NBA Betting: Early Season Cellar Dwellers
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 11/18/2008
Ready to write off teams like the Washington Wizards, Minnesota Timberwolves, L.A. Clippers and the Oklahoma City Thunder? As Lee Corso might say, "not so fast, my friend."
Through Nov. 17 these teams have only one win to their credit with the Thunder boasting a league worst 1-10 record. The Wizards (1-6 SU), T-Wolves (1-8 SU) and Clippers (1-9 SU) round out the rest of the cellar dwellers in the NBA so far this season. However, this is not the 40-yard dash of the NFL season; the NBA season is akin to a marathon. Although these teams might not have the best chance to reach the NBA playoffs, they should not be written off in terms of betting. And the worst thing you could do is just blindly bet on the opposition no matter who is lining up against these squads.
Out of the four teams only the Clippers are really struggling at the pay window with a league-worst record of 1-9 ATS. The Wizards are not too impressive either at 2-5 ATS but the Thunder have managed to go 5-6 ATS and the T-Wolves 4-5 ATS.
First impressions in the NBA season take about nine or 10 games to develop and these teams have made quite the first impression with oddsmakers and bettors alike. Yet it's tough to imagine these teams packing it in so early in the season. The bookies are going to be giving these teams lots of points in the coming weeks and there could be some value present because every NBA team is full of players that are among the best at what they do and these teams likely aren't as bad as their records might indicate.
The Wizards were a projected playoff team this season but with Gilbert Arenas nursing a knee injury that will have him out until January, Washington will need to see some of the supporting cast pick it up -- namely Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. The window for profits on the Wizards, believe it or not, is open from now until Arenas returns. Oddsmakers put way too much emphasis on what he means to the lineup. The Wizards played playoff basketball last year when Arenas was out of the lineup. Without him the ball gets shared more and the offense is executed as it was designed to be executed rather than feeding the ball to Agent Zero and watching him fire away. Having Arenas on the floor allows the defense to more easily focus on one player rather than diverting its attention to all five. The Wizards could be a profitable team through late November and into December.
In the loaded Western Conference not much was expected out of the Timberwolves and so far they have delivered. In the opening game of the season, as favorites, Minnesota edged Sacramento 98-96. It's been all downhill from there including giving the Thunder its only win of the season. Minnesota has been resilient though, forcing overtime against Golden State and San Antonio and playing in seven games decided by six points or less. The team's three-point shooting has been atrocious this season, ranking second to last in the league and their field-goal percentage is only 23rd best in the league. The development of Kevin Love has not been what people expected; he is averaging only four points a game. Al Jefferson, though, has been a force at center. He averages 20 points and 14 rebounds per game while playing a team-high 39 minutes per game. If Minnesota can learn not to collapse in the third quarter, it can be very productive against the number the rest of the way.
Oklahoma City is starting to wonder what it got itself into when signing up for an NBA team. The Thunder has the name of an expansion team and the look of one too. However, when it comes to going against the number, Oklahoma City had the look of a veteran team in the opening two weeks. The Thunder opened the season 5-1 ATS but the bookmakers quickly caught on and stopped handing out those 12 and 14 point spreads. After the 5-1 ATS start, the Thunder went up against lines of eight, eight, nine and 10 in straight games as underdogs and they failed to cover any of them. It seems that Vegas is still trying to find a happy medium with the Thunder, posting numbers high enough to give them a chance but staying away from the spreads into the upper teens. The team will always have a shooter's chance to cover with Kevin Durant averaging 29 points per game.
Mike Dunleavy is also wondering what he got himself into. His Clippers somehow managed to beat the Mavericks by 11 points but the rest of the games they have been handled easily. They have faced three double-digit spreads and in all the games they lost handily. The Lakers beat them by 38 and 18, the Jazz by 22 and 16 in the span of two nights and the Warriors also beat them by 18. Despite constantly being blown out the Clippers are not facing huge lines. The Lines against the Jazz were 13.5 and 6.5 in the successive blowouts while they only got 10 and 13.5 points against the Lakers. Out of the four teams still fighting for their second win, Los Angeles' other team might have the steepest hill to climb. All the off-season money thrown at Baron Davis seems wasted right now as Davis is only averaging 11 points per game to go with his eight assists.
The only saving grace Clipper backers can hope for is Dunleavy's slow transition with new players. His playbook has been compared to that of Al Saunders' 600-plus page behemoth he brought with him to Washington as offensive coordinator of the Redskins. Quickly Dunleavy and Davis have sparred over the play calling with Davis just wanting to run the floor like he did with Don Nelson's offense at Golden State. Dunleavy predicted about a 15 game feeling out period for his team to start gelling. If he is right, the Clippers may be a better value come December than the team they share the Staples Center with.