Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013, up to December 25 inclusive:
Okay, fine, we get the idea: The Eastern Conference sucks. There are only three teams in the East with winning records as we go to press. But we’re here to bet on the NBA, not to bury it. You’ll find more than enough basketball betting value with the teams bubbling beneath that .500 surface. How about those Charlotte Bobcats (14-15 SU, 17-11-1 ATS), for example? They’d be one of the biggest feel-good stories in the NBA this year, except they’re not really a story, because hardly anyone is talking about the Bobcats.
The Oklahoma City Thunder (23-5 SU, 16-12 ATS) don’t have it quite as bad as Charlotte. They’re still a small-market team, but the Thunder have two high-profile players and a rejuvenated reserve corps, putting them back in the driver’s seat in the West. Friday’s early NBA odds have OKC favored by nine points when these two teams meet at TWC Arena (7:00 p.m. ET).
Six Rings to Rule them All
You’re not going to find very many teams with as many basketball betting advantages as Charlotte. There’s the usual stuff – small market, no superstar players, yadda yadda – but the Bobcats have built themselves an unusually awful reputation since joining the league in 2004. They’ve only had one winning season since then, and that was in 2009-10, when head coach Larry Brown guided them to the No. 7 seed in the East.
Then Michael Jordan came along. He’s the consensus GOAT as a player, but his record as an NBA executive is spotty at best. Jordan was fired 10 years ago from his post with the Washington Wizards, where he will forever be tied to the selection and subsequent non-development of No. 1 overall pick Kwame Brown in 2001. Between that and his penchant for golf and gambling, Jordan’s narrative as King Midas in Reverse has completely overshadowed the Bobcats since his arrival in 2006.
Not that His Airness and his crack staff didn’t continue to whiff on draft picks like Adam Morrison (No. 3 overall, 2006) and D.J. Augustin (No. 9, 2008). But Charlotte took a serious turn in 2011 with the hiring of Rich Cho as general manager. Cho is a smart cookie with an engineering degree from Washington State and a law degree from Pepperdine. He spent eight years as assistant GM with the Thunder franchise, starting back in 2000 with the late, lamented Seattle SuperSonics. Then the Portland Trail Blazers hired Cho as GM in 2010, only to cut him loose after less than one year in an interesting moment of palace intrigue.
Despite that firing, Cho’s short tenure was a positive one for Portland – he engineered the trade that brought Gerald Wallace over from the Bobcats for assorted bits and pieces, allowing the Blazers to reach the playoffs despite the loss of Brandon Roy to injury. Cho’s first act in Charlotte was to draft PG Kemba Walker (18.1 PER) ninth overall, and Cho made a big splash in free agency this summer with the signing of center Al Jefferson (20.3 PER). These are the guys we should be paying attention to, not Jordan and his assorted peccadillos.
The Thunder still have the stronger 1-2 punch of these two teams with PG Russell Westbrook (21.4 PER) and forward Kevin Durant (27.9 PER), but when it comes to NBA betting value, Charlotte is the commodity with more upside. There is one bugaboo for Friday’s matchup, though: The Bobcats are 7-10 ATS at home and 10-1-1 ATS away. It could be simple variance, but it’s enough of a concern that I’m recommending the UNDER as our NBA pick, which is 12-4-1 at The Cable Box this year. An underdog-UNDER parlay wouldn’t be beyond reason here.
NBA Pick: Take UNDER 199 (–105) at Pinnacle