NBA Betting: Analyzing This Season’s Surprises and Disappointments
With well over a third of the NBA season gone by, bettors are getting more and more data upon which to build projections and picks. As we enter 2020, let’s take a look at a few surprises and disappointments from the season so far, and whether the New Year will bring about a change.
The Hornets Are What We Thought They Were
While a 4-3 SU start is not exactly amazing, Charlotte’s start was still one of the surprises of the NBA season. Projected to win 23.5 games this season, this young club was 13-17 a full thirty games into the season. At the time, Charlotte was on pace to win 35 wins, well over the preseason win total figure. The truth in the numbers, however, was that this could almost certainly not last. Win or lose, the Hornets’ net rating has consistently been in the bottom five league-wide. When Charlotte was 13-17, the team’s expected Win-Loss Record was 8-22. This was easily the biggest discrepancy in the entire league. The Hornets currently have played the second-easiest schedule in the NBA. The road is going to get tougher.
Indeed, a correction already appears underway. Charlotte has lost five games in a row, going 1-3-1 ATS in that span. The team has a brutal net rating of -10.1 over that period. Now, a New Year’s Eve game against Boston looms and January promises to be difficult. Games against top opposition such as Dallas, Indiana, and Toronto are followed by a tough four-game west coast road trip. Over its next 11 games, Charlotte faces seven teams in the top 12 in net rating. Four of those (Boston, Dallas, Denver, Milwaukee) come against top six opposition. There’s a brutal back-to-back in Phoenix and Portland, followed by a game in altitude against the Nuggets.
There are signs that revelation Devonte’ Graham, front-runner for Most Improved Player is wearing down. Over his last eight games, the point guard is shooting 38-for-141 from the field, good for 26.9%. His shooting from distance in that span has fallen to 29.7%. He has taken on an unexpectedly massive role for this rebuilding Hornets team, and is 36th in the league in usage rate. While giving Graham all he can handle may help his development for the future, January promises to be a substantial grind for both the young prospect and the entire Hornets team.
The Mavericks are Here to Stay
Many NBA bettors were surprised to see a significant jump in Dallas’ win total future before the season began. A projection of 40.5 was a decent increase from the total of 36 heading into 2018-2019. Also, it represented an eight-game projected improvement from last year’s 33 wins. Given questions surrounding Kristaps Porzingis’ health, and the efficacy of a roster made up mostly of role players, this was a difficult number to be bullish on, in what appeared to be a very competitive Western Conference.
But, a funny thing happened on the way to the bank. Luka Doncic went from Rookie of the Year, to genuine MVP candidate right from the jump. Doncic is having arguably the greatest age-20 season in league history, flirting with averaging a triple-double, and blowing the roof off the Mavericks’ ceiling in the process. Dallas has the best offense in the NBA and that is not a fluke. Head Coach Rick Carlisle has settled on a rotation, and he’s built a beautiful scheme to take advantage of Luka’s many gifts. Dallas is 21-11 on the season, and if Doncic can stay healthy, the over is as close to a lock as there is in this league.
Still, there could be even more to come from Dallas from a betting perspective. The team is a solid 18-14 ATS, the sixth-best mark in the league. However, Dallas also has an average cover margin of +5.0 points, the best in the entire NBA. An upcoming six-game home stand against Brooklyn, Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, the Lakers, and Philadelphia looks to be a solid time to stay on the Mavericks. Doncic has returned to full health and while the team is only 6-10 ATS on its home floor, Dallas actually carries a positive average cover margin of +1.7 points in those games. Amazingly, there could be more to come from Doncic and the revitalized Mavericks.
Fortress South Beach
No team has exceeded expectations quite like Miami this season. The Heat came into the year a slight favorite in a terrible Southeast Division, and their win total of 43.5 was not exactly eye-popping. Yet, behind an extraordinary 15-1 start at home, the Heat are 24-8 and on pace to break the 60-win mark. Typically, that sort of record would seem impossible for a team with a net rating of only +4.5, good for ninth in the NBA. However, it stands to reason that teams like Miami could well have a very bloated win total, given the brutally imbalanced nature of the Eastern Conference. As of writing, the sixth-seed in the East, Indiana, is itself on pace to win 52 games. Four teams in the East have yet to win more than ten games. Miami could easily be closer to 60 wins than 50 by year’s end.
The win total seems done and dusted, but there’s still no reason to hop off of Miami just yet. The Heat are the second-best ATS team in the NBA, and at home are 11-4-1 ATS, with a solid cover margin of +5.7 points. Miami just reeled off three straight quality home wins against Utah, Indiana, and the 76ers, but failed to cover the line in all three games. This isn’t much cause for concern when betting on a team with a net rating of +11.0 at home. If anything, the run of ATS defeats may help keep the betting lines in check. Miami is only at home three times between now and January 15th, but they should all be solid spots. Miami will have three days off before facing a depleted Raptors squad on January 2nd, then they draw an early start against a traveling Portland team on January 5th. The Blazers will be square in the middle of a five-game east coast trek. On the 12th, Miami get the Spurs, after two full days off. It should take more than a few close losses against the line at home to back away from what’s happening on South Beach this year.