Welcome back for the first post All-Star break edition of the Gambling Guru column
Speaking of All-Star weekend, was Aaron Gordon not absolutely ripped off in the dunk contest? I might be speaking from my wallet but that looked like daylight robbery to me!
Greener pastures for Joe-Jesus
As predicted in this very column earlier in the season – Joe Johnson found his way onto a contender.
Surprisingly to me though, Joe chose a very marginal contender.
As it stands, there are only four teams that can seriously compete for the NBA Championship this year.
In order they are; Golden State, San Antonio, Cleveland and Oklahoma City (Yes, I’m still a believer). There’s a further three teams on the fringe that almost have a line put through them but for arguments sake they still have a ‘chance’.
The Clippers, Raptors and Joe Johnson’s Miami Heat.
Whatever his reasons for heading South, Johnson will play a major role in Miami’s playoff tilt. I’ve maintained that he can be a serviceable, physical defender when engaged and on a good team. Miami will bring the best out of him on that end.
Joe’s size and strength was the difference when the Nets beat the Raptors in the playoffs two years ago. He dominated DeMar DeRozan and any other wing the Raptors through his way. In the end, the Raptors actually had to play an aging John Salmons to battle with Joe’s domination inside.
Ding, ding, ding… The Miami Heat are a big chance to face the Toronto Raptors during the playoffs.
You’re a terrific operator Pat Riley.
*The Heat have covered the spread in each game since Johnson joined the team.
Who’s hot and who’s not against the spread
As is often the case as the season progresses, the ‘market’ has caught up with a number of teams at the spread (ATS).
Golden State got off to an absolute flyer, not only beating teams but covering the spread.
They’ve come back down to earth somewhat going 10-9-2 ATS since we last covered their success Gambling Guru: ATS Surprises, NBA Finals Prediction, Harden Back in MVP Zone
Miami holds the longest win streak in the NBA ATS currently with four consecutive ‘covers’.
Boston and Atlanta are right on their tail with three consecutive.
Chicago has lost its last four games ATS and are clearly struggling without their star player and leader in Jimmy Butler.
Utah is also struggling to cover, they’ve dropped their last six ATS. They desperately need Dante Exum to get healthy and find out where they stand at the guard position. He’s one of the forgotten players in the NBA. He’s still only 20 years of age!
Exum, Rodney Hood (who I like), Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert is a pretty solid NBA starting five. Perhaps only a similar ceiling to that of the 2014/15 Atlanta Hawks, though as it’s hard to imagine that core ever winning a championship.
Bold prediction going forward
We’ll end up having three point guards in the top 5 of the NBA season MVP voting.
Here are my assessments of the NBA MVP award;
1. Stephen Curry, **Considerable daylight** 2. Kawhi Leonard 3. Russell Westbrook 4. Damien Lillard 5. Kevin Durant
Welcome to the club, Damian Lillard!
Lillard has rocketed up the boards with some incredibly play and highly commendable leadership. Sheridan has him No. 2 is his latest rankings.
Dame Dollar is the real deal. He’s a fighter, a competitor and a winner.
Check out his 2015/16 season numbers so far compared to that of Derrick Rose’s MVP season back in 2011. It’s scarily similar!
Points per game
Assists per game
Rebounds per game
3PT FG percentage and attempts per game
Rose: 33% on 4.8 attempts
Lillard: 37% on 8.2 attempts
Rose: 44.9 on 19.7 attempts
Lillard: 42.8 on 19.9 attempts
Free throw attempts per game
Steals per game
Turnovers per game:
Portland have won eight of their past 10 heading into today’s showdown in Toronto with the Raptors. They look ever more likely to make it into the Western Conference playoffs.
Lets just let that sink in, a team that lost four veteran starters from 2015 in Robin Lopez, LaMarcus Aldridge, Wes Mathews and Nicolas Batum. All of whom are quality NBA players and the Blazers replaced them with unproven and inexperienced role players but they are still heading back to the playoffs.
Take a bow Coach Terry Stotts (Coach of the year contender), take a bow CJ McCollum (Most Improved Player candidate) and take a bow Mr. Lillard (top 5 MVP candidate).
My NBA plays for tonight: