The Rockets were slow out of the gate, and although they will bounce back and be fine, they really cannot afford to be leaving any cheese on the table in a brutal Western Conference. Those three early losses could potentially come back to haunt them in April, when they are scrambling to avoid a trip to the Bay Area in the first round.
Personally, it has been a successful start to the season gambling-wise, with the only really major disappointment for me being that it has taken just five games for me to accept that my Brooklyn Nets absolutely stink and are right there with the worst teams in the league. Thankfully our broadcast team is so good that I will keep watching, Ian Eagle is close to the best play-by-play guy in the league. I’m taking the overs on him and the entire Yes Network broadcast crew. The next time your team comes to Brooklyn to beat up on the Nets, be sure to give them a listen.
Anyway, here’s five lessons I have taken from the first week of NBA action:
1. Always trust your instinct and don’t overreact to small samples. It’s the end of Week 1 and a team you had pegged to have a great season has started 0-2 and is on the road against a team that on paper you are confident it should beat. You look at the odds on the game and the team is getting five points? Yes, it’s the classic bookmaker overreaction.
Often you will find that the market takes forever to “catch up” to a team. The Hawks were a prime example last season. They had a streak around Christmas where they covered the spread in 25 of 30 games. For whatever reason – probably due to the unglamorous roster and low-key coaching staff – the bookies were happy to keep laying them. And they got smashed!
Conversely, there are teams that the oddsmakers are really not sure on and are waiting on the results of a few games early in the season to point them in the right direction. Don’t be fooled by this; stick to your own ratings on teams. All sports have variance and a sample size of two or three games is not nearly enough to draw any strong conclusions.
The Milwaukee Bucks broke through for their first win of the season against the dreadful Nets a couple of nights ago. The Bucks are a team many people – including myself – had projected to win over 42.5 games this season and compete for a playoff spot. The Nets were a flip of the coin at 30 season wins. So after just three games, why in the world were the Bucks underdogs in Brooklyn?
Here’s a lesson within a lesson: Don’t let the lines scare you.
Every single logical way of breaking down that game had the Bucks as the team to beat. But for whatever reason – likely their sluggish start – bookmakers had jumped off the bandwagon after just one week.
2. Back-to-backs and road games have less bearing on outcomes early in the season. This is always an absolute gambling gem and again, it is simply about logical thinking. Players are fresh and rested, and there is still competition for roster and rotation spots. Optimism is high across the league and everyone is starting from the same position.
So, while you may normally make a 3-5 point concession for a team playing a back-to-back in the week after Christmas, when players are tired, banged up and in need of the All-Star break, you don’t need to make that same concession at the start of the season. These guys are enthusiastic and ready to rock!
Don’t be scared of taking teams on the second leg of a back-to-back or teams on playing on the road. The court is still 94 by 50 and the rim is still at 10 feet. They are professional athletes coming off a four-month vacation. They will be fine!
3. Andre Drummond is a beast, and the Pistons might slide under the radar. One of the players I marked to have a breakout season has started incredibly well. I love the fact that Drummond was at the Team USA camp in August and that he has Stan Van Gundy in his corner. Small sample size? Yes. But the guy is averaging 7.5 offensive rebounds per game!
This Pistons team doesn’t look overly inspiring on paper. For that reason, I think the bookies will be ready to lay them. However, they have brought in some savvy veterans to surround Drummond, Reggie Jackson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and look like a perfect under-the-radar team. Keep an eye on them at the spread in this first block of 20 games. They will be undervalued.
4. Bet against the Knicks while this early season hype still exists. The Knicks are hovering around .500 thanks to a surprisingly easy road win over the Bucks and pulling off a miracle road win over the Wizards. But rest assured this team is not good.
The fact they are the Knicks, however, means that there is enough buzz around them to create an edge in the market for us. They are chronically overvalued by oddsmakers mainly due to the fact that people love betting on them for some reason.
It might take until December or even later for the tide to start turning. Until then, I will be betting against them on most nights.
5. I’m still very confident about my NBA championship winner pick. I love what I’ve seen from the Thunder so far. Kevin Durant looks healthy, and that is all that matters.
Durant will take a while to completely find his footing, and they do have a new coach in the building. They have some kinks to iron out – witness Wednesday’s home loss to Toronto – but when they do, be ready to bet on them, because they will blow out some teams and easily cover the spread.
They have a tricky three-game slate coming up where they could easily drop games. Certainly factor that in, but don’t be too concerned by it.
Beginning Nov. 13, the Thudner have an incredibly easy two-week stretch that includes games against the 76ers, Celtics, Knicks, Pelicans, Mavericks, Jazz Nets and Pistons. I’m suggesting that they will enter December with a record something like 15-4.
They are young, fit, hungry and ruthless with a massive chip on their shoulder. Don’t sleep on the Thunder!
Jake Henson has worked with corporate bookmakers and professional gamblers and will be providing regular NBA gambling advice on Sheridan Hoops throughout the season. Follow him on Twitter and tweet him your thoughts on any betting market that tickles your fancy.