NBA Up-And-Comers That Could Hold Early Value
by Trevor Whenham - 10/31/2008
Now that the NBA season is finally under way, this is a good time to look for teams that present some potential value early in the season. Every year there are teams that the public is down on, but which aren't as bad as people think. Other teams are just flying completely under the radar. In both cases, there can be good value for bettors in early games before the public, and therefore the oddsmakers, adjust their expectations for the teams. Here are five teams that could fit into one of the under-valued categories:
Miami Heat - The Heat were ridiculously bad last year. People likely expect them to be a bit better, but they have a chance to outpace expectations. It all comes down to one thing - how quickly Michael Beasley, Dwyane Wade and Shawn Marion can learn to co-exist. All three players have world-class talent. If they can play together than this team can't help but win a bit. I'd feel much better about them if they had a true center that could be a strong inside presence, but Udonis Haslem will be useful as a presence up front, and he is an underrated talent. There's all sorts of untapped potential in the backcourt, too. I don't necessarily believe this with all my heart, but there is at least a chance that this team can contend for the Southeast title.
Philadelphia 76ers - I know people think that this will be an improved team with Elton Brand on board. I'm just not convinced that people give them enough credit for how good they could be. This team was very competitive last year, especially at the end of the year. They are largely intact, and they add one of the top 20 (at least) players in the league in Brand. This team will score fine, but they have two traits that will serve them very well - they'll play very stout defense, and no one will defend the offensive boards better. It could take a few games for Brand to fit in and find his way, but early struggles are all the better for bettors looking for value. Once Brand finds his legs things could go very well. If I was the Celtics I wouldn't be guaranteeing another division title banner just yet - both the Sixers and the Raptors will have something to say about that before all is said and done.
Charlotte Bobcats - There is just one reason that I have this team on this list - Larry Brown. The guy is a raving egomainiac, but there is no one alive who coaches better than he does. He has equals, but that's it. He is at his best when he doesn't have to battle egos, and there is no one on the Bobcats that has done enough to have a serious ego problem. I'm not suggesting that this is going to be a good team. There is plenty of young talent in the cupboard, though, and Brown will be able to be able to extract maximum value from them. This is a team that is going to face some very big spreads from the underside, and sooner or later Brown is going to convince this team that they are good enough to compete.
New Jersey Nets - It's popular to kick on the Nets this year. Oddsmakers gave them the lowest win total of the any team in the East. I don't think that they are going to re-invent the sport, or even make the playoffs, but I think that they are better than they are given credit for. The biggest reason people don't like this team is that Vince Carter is the only one of the big three stars remaining in town. I actually see that as a good thing. Carter has a massive ego, so I expect him to revel in being the undisputed big man in town. He's showing that already - he was unanimously elected captain of the team, and he worked hard to organize offseason workouts. The team has two more things going for it. Devin Harris isn't a huge step down from Jason Kidd at this point in Kidd's career. If nothing else, his skill disadvantage is more than offset by his lack of off-court baggage and his healthy knees. The other thing is that this team is going to be able to play some defense. Yi Jianlin, Stromile Swift, Eduardo Najera, Stromile Swift, Brook Lopez - this team will have a definite presence in the paint. These guys will lose some games, but they are also going to cover some big spreads as underdogs.
Memphis Grizzlies - Very little is expected of this team - their total was set at just 23.5 wins. I don't love this team at all, but there is a very good chance that they will end up with more wins than that. The key is the backcourt. Mike Conley Jr. has had a year to grow into his role, and should be much better. If Kyle Lowry can deal with reduced minutes then he should be much better as well. The star of the backcourt, though, will obviously be O.J. Mayo. He'll have the room to do what he wants, and he has the composure to handle that. He stands a solid chance of being Rookie of the Year, and if he meshes well with his team he can help them win more than expected, too. Pau Gasol's little brother Marc is a very nice addition at center as well.