NBA Handicapping: Betting on the Inconsistent Los Angeles Clippers
by Trevor Whenham - 2/12/2015
The Los Angeles Clippers have not had the dream season that they were hoping to in what was a reasonably wide-open Western Conference this year. Their 35-19 record is nothing to cry over, but they sit only sixth in the conference, they are just 5-5 in their last 10 games, and they have seemed to spend a fair bit of this season looking like they were running through mud. And then there is the drama around the team - like most recently when Chris Paul made some odd and ill-advised comments about a female referee.
So, where is this team going? And what can we expect of them as bettors? Here's a look:
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Opponents: When you break down their schedule things aren't all bad. In fact, one thing was truly surprising to me - they have played eight games total against the five teams above them in the standings and are 7-1 in those games. That's more than impressive against the teams that they ultimately will need to beat to do anything in the playoffs. Bizarrely, though, they are just 13-11 against teams in the Eastern Conference - by far the worst record of the eight current Western playoff teams. It's a team of inconsistencies - frustratingly so.
Griffin out: Blake Griffin has a staph infection in his elbow that has required surgery. We won't know how long he will be out until after the all-star break. Griffin hasn't been quite the unstoppable force this year that he has been in the past, but he's still a freakish powerhouse that has a major impact on games and who drives this team. His absence is going to be a real test for a team that has not always exhibited a lot of mental toughness. Needless to say, the less time he misses the better.
Jordan explodes: DeAndre Jordan could easily have been an all-star this year. He is averaging 15.5 points and 16.3 rebounds per game in February. In the last two games he has played he has really picked up the slack for the missing Griffin, averaging 23 points and 23.5 rebounds. His confidence and effectiveness helps in the short term and will be a big factor for the team going forward.
Ugly, ugly bench: There are issues wherever you turn on this bench. It is far from pretty. Jamal Crawford, the guy who defines sixth-man excellence, has forgotten how to shoot lately. He can't find the rim, and it's only getting worse. He's 35, so you have to question whether it will ever come back. Glen Davis, who is about as big as the bus the team rides to games, is massive and useless. Austin Rivers is a disaster. Hedo Turkoglu is being forced into far more action than he should be on any team at this point. Spencer Hawes has entirely lost his shooting touch. The deep bench is far from deep. The first three or four players on this roster might be at a very high level, but their bench is far, far from championship caliber. That's going to be a major issue - and perhaps a fatal one - going forward.
Rivers and building a franchise: Doc Rivers is a very good coach. Maybe not quite as good as he gets credit for, but good nonetheless. What I will never understand, though, is why guys who are good and successful coaches want to take on bigger roles in team management and why teams let them. Finding the time to coach a team effectively is more than a full-time job. So is building a roster that works. When a guy tries to do both, like Rivers is, one typically suffers. In this case it is the team he is building. They just aren't good enough, and there isn't a move he has done yet that has made the team appreciably better. Rivers the coach needs to fire Rivers the President of Basketball Operations in order for me to have any long-term faith in this team - and I don't expect that to happen.
ATS performance: This is where things get really bleak. It's probably not surprising that teams like Denver, the Knicks and Sacramento find themselves in the bottom four of the league in terms of betting profitability. They are disastrous teams that just aren't good enough to cover any spread consistently. Joining that band of hopeless losers in the cellar, though, is the Clippers - at 22-32 ATS they have burned more bettor money than every team except the Nuggets. They are only 3-7 ATS in their last 10, too, so it's not like they are rounding into form.
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