by Chris Arena, www.sportsinsights.com
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.