Surprise surprise, the Cleveland Cavaliers have the best record in the Eastern Conference. They're not the best NBA pick in the East, though – not by a long shot.
Jason's 2015-16 record as of Dec. 3: 8-8 ATS, 1-0 Total
The Cleveland Cavaliers are going to be a good NBA pick one of these days. Oh sure, they have the best record in the East going into Thursday's action, but at 13-5 SU and 7-11 ATS, the Cavaliers haven't been performing nearly as well as expected. The wheels might even be coming off a bit at 6-4 SU and 4-6 ATS in their last 10 games.
Maybe Cleveland fans should take a page from the Aaron Rodgers playbook and R-E-L-A-X. Anything the Cavs can achieve before Kyrie Irving gets back in the lineup is gravy. Mo Williams (17.1 PER, +1.1 BPM) has done a very good job holding down the fort while Irving recovers from his broken kneecap, but Williams isn't playing at an All-Star level. Irving (21.5 PER, +3.3 BPM last year) is expected to return before Christmas; Iman Shumpert (11.1 PER, +0.6 BPM) isn't far away, either, after having surgery on his right wrist at the end of September.
He Comes From France
If you're looking for profit in the East, you have to look for the Indiana Pacers (12-5 SU and ATS) with your sportsbooks of choice. Not only do they have Paul George (26.6 PER, +8.2 BPM) back in the starting five, they have the best version of George they've ever seen – thanks in part to his move to power foward. Ian Mahinmi (15.7 PER, +3.4 BPM) has complemented George by providing strong defense in his first regular crack at the starting rotation. This team is only going to get better from here, given the usual caveat of good health.
The Toronto Raptors (12-7 SU, 13-6 ATS) haven't been quite as lucky on the medical front. Jonas Valanciunas (20.0 PER, –1.1 BPM) is out for another month with a broken left hand, but Toronto has proved once again the immense value of bench strength. Bismack Biyombo (11.9 PER, –1.4 BPM) is performing well at the defensive end, and Lucas Nogueira had an eye-opening game Wednesday versus the Atlanta Hawks, grabbing seven rebounds in 16 minutes as Toronto (+4.5 away) rallied to win 96-86.
A New York Minute
As a whole, the Atlantic Division is making money hand over fist – none of the five teams has a losing ATS record at press time. We figured the New York Knicks (9-10 SU, 11-8 ATS) had a great shot at beating the NBA odds this year, but we're more than surprised at how well the Brooklyn Nets (5-13 SU, 11-7 ATS) have done for themselves. They should do even better now that Andrea Bargnani (8.1 PER, –10.1 BPM) is out with a hamstring injury.
Props as well to our two Eastern Conference sleeper picks, the Detroit Pistons (10-9 SU and ATS) and the Orlando Magic (10-8 SU, 12-6 ATS). Both teams are stronger than they were last year; Detroit should take another step forward when Brandon Jennings (19.7 PER, +1.8 BPM last year) makes his return around the end of December. For the Magic, the future is now under head coach Scott Skiles. May the sphere be with them.