Teddy's Vegas Wiseguy Report: NBA Bottom Feeders
I’ve been writing about college basketball fairly consistently since the Super Bowl. Now that the calendar has shifted to April, it’s time to shift focus and start writing about the NBA. With less than ten days remaining in the regular season, most of the prevailing focus is on playoff teams. That’s why I’m writing this week’s column about the bottom feeders that have already been eliminated from playoff contention.
Can we make money betting on or against these squads down the stretch? Read on to find out my thoughts on a handful of lottery bound teams before I shift my focus towards playoff squads next week and beyond! Teams are listed in alphabetical order.
In the 2012 season, the Charlotte Bobcats set a record for NBA futility, finishing the season 7-59 SU. Their pointspread futility made headlines here in Las Vegas as well, as the Bobcats finished as the single biggest money loser in the league by a wide margin, a woeful 23-43 ATS.
In 2013, the Bobcats didn’t set any records for futility, but they’ve still got the single worst SU record in the NBA entering the homestretch. And, for the second straight season, the betting markets have been unable to catch up with how bad this team truly is. Charlotte ranks as the single biggest money loser in the league once again this year; 28-48-1 ATS through the weekend.
That being said, unlike last year, we’re seeing the Bobcats ‘show up’ late in the season. They’ve covered the spread in five of their last seven while pulling off a pair of home upsets against fellow lottery bound squads during that span.
Minnesota has played solid basketball for the better part of the last month. And when the T-wolves win, they cover – 14-0-1 ATS in their last 15 victories, dating all the way back to December. Each of their last six wins has come by six points or more, and Minnesota – lowly, lottery bound Minnesota – has a winning ATS mark as a favorite for the season.
The T-wolves are riding a 7-3-1 ATS run over their last eleven ballgames and head coach Rick Adelman just celebrated his 1000th career victory, joining Don Nelson, Lenny Wilkens, Pat Riley, Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, Larry Brown and George Karl. Interestingly enough, like Adelman, Sloan, Nelson and Karl have never won titles.
It’s surely worth noting that the T-wolves are 5-0-1 ATS following their last six defeats, an emerging under-the-radar trend. With a healthy Ricky Rubio running the point and center Nikola Pekovic developing into a double-double machine, there’s potential upside supporting the Timberwolves down the stretch and into next year.
Orlando came into the season with a hodgepodge roster in what was a clear rebuilding year. They’ve battled numerous injuries to just about every solid veteran player on the squad, and first time NBA head coach Jacque Vaughn hasn’t had any semblance of a consistent starting lineup or player rotation all year.
Therefore we shouldn’t be surprised in the slightest that Orlando is battling Charlotte for the worst overall record in the NBA. Nor should we be surprised that the Magic have gone 2-11 ATS as favorites; not a team to lay points with even in the best of spots.
But the flip side of the coin is that Orlando has cashed again and again in one particular pointspread role – as a double digit road underdog. The results don’t lie – they’re 12-5 ATS as double digit dogs, including recent pointspread covers at Houston and Atlanta in that double digit dog role on their most recent trip.
Philadelphia was a pretty strong candidate to quit on their coach and their season following a truly dismal post All Star break slide: 1-12 SU over a month long span from mid-February to mid-March. Head coach Doug Collins wasn’t expecting the skid: “'I sure didn't see this coming. It’s kind of mind-numbing to me.”
But wing Evan Turner’s quote at the end of that skid spoke volumes about their late season intensity: “I'm not going to sit here and drop my head. I don't think the leaders on this team will, either.” And that’s most assuredly been the case. Center Spencer Hawes has responded to his coach’s criticism with a series of strong efforts, as has forward Thaddeus Young. Lo and behold, suddenly the Sixers are winning games and covering spreads again, 8-6 SU, 8-5-1 ATS in their last 14 ballgames.
Even after Philly’s bad fourth quarter against Miami over the weekend turned a close game into a rout, Collins still had praise for his squad. “We went for a home run and unfortunately it didn't work for us this year. But I will tell you, the guys in the locker room, I'm incredibly proud at how hard they've played every single night. We've competed and we've had some really tough losses but we can only grow from that.''
Phoenix Suns bettors have been cashing Over tickets of late, as the Suns defensive intensity has been sorely lacking for weeks. Prior to Sunday’s home loss to New Orleans, the Suns had gone 6-1 to the Over in their previous seven games while allowing 113 points per game during that span.
Without injured centers Marcin Gortat (out for the year) and Jermaine O’Neal (in and out of the lineup), the Suns have no low post shot blocker and no strong on-ball defender. Phoenix shot a season best 61% from the floor and won the rebounding battle last Friday against Golden State and STILL lost the game – no defense plus 22 turnovers doomed their chances.
This quote from point guard Goran Dragic really doesn’t inspire much confidence down the stretch: “We're not going to make the playoffs, so (we'll) just try to compete until the end of the season.” ‘Trying to compete’ hasn’t cut the mustard for months – the Suns are just 7-16 ATS in their last 23 ballgames.
Portland fought the good fight this year. The Blazers starting lineup was solid, but Terry Stotts has been forced to utilize the NBA’s weakest bench on a nightly basis; a team with absolutely no quality depth whatsoever. Portland pulled the plug on their season about two weeks ago, when leading scorer and second leading rebounder LaMarcus Aldridge missed time with a sprained ankle. Things were ugly before Aldridge got hurt, but they got significantly worse without him.
Even after his return, the Blazers have continued to lose playing without their injured wing, Nicholas Batum. The bottom line? A team that was still very much in playoff contention two weeks ago has now lost eight straight while going 1-7 ATS in the process. And their ‘home court advantage’ at the Rose Garden has been non-existent of late, dropping five straight both SU and ATS in Portland.
If there was a post-All Star break MVP award, Washington Wizards point guard John Wall would quite deservedly get votes. And this is a little ‘blow your mind’ stat is certainly worth mentioning following Washington’s blowout win over Indiana at the Verizon Center on Saturday.
With Wall in the lineup, the Wizards are 18-4 SU at home this year; including a 9-0 SU run in their last nine tries. The only teams with higher home winning percentages than that are all elite squads: Miami, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Denver.
And the Wizards haven’t just been beating bottom feeders at home during this extended span of excellence either. They’ve pulled home upsets over the likes of Indiana, Chicago, Memphis, Milwaukee, Houston, Denver, Brooklyn, New York, the LA Clippers, Atlanta and Oklahoma City since January as part of their truly impressive (and truly under-the-radar) 17-5 ATS run at the Verizon Center.
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This is a 1* Free Play on the Wizards.
It looks like a good spot to pull the trigger on the home side here, as Denver comes into this one disheartened after falling 116-111 in Brooklyn just last night. Washington should be the much “hungrier” side this evening as it’s dropped three of its last four, including a listless 124-116 setback to Orlando at home last time out. Also note that Denver is just 8-11 ATS in its last 19 as an underdog, while Washington is 3-1 ATS in its last four as a home fav in the 3.5 to six points range. Consider laying the points on the WIZARDS.