NBA Handicapping: Best and Worst Teams Against the Spread
by Trevor Whenham - 1/18/2012
It’s hard to believe because it feels like the season only just began, but thanks to the work stoppage in the NBA we are already nearly a quarter of the way into the season. That means it is a good time to look at the teams that are standing out so far as betting stars, and those that have been very unkind for bettors:
Philadelphia 76ers (10-2-1 ATS)
The Sixers, in very unlikely fashion, are red hot. They have won and covered nine of their last 10 games. They are doing it largely thanks to remarkable depth and balance — they have seven players averaging double-digit points.
When you look at the schedule, though, you realize that what they have accomplished is a bit of a mirage. Six of the nine wins have been at home, and the lone loss was to the Knicks — the only likely playoff team among the 10 opponents.
The Sixers get credit for taking care of business, but when things get tougher it is going to get harder for them to cover spreads. Enjoy the wins while you can because they could be fleeting.
Dallas Mavericks (10-4 ATS)
It has been a while since a defending champion has come into the season with less respect. It makes sense here, though — they weren’t seen as a dominant team in the first place, and the offseason was a disaster.
While they haven’t done enough to convince me that they are a serious threat to repeat the win, they have been very nice to bet on — they have covered the spread in eight of their last nine.
It’s very rare that a team of this caliber will be able to fly under the radar like they have, so it will be interesting to see how long they can keep it up.
Minnesota Timberwolves (9-4 ATS)
The T-Wolves still have a ways to go — .500 is still a distant dream. They have a whole lot of talent to build around, though, and with guys like Kevin Love leading the way they are already better than people think they are.
They had a rough stretch in the midpoint of their young season in which they failed to cover four of five spreads, but beyond that they have been perfect. They are a very young team, so their inconsistency should be less of a problem as they gain experience and chemistry.
There is little doubt that this is a team on the rise.
Denver Nuggets (9-4 ATS)
On paper this is not a good team. They have been a pleasant surprise so far, though, with wins against Dallas, Miami and the Lakers to their credit. When they win games like that they are obviously also covering spreads.
This is a team that has proven to be very tough both mentally and physically. The betting public is taking more notice of them now than they have, though, so they haven’t been as successful in the last week as they were earlier.
It remains to be seen if they can bounce back.
Washington Wizards (3-10 ATS)
With a roster as weak as this one is it would be a serious shock if they were anywhere but the bottom of the barrel.
When Nick Young is your second best player you are a bad team, and Washington finds ways to prove that every time out.
The Wizards covered once when they beat a bad Toronto team, and twice when New York and Boston let up down the stretch. Double-digit spreads aren’t that common in the NBA, but they have already been on the underdog side of four, and the points have only been enough to get a cover once.
There is a very good chance that betting against this team will remain a lucrative choice all year.
New York Knicks (3-10 ATS)
The Knicks are down here because, well, they are the Knicks. Like we have seen so often they are a better team on paper than they have been on the court so far.
The bold moves and the unavoidable hype of playing in the biggest media market in the country had expectations high for this team this year. They haven’t been terrible, but they haven’t been very good, either.
I expect things to get better before too long. Of course, I didn’t expect them to be so hopelessly bad for so many years up to now, either.
Detroit Pistons (3-10 ATS)
The Pistons were a team that took far too long to realize that it was time to rebuild, and now they are paying for it. They aren’t the worst team in the league thanks to the Wizards, but they are in the discussion.
They have covered the three games they have won — including surprising back-to-back wins over Indiana and Orlando — but haven’t covered a single spread in a losing effort despite being underdogs in eight of the 10 games.
Sacramento Kings (4-10 ATS)
I made the mistake of buying into the Sacramento hype at the start of last season — a mistake I have made a few times dating back to the arrival of Chris Webber. It never works out well, and it hasn’t now.
This team should be better than they are, but their young stars aren’t moving forward, and they can’t seem to get along. It seems to be a broken squad, and broken squads are rarely betting winners.
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