The first half of the NBA season is uppon us, let's analyze the improving and overlooked teams. Join us inside as we hunt down opportunities for our NBA picks as we find gold.
One of the most surprising things about the first half of the NBA season is that the two best teams in the league – San Antonio and Golden State – are also the two best pointspread teams; a combined 51-29 ATS. It’s not an every season occurrence where the defending champs are dramatically underrated to open their title defense.
Nor do we often see a team that went to the Finals in each of the previous two seasons; featuring a coach and a superstar with five championship rings on their fingers as an undervalued commodity. Yet the single biggest pointspread story of the 2015-16 season has been the remarkable success of those two teams in the betting markets.
And it’s a similar story on the other end of the spectrum. Most – not all, but most – of the league’s bottom feeders have been ATS disaster areas. There are six teams currently sporting winning percentages of .333 or less – the Lakers, T-Wolves, Suns, Pelicans, 76ers and Nets. Five of those six teams (the Nets are the lone exception) rank in the bottom quartile ATS as we reach the halfway mark.
If ever there was a season where the simplest sports betting mantra held true, this is that season. What is that mantra? ‘Bet on good teams, bet against bad teams’. It’s something that public (square) bettors seem to understand far better than wiseguys; sharps obsessed with finding ‘value’; catching an extra point or two on a nightly basis with bad teams.
That has certainly not been a profitable strategy this year, although it’s worth noting that at least two bottom feeders – Philadelphia and Minnesota – have shown real, legitimate signs of improvement in the last week or two. When a very bad team gets a notch or two better, there’s often a long lag period between their improved play and the onset of any significant betting market support. I personally expect both the 76ers and the Timberwolves to be moneymakers between now and the All Star Break.
That being said, without focusing on the very best teams or the very worst ones—this is an ‘Under-the-Radar’ article, after all – are there other improving or undervalued teams worthy of support over the next few weeks? I’ve got my eye on two teams from the Western Conference: the Sacramento Kings and the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Blazers have been through the gauntlet over the last month. They’ve dealt with key injuries, most notably to the most underrated point guard in the NBA, Damian Lilliard. And they’ve faced a brutal slate of opponents, including the Warriors, Thunder, Grizzlies and Clippers in the last two weeks.
But things are getting much easier for Portland. First and foremost, they’re as healthy as they’ve been at any point this season And a team that has faced a particularly tough schedule of late gets five of their next six games against sub .500 foes. They’ve won four of their last five, including outright upsets over the Thunder at home and the Wizards on the road. All of a sudden this team has a boatload of positive momentum and a legitimate motivator with the #8 seed in the West very much up for grabs.
The Kings have gotten much healthier in recent weeks as well. Impressive rookie big man Willie Cauley-Stein is back in the starting lineup following an extended injury absence, shoring up their low post defense. And key perimeter threat Omri Casspi (47% on three pointers this year) is healthy again as well, after missing time with a bad back.
Sacramento is always under-the-radar in the NBA betting marketplace; a complete afterthought for most bettors. ut this team has been hanging tough consistently in hostile environments. In their last four on the road, they’ve won SU at Oklahoma City, Utah and the LA Clippers, while losing by a single point in OT at Dallas, another spread covering effort. They won in SU fashion at Indiana and at Toronto on their previous road trip, now 7-2 against the NBA odds in their last eight tries as road dogs. In this bettor’s opinion, that’s a streak worth riding……