Our latest Western odyssey starts in the Pacific Northwest, where the Portland Trail Blazers are no longer assured of making the playoffs, and ends in Los Angeles, where the Lakers continue to overcome the NBA odds.
Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to March 26 inclusive:
Shocked, shocked I am to hear that the front offices of the NBA have been divided into jocks vs. nerds. ESPN ran a story Wednesday that pretty much bemoaned the rise of statistical analysis in basketball management, which used to be the post-retirement birthright of former players. The jocks think that the nerds don’t know anything about basketball – how can you know anything about a game you’ve never played? Meanwhile, the nerds roll their eyes and point at Isiah Thomas.
This divide existed long before the NBA, and quite frankly, it’s a godsend if you’re betting on the NBA. As long as jocks and nerds are misunderstanding each other, there will be a profit margin for contrarian bettors. You could drive a Brinks truck through that gap. So let’s get behind the wheel and take a tour of the Western Conference, starting with a team that’s on the verge of an epic collapse.
Remember that four-way race for the last three sports in the Western playoffs? Better get that extra leaf for the dining table ready, because the Trail Blazers (45-27 SU, 38-34 ATS) have joined the party. They’ve lost three games in a row and eight of their past 11 at 5-6 ATS, falling back to the pack and threatening to miss the playoffs entirely. It’s a sad state of affairs for a Portland team that was No. 1 in the West near the halfway point of the season.
Perhaps getting LaMarcus Aldridge (21.7 PER) back would help. He’s been upgraded to “questionable” for Thursday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks after missing seven games with a bad back. However, Portland’s problems go deeper than that. Don’t forget, the Blazers were projected to be a playoff bubble team in the West, with an uncertain collection of talent beyond Aldridge and super-sophomore Damian Lillard (18.8 PER). And so it has come to pass.
Remember when the Rockets (48-22 SU, 36-32-2 ATS) had Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming? Good times. They’ve been gone for a while now, but was there any talk of tanking after their departure? Houston has yet to post a losing season since Daryl Morey took the GM reins in 2007. Morey got a head start on most of his nerd counterparts, using his stats background to recreate the Rockets on the backs of plug-and-play Internet darlings like Carl Landry and Kyle Lowry.
This year, Morey got to throw some money around and add Dwight Howard (21.5 PER), which certainly makes life easier. But check out what’s happening with guys like Chandler Parsons (15.5 PER) and Patrick Beverley (12.3 PER), both second-round picks, and Terrence Jones (18.6 PER), who went No. 18 overall in 2012. Why would you willingly tank an NBA season when solid players like these are available at pennies on the dollar? By the way, Houston is 8-3 SU and 6-5 ATS in its past 11 games, taking over fourth place from Portland.
Dr. Jerry Buss was a very bright man. He was a chemist who made so much money at investing (and poker) that he was able to buy the Lakers in 1979 – just in time for the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird years. It’s been over a year now since Buss passed away, and wouldn’t you know it, the team he left behind is a smoldering wreck.