NBA Betting and Handicapping: Teams with High Upside
The best friends of NBA bettors are those teams which have the potential to be better than what seems to be the widely-held perception of them. Simply put, those are teams that can provide value, and value is what fuels profits for smart bettors over the long term. Here, then, is a look at four teams that have the potential to exceed whatever expectations people seem to have for them in the 2017-18 NBA season:
Utah Jazz: When a smaller-market team loses the only player that casual fans know anything about then expectations are going to fall through the floor. Relevance for this team in the eyes of many left town along with Gordon Hayward. Hayward's loss is significant, but Rudy Gobert is potentially very special, and Ricky Rubio adds a new element to the team. A lot of people don't expect much from this team, but they have a real chance at being a playoff team - a better chance of being in than not in my eyes. And they are going to be tougher to play a lot of nights than some people clearly seem to think. Hayward was the face of the team, but they weren't a one-trick pony.
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Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo is a serious MVP threat this year - and likely each year for the next decade or so. He's that good. Thon Maker had a surprisingly strong year last year, the backcourt is solid, and at some point this year they are going to add a very good player in Jabari Parker - sort of a trade deadline deal that costs nothing. Most people see this as a playoff team. I'm not sure many see them as a team that could host a round or two, though. Boston is very good but has a lot of changes to deal with, while Milwaukee is mostly static. Toronto and Washington are strong but far from perfect. Cleveland is the class of the conference but will likely be totally uninterested in proving that until the playoffs. If everything goes the right way for this team then they could easily sneak up into a top two seed in the conference.
Philadelphia 76ers: After so many years of futility it seems like people really have no idea what to expect from this team. They have struggled to realize potential for so long that we just automatically expect the worst-case scenario. Even when people get optimistic about this team, then, most seem to think that a playoff berth would be a victory. And it certainly would. But, if Joel Embiid stays healthy all year, if Ben Simmons is the freak he has the potential to be, if Markelle Fultz is at least a little useful, if J.J. Redick can be both a shooting force and a veteran leader, and if Dario Saric can be strong off the bench, then they certainly have the pieces to beat up on some Eastern weaklings and put together a better-than-just-okay record. It is right to be cautious with this team, and they are likely still a year or two away, but the process is working, and if everything rolls there way the upside is real. This team could easily be better than .500.
Brooklyn Nets: The first concrete indication we had that the Nets might not be as bad this year as we have grown accustomed to them being is that the Celtics traded away their first-round pick for 2018 in the Kyrie Irving deal. Danny Ainge is so conservative that if he felt a top pick in a very strong draft was a near certainty then he might not have dealt it - even for a player like Irving. Now, don't get me wrong - they aren't going to be good. But they have been hopelessly awful for a couple of years, and they have done enough things now that their upside at least exists for once. A backcourt of D'Angelo Russell and Jeremy Lin will at the very least not be boring, and there is strong depth behind the two. DeMarre Carroll almost has to be better than he was in Toronto, Allen Crabbe can shoot, and the fact that he is overpaid is far less relevant to Brooklyn right now than it was to Portland. And there is center depth - even if it isn't hugely inspiring depth. There are some horrifically bad teams in the East this year - the Knicks, Bulls, Hawks, Pacers, and Magic. Playing a schedule heavy in them will potentially help Brooklyn. The play of the Nets has been so bad for so long that expectations are low, and the moves they have made are smarter than they are high-profile. I don't think this is a playoff team by any means - though the eighth seed in the East is going to be a truly lousy team, so anything is possible. But they should be dramatically improved from last year.
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