NBA Division Winner Predictions
by Hunter Price - 11/20/2009
We are now just about one month into the NBA season, and while it may seem early to start looking back at what has transpired this season, now is the time to look for real trends and adjust our thinking so that the oddsmakers don't catch us sleeping on some of their NBA lines.
Remember, while the NBA season is more than six months long, from a betting standpoint it can better be referred to as six seasons, each being one month in duration. Due to the high incidences of injuries that occur throughout each and every team we need to remember that prior results between teams should be considered with a grain of salt. For example, the Nets and Timberwolves are currently playing without key pieces to their starting lineups (Kevin Love and at times Al Jefferson for the Wolves and Devin Harris, Courtney Lee, and Yi Jianlian just to name a few for the Nets). While the lines makers take into account the absence of these players when they make the lines on any given day, as we move forward month by month into the NBA season sports bettors begin to forget which players were hurt earlier in the season and use those results to influence their plays.
So now that I have gotten the yearly injury reminders out of the way I want to take a closer look at some of the surprise teams so far this season. I think first and foremost we need to look at the resurgence of the Dallas Mavericks. They are currently 9-3 including a 6-2 conference mark. As a result, they are the clubhouse leaders in the Southwest Division.
Their success has also occurred in the absence of arguably one of their top players, Josh Howard. His return will further boast an already talent-rich team and, barring injury, (always a worrisome factor for any aging team) they should be considered the front-runner to win the Southwest this year (+180 at Sportsbook.com).
Out on the East Coast, the biggest surprise has to be the play of the Milwaukee Bucks led by rookie Brandon Jennings. Remember, prior to the start of the season many experts picked this team to win around 22-24 games all year long. Just as the season got under way they also lost Michael Redd (10/31) and Andrew Bogut (11/18) for extend periods of time, but they remained strong and continued winning.
The main reason they were and are able to rebound from these losses has been the wizard-like play of Brandon Jennings (24.8 points per game, 4.7 rebounds per game, 5.8 assists per game). While I do not expect this team to remain in the upper tier of the east at season's end, I do believe they make it into the playoffs as a No. 7 or No. 8 seed, and in doing so Jennings should lock up the Rookie of the Year award. That being said, now is not the time to place a bet on Jennings to win the ROY as he currently stands at -500 (Sportsbook.com), instead wait until a player like Blake Griffin comes back from injury and a slight Bucks slide to jump on the Jennings at closer to even money.
Finally, lets get into some long-term prognostications in regards to division winners at year's end (each of my division winners is located below). While most of these are not worth the price I believe a few are (Hawks, Nuggets, and Mavericks).
Atlantic: Celtics (-10000)
Addition of Wallace to an already star-studded team makes them my pick to take home the NBA Finals Trophy come June
Central: Cleveland (-3000)
No team will come within 10 wins of the Cavs and, as a result, they have no chance at losing this division at season's end.
*Southeast: Atlanta (+500)
They have a extremely athletic team that matches up well with most teams in the east and at 5-1 odds it's worth a shot at taking down the Magic for division superiority.
*Northwest: Denver (-110)
The Blazers are the only other team that has a shot at taking the Northwest but Billups is the difference maker in picking between these two squads.
Pacific: Lakers (-4000)
The Suns may keep it close late into the season but the defending champs are just that until proven otherwise.
*Southwest: Dallas (+180)
Playing with a great spark to start the year off and all without Josh Howard. It will be a battle of attrition with the Spurs to see who can stay healthier and right now that's the Mavs.
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