We're into 2016 now, and the NBA season isn't too far away from the midpoint. It seems as if the Eastern Conference as a whole has gotten better this year, while the Western Conference isn't quite as strong. As things stand right now, Houston and Utah would both be in the playoffs in the Western Conference with a losing record. The Eastern Conference would have no teams in the playoffs with a losing record. That is a script that has certainly flipped a lot since a couple years ago. Time will tell if that trend continues through the end of the season.
Doc's Sports has done an NBA Totals Trends report in the past, and we'll be doing it again this season. We'll highlight the Top Five 'Over' teams and the Top Five 'Under' teams in each article. Because of the streaky nature of the NBA, it can be profitable to look at these totals trends and try to jump on a winning streak before the oddsmakers adjust. This report will be offered on a bi-weekly basis throughout the NBA regular season. The statistics listed for this article are for games played between December 17 and January 4.
For the year, the 'under' is still at 52.72 percent overall in the NBA, but in the past week the 'over' is actually hitting at 52 percent. We'll track where this stands as the season moves along.
Top Five Over Teams (Over Listed First)
1. Atlanta Hawks (7-1) The Atlanta Hawks were solidly on the other side of this report early in the season, but they have been playing in some high-scoring games of late. Atlanta isn't having the same kind of season they did last year by any stretch, but they are still a solid team. Importantly, the Hawks are shooting 80 percent from the free throw line as a team, and that has been a key factor for them in recent games.
2. Toronto Raptors (8-2) The Raptors defensive decline is the main reason they are at this spot. Toronto ranked in the Top 5 in the NBA in defensive efficiency in the first month. Where are they now? They sit at No. 14 in the league. Toronto isn't likely to be able to make a deep run in the playoffs unless they can get that strong defense back.
3. Chicago Bulls (7-2-1) The Bulls had been a great under team, but lately they have started being the over team many thought they would be when Fred Hoiberg was hired. This is primarily a case of the number just getting too low on Bulls games. The offense here has been more efficient as well, helped by the fact that Jimmy Butler has been an offensive machine in recent games.
4. New York Knicks (6-3) For the year, the Knicks have played 17 games over the posted total, 17 games under the posted total, and one game that pushed. I don't see this as a team that will have any strong trend toward either side for the season as a whole. It likely has more to do with how much defense the team plays during different stretches of the season.
5. Milwaukee Bucks (6-3) This Milwaukee Bucks team is a great one to key in on right now. Milwaukee has picked up the pace in a big way in the last few weeks. They had the single slowest tempo in the league until about a month ago. In the past few weeks, they are playing at about the league average tempo. Additionally, Milwaukee ranks third from the bottom in defensive efficiency (only the Pelicans and Lakers are behind them). Here's an interesting statistic: the over is 6-0 in Milwaukee's games vs. a NBA Central Division foe this year.
Top Five Under Teams (Under Listed First)
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (7-2) Cleveland's defense is much better than it was last year, and it's much better than it was early in the season. The Cavs are also playing at the third-slowest tempo in the NBA (only the Heat and Jazz are slower). The under is 11-5 in the Cavs 16 road games this year. Additionally, the under is 5-1 in Cleveland's six games when playing on zero days of rest.
2. Washington Wizards (6-2) Washington is still pushing the tempo, but not as much as earlier in the year. They were the fastest team in the league as of a month ago, and now they rank as the fifth-fastest team in the NBA. As a whole, Washington has been a big disappointment this season. This is a team with a lot more talent than they have shown so far. There's plenty of time to get on track, but the Eastern Conference is much tougher this year.
3. Memphis Grizzlies (6-2-1) Memphis has been a good under team in the past few weeks. The Grizzlies have been a great under bet this year when they are an underdog. When lined as underdog, the under is 11-4 for the Grizzlies this year. Look for Memphis to be a quality under team the rest of the way as they get back to the basics of slowing the game down and feeding their big men the basketball more often.
4. Utah Jazz (6-3) The Utah Jazz have the slowest tempo in the NBA. The under is 21-12 in Utah's 33 games overall this year. The best under trend for Utah so far this year is playing the under in Utah games when they are on one day of rest. In this situation, the under is 14-3 in Utah's games this season.
5. New Orleans Pelicans (5-3) New Orleans is an interesting team to handicap. They have underachieved in a big way, but they have shown some signs of life in the last couple weeks. New Orleans is dead last in the NBA in defensive efficiency, but there have still been a couple great under angles for the Pelicans this year. The under is a whopping 16-2-1 in their 19 road games this year. Additionally, the under is 6-1-1 in the Pelicans eight games on zero days of rest.
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Read more articles by Aaron Smith
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