Welcome to another Gambling Guru column.
The last few weeks in the NBA have had plenty of intrigue, including the news out of Brooklyn that the Nets – my team – fired coach Lionel Hollins and re-assigned GM Billy King.
Chris Sheridan wrote a depressingly accurate Billy King obituary chronicling all of the disastrous decisions he made during his Nets tenure.
For the record, I’m not as mad with the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett trade as many fans, analysts and journalists were. It was aggressive and risky but it was a championship move; sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.
What I do know is that if you’re not first in this business as a big-market team you may as well be last. That team can within a few turnovers and a decent Jason Kidd play call of going back to Brooklyn to close out the series against LeBron James and the Miami Heat. How quickly we forget!
Hollins was not the right coach for the Nets. He never looked like the long-term guy in Brooklyn, so I’m OK with his firing. I don’t think Tom Thibodeau is the answer to replace him and I certainly don’t think Mark Jackson is the right guy to hire.
But owner Mikhail Prokhorov seems to be in no hurry to replace either Hollins or King, which leaves me with an awfully nervous wait.
Hot Teams Against The Spread (ATS)
Golden State (23-15-1): The Warriors are a must-watch every single night. Will Draymond Green’s huge season take MVP votes away from Curry and leave the door open for our man Kawhi Leonard, whom we found at 50-1?
San Antonio (28-12): Not enough superlatives in the basketball dictionary for the Spurs. Their strengths have been reviewed in some detail on this site.
Orlando (22-15-1): Victor Oladipo is a big favorite of mine and I love him back in the starting lineup. Despite some quality play as sixth man, Oladipo’s best work has been done as a starter.
New York (25-16): Ouch! The Knicks have served me up a dish of humble pie. I’ve been really impressed with how Derek Fisher has been able to get the best out of seemingly washed-up and or limited players. They are playing hard right now and being led well by Carmelo Anthony.
Each season, there are a number of teams who perform extremely well against the spread. These teams will more than likely be teams that have surpassed most preseason expectations and as such the market hasn’t caught up to their improved play. The Knicks fit that description right now. Anthony has been playing great and Kristaps Porzingis’ rookie season has been well-documented.
However, what’s even more impressive than the Knicks’ ATS stats this season is the performance ATS by the Warriors and Spurs. These teams were two of the favorites at the start of the season to win the NBA championship; we knew they were both going to be really good. The bookies knew, the fans knew, everybody knew. And yet somehow both teams have exceeded expectations – and the lines being set by oddsmakers.
To put the early dominance by the Spurs and Warriors in perspective, the Cleveland Cavaliers are one of the NBA’s best four teams by anyone’s measure calculation and despite a 27-9 overall record have a below average ATS mark (15-20).
The Return of the Stifle Tower
A little side note for those out there that play daily fantasy sports and bet the points totals in games. Rudy Gobert is back in the lineup for the Utah Jazz, who are a much better defensive team when he plays. with him back in the fold. The former first-round pick is averaging almost 10 points per game and will shoot at over 50 percent from the field for the entirety of his career.
2016 NBA Finals: Cleveland vs. One of the West’s Big Three
One thing I am very, very confident of is that the Cleveland Cavaliers are the best team in the Eastern Conference. It’s really not even close.
In Australia, we’d say there was daylight second.
The West, on the other hand has three powerhouses. Yes, three.
As I’ve said from the word go, any team that has a healthy Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka is going to be a big player in May and June. After a slow start, the Oklahoma City Thunder have won 17 of their last 21 games.
First-year coach Billy Donavan seems to have loosened up a bit of late as well, and as long as he continues to restrict Kyle Singler’s minutes – I just don’t understand why people think this guy is good – I like where the team is headed. I also think they have one more trade to make before the deadline. I do wonder if they are a candidate for someone like Kevin Martin?
The Spurs and Warriors pick themselves as legitimate contenders.
Consider Cavs-Thunder or Cavs-Spurs NBA Finals matchups as possible long-range bets.
James Harden will play his way into the MVP conversation again by season’s end.
Harden turned up slightly out of shape to start the season, and I think we all may have overrated his support cast in Houston a little bit.
The good news for Harden and Rockets fans is that the boss obviously lit a little fire in running mate Dwight Howard because he has been a different player since Christmas. Howard is still not dominant, but he is averaging 18.2 points in January, up from his season norm of 14.2 points on the season.
Harden averages seven more points per game in wins than losses. He is Houston’s primary scorer and ballhandler, and there are not many players in the league more important to their team than him. He also is shooting a slightly improved 44 percent from the field in January.
The Rockets are back above .500, and Harden is closing out games strongly; against defensive-minded Memphis, he was unstoppable down the stretch. I’m sure by season’s end, Harden’s name will be right up there with Leonard’s as the challengers to Stephen Curry.
Australia native 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.