Expert NBA Handicapping: San Antonio Spurs Struggles
What the heck is going on in San Antonio? The most boringly reliable franchise in all of sports is struggling and full of drama. They are free falling. If the playoffs started now they would not have home-court advantage in the first round, and they sit just 2.5 games out of ninth. They are only a game and a half out of third, so all is not yet lost, but they are certainly not playing like they are a threat to climb up the standings.
So, what's going on down by the Alamo? And what does it mean for bettors? Here are four factors to consider when pondering those questions:
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Kawhi Leonard: Obviously, this is the biggest story on the team. By far. So, what is going on with the team's superstar? I don't have any clue, and I don't suspect anyone truly does. He has played only nine games this year, and he didn't look right when he did play. He's fighting with his shoe sponsor. He might be fighting with his team, too, but we can't get a straight story about that. Sometimes it seems like him and his coach aren't getting along. Sometimes it seems like he wants to be anywhere but San Antonio, but it still seems hard to believe that that is true. He has been cleared to play by the medical staff, but he doesn't want to come back - or maybe he does. He's fine - or maybe he's looking for another opinion on what's going on.
It all makes no sense, and the drama is so contrary to what the Spurs have been throughout the Popovich era that it is disorienting. It's all so raw, and it feels out of control. It feels like all parties need to take a step back, realize what they have and where they are at, and come at it all fresh. Leonard may or may not come back, and he may or may not be any good this year when he does return. But, as we will talk about soon, it doesn't really matter. Him at less than 100 percent isn't likely to be enough to beat the Warriors or Rockets. Heck, him at 100 percent isn't enough to do that. So, player and team will be best served to look towards their futures and making sure that it works out for everyone.
The schedule: Things have not been good for a long time, and they aren't getting much help from the schedule to get things back on track. Tonight they have to travel to Golden State , which obviously isn't easy. Counting that game, they have 18 games left, and 15 are against teams in the playoffs or in a real playoff race - including two each against the Warriors and Rockets. This team hasn't been playing right now like they are good enough to beat playoff teams - they have dropped seven of their last eight against playoff contenders. They are only 3-8 in the last 11 games, and it's not going to be easy to shake off that funk against this slate.
Does it really matter?: It is fascinating to see the wheels fall off this team right now because they have been so boring and stable for so long. But when you really look at the situation it all doesn't really matter that much. Coach Pop will be fine - he's not going anywhere until he wants to. Leonard's fate isn't going to be decided by how this season turns out. And this team isn't going to beat the Rockets or Warriors this year regardless. So that means that they were, at best, winning one playoff series.
If they keep falling and wind up facing one of those teams in the first round it just means that their playoff run ends sooner - but in exactly the same way we all know it is going to end. So, all this team can do is to accept that the season is lost and start figuring out how their mojo can be found again in time for next year.
And all you need to do is look at the futures odds to see where this team is really at. They are tied with the Thunder as the third choice to win the West at BetOnline . But they are at +2000, while Houston is at +200 and Golden State is at -225. They are just barely relevant.
Betting performance: The last several years the Spurs have been stable - not exciting or hugely productive but also not particularly costly. They typically at least break-even. And despite the drama this year they are doing pretty much the same, they sit at 32-30-2 ATS, which is just a hair below a break-even level. Considering their struggles - at least relative to what we have come to expect from them - that's not too bad. Not surprisingly, things have gotten worse lately - over that 3-8 stretch the team has gone 4-7 ATS.
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