It's an old rule of thumb that teams laying 10 points or more aren't very good basketball picks. But there's a time and a place for everything, massive favorites included.
When we look back at 2015-16 here at the ranch, we think about the Golden State Warriors, and how often they burned us as double-digit favorites. Our first NBA pick of the season was the New Orleans Pelicans +10 over Golden State – fail. Then we had the Los Angeles Lakers at +17.5, and the Dallas Mavericks at +15.5, and the New York Knicks at +10, and the Memphis Grizzlies at +18. Fail, fail, fail, fail. Sweet baby corn.
Golden State finished the regular season at 73-9 SU and 45-35-2 ATS, so we probably look like chumps for fading the Warriors, even as double-digit faves on the NBA odds board. But despite our 0-5 record in this situation, it was the right play overall at 24-22-1 ATS on the year, including 20-12 ATS once January rolled around and the Dubs had cooled off a bit. So what have we learned? Should we be a bit pickier about our basketball picks, and find the places where heavy chalk is warranted?
All Your Base 10 Belong to Us
They must exist, at least in theory. Granted, 10 points does mark a drop-off in how probable the margin of victory is in the NBA; according to Wizard of Odds, the numbers between 2 and 9 each check in at around six percent, while 10 falls to five percent, and things get progressively lower from there. But 10 is still not nearly as magical a number as it is when you're betting on the NFL. And of course, as human beings with (mostly) 10 fingers and 10 toes, we're fixated on the power of base 10. We should be able to find some spots where crossing that threshold makes betting the favorite a value play.
Here are some selection criteria to consider. First and foremost, we want the favorites to be as close to –10 as possible; the chalkier they get, the more value there is with the underdogs. Second, we want the preferred “sharp vs. public” dynamic to be in place, although that will be rare in this situation – recreational bettors generally prefer the favorites, especially when they're dominant. But we should also find some matchups where injuries have taken all the value out of the double-digit dogs in question. We'll be paying extra-close attention to the DL when we make our NBA picks this year, and maybe, just maybe, we'll take the Warriors and the points when the time is right.