NBA Betting and Handicapping: Los Angeles Clippers for Real After Hot Start?
Just 24 hours after the Washington Wizards' management group seemingly put every asset they have on the market - including, presumably, the uniforms, if the price is right - the team was understandably in a bit of chaos. They were a lousy team with consistently poor effort at the best of times, and this certainly wasn't going to help. So, it was no surprise when they found themselves in a deep hole at home against the Clippers on Tuesday night. But was a surprise - a shock, really - was that they closed the 19-point gap at the half to just nine entering the fourth quarter and then dominated the final frame to win by seven. More specifically, since we are writing about the Clippers here, what matters is that the Clippers, a team that had looked better than expected all year, somehow find a way to crater to the biggest walking tire fire outside of Cleveland or Atlanta that the league has right now. And they did it just as I was about to sit down and write nice things about them.
For the sake of not panicking, let's pretend this Washington game never happened. We'll give the Clippers a complete mulligan. And if we do that, we have one of the better stories in the league so far. This summer marked the final dismantling of the vision the Clippers had had - their path to contending with the Warriors with a big three of their own. It was, frankly, a failure. And now, with a less-talented and certainly less star-studded roster, the team is playing by far their most entertaining basketball in years. And aside from that Washington mess, they are winning while doing so. They were 11-5 before that Washington game, and if they had won it they would have been tied for the best record in the conference and third best in all of the NBA behind only the Raptors and Bucks.
There is a lot going on to drive the success of this team. In the absence of a big star, the team is relying on teamwork and on consistently solid play from an intriguing collection of players. Tobias Harris, who came back in the Blake Griffin deal, is playing great ball, leading the team in scoring and rebounds. Danilo Gallinari is also scoring very well and doing so with efficiency. And Montrezl Harrell has been an excellent big man off the bench, while Lou WIlliams has again been one of the best sixth men out there. Williams and Harrell are the third- and fourth-leading scorers on the team and don't have a start between them.
In a year when the transition to the NBA has been extremely challenging for some of the top young point guards in the draft, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has really looked good, and the team has been effective with him as a starter - a role he is likely to maintain. He's scoring nicely, he facilitates like a player more experienced than he is, and he plays sound defense. It has been a heck of a start to a career. As part of a group of guards including guys like Avery Bradley and Patrick Beverley, this team is in good shape on the back end. Add it all up and you have a team that is third in the league in scoring, eighth in field goal percentage, and second in field goal percentage against. They are dangerous at both ends of the court and are doing it despite a roster that pales in comparison to many in the West in terms of star power.
Maybe the most interesting guy on the team, and one of the more interesting in the league, is Boban Marjanovic. The gigantic mountain of a man is not a regular part of the rotation - he lacks mobility, so his usage has to be situational. But when he can match up against an opposing team, his ability to score efficiently, and to disrupt games defensively, is such a unique force. They could probably use him a little more than they have - he has played in only 13 of 17 games, with just 3 starts, and is averaging less than 12 minutes a game. But he has 8.2 points and 4.9 boards in those 11.7 minutes. It's really something to see.
Despite what they are doing working so well for now, the team might not be able to resist the temptation to change and improve. They were in the mix for Jimmy Butler up to the end and have been rumored early in discussions for Bradley Beal after Washington's hints of his availability. Getting an all-star is always tempting, but the team will have to give up several pieces to get a guy like that, and that could disrupt things as much as it could help them.
The Clippers have been almost as much fun to bet on as to watch this year. They are 10-7 ATS, so they have been nicely profitable. And they have gone "over" the total 11 times to produce nice profits there as well. Despite the strong start and the early betting success, though, oddsmakers aren't buying into them. At +5000 to win the Western Conference at Bovada , they sit behind nine other teams, so they aren't expected to be a playoff team. In that view, then, fans should enjoy what they have while they have it, because what we saw against the Wizards might not be a total fluke after all.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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