Early NBA Betting Lessons
by Trevor Whenham - 11/12/2008
The NBA season is only a couple of weeks old, but already it has been educational. As any sports bettor knows, success comes from a combination of advanced preparation and the ability to adjust expectations based on what happens on the court, field, or ice. A whole lot of interesting things have happened this year - some that have gone as expected, and others that certainly haven't. Here's a look at five lessons that bettors have learned so far in this young NBA season.
The adjustment period for youth is very short - It used to be that it took weeks, months, or even a season or two for young stars to turn into valuable contributors for their teams. Now it seems to take a game or two. There are several young players who were drafted to be stars and are already meeting, or exceeding, those expectations. O.J. Mayo is in the top 20 in league scoring, and he has had more than 30 points in each of his last two games. Derrick Rose is averaging just a couple of points less, and he is commanding his team with more confidence every time out. His last game against Atlanta was probably his best. The Bulls lost, but Rose had 26 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists. Thanks to injuries the Bulls have a lot of backcourt minutes to fill, and Rose has filled them very well. Rudy Fernandez is a few years older than Rose or Mayo, but has no more NBA experience. You'd never guess it by the way he has fit in with Portland. The list goes on and on. Michael Beasley is scoring well, and finding his chops defensively. Marc Gasol had 27 points and 16 rebounds in the fourth game of his career. Jason Thompson looks like a veteran on a lousy Sacramento team. Kevin Love has lacked consistency, but he has had big moments for a terrible team. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is already a favorite of coach Scott Skiles thanks to his defensive intensity and surprisingly solid offense. Bettors don't need to be nearly as cautious as they used to be about good, young players.
It wasn't the city of Seattle that was holding the Sonics back - Moving across the country and changing their name to the Thunder hasn't exactly helped this team hide from a reinforced truth - they just aren't very good. Kevin Durant has been consistently solid, and often impressive, but that's about where the accolades end. Jeff Green hasn't moved forward from last year. Russell Wesbrook has been okay, but he is making a lot of costly mistakes and hasn't found his stride yet. Joe Smith, Desmond Mason, and Earl Watson have looked like what they are - old. This team has some nice pieces to build on, and the future will get brighter, but it's not just bad luck that has them at 1-6. The one positive sign so far, though, is that they aren't as bad as people might have thought they would be - they are 5-2 ATS.
The Hawks are ready to soar. Now. - After a playoff appearance--and an impressive one at that--last year it seemed clear that Atlanta was moving in the right direction. It still seemed like a long road, though - they had made the playoffs despite being well below .500, so there was a lot of work to be done. First indications, though, are that Atlanta has done a surprising amount of that work in the offseason. No one but the most blindly optimistic Atlanta fan could have predicted that they would have been one of the last two remaining unbeaten teams, or that they would start the season at 5-1 ATS after burning up a lot of money last year. The young team is doing it with remarkable balance - seven players average 9.5 or more points per game. Al Horford and Josh Smith are moving further into the star realm with every game, and Joe Johnson is, yet again, one of the best under-the-radar players in the league. This team will inevitably cool off from their hot start, but it would be a mistake to assume that they will again be the doormats that they have been for so long.
Elton Brand isn't a quick fix in Philly - It was easy to be seduced by Philadelphia in the offseason. The Sixers scored a major coup in adding Elton Brand, and then retained Andre Iguodala. They were a popular pick to be a surprise. So far, though, the only surprise has been how bad they have been. They are just 2-5 straight up and ATS. Their offense isn't clicking, Iguodala and Brand are both putting up numbers well below recent season averages, and the defense, a supposed strength, is only barely adequate. Things will get brighter in Philly, but it is going to take longer than most thought. Luckily for the team, fans have been too distracted by the World Series win to notice how bad things have been.
Boston intends to repeat, but not to provide value doing it - There were some questions as to whether the Celtics would have the same hunger this year that they did last year en route to the title. Early indications are definitely positive. The team has had a fairly tough opening schedule, and they have made it look easy en route to a 7-1 start. Their best players have been their best players, and everyone seems to know what they need to do to win, and they are doing it. They don't appear to be the betting juggernaut that they were last year, though. Last season they were the most profitable ATS team in the league. This year they are just 4-4 ATS to start. It could be that they aren't putting teams away quite as emphatically as last year, or that the public just has unreasonably high expectations. Whatever the cause, the value appears to have been bet out of this team in early action this year. What's more surprising, really, is that the team provided such good value all of last year.