a slump for Dirk Nowitzki or some sudden foul shooting woes for the Mavs, and their impressive ATS record loses a good deal of its shine.
Denver Nuggets - 22-17 ATS - I don't need to waste much time writing what you already know - until we see how Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony play together we know nothing about how to handicap this team. It's a whole new ball game in Denver. Their first two games together have looked good, and the team has covered in both of them, but I want to see a bigger sample size before I decide what the future holds one way or the other.