Put the ticker-tape away for now. The new-look Cleveland Cavaliers have yet to jell this season, and on Friday, they’re laying five points on the road to the Denver Nuggets, up from –3 when the NBA odds opened.
Jason’s record as of Nov. 6: 4-0 ATS
Profit: plus-11.8 units
In 2010-11, the Miami Heat started the season 4-1 SU and ATS. Then they dropped the cash in 11 of their next dozen games – before ripping off an eight-game winning streak. What we’re trying to say is, be patient, Cleveland Cavaliers supporters. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and there’s no reason to panic just because Cleveland is off to a 1-3 SU and ATS start in LeBron James’ return.
Having said that, it’s open season on the Cavaliers until they do figure things out. Next up is Friday night’s late game (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) against the Denver Nuggets, who are also 1-3 SU and ATS. The NBA odds opened with Denver getting three points, but it didn’t take long for Cleveland bettors to drive the spread all the way to +5 as we went to press. What’s home-court advantage worth these days, anyway? Three points? You can imagine why people might not value the Nuggets and Cavs equally on neutral ground.
Read our NBA Picks of the Day article for more free plays.
Budda Budda Budda Blatt
We’re definitely going to fade Cleveland while the fading is good. We had the Cavs as one of our Top 5 OVER candidates against the regular season win totals; that can still happen, of course, but first, the Cavs have to get all their ducks in a row. They’ve got a much improved team this year, with James (plus-9.08 RPM in 2013-14 with Miami) and Kevin Love (plus-5.06 RPM with Minnesota) and a fresh cast of supporting players. However, they also have an NBA rookie in David Blatt, the reigning Euroleague Coach of the Year from Maccabi Tel Aviv.
It’ll probably take a while for Blatt to sort things out. Cleveland has a ton of offensive talent, but after four games, the Cavs are No. 19 in the league in efficiency at 100.5 points per 100 possessions. That’s simply not good enough considering how short Cleveland is on defensive prowess – and playing like it at 109.7 points allowed per 100 possessions, or No. 28 overall.
If that weren’t bad enough, one of Cleveland’s two decent defenders, guard Matthew Dellavedova (plus-1.72 RPM), is out until December with a sprained knee. That leaves center Anderson Varejao (plus-4.06 RPM) to keep a lid on things while the rest of the team is busy fighting over who’s going to score. According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, LeBron James has already had words with Kyrie Irving (minus-1.40 RPM) about the lack of ball distribution; Irving had zero assists in 45 minutes Wednesday night as Cleveland (–5.5 away) lost 102-100 to the Utah Jazz.
We’d like to think the Nuggets are a bit better than the Jazz. Depth isn’t nearly as much of a concern this year with the return of SF Danilo Gallinari, center JaVale McGee and PG Nate Robinson to the lineup, plus the addition of former Denver SG Arron Afflalo (minus-2.8 RPM in Orlando) during the offseason. But the Nuggets aren’t doing much better than Cleveland so far – they’re No. 23 in offensive efficiency (97.1) and No. 17 on defense (103.0).
We’re also not sold on head coach Brian Shaw, to the point where we’re willing to give Blatt the benefit of the doubt in that category. Otherwise, it’s all Denver all the time. Cleveland will be playing its third Western Conference road game in four days, and playing in the Mile High air to boot. If you’re on the Nuggets, consider waiting to place your NBA picks until closer to tip-off, in case the spread gets any bigger. And may the sphere be with you.
The Five Stars
Market Bias: DEN
Betting Line Value: DEN
Verdict: 3-star pick on DEN
Free NBA Pick: Bet 5.5 units on the Nuggets +5 at The Greek