Last season is a distant memory for NBA bettors. While the public eyes the likes of Kobe Bryant and Brandon Roy, the savvy players will know there's value to be found in the Bucks, Kings and T-wolves.
In preseason betting, as in life, timing is everything.
Those of us intrepid enough to throw some money down on the NFL preseason know you need a different strategy than you would use in the regular season. Not only that, you need a different strategy for Week 1 than you do Week 3. The NBA preseason is a lot like that, too.
Yes, Virginia, there is betting on NBA preseason games. And there’s a steadily growing market for it, too. Noticed yet how much alike NBA-TV and the NFL Network have become during the offseason? Wall-to-wall coverage and sharp analysis of the draft, plus all the dirt on trades and free agents? Inquiring minds want to know, and in my humble and unsolicited opinion, a handicapper’s war room isn’t complete without NBA-TV up on a screen somewhere.
If only the NBA coaches were as open about their game plan as they are in the NFL preseason. We don’t know how long the starters will play on any particular day. But we do know that the reserves will get more minutes than they would during the regular season, even the guys at the end of the bench. Shavlik Randolph played 23 minutes per game at forward for the Portland Trail Blazers during the 2008 exhibition season, scoring 9.8 points per game; the former Dukie played a grand total of 37 minutes the rest of the way.
It follows that the teams with superior reserves will prevail – especially earlier in the preseason. The starters will get more minutes as we get closer to the games that count in the standings. And since the general public is guaranteed to be fixated on the Brandon Roys of the NBA and not the Shavlik Randolphs, it follows that the teams with poorer starting units (i.e., the underdogs) will have more betting value if they also have the benches.
Hat tip to Samson Prime for putting the underdogs to the test last year. The dogs responded at 51-39-1 ATS across the board, enough to pay for NBA-TV, NBA League Pass, and a round of golf with Charles Barkley. The favorites were 13-7 in the last two exhibition games, perhaps reflecting the greater number of minutes played by the starters – or perhaps dumb luck, who knows for sure with that small a sample size.
At the very least, we should be taking a closer look at which teams fit the profile to make us some cash in the preseason. We’ve seen the teams at the top of the food chain fatten up for the long winter ahead; Cleveland added Shaquille O’Neal (and Anthony Parker, and Jamario Moon), while Orlando added Vince Carter (and Brandon Bass, and Ryan Anderson, and Jason Williams). But we need some underdogs. Here are three of them.
1. Sacramento Kings: After bottoming out (they hope) last year at a league-worst 17-65 (38-44 ATS), the Kings selected former Memphis Tigers prodigy Tyreke Evans fourth overall. Sergio Rodriguez also landed in their laps on draft day via the Trail Blazers. In the frontcourt, Sacramento added Sean May, who was productive for the Charlotte Bobcats before undergoing microfracture knee surgery. And Omri Casspi (the 23rd overall pick) should be able to make a dent in the preseason after four years in the Israeli Super League.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves: They may be in for yet another rebuilding project after incoming maestro David Kahn jettisoned Kevin McHale and hired Kurt Rambis as his new coach. But that project will begin with a roster bursting at the seams with new reserves: Oleksiy Pecherov, Chucky Atkins, Damien Wilkins, Antonio Daniels, Ryan Hollins, Mark Blount, and draft picks Jonny Flynn and Wayne Ellington. There’ll be plenty of minutes to go around in the preseason.
3. Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks are more notable for shipping out Richard Jefferson and letting Ramon Sessions sign with the aforementioned Wolves. But they did get Kurt Thomas from the San Antonio Spurs in the Jefferson trade. Brandon Jennings is finally an NBA player after spending a year with Lottomatica Roma. Carlos Delfino makes his return after playing 2008-09 in Russia; he and former Euroleaguer Roko Ukic came over from the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Amir Johnson and Sonny Weems. And rounding out the prodigal sons, Ersan Ilyasova is back in a Bucks uniform after two years with FC Barcelona.