Now that everybody is jumping off the Oklahoma City Thunder bandwagon, could they be the right basketball pick for Friday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers?
It’s all about The Process. Last week’s NBA look-ahead focused on three bad teams who were playing even worse than their records showed: the Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, and Sacramento Kings. We chose Sacramento as our sacrificial lamb for Sunday’s game against the Toronto Raptors, and Toronto prevailed 102-87 as 8.5-point road faves. Trust The Process.
This week, let’s return to the potential candidates who are playing better than their won-loss records. Here are the teams at press time whose Pythagorean records are at least three games ahead of where they are in the actual standings:
Utah Jazz: 13-14 SU, 15-12 ATS, 17-10 PYTH
Oklahoma City Thunder: 12-14 SU, 8-18 ATS, 15-11 PYTH
Dallas Mavericks: 8-20 SU, 13-14-1 ATS, 11-17 PYTH
That’s quite a mix of teams – and if you were on top of things, you’ve already made money on the Jazz (6-3 SU, 7-2 ATS in their last nine games) and Mavericks (5-5 SU, 8-1-1 ATS in their last 10). Not so much for the Thunder, though. Since we gave them a look three weeks ago, Oklahoma City is stuck in the mire at 4-4 SU and 0-8 ATS. Doom and gloom have descended on this franchise. Should we give them a second chance, or should we kick them while they’re down?
Ah, these crazy false binary choices. According to The Process, which is pretty much all about buying low and selling high, we should be a little more willing to invest in Oklahoma City the more their results – and the market expectations that follow – fail to reflect their actual performance level.
Unfortunately for OKC fans, that performance level is tailing off. The Thunder were plus-3.06 on the Simple Rating System at Basketball Reference three weeks ago; they were at plus-1.83 SRS heading into Wednesday’s game against the Indiana Pacers. Not coincidentally, Carmelo Anthony has fallen from minus-1.3 BPM (Box Plus/Minus) all the way to minus-2.8 during this extended slump against the NBA odds. Other things are happening, of course, but this one-year Big Three experiment with Anthony, Russell Westbrook (plus-6.6 BPM) and Paul George (plus-2.4 BPM) isn’t panning out too well.
The Thunder also haven’t played many games against over-valued opponents. They haven’t faced Miami or Phoenix, and they played Sacramento once, back on November 7. OKC does have back-to-back road games coming up -- Friday against the Philadelphia 76ers (14-13 SU, 16-10-1 ATS) and Saturday against the New York Knicks (14-13 SU, 15-12 ATS), both of whom are cooling off after starting the season well above market expectation. Philly (13-14 PYTH) could be worth a fade for your weekend NBA picks, especially with PF Robert Covington (plus-3.2 BPM) missing the last two games with a lower-back contusion. Tip-off is at 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN – and may the sphere be with you.