Playing the NBA Stock Market: Buy or Sell
by Josh Nagel - 04/06/2009
It's getting down to the last week or so of regular-season play in the NBA, and several teams still have plenty to play for. However, recent results suggest that simply having adequate motivation doesn't necessarily translate to improved results.
Take the Phoenix Suns, for instance. Faced with the prospect of needing to win almost all of their remaining games to earn a playoff bid, they promptly dropped four of their last six, including a road loss to the Sacramento Kings and Sunday's embarrassing 140-116 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
Here is a look at a few teams and their varying levels of stakes in this week's NBA Buy or Sell:
Cleveland Cavaliers - The Cavaliers have the best record in the NBA at 62-15 and, more and more, their performance suggests they are in fact the league's best team. Recovering from a two-game skid with a resounding 20-point thumping of San Antonio on Sunday, there's no reason to believe this team will let up as it nears the finish line.
For one, the Cavs are motivated by both the opportunity to finish with the league's best record as a source of pride, and by the possibility of tying for the best home record in NBA history with just one loss. They would have to beat the Wizards, Celtics and 76ers to match the feat.
Denver Nuggets - Don't look now, but the Nuggets have worked their way into the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoff race behind wins in nine of their last 10 games. Their current roll includes seven straight wins with cashes in six of those; Denver has won by double figures in five of its past nine victories.
The prospect of heading into the postseason with momentum looks good for the Nuggets, whose regular-season countdown includes home tilts against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Sacramento Kings. They have covered three straight double-figure spreads.
Dallas Mavericks - The Mavericks' 24-point bombing of Phoenix on Sunday was far from a shocker, but it served two purposes: It put the Suns firmly in their rear-view mirror for the last spot in the Western Conference playoffs, and it reflected the slow-but-sure progress Dallas has made over the course of the season.
Dallas now can set its sights on unseating Utah from the No. 7 spot in the playoffs, and its quest starts with a home game Wednesday against the Jazz. The Mavericks get four of their next five on their home floor.
Utah Jazz - The slumping Jazz got off a six-game streak of non-cashes with their road win Sunday over New Orleans, their first road win in 2009 over a team with a winning record. But Utah hasn't given any indication that it can beat quality teams on the road on even a sporadic basis, and its upcoming stretch includes road contests at the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers.
Portland Trailblazers - Although it's difficult to recommend fading a team that has won and cashed in four of its last five, it seems prudent to do just that with the erratic Blazers. Although their playoff spot is secure, Portland faces three road games in its next four contests; two of its next three opponents are the Spurs and Lakers, upper-echelon teams against which it has yet to turn the corner. The Blazers did win their last meeting against the Lakers, but it says here that a repeat performance is unlikely.
Oklahoma City Thunder - The Thunder have been surprisingly one of the best bets in the NBA this year. Unfortunately for their backers, the wheels are finally starting to fall off the cash wagon. It's likely a case of the superior competition catching up to them more than anything; even so, the Thunder have cashed just once in their past six outings and didn't sniff a cover in the five losses.