NBA Handicapping: ATS Studs and Duds
by Trevor Whenham - 4/9/2012
We are entering the home stretch of this shortened NBA season. As we get ready for the final push for the playoffs it’s a good time to look at the teams that have been very strong against the NBA odds this season, and those that have really struggled to cover spreads.
San Antonio Spurs (33-18-3 ATS)
The Spurs are one of the big surprises of the season. They got off to a surprising start, and they haven’t let up — they are riding an 11-game winning streak right now. It’s not surprising that they covered a lot of spreads early on as they exceeded the expectations of most analysts. What is striking, though, is that they have played well enough to keep the winning ways up — they are 8-1-2 ATS during the streak. That means that they are playing very well, and that the public still isn’t entirely buying into them despite all the wins.
Chicago Bulls (32-24-1 ATS)
From a betting perspective it’s a tale of two seasons for the Bulls. They are just 12-10-1 ATS when Derrick Rose is on the sidelines, but 20-14 ATS when he is in. That’s not really a surprising conclusion — it’s more attractive to bet on the team when the best point guard in the league is playing than when he is hurt. If only all things in sports betting were so obvious.
Golden State Warriors (31-24 ATS)
The public thinks that this team isn’t very good. They are right. The thing is, though, that they aren’t as bad as they seem. They can score reasonably well, and they only allow two more points per game than they score. That means that they cover a lot of spreads in games they lose. That’s a very attractive type of team for bettors. What’s interesting here is how strong they have been for bettors since the trade deadline. They lost a lot of offense when Monta Ellis was traded, and they are just 2-7 in their last nine games, but they are 7-2 ATS over that stretch.
Oklahoma City Thunder (31-25 ATS)
They are the best team in the Western Conference, they play outside of a major media market, and they are second in the league in scoring while playing respectable defense. It’s no surprise that this team can cover spreads so well.
Toronto Raptors (31-25-1 ATS)
Toronto isn’t a very good team, and they are completely incompetent offensively. They can play defense pretty well, though. More importantly, they are entirely forgettable and virtually anonymous, so the public gives them no credit at all. That means that more popular opponents get overvalued when playing them, and they cover a lot of spreads.
Sacramento Kings (26-31 ATS)
The NBA is a league in which good defensive play is rewarded — both in the standings and at the betting window. Given that, it’s no wonder that the Kings are amongst the worst teams in the league for bettors — they are the worst defensive team in the league, and they have allowed two more points per game than anyone else.
New Jersey Nets (26-32 ATS)
People wanted the Nets to be good this year. They could have been if they had managed to grab Dwight Howard. They didn’t, though, so they are just a team that isn’t talented enough to really be competitive. They desperately need to have a strong offseason — either that or get used to being this bad.
L.A. Lakers (23-34 ATS)
The Lakers are the most public team there is in the league. They are a solid team this year, and they still have the best player in the league for my money, but they aren’t as good as people have come to expect them to be. The public will bet on this team regardless of what happens as long as Kobe is still in town. This year that enthusiasm just isn’t being rewarded.
Charlotte Bobcats (21-33 ATS)
Michael Jordan’s team is just really, really bad. It’s not a wonder they can’t cover spreads — they have won just seven games, their 88.1 points scored per game is by far the worst in the league, and only Denver and Sacramento have allowed more than their 101 points per game. Just terrible.
Washington Wizards (21-34-1 ATS)
Like Charlotte, Washington is just plain bad. They have the second-largest scoring margin — and not in the right way. They can’t score well, they don’t defend, and even the most negative of bettors isn’t negative enough to fully compensate for this team’s performance. The one thing they do get credit for, though, is consistency — they were the worst ATS team in the league last year, too.
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