After five months of hearing about nothing but lockouts, salary caps and mediation, sports betting fans awoke Christmas morning to find that Santa had left the NBA and more importantly, NBA betting under their trees. But, like a toy that carries the “some assembly required” warning, these gifts also force recipients to do a little work before they can enjoy their benefits.
NBA betting practitioners, at least those who hope to make a profit during this hardwood season, will have to assess what effect playing a 66-game compacted campaign will have on individual teams. Trying to stay a sawbuck ahead of their wagering masses, sportsbooks already have made that evaluation, adjusting future book odds to reflect how playing three games in four nights and as many as five contests in a week will impact both on-the-court and at-the-windows performance.
Let’s look at some of the leading contenders and more interesting teams. (Opening and current future book odds in parentheses):
Miami Heat (5/2, 9/4): The Heat has a relatively young core in LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh that should be able to withstand the rigors of a compacted schedule, which explains why sportsbooks have lowered the price on Miami winning an NBA Championship this season. On a daily basis, you’re almost always going to have to lay points with the Heat, a reality which led to just a 51-50-2 mark against the spread (ATS) last season.
Los Angeles Lakers (6/1, 13/2): Not only did the Lakers fail to land Chris Paul but they also lost NBA Sixth Man of the Year Lamar Odom to Dallas, which, coupled with a weak bench could wear on the perennial contenders come next spring. No wonder sportsbooks raised the odds on a Lakers title. LA was only 41-51 ATS last season.
Chicago Bulls (7/1, 11/2): Adding 3-point menace Richard Hamilton to a deep and energetic cast that includes league MVP Derrick Rose has convinced operators of sportsbooks that if the Heat succumb to the pressure, the Bulls may wind up hoisting championship hardware in June. With a pointspread record of 56-41-1, Chicago was kind to NBA betting practitioners a season ago and could cover a lot of games going away this season, as well.
Oklahoma City Thunder (15/2, 13/2): Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook lead a contingent of young legs that should just be getting their second winds when many other teams are panting for breath in March and April. The Thunder certainly is a contender.
Dallas Mavericks (9/1, 11/1): Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and even Dirk Nowitzki are investigating AARP membership and the rest of the league figures to be gunning for the defending champions, reasons why enthusiasm for a repeat has waned among sportsbooks. Certainly, the Mavs looked old and tired in their Christmas day blowout to the Heat. Dallas was 60-40-2 ATS last season but harder times—for the team and for their betting followers—appear on the horizon.
Boston Celtics (12/1, 16/1): The Celtics are one of the few teams that have actually complained about the condensed schedule, a fact not lost on those who make odds. Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen all have seen better (and certainly younger) days. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Boston wore down by next spring.
New York Knicks (22/1, 16/1): The acquisition of C Tyson Chandler (from Dallas) secures a front line of Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony that may be the best in the east. If Baron Davis and/or Mike Bibby can contribute in the backcourt, the Knicks could win the Atlantic Division. Of course, at 48-36-2 ATS, New York was a winner for bettors last season.
San Antonio Spurs (20/1, 40/1): The Spurs were exposed as old and undersized in the playoffs so there’s little confidence that playing more games in a shorter period of time will be anything but detrimental to San Antonio’s chances for a turnaround. Tim Duncan is near the end of his career.
Los Angeles Clippers (50/1, 20/1): After managing just one winning season in the last 19 years, the Clippers are being mentioned as legitimate final contenders, which would mean, they would tale LA from the Lakers. The pairing of Chris Paul with Blake Griffin is expected to reap immediate dividends and the Clippers picked up some veteran leadership in Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler, as well. Be afraid, be very afraid.
In addition to playing more games in fewer days, the compact schedule will impact NBA betting in another way: travel. Savvy NBA betting pros have known for a long time that it’s not so much the away court as the travel involved in getting to that court that makes it difficult to win on the road. That factor will be exasperated this season. NBA betting fans should be looking to bet against teams crossing time zones and playing their third game in four nights.
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