Saturday, February 28, 2009
You're kidding me, right? I can understand the desire to start planning for the future, but you have a responsibility to your paying fans to win games NOW. You think people in this economy are looking to spend $50 a ticket to go see Anthony Randoplh and C.J. Watson?
From a gambling perspective, the Warriors are a nightmare because they are completely unpredictable. At the very least, Nelson has announced his benching beforehand, but we still don't know what kind of an impact this is going to have on starters who are playing (who can be nothing but royally pissed off about this) and it's incredibly difficult to analyize the play of rookies and second year guys with no previous starting experience.
For instance, C.J. Watson has been pegged as a talented up-and-comer by Nelson, but managed just 10 points on 3 of 10 shooting in 44 minutes of game action on Friday. 44 minutes! If he was even slightly better than that, the Warriors probably win the game (they lost 112-109 at home to the Bobcats) and cover the -2 spread.
At this point, I have to recommend avoiding the Warriors alltogether. This situation is a mess and for all the talent on that team, Don Nelson's insanity simply can't be overcome. When you're benching a guy who is putting up Lebron-esque numbers for C.J. Watson, you should be fired on the spot. If I were a Golden State season ticket holder I would be demanding my money back, and as a sports bettor, I'm keeping my money well away from Nelson's reach.
Friday, February 27, 2009
The Celtics are a difficult team to analyze right now--especially from a gambling standpoint. Usually when a major player, like Kevin Garnett, becomes injured, I like to look at his replacement and project how much of a downgrade he will be, and then apply that to the team's success as a whole.
Well, I don't know that there can be a bigger downgrade than Kevin Garnett to Brian Scalabrine/Glen "Big Baby" Davis, yet the Celtics seem almost entirely unaffected. Sure, they lost a close game to the Clippers after convincing wins at Phoenix and Denver, but that game was the last of a lengthy six-game road trip, so I don't consider the upset all that surprising.
To further add to the confusion, Paul Pierce dislocated his thumb in Wednesday's game and may miss some time in order to heal, or, at the very least, play through the injury with decreased effectiveness. The puzzle we need to solve is this: Are the Celtics more or less affected by these injuries in reality than the sportsbooks and the public believe them to be, as lines are set and moved in the sports betting marketplace?
There's no better way to predict the future than examining the past, so let's take a look at how the Celtics were valued coming off of KG's injury. In their first game post-KG, the Celtics were 1.5 point underdogs at Phoenix and won the game outright by 20 points. In the second game post-KG, Boston were 1 point road favorites and beat Denver by 38 points.
In their third game post-KG, the C's lost by two despite being 10 point road favorites at the LA Clippers. What would these lines have looked like without KG's injury? Well, earlier in the year they were 8-point home favorites vs. Phoenix, 10-point home favorites vs. Denver, and had not played the Clippers previously.
It is generally thought that the being home is worth about three points, and whether you buy it or not it's the best guess I've got and so I'm going to use it. Following that logic, the Celtics' "adjusted" lines look like this (actual lines in parenthesis):
With KG: -5 (-8)
Without KG: -1.5 (+1.5)
With KG: -7 (-10)
Without KG: -4 (-1)
vs LA Clippers
With KG: N/A
Without KG: -13 (-10)
Looking at those numbers, it seems that KG's injury was worth about 3 points to the sportsbooks. However, it appears that the 3 point "bonus" was scrapped for the game against the Clippers, as I can't imagine that line would have been much higher than 15 or so earlier in the year with Boston at home (their biggest line this year: -17 vs. Sacramento).
It seems clear that Garnett's injury was overrated by the books, and it makes sense, seeing as Boston is a well-coached team with excellent veteran leadership and a vastly underrated "no-name" point guard in Rajon Rondo.
Then, just when the books "caught on" and refused to lower Boston's line against the Clippers, the Celtics go out and lose by two, and I actually believe this foretells Boston being a value bet once again. The loss to the Clippers was a classic let-down game at the conclusion of a long road trip, so I have no problem throwing that one out the window.
Brian Scalabrine will miss at least two games, which is a moderate loss but he is a player Boston is accustomed to playing without. Pierce's dislocated thumb is a little worrisome, but I expect him to play through it and adjust by driving more and shooting less. On the plus side (well, I guess this may be debatable), Stephon Marbury is probable to play for Boston on Friday and, despite his many flaws, he is a very talented basketball player.
Taking everything into account, when the sportsbooks start to give Boston softer lines again, as I expect them to, I would be inclined to take Boston.
The Detroit Pistons are spiraling downward as their players' ages and tempers are both running high. The Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson trade has produced a clear winner (hint: not Detroit) and the Pistons' overcrowded backcourt has caused some bitterness from Richard Hamilton, a man known as a team player and general non-malcontent. Sophomore Rodney Stuckey seems to have lost his mojo in addition to losing his shot attempts playing alongside AI.
Four of their five best players are more than 30 years old. Rasheed Wallace, despite being one of those players over 30, still acts like a teenager on the court and is close to hitting the technical foul threshold of 16, after which a one-game suspension is assessed for each additional "T".
Add it all together and what do you get? A team on an eight-game losing streak and just 5-17 against the spread since January 10.
At this point, Detroit, much like Iverson, gets by more on reputation than actual on-court play. They are a team of shooters without passers (highest assist average on the team: Allen Iverson!) and followers without leaders.
Rookie coach Michael Curry is obviously overwhelmed with the situation and can't decide what to do with the backcourt trio. He knows Stuckey is the most important player on the team, but can't figure out how to break the news to Iverson and Hamilton. He also seems stuck trying to play the same style of basketball that Detroit won with while he was an assistant in 2008, but which no longer fits the teams ever-aging personnel - basketball players decline much more drastically on defense than offense as they reach their thirties.
It seems to me that their best bet at reviving any playoffs hopes is ditching the halfcourt game and trying a guard-heavy run-and-gun offense that better fits their personnel. Antonio McDyess has been phenomenal for the Pistons relative to what should be expected of a 34-year-old with bad knees, but he should not be starting for this team.
By moving Tayshaun Prince to power forward, the Pistons could start a lineup of Stuckey, Iverson, Hamilton, Prince and Wallace, which seems absolutely ideal for a run-and-gun approach. In addition to every single position being manned by above-average shooters, Iverson and Prince are also much better defenders in transition than in the halfcourt, and transitional defense is the name of the game in the run-and-gun style of play.
I haven't heard any rumbling that such a move is imminent--or even likely--but I have to imagine that Coach Curry is aware of the strengths, and more importantly the weaknesses, of his current lineup and would be willing to adjust in order put an end to their recent horrific play. That said, Detroit's Over/Under lines have hovered at about 180-190 all season and they would easily blow that number out of the water if they start running.
Watch this team closely in the coming days and weeks, and if you see signs that Curry is willing to open up the offense, start hitting the over hard as the starting five mentioned above has the potential to score 110 points per game easily.
As always, your feedback is much appreciated! Please comment if you feel compelled, and I can be reached personally at Chris@SportsInsights.com.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Rather than two or three longer features as we've been doing, this week we're going to break down Thursday's trades and give a gambling-focused outlook on the major players from Thursday.
Players Gained: Drew Gooden, Andres Nocioni, Rashad McCants, Calvin Booth, Ike Diogu and Sam Cassell (not likely to play)
Players Lost: Brad Miller, John Salmons, Sheldon Williams, Bobby Brown
Outlook: The Kings secured their spot as one of the worst teams in the NBA with their trade deadline moves. From a gambling outlook, I actually think the public may underestimate how much worse Sacramento has become as a result of this trade. Salmons was the best player involved in the deals, and Brad Miller, who is a great all-around player when healthy, was probably the second best. Gooden will contribute when healthy (and who knows when that will be), while McCants and Nocioni are scorers but bring little else to the table.
Sacramento is building for the future and will be giving a lot of minutes to their younger players, so don't be afraid to lay the points against the Kings, even when the spread hits double digits. This team really is that bad.
Players Gained: Brad Miller, John Salmons, Tim Thomas, Anthony Roberson, Jerome James
Players Lost: Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden, Andres Nocioni, Thabo Sefolosha, Michael Ruffin
Outlook: The Bulls are primed to make a serious run in the Eastern Conference. As mentioned above, Brad Miller and John Salmons are both high quality players who were stuck on a very low quality team. Miller shines in an offense that can take advantage of his passing, and Chicago is that kind of an offense. The Bulls won't miss any of the players they parted with, as they either already had or have now acquired superior replacements.
I think the Bulls will be valued accurately after this trade on a talent standpoint, but keep an eye on the over/under for Chicago as they now feature a seriously high-powered offense. They were already giving up a ton more points than most people realized, allowing 102 points per game, and boast a 30-23-1 record going over the total. Scott Skiles' Bulls they ain't, and since they've improved their offense with these trades while also giving up a little on defense, you can expect their games to consistently go over the total for the next few weeks.
Players Gained: Rafer Alston
Players Lost: Brian Cook
Outlook: Orlando mortgages its future a bit by trading a first round pick for Rafer Alston, a mediocre point guard who turns 33 in July. On the bright side, he fills a huge void created by Jameer Nelson's injury, and his salary is bad but not horrible - $5 million a year and it expires in 2010.
In the real world, this is a move Orlando had to make in order to keep their championship hopes alive. In the sports betting world, this makes Orlando a team to fade, and here's why: Rafer "Skip to my Lou" Alston has always been overrated and overexposed because of his background as a street ball legend, while in reality he is barely passable as a starting NBA point guard. Granted, all he will be asked to do in Orlando is lob alley-oops somewhere in the general direction of Dwight Howard, but believe me when I tell you Orlando is a much inferior team with Alston at the helm. He's a terrible shooter and a below-average passer and decision maker, not qualities a team wants from the "quarterback" of their offense.
While the public will look at Orlando and see a team identical to the one with Jameer Nelson, I see a team that has lost a lot of consistency and will probably be laying more points in the betting marketplace than they should.
New York Knicks
Players Gained: Larry Hughes, Chris Wilcox
Players Lost: Tim Thomas, Anthony Roberson, Jerome James, Malik Rose
Outlook: In what is becoming an annual tradition, the Knickerbockers made some desperate trades on Thursday in a fruitless attempt to make the playoffs. The big difference this year is that they didn't take on any massive contracts and made two very low-risk, high-reward type deals. The irony of the Knicks' previously disastrous deadline deals is that it has put them so far over the salary cap that they can now actually pay other teams money in trades and STILL save money themselves on luxury tax savings! Maybe Isiah Thomas had a plan after all...
Let's get to what matters and figure out how the Knicks will be profitable. While many analysts are already smearing the Knicks for trading for yet another me-first ball hog (Hughes) and a forward with no jump shot in a tempo-oriented offense (Wilcox), I applaud New York for giving up next to nothing to take a chance on two talented players who were stuck in bad situations. I believe Hughes will be an excellent fit in Coach Mike D'Antoni's offense as he can both drive to the basket and hit threes, and he has the potential to cause a ton of turnovers on the defensive end.
I believe that public perception of the Knicks is so negative that even when they make positive changes, as I think they have done here, the public will react negatively. While I don't think New York has any chance to make the playoffs, I do think the trades they made improved their team more than the general public believes. Wait a few days for Hughes and Wilcox to get some practice time in, then find some nice underdog lines (2/25 vs Orlando looks promising) and look for the Knicks to cover.
Players Gained: Kyle Lowry, Brian Cook
Players Lost: Rafer Alston
Outlook: Houston made a great trade on Thursday, the rare kind of trade that helps them both in the present and in the future. As I stated above, Alston is not an asset to any NBA roster as a starting guard, and Houston did well to dump his salary and clear playing time for the young and promising Aaron Brooks.
Brooks' numbers as a starter are very similar to Alston's, with the difference being that Brook's skills should only improve while Alston's were already on the decline. Brooks' 88% free throw shooting belies his 40% overall shooting percentage, and he should improve both his percentage and his points scored as he acclimates to the starting role and improves his shot selection.
I think the Rockets' play had grown stagnant under Alston, and giving more playing time to talented, youthful guards like Brooks and Lowry may cause some immediate improvements in the overall effort given by Houston's entire roster. Additionally, Tracy McGrady being shut down for the season is really a godsend for the Rockets; he is a shell of his former self and Shane Battier is a much better all-around player and, unlike McGrady, a proven winner.
One of my favorite trends to take advantage of in the NBA betting marketplace is to look for teams that lose overrated, "big name" players and replace them with players with similar or better skills but zero name recognition. Houston fits the bill perfectly, and my advice remains the same: back the Rockets because the no-namers (Brooks and Battier) are actually better than the "stars" (McGrady and Alston) they've replaced, and the public won't realize this for some time.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Golden State Warriors: 4-3-1
What I said then (1/27): We are big fans of Golden State right now...
What I say now: Still improving, and now without Biedrins. Don't underestimate Ronnie Turiaf, however, as his defensive presence is stronger than Biedrins and Golden State doesn't need any scoring out of him.
Philadelphia 76ers: 4-2-2
What I said then (1/27): The 76ers are a better team than they’ve shown so far this year, so expect a big improvement in the second half as all the pieces begin to come together.
What I say now: Is Elton Brand's contract now the worst in the NBA?
LA Clippers: 2-6
What I said then (1/30): We don't see the Clippers making significant improvements [despite the return of Davis and Randolph] until Chris Kaman returns from injury, and recommend fading the Clippers until then.
What I say now: Kaman isn't expected back until late February and probably won't be at 100% for some time after that, so it's status quo for the lowly Clippers.
Milwaukee Bucks: 4-2
What I said then (1/30): Redd's absence will have a much smaller impact than the public will think...and that presents value in the sports betting marketplace.
What I say now: Ramon Sessions has been even better than I thought he would be, and in fact, even better than Michael Redd. At this point, the public is probably catching on, be careful in the future, but congrats if you listened to us two weeks ago!
New Jersey Nets: 1-2
What I said then (2/06): We highly recommend taking the moneyline rather than the points with the Nets, as they tend to either win the game or lose big.
What I say now: Keep following our advice. Since that article, the Nets beat the Nuggets by 44(!!) as 2.5 point dogs, then lost to Orlando by 17 (+13) and San Antonio by 15 (+5.5). Again, take the moneyline if you like the Nets or avoid them altogether.
Utah Jazz: N/A. The article only applied to Boozer's return, and we're still waiting for that to happen.
All in all, I would say that's a pretty nice start to this series. What do you think? Leave a comment or shoot me an email at Chris@SportsInsights.com!
I would be remiss if I didn't analyze the Timberwolves after Al Jefferson's season-ending ACL injury. Until the injury, the young big man was making Kevin McHale look pretty good, and that is not an easy feat. So what happens when you take a bad team and remove it's best player? I'd like to defer to one of my favorite sports cliches: "If we can lose with you, we can certainly lose without you."
First, let me say that I am aware that the Timberwolves had won 10 of 14 January games, but they have lost five of six February games, and only one of those losses was without Jefferson. Additionally, their 10 wins in January were not exactly what I would consider "quality wins." In fact, they only beat two teams with a winning record: New Orleans (without David West or Tyson Chandler) and the Phoenix Suns (by two points). Their true colors have started shining through against a tougher February schedule, and it's safe to say that their January record was more mirage than trend.
That's my objective view. We know that the general public, however, is not usually objective. Lucky for us, much has been made on "Sportscenter" of Minnesota's unbelievable "turn around" and the highly unfortunate timing of "Baby Al"'s injury. This may lead the casual sports bettor to overestimate the drop in quality the Timberwolves will experience as a result of the loss of Jefferson. He was (and is) an outstanding player, but he was never doing all that much to help the T-Wolves win, and Minnesota is actually quite lucky to have depth at the forward position, greatly diminishing the impact of his injury. Kevin Love has proven to be a capable rebounder, if nothing else, and will slide into the starting lineup in Jefferson's place. Ryan Gomes, another part of the Kevin Garnett deal, has shown to be a competent scorer and should make up for most of the scoring load that Jefferson was bearing. Add to the mix that Randy Foye, a highly-touted (and mostly underperforming) young player, will now have every opportunity to assert himself more as a team leader, and I think the actual impact of Jefferson's injury is marginal.
Keep an eye on our live odds page, and if you see Minnesota coming out as an even bigger dog than it was before the Jefferson injury, it may not be a bad idea to take the points and the over.
I wanted to touch on Indiana briefly this week after receiving a thought-provoking email from a reader named Jeff. Jeff wanted me to talk about the Pacers but I responded that there wasn't much to say: they play historically bad defense, their best players are constant injury risks, and I wouldn't touch them with a rival's bank roll. Well, maybe some rivals...
Jeff made an interesting observation, though, one that I hadn't realized and I wanted to put it out there for the rest of my readers. The Pacers have a habit of playing to their opponent; in fact, it's almost scary how formulaic they are. Take a look at their February schedule thus far:
Tue 03 vs Minnesota L 111-116
Thu 05 @ Philadelphia L 94-99
Fri 06 vs Orlando W 107-102
Sun 08 @ Washington L 117-119
Tue 10 vs Cleveland W 96-95
Wed 11 @ Milwaukee L 110-122
If you knew before hand that Indiana would be 2-4 after six games, what would the odds have been that Orlando and Cleveland would be those wins? 50:1? 100:1? Interesting stuff, but is this something you can use in the future? Sure, if you can stomach wagering on Indiana in the first place, that is. My recommendation is to take advantage of the nice underdog lines Indiana usually gets against the better teams in the league, and avoid them like the plague as favorites against teams they "should beat." That said, with Indiana's constantly-dwindling playoff chances and the iffy status of Danny Granger's knee, I still can't truly recommend wagering on Indiana very often. In fact, the only time I would really recommend the Pacers is if they come in as a Smart Money or Steam Move play to our Premium Pro members, and even then my hand would be shaking as I placed the bet!
On a final note, your feedback is greatly encouraged and appreciated. We are trying to get an idea of what our members enjoy reading, so please let us know how you think this article can be improved and what other types of articles you would like to see in the future.
Friday, February 6, 2009
New Jersey Nets
The New Jersey Nets seem to have a bipolar disorder. Tied for the last spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, the Nets certainly have a lot to play for down the stretch. However, looking at the team's last dozen games, the Nets had lost eight of nine games before winning their last three. Of those eight loses, only two were by five points or less, while two of the others were by twenty points of more. In a thirty-two point loss to the Celtics, Vince Carter and Devin Harris were benched for the entirety of the second half, a coaching move basically unheard of in today's NBA, and obviously something you never want to see if you're taking the points. However, the Nets have now won three in a row, Vince Carter has played through nagging injuries all season, they are in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race, and boast a 27-23 record against the spread, ninth in the NBA. So what is the enterprising sports bettor to make of all of this?
Our advice is simple - Proceed With Caution. The Nets have performed well against the spread to this point, but that's mostly because the public vastly underrated Devin Harris and Brook Lopez heading into the season. They are both now known commodities. However, Vince Carter is still somewhat overlooked by the public (culminating his missing the All-Star Game for the first time in nearly a decade), as he continues to play at a very high level and has played 75 games or more for three seasons in a row - the "injury prone" tag is outdated. All said, we think the Nets are still a little better than the public perceives them to be. Additionally, the Nets are one of the few teams to perform better on the road (13-12) than at home (10-15), making for an interesting dynamic in the sports betting world. Conventional wisdom is that the home team is given a few points in the spread, and it's hard to say how much New Jersey's Home/Away differential is affecting the lines. Recently, on the road to face the terrible Washington Wizards, the game opened as a Pick 'Em before moving to Nets minus-1. The Nets won by almost thirty points. Is that really the kind of spread a playoff contender, who plays better on the road, should be getting playing at Washington, the worst team in the league? It seems like the books are hesitant to accept that the Nets really do play better on the road, so if you believe the trend will continue, value exists.
On the contrary, the biggest factor that makes New Jersey a scary team to bet on, and why we advise caution, is their coach, Lawrence Frank. Frank is a big "effort" guy, and quickly sours on players that he perceives as not giving their all or taking plays off - possibly a result of spending four years under Bob Knight at Indiana. He also tends to give up on games early, preferring to bench starters to make a point rather than attempt the comeback. For this reason, we highly recommend taking the moneyline rather than the points with the Nets, as they tend to either win the game or lose big, sporting the third most losses in the Eastern Conference by ten points or more (only Toronto and Washington, the two worst teams in the conference, have more.)
The return of Carlos Boozer is a situation that has more layers to it than is immediately apparent. Boozer is an extremely talented player whose presence should immediately help the Jazz, but what about the collateral damage his return may have on the psyches (not to mention minutes) of the players around him? The Jazz went 8-4 in the twelve games that both Boozer and Paul Millsap, his replacement, were healthy. Millsap, however, was a different player then, coming off the bench and fulfilling the duties of a role player. After averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds as a starter since Boozer's injury, you can bet that Millsap doesn't look at himself as role player any longer. So the question is, what will have the biggest impact when Boozer returns to the court - the additional talent, or the additional ego?
The first thing to realize is that Boozer and Millsap are remarkably similar players. Both had outstanding collegiate careers: Boozer lead Duke to an NCAA Championship, while Millsap lead the NCAA in rebounding for a record-setting three consecutive years at Louisiana Tech. Both are considered undersized forwards: Boozer is listed at 6-9, Millsap at 6-8. Both were drafted in the second round of the NBA draft due to those height concerns, and both have blossomed into outstanding NBA players. Now, both of them desire to be the starting Power Forward for the Utah Jazz. While Boozer will undoubtedly reclaim his starting spot, we think Jerry Sloan, the longest-tenured coach in the NBA, will handle the situation well. Millsap could possibly continue to start at the small forward spot, especially since Andrei Kirilenko is out of the lineup. However, if he does end up coming off the bench, we think there will be enough minutes to make Millsap happy and allow him to continue to contribute at a high level. In this case, we believe talent will trump ego.
Knees are the biggest concern for the Utah Jazz and those looking to wager money on them; specifically, those of Deron Williams and Andrei Kirilenko. Williams played (and played outstandingly well) Thursday and his injured knee is not expected to be an ongoing concern, while Kirilenko is simply hoping to return before the end of the season. Knee injuries are tough because they affect lateral movement, which is very important for a point guard like Williams and an active defender like Kirilenko. Be sure to keep up with our injury coverage for updates on the two.
All that said, we like Utah to improve their play when Boozer returns. The Jazz are a team loaded with talent and coached by one of the best in the business. Don't shy away from backing the Jazz in the second half as they look like a team primed to go on a nice run.
We welcome your feedback - please direct any comments to email@example.com.
NEW - Sign Up for our Articles Newsletter to receive the Teams of Interest article in your inbox each week!
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Clippers: TBD, but Zach Randolph returned and the Clippers are 0-2 with him back, losing by 24 and 29 points...
Philadelphia: 2-2 since my first article, but 2-1-1 against the spread. Also, Brand is now out for the year. Check out our injury
coverage for up-to-the-second injury updates.
Golden State: 2-3 since my first article, but 2-2-1 against the spread.