NBA Power Rankings
by Josh Nagel - 12/08/2008
To some degree, it's no surprise that teams such as the Celtics, Lakers and Cavaliers have been among the more reliable NBA teams for bettors this season. Of course, Boston and Los Angeles met in last year's NBA Finals, and the Cavs made a deep playoff run. This proves the basic sports betting maxim that it never hurts to back good teams.
What has been unusual is how well the truly poor teams are doing against the spread of late. Perhaps it's a sign of increasing parity in the NBA, good line making, or both. But dreadful teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Washington Wizards and Los Angeles Clippers have covering at an alarming rate. Evidently, if they aren't going to win, at least their fans have something to cheer for.
Here are the NBA Power Rankings through Dec. 7:
1. Boston Celtics (20-2) - With 12 consecutive straight-up wins and eight covers during that span, the Celtics appear to have picked up where they left off last season, bringing good fortune to both their fans and their backers.
2. Los Angeles Lakers (17-2) - The Lakers also are rolling behind the league's top-ranked offense and have won nine of their last 10 games. However, they have been dealt many large spread numbers over the past couple of weeks, especially on the road, and thus have covered just five times in those 10 games.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (17-3) - The Cavaliers have been an absolute money-making machine thus far, with eight straight wins and covers. They are a whopping 16-1 overall in their last 17 games. I've long been a skeptic of this team, but there's no ignoring them now.
4. Orlando Magic (15-5) - The Magic have won five of six, covering in four, but they now head out on a five-game road trip that might be a good measuring stick as to where this team is at. If they can get two out of three from Portland, Phoenix and Utah, it could be the start of a big ATS run for this club.
5. Portland Trailblazers (15-7) - The Blazers have won eight of 10 overall but have failed to cover in four straight. Bettors beware: Portland also started red-hot last season, then didn't even sniff a playoff berth. A similar collapse this season would surprise no one.
6. Utah Jazz (13-9) - This team has struggled through injuries to Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer, and yet it still looks extremely potent at times. Once the Jazz get healthy, look for them to start rolling and getting bettors the cash.
7. New Orleans Hornets (11-6) - Chris Paul could still be the MVP of the league this year. His 20.6 points and 11.8 assists per game have helped the Hornets shrug off a lousy start and win six of seven, while covering five times.
8. Phoenix Suns (12-9) - It's almost difficult to believe the Suns have a winning record, as they have looked awful in all of their televised appearances. Watch out for an early mutiny against Terry Porter. The Suns have failed to cover in five straight, losing four of those games.
9. Detroit Pistons (11-8) - The Answer has provided more questions than solutions, as the Pistons have struggled to adjust to shot-happy guard Allen Iverson. Their offense has slumped to 22nd in the league (95.7 points per game) and they have lost five of their past eight games.
10. Houston Rockets (13-7) - Tracy McGrady has already had his annual long-term injury, and he's even taking to giving out his own projected timeline for a return. The good news is, the Rockets historically have done better with McGrady out than with his other highly fragile teammate, Yao Ming.
11. Denver Nuggets (14-7) - The trade for Chauncey Billups has started to stabilize this team. The Nuggets have won seven of 10 and covered in six of those wins.
12. San Antonio Spurs (11-8) - This team has proven it can still take care of business against inferior opponents, and it has seen plenty of them over the past couple of weeks. A 7-3 record straight-up and ATS is a respectable run.
13. Dallas Mavericks (11-8) - Injuries threaten to dampen this team's momentum, but the slow-staring Mavericks have been on a roll. They have won nine of 10 and covered in seven of those. Rick Carlisle is a proven coach, but his teams historically take a while to get going.
14. Atlanta Hawks (12-7) - Following a mini-slump, the Hawks have rebounded to cover in four of their last five. Consistency is a problem with this team, mainly because it seems to lack leadership. Joe Johnson prefers to lead by example and Mike Bibby isn't as fiery as he used to be.
15. Miami Heat (11-9) - Not sure bringing Michael Beasley off the bench is the best idea for this club; his production has slipped and it might not be long before his confidence follows. Even so, the Heat have won six of their past 10.
16. New Jersey Nets (11-8) - The trade with Dallas is one of the few things this franchise has gotten right over the past several years. Devin Harris is emerging as a superstar, his 24 points and six assists per game practically carrying this team to respectability.
17. New York Knicks (9-11) - Somebody tell me what it takes to get paid $22 million for not coming to work? Who on Earth could be dumb enough to think that Stephon Marbury was worth this sort of swag? Oh that's right, Isaiah Thomas. He didn't sign the deal but he agreed to inherit it, and now the mess is Mike D'Antoni's to clean up. For what it's worth, he seems to be holding things together admirably.
18. Milwaukee Bucks (9-13) - Their record doesn't look pretty in the standings, but the Bucks have champions at the cashier's cage thus far. This upstart team is 16-6 ATS and has taken the money in eight of its past 10 games.
19. Philadelphia 76ers (9-12) - Perhaps this team was better off when nobody expected much of them. With new high-profile players and increased expectations, the 76ers have faltered. They have the league's 26th-rated offense and have covered in just two of their past eight games.
20. Toronto Raptors (8-11) - Recent criticism that Jermaine O'Neal's slow-down, post-up style doesn't fit in with the team's preferred up-tempo pace appears to be justified. The Raptors often appear out of sorts on offense, and they have lost seven of their past 10, covering just twice in that span.
21. Chicago Bulls (9-11) - Hindered by an overstocked, overpaid and overrated backcourt, the Bulls have serious problems. Here's how bad their front line production has been: In their last game, a 117-110 win over Washington, starting center Aaron Gray had zero points and nine rebounds. Backup Tyrus Thomas pitched in with zero points and zero rebounds.
22. Indiana Pacers (7-13) - This team is coming along on offense but can't stop anyone; hence, just two wins in their past 10 games. They have covered in four of those.
23. Charlotte Bobcats (7-13) - A team of streaks thus far, the Bobcats followed five straight covers with three consecutive spread losses. Some dry spells should be expected out of the league's worst-ranked offense (89.6 points per game).
24. Memphis Grizzlies (5-15) - The league's youngest team actually is surprisingly competitive on most nights, but it hasn't shown up in their record or in the wallets of gamblers. The Grizzlies have lost and failed to cover in seven of their past eight games.
25. Golden State Warriors (5-15) - Good thing for Don Nelson that he signed a contract extension before the monumental collapse by this team, which has lost nine straight. It could be a mix of injuries or bad luck, or it could be that the novelty of Nellie's "system" has worn off, and that the rest of the NBA is too talented for his no-defense game plan to succeed.
26. Sacramento Kings (5-16) - This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Kings, but their fans are wondering when the building part is going to happen. In other words, the Kings didn't do a whole lot in the off-season to upgrade their roster. The resulting record speaks for itself, as they have lost and failed to cover in five straight.
27. Minnesota Timberwolves (4-15) - the ousting of Randy Wittman was probably overdue. Now, it's time to see if Kevin McHale can save his own job by milking some improvement out of this team.
28. Los Angeles Clippers (4-16) - The addition of Zach Randolph has been a needed boost to one of the NBA's worst offenses. His 21 points per game have helped the Clippers cover in five of their past six contests.
29. Washington Wizards (3-15) - This is a dreadful team, but the Wizards have covered in four straight games, including two as a home dog. They covered 12 easily at home against the Lakers, and taking big points against good visiting teams probably is where the value lies in this club.
30. Oklahoma City Thunder (2-19) - Only one victory in their last 10 games, but bettors, fear not; the Thunder have taken home the money in seven of their last eight games.