Is it basketball season already? Seems like just yesterday that Ray Allen was hitting that 3-pointer to save the Miami Heat’s bacon. But that was over four months ago. It’s time for the Heat to get back to work defending their championship, and fittingly enough, their first opponents of the 2013-14 regular season will be the Chicago Bulls. The NBA Odds for Tuesday’s matchup (8:00 p.m. ET, TNT) have the Heat favored by five points at home.
Nobody Knows Anything
If you’re a veteran of the basketball betting wars, this might be your favorite time of the year. Who really knows what’s going to happen this season? Nobody, of course. When we place our NBA picks, all we’re doing is making educated guesses. The trick is to be more educated than the competition. Opening Night, then, is your opportunity to pound the NBA betting public at its least informed.
This particular matchup is dripping with unknowns. How will Derrick Rose hold up in his return to the Bulls lineup? Can Greg Oden and Michael Beasley contribute off the bench for Miami? Do the Heat have too many miles on them after going to the NBA Finals three years in a row? We shall see. Meanwhile, if you listen closely enough, you can hear the fans of both teams arguing passionately for their heroes while they line up at the ticket window. Our consensus reports for this game show roughly 50-50 support at Miami –5.
We sort of know what we’re getting from the Miami Heat – they’re the favorites on the NBA futures market at 13-5 to win their third straight championship. And from a basketball betting perspective, they’ve actually been undervalued in the marketplace, going 66-16 SU and 46-36 ATS last year. The Bulls (45-37 SU, 36-36 ATS, 10-1 title odds) are the wild card in Tuesday’s matchup. There’s a big difference between having Rose as your point guard, and having Kirk Hinrich as your point guard.
But what are the chances that Rose plays at an MVP level again? We’re talking about someone who tore his left ACL during the 2012 playoffs and missed all of last season recovering from surgery. Let’s also not forget how controversial Rose’s 2010-11 MVP award was in the first place, and how much he “regressed” during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign:
Rose 2010-11: 23.62 PER (No. 9 overall), plus-3.2 RAPM (No. 34), 7.43 VORP (No. 3)
Rose 2011-12: 23.10 PER (No. 9), plus-4.3 RAPM (No. 20), 3.79 VORP (No. 26)
One of the things that gets overlooked with Rose is that he’s not a lockdown defender by any means. The Bulls were actually a better defensive team when Rose was on the bench, at least according to his RAPM numbers in that category (minus-1.2 in 2010-11; minus-1.1 in 2011-12). Combine that with his injury and the optimism surrounding his return to action, and I think Rose and the Bulls are solid fade candidates until proven otherwise.
The questions on Miami’s side are a lot less vexing. Oden and Beasley aren’t expected to perform at anything close to the level that made them high draft picks in the first place. Whatever the Heat get from either player at this point is gravy. And as far as losing too much tread on their tires, that’s not something Miami supporters need to worry about in late October. That comes later.
All this angst about the Miami Heat in general has been way too fashionable for far too long. They’ve got Lebron James, the best basketball player in the world, and two of the Top 25 in Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Ragging on Bosh has become a spectator sport all its own – as if he were supposed to replicate his numbers from the Toronto Raptors while playing third fiddle in Miami. Go ahead, NBA betting public. Keep it up. It makes my job that much easier.
NBA Pick: Take the Heat –4.5 at Sports Interaction