NBA Betting Advice: How to Handle OKC Thunder Slow Start
The Oklahoma City Thunder made a huge offseason splash. Then they made another one. The summer was an arms race like the NBA has never seen, and the Thunder were right there on the front in the heart of the action. The problem, though, is that through 14 games they have not been particularly good. In fact, only a recent three-game winning streak has returned them to .500 and shifted them from ugly to just mediocre. It's early and nothing matters right now, but this is not how anyone there expected things to play out. So, what has gone on? Can they turn it around? And what does it mean for bettors? Here are seven factors to ponder when answering those questions:
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Three straight wins - which don't mean anything: The first thing fans of the team will point to is that they have won three straight games so they are showing signs of getting back on track. Don't buy it for a second. These three wins mean nothing. They have beaten a Clippers team that is a long way from good and Dallas and Chicago teams that have just two wins each and are impossibly bad. They may or may not be making progress forward, but these wins tell us nothing.
Scoring and chemistry: Last year Russell Westbrook couldn't be stopped. He averaged 31.6 points per game to win the MVP. This year he is averaging 20.3 and isn't even leading the team. Now, obviously part of the reason for that is that he doesn't have to do it all this year. Paul George and Carmelo Anthony both have similar averages to Westbrook. The team is scoring 2.7 fewer points per game than they were last year, though, and that's not what they made these changes to accomplish. Westbrook seems to be working very hard to make it work and find ways for the two new stars to fit in. It isn't happening easily, though. Westbrook's game is suffering, and the other two aren't looking comfortable, either. I don't doubt they'll figure something out, but there is a whole lot of work left to do, and there is no way of knowing when they will find their way. It certainly hasn't been as smooth as super team experiments like Boston or even Minnesota, but that's the risk when you try to smash this many egos into one entity.
Coaching: I don't think that Billy Donovan is very good. He peaked with his two titles at Florida and has been trading on that since. He's outmatched by the best in the league - Kerr, Popovich, D'Antoni, Stevens. He isn't the in-game decision maker that he needs to be, and I don't think he adapts and adjusts as well as he should as the season progresses. Let me put it this way - I don't really believe that this team would be where they are right now if they had a different coach, and it's harder to believe that they will break out of it in a hurry than it would be with a different coach.
Role players doing well: While the Big 3 are trying to find their way, there are some depth guys who have been really strong. Dakari Johnson has had an increased role lately with Steven Adams hurt, and he has been really good. Alex Abrines has been solid in relief minutes at shooting guard, and I'd like to see him get more minutes over starter Andre Roberson. And Jerami Grant is fifth in scoring despite only one start.
Schedule: While the last three games have meant nothing, three of the next four are a lot more interesting. They play at San Antonio tonight. Two games later they host Golden State - a huge game that only means more because of the return of Kevin Durant. Then they host the surprising Pistons. If they keep the winning going through that stretch then we'll know they are showing a pulse. I'm not overly optimistic.
Betting performance: The team hasn't been useful betting sides yet - they are 7-7 both straight up and ATS. Where they have shown some real strength, though, is on the total. They are allowing the second fewest points in the league - the defensive attention of George isn't hurting on that front - and they aren't scoring like they should, so they have gone "under" the total 10 ties in 14 tries.
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