Every day as a sports bettor is an opportunity to learn and improve, and last night in the NBA was another great learning experience for the market as a whole. There were teams that had peaked in terms of their market power rating, lines that had moved on missing players that are statically negative players for their team and just some good old regression to the mean.
Let’s start with the Washington Wizards’ 103-100 win in South Beach over the Miami Heat. When it was announced that Russell Westbrook would be resting the market responding quickly, bumping Miami from -8.5 to -9.5 within seconds. Westbrook is a star in the NBA, but statistically he is not worth a point to the point spread. According to Cleaning The Glass, the Wizards are outscored by 7.8 points every 100 possessions when Westbrook is on the floor. When he is off the floor, that net rating shrank to just -0.3 points every 100 possessions. Remove the name, and just use those statistics: Is that player worth anything at all?
That overreaction did not just create value on the point spread, but value on the moneyline as well. The implied probability of Miami winning that game jumped from 77.8 percent to 81.8 percent on the news! Never mind the fact that this Miami team came into Wednesday with the worst net rating in the league over its previous seven games: How could you realistically say their chances to win this game improved by 4 percent? It was a lesson for the market to look past the names, and to look at the statistical value of a player instead.
Bettors also learned a lesson when it comes to buying on teams at the peak of their market value, or selling when a team is at its lowest point.
Houston is a fantastic example of buying high. The Rockets went into Wednesday night on a 6-0 SU/ATS run, fresh off of a beatdown of the Thunder team they were facing for a second time in as many games. The betting market drove the number for Houston from -5.5 to -7 at the close even though John Wall, their second-leading scorer and assist leader, was out. Sure enough, Oklahoma City jumped out to a first quarter lead it would never relinquish and Houston saw its winning streak evaporate. This was a Rockets team that was + 3 in Detroit seven games ago, laying seven without its best player and the market learned not to overvalue a team just because it had won a couple of games.
The lessons were plentiful yesterday in the association. New Orleans blew out Phoenix in a massive buy-low spot as a home underdog, and the Timberwolves covered a bloated number against an overvalued Spurs team. We always talk about making your own power ratings, but pay attention to how the market power rates these teams as well. There is some real value to be had when bettors do.
With that in mind, let us look ahead to a Thursday night loaded with fantastic action. That includes a juicy playoff revenge spot for the Denver Nuggets, which is where we will begin …
Note: * indicates that team is on second leg of a back-to-back.
Updated injury reports can be found here.
Updated odds for every game can be found here.
Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers (-5.5, 219.5)
If you have been reading these notes regularly, you know how much I respect the Nuggets and what they have done lately. Denver is 9-3 SU/8-4 ATS in its last 12 games with a defense that is continuing to improve. Over those 12 games, the Nuggets are allowing 108.2 points every 100 while scoring 116.5, and as a result they have the third-best net rating in the league over that stretch (+ 8.4). It is a team that the market, I believe, has not caught up to yet.
Los Angeles is playing its first game since a seven-game road trip that resulted them going 5-2 SU but 3-4 ATS. It was a road trip that saw the Lakers’ offensive efficiency drop off to just 1.080 points per possession, something to monitor as we go forward. However, this meeting is all about the number. Los Angeles has been overvalued by the market -- not a surprise as they are a public team. The Lakers are 12-14-1 ATS on the season and a paltry 3-5 ATS when playing at home. Add in the favorable revenge angle for Denver and it seems like we have a live underdog at Staples Center tonight.
Utah Jazz (-7, 224) at Atlanta Hawks*
We might be reaching the peak of market pricing for the Jazz, which have not covered their last two games. I am probably lower on the Hawks than most, but for the market to move 1.5 points on this line is questionable. Also questionable is the status of Trae Young, who is dealing with a calf contusion. Bettors can gamble on the status of Young here and take 8.5 with the hopes that he will play, and the number will drop, or be stuck with 8.5 on a line that will surely move at least a half-point if he is confirmed inactive.
Portland Trail Blazers at Philadelphia 76ers* (-9, 227.5)
This a game that I think is easy to scratch off as a bettor. Damian Lillard is questionable with an abdomen injury that he even admitted is limiting his performance. Philadelphia is on the second leg of a back-to-back, and is coming off of a poor second half in which it was outscored 69-54 by Charlotte and blew a cover. The 76ers are on a decent run as of late, going 7-1 SU/5-2-1 ATS in their last eight games with a + 6.8 net rating. If Lillard is not going to play, we can expect this to reach 10 or higher as neither Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons is in danger of missing this game.
Golden State Warriors at Dallas Mavericks* (-4, 225.5)
The Mavericks finally snapped their losing streak yesterday, beating the Hawks 122-116 on the road. Dallas’ offense finally broke out of its funk, averaging 1.210 points per possession but still struggled from deep (13-of-40, 32.5 percent). The market seems to be keen on the positive momentum for the Mavericks, and has since pushed this number back up to Dallas -3 in most shops. I view these games as taking place on neutral courts, so I have a hard time believing this version of Dallas is three points better than Golden State. The Warriors are coming off of a home loss to Boston, but still have a relatively clean injury report outside of James Wiseman. The Warriors seem to be in playable territory here.