1. #1
    Point Blank
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    PB (2/15): Despite 35-25, is This Thibs/T'Wolves Thing Really Working


    Despite 35-25, is This Thibs/T’Wolves Thing Really Working…Why hasn’t Arizona been better? It’s almost all about defense…


    Point Blank – February 15, 2018


    It will be time to say goodbye to the NBA for a bit after the final two games before the All Star break take place this evening, but there is far more late-season drama building than I would have projected, much of which can lead to opportunity for the handicapper. The Minnesota Timberwolves are one of those intriguing notions, so I’ll bring them front-and-center today, and with Arizona State/Arizona on ESPN there is also an opportunity for many folks to get a better feel for something that seems to have puzzled some market segments (9-16-1 ATS, 4-8-1 in Pac 12 play) – why hasn’t Sean Miller’s team been better?

    I intentionally held Minnesota back a day, instead of putting that Timberwolves defense into an “About Last Night” take yesterday, despite a truly shocking count put up by Houston at crunch time on Tuesday. Now the TNT cameras will be at the Target Center for an eye test setting this evening, so it is an appropriate time to dive in.


    Item: Is this Thibodeau/Timberwolves Things Really Working

    It is easy to fall into the mindset that Minnesota is on track, and you may hear much of that from the broadcast announcers this evening – the T’Wolves are 35-25 and just a half game out of the #3 seed in the Western Conference. There is seeming logic in building the case that not only adding Jimmy Butler/Taj Gibson/Jeff Teague/Jamal Crawford has worked, but someone a bit lazy in their analysis could also fall for the notion that Tom Thibodeau is finally getting his defensive principles instilled. Except the latter would be wrong.



    The Minnesota elevation in the standings has been far more about talent than tactics, especially at the offensive end. Despite adding those new pieces, and having Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins get another season of learning under Thibs, there hasn’t been a defensive progression at all:

    PP100 Off Def
    2017 108.1 (10) 109.1 (26)
    2018 111.2 (3) 108.4 (26)

    That only tells part of the story. To get to what may be the most important truth come playoff time requires a bit of redundancy here, since the T’Wolves 4th Quarter defense has already been a topic, but what happened vs. Houston on Tuesday was so historic that it requires another visit. The Rockets broke open a close game with a 42-28 surge across the final stanza, and for as good as that looked on the scoreboard, to put it into proper perspective let’s go to that PP100 measure:

    HOU 4th Q 194.1

    That is correct: one-hundred-and-ninety-four-point-f'ing-one. I had to double check the first time I saw the count. Houston managed those 42 points on only 21 field goal attempts and six free throw tries, without a turnover (there were eight assists). Try that with no opposing defenders on the court at all and it wouldn't be easy.

    For the Minnesota defense to be the NBA’s worst in the fourth quarter would be indictment enough, but consider the gap between the T’Wolves and the rest of the league and it is a bit frightening:

    POR 110.1 (26)
    CHI 110.3 (27)
    ATL 110.6 (28)
    BRK 110.8 (29)
    MIN 115.3 (30)

    And for a refresher, Thibodeau is considered a defensive guru. How does his current team compare to the teams that have fallen at the bottom of the 4th Quarter defensive counts across recent seasons?

    2013 SAC 110.5
    2014 UTA 112.7
    2015 MIN 108.6
    2016 PHO 113.8
    2017 BRK 114.1
    2018 MIN 115.3

    Yes, there has been major improvement in the W/L standings this season. But this has not been a case of a coach doing what he does best, and instead raises the general question as to whether Thibs is a good fit for this roster.

    Has there been a progression for Anthony-Towns or Wiggins? Individual defensive ratings are still difficult to sort through, but of the NBA centers that play at least 30 minutes per game no one is below Anthony-Towns on Real +/- Defense, and of the small forwards only Evan Fournier and Bojan Bogdanovic rate below Wiggins.

    Minnesota is fun to watch, and can explosively win games on talent. But for the defense to be this bad 60 games into the season tells us that the ceiling with this particular coaching staff may be lower than the raw talent of the players might seem to call for.

    As for this evening I had an Over temptation at the 222.5 that opened, but the markets quickly cleaned out those shelves, as high as 226.5 showing already. The Lakers have not played a hint of defense on this road trip, allowing both Dallas (130) and New Orleans (139) to have their season-high’s, and I can’t find anything in the realm of basketball logic that tells me that the LAL effort tonight will change for any reason. But the best of that value is gone.


    Item: Why hasn’t Arizona been better?

    Sean Miller’s Wildcats were #1 in the Blue Ribbon Yearbook to begin the season, and it was easy to understand why. If you have a pair of 7-footers inside, including the possible #1 for the upcoming NBA draft board in DeAndre Ayton; an NBA talent on the wings in Allonzo Trier; and a senior PG in Parker Jackson-Cartwright; the pieces are there for one hell of a run.

    It hasn’t unfolded that way, the Wildcats being among the biggest money burners out there, and they have already lost outright five times as favorites of -7 or more. The issue is one that would not have been easy to identify at the start of the season but has become glaring – they just aren’t good defensively. And I don’t mean only being good instead of very good or great, I mean not even good at all.



    As it turns out there are a series of problems on the defensive end. While Jackson-Cartwright has experience, at 5-11/170 he is a bit undersized. And instead of those twin towers dominating around the basket it has meant a group that is a step slow to get out on the perimeter. Add in a lack of depth, which also curtails the intensity levels, and there are some major headaches. Let’s establish a baseline by looking at what Miller teams have usually produced in overall defense, and then this group:

    2012 #37
    2013 #32
    2014 #1
    2015 #32
    2016 #29
    2017 #29
    2018 #107

    In terms of the particulars, how about being #265 in TO% forced, #312 in Steal% (those two categories being related), and #273 in 3-point percentage allowed? That makes tonight’s matchup vs. Arizona State a study in contrasts, the Wildcats holding a major size advantage and the prospects of dominating the paint (Ayton had 23 points and 19 rebounds in the earlier 84-78 win at Tucson), but those veteran Sun Devil guards Tra Holder, Shannon Evans and Kodi Justice getting a lot of room to operate on the perimeter (62 points in that earlier defeat).

    The markets are still with Arizona in this one, despite the disappointing returns, ASU -1 now having swung to +1.5. I get small chimes to the host Sun Devils at +2, and something good at +3, so if that market direction continues I could be in play there before the day is out. As for the tourney cycle ahead, color the Wildcats as being vulnerable against teams that get a lot of production from their back-courts, and in particular 3-point shooting, although those same teams will have to find a way to hold off the Arizona big men on the other end.


    Item: About Last Night, and LAC/Celtics

    I did not take the right path here yesterday in attempting to play into the current Boston struggles – the Team Total Under got waylaid by quite a pace (103.9). But in doing the post-mortem I couldn’t help but put this into the files:

    Kyrie Irving: "Some of our early success didn’t match some of our habits and some of our patterns, but we played extremely hard. If we’re not even doing that then we don’t have a chance."

    There is some valuable insight to be found in that, and it helps explain why the Celtics have fallen behind by at least 14 points in four of their last five games, only that OT gut-out vs. the Wizards preventing an 0-5 slide into the All Star break. But there is also a question as to how the other players are going to absorb it. Even though there won’t be box scores from the Association to track over the days ahead, there will still be plenty of digging going on.


    If you want to know when PB is ready to go each day, as well as following along for some of the most important Sports Betting news as it unfolds, make @Vegaspointblank a part of your routine.
    Last edited by Point Blank; 02-15-18 at 10:43 AM.
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  2. #2
    catsanddogs
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    St Mary’s now -8. Not sure USF can stay with this group. Major size disadvantage for USF. But the market right now likes the Dons.

  3. #3
    Dilo
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    I gotta give Thibs a break; league scoring is up. He had some great players back in the day with KG, then J Noah. Those guys you didn’t have to preach defense and intensity. Don’t know about his current group.

  4. #4
    benjy21
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    Hey Dave,

    Ohio State is getting 1 point tonight at Penn State. The markets have been astep slow in catching up to the Buckeye's performance this year. Their only loss in conference this year is to the Nittany Lions, so OSU should be very focused for this game. Is there a matchup issue that creates problems for Ohio State against this team? Do you see value on the Buckeyes getting a point in this spot?

  5. #5
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by benjy21 View Post
    Hey Dave,

    Ohio State is getting 1 point tonight at Penn State. The markets have been astep slow in catching up to the Buckeye's performance this year. Their only loss in conference this year is to the Nittany Lions, so OSU should be very focused for this game. Is there a matchup issue that creates problems for Ohio State against this team? Do you see value on the Buckeyes getting a point in this spot?
    I am a Buckeye Buyer (#529, 8:00 Eastern) at +1. One of the under-rated aspects of this team, which has been noted a few times across these threads, is that three of the key cogs have already graduated, which brings a rare level of maturity. That maturity has led them to a 6-0 SU and ATS on the Big 10 road/neutral in which they have beaten the market expectations by a significant 81.5 points.

    There is also a basketball pendulum in play - Penn State was 11-14 from 3-point range in that earlier win at Columbus, a major outlier that carried so much weight in that outcome. The Buckeyes have had plenty of time since an easy home win over Iowa on Saturday to bring the proper game plan and mindset into play, although in truth they have been bringing those elements just about every game anyway.

  6. #6
    coolwHip807
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    Why is Temple still sitting at +13? I don't see any injuries - this line should be closer to 10, thoughts?

  7. #7
    vegasvee
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    Dave,

    What am I missing here with Weber St catching 3.5 on the road at Portland St. Weber appears to be the better team from all angles with a large margin in both effective fg% and opp fg% and a better scoring margin both overall and in conference.

    I am heavily in pocket +3.5 but as always appreciate your thoughts.

  8. #8
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by coolwHip807 View Post
    Why is Temple still sitting at +13? I don't see any injuries - this line should be closer to 10, thoughts?
    There is an appetite for Wichita State "revenge" from a few folks that I know (though not me, at this price), which was part of the driving force behind that one.

  9. #9
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by vegasvee View Post
    Dave,

    What am I missing here with Weber St catching 3.5 on the road at Portland St. Weber appears to be the better team from all angles with a large margin in both effective fg% and opp fg% and a better scoring margin both overall and in conference.

    I am heavily in pocket +3.5 but as always appreciate your thoughts.
    Unfortunately the Big Sky does not make my radar screens anymore, one of those "not enough hours in the day" issues, but let's see if some others that follow the league can chime in.

  10. #10
    deltonmyers
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    Dave,

    What are your thoughts on Colorado -3.5 at Washington State? Wazzu is a true bottom feeder in the Pac 12 this year, going 1-11 so far while losing 7 in a row. Colorado did a nice job at home, handling Utah and Stanford, but do you trust them to travel?

  11. #11
    BirdMaster
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    Which would be the preferred play? Ohio State +1.5 at -107 or Ohio State ML at +110?

  12. #12
    bjs2025
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    Quote Originally Posted by BirdMaster View Post
    Which would be the preferred play? Ohio State +1.5 at -107 or Ohio State ML at +110?
    Penn State -1

  13. #13
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by deltonmyers View Post
    Dave,

    What are your thoughts on Colorado -3.5 at Washington State? Wazzu is a true bottom feeder in the Pac 12 this year, going 1-11 so far while losing 7 in a row. Colorado did a nice job at home, handling Utah and Stanford, but do you trust them to travel?
    The Buffs would work for me at -2, which is unlikely to show, but note that their Pac 12 road stuff has not been horrendous - they did manage an outright win at USC, and on their last trip through the Arizona schools they played both games closer than the final score would indicate. I have some concerns about Ernie Kent connecting to his players right now - there was almost no fight to be found from the Cougars last weekend, losing to the Oregon schools 178-119, and the toll of six straight losses in double figures may be more than this group can handle. But even with all that in play I need a -2.

  14. #14
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by BirdMaster View Post
    Which would be the preferred play? Ohio State +1.5 at -107 or Ohio State ML at +110?
    That runs pretty close, but given that one of the Buckeye play-on elements is their maturity level at the end of close games (which really showed down the stretch against Purdue last week), the +110 would be a slight preference.

  15. #15
    coolwHip807
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    Quote Originally Posted by Point Blank View Post
    The Buffs would work for me at -2, which is unlikely to show, but note that their Pac 12 road stuff has not been horrendous - they did manage an outright win at USC, and on their last trip through the Arizona schools they played both games closer than the final score would indicate. I have some concerns about Ernie Kent connecting to his players right now - there was almost no fight to be found from the Cougars last weekend, losing to the Oregon schools 178-119, and the toll of six straight losses in double figures may be more than this group can handle. But even with all that in play I need a -2.
    Is Franks playing for Wazzu tonight? He missed last game and is their leading scorer...

  16. #16
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by coolwHip807 View Post
    Is Franks playing for Wazzu tonight? He missed last game and is their leading scorer...
    Franks has been practicing this week, and was pronounced by Ernie Kent as "good to go" to the student newspaper.

  17. #17
    ikid2groove415
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    Real men sports is hockey

  18. #18
    ikid2groove415
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    Pb take this free win tonight Pittsburgh -1.5

  19. #19
    The Gooch
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    Games of interest: Montana + Middle Tenn St (Giddy Up)

  20. #20
    GoUCBears
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    Real men sports is hockey

    But if we found an edge betting WNBA we'd be all over it. I still haven't figured out how to bet hockey. I'll bet the other 3 major sports though.

  21. #21
    The Gooch
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    Dave - are you concerned that analytics will make this entire endeavor useless?

  22. #22
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by GoUCBears View Post
    Real men sports is hockey

    But if we found an edge betting WNBA we'd be all over it. I still haven't figured out how to bet hockey. I'll bet the other 3 major sports though.
    One of the major issues out there with all sports remains supply/demand. I have a close friend who crushed Arena Football annually. Folks asked me why I didn't follow his stuff. The answer was an easy one - there wasn't enough market out there to allow for it. Although the prime sports are the toughest to beat, a guy can grind away at them and never have to worry much about market liquidity. But once you step into those other arenas, it doesn't take more than a couple of winning weeks to see the offerings become extremely limited. "This is the business we've chosen..."

  23. #23

  24. #24
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Gooch View Post
    Dave - are you concerned that analytics will make this entire endeavor useless?
    The only thing that has changed significantly in my lifetime is baseball, with so much great information being made available for free, much of it through the Fantasy industry. Stuff that we had used for decades that almost felt proprietary (there will be times during the season when I will talk about "JLA", who was a wizard with Excel way back in the day) is not out there for all eyes to see, and in truth some particular MLB wells have dried up. But as some dried up, others opened up. The key will always be who can work the numbers best - even though there is far more information available, that information can be a dangerous tool for those that don't use it with a little savvy.

    What will be a key once again this MLB season, which past readers are well-accustomed to? Regression. Modern baseball bettors love all of those new stats that are in front of them, but there is still an inclination for folks to believe that the stats are going to continue, rather than revert to the true performance level of a Player or Team. And there is more than enough of that to build a strong portfolio across the summer months.

  25. #25
    The Gooch
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    Vincent from Collateral:
    Now we gotta make the best of it, improvise, adapt to the environment, Darwin, shit happens, I Ching, whatever man, we gotta roll with it.

  26. #26
    The Gooch
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    Dave - In my lifetime a program was made that could beat any living (or dead) chess player who ever existed. I am concerned for the long-term future. I will still bet you over the existing models without hesitation.

  27. #27
    The Gooch
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    Ted Sevransky killed arena football for anyone. Singlehandedly. You had to wait for him to make a mistake and then fade his play.

  28. #28
    ikid2groove415
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    Quote Originally Posted by Point Blank View Post
    One of the major issues out there with all sports remains supply/demand. I have a close friend who crushed Arena Football annually. Folks asked me why I didn't follow his stuff. The answer was an easy one - there wasn't enough market out there to allow for it. Although the prime sports are the toughest to beat, a guy can grind away at them and never have to worry much about market liquidity. But once you step into those other arenas, it doesn't take more than a couple of winning weeks to see the offerings become extremely limited. "This is the business we've chosen..."
    Hockey haven’t been same since ESPN didn’t renew the tv contract years ago!!

  29. #29
    vegasvee
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    Quote Originally Posted by vegasvee View Post
    Dave,

    What am I missing here with Weber St catching 3.5 on the road at Portland St. Weber appears to be the better team from all angles with a large margin in both effective fg% and opp fg% and a better scoring margin both overall and in conference.

    I am heavily in pocket +3.5 but as always appreciate your thoughts.
    Hopefully some other readers tailed me on this...

  30. #30
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by vegasvee View Post
    Dave,

    What am I missing here with Weber St catching 3.5 on the road at Portland St. Weber appears to be the better team from all angles with a large margin in both effective fg% and opp fg% and a better scoring margin both overall and in conference.

    I am heavily in pocket +3.5 but as always appreciate your thoughts.
    Quote Originally Posted by vegasvee View Post
    Hopefully some other readers tailed me on this...
    Well-played.

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