How luck factors into NBA betting

November 16, 2021 09:14 PM

Another week is in the books in the NBA, and as we approach a month of play it is important to realize that what we have seen from teams to this point is close to what they are. There are a few exceptions, like Milwaukee, which has yet to play fully healthy. But a team with an apparent weakness through 15 games will likely struggle with that weakness to some degree all season.

However, a few teams have been lucky or unlucky through the first month. Let’s discuss three of those teams and how to handle them from a betting perspective.

Betting Report

Favorites: 38-17 ATS (Season: 119-89-1 ATS)

Total O/U: 26-28-1 (Season: 82-123-4)

Home-court Advantage: + 2

Unders maintained their edge through the first month with another low-scoring week, but offenses are starting to find their footing. The average offensive rating in non-garbage time is up to 108.0, according to Cleaning The Glass, a 0.3-point increase from the previous week. Meanwhile, the average total last week was 215.1, which is 1.1 points lower than the average total the week before and a full nine points lower than the average total in the 2020-21 season. I am going to call my shot right now: This week will go to the Overs.

Home-court advantage is holding steady at two points, so keep that in mind as we move into the season. The larger the sample size, the more solid that home-court number becomes, and bettors have seen some solid results in favor of teams playing on their own court. The interesting development this week is the strong results for favorites. Favored teams covered 69.1 percent of their games last week and are covering at a 56.9 rate for the season. Individual games have a ton of variance, but with about 100 possessions in a game, often the best team will win. However, it is unusual to see them cover at such a high rate. It’s something to monitor as we move into December.


Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are one of the more overvalued teams in the league through one month. After demolishing Houston on Monday night, Memphis improved to 7-7 SU/8-6 ATS but is on thin ice and on the verge of a swoon. The Grizzlies head into this week 29th in defensive efficiency in non-garbage time, allowing 113.4 points per 100 possessions. Their net rating is the seventh worst in the NBA at -4.3, and their -3.6 point differential is the worst of teams in control of a top-10 seed in the Western Conference. Opponents have killed Memphis with dribble penetration, taking 33.3 percent of their attempts within 4 feet and shooting 63.8 percent on those attempts. As a result, the Grizzlies have been mauled from the corners, where opponents have shot 50.0 percent, the worst mark in the league, and Memphis is 29th in opponent 3-point shooting at 40.5 percent. Those are not the signs of a team capable of long-term success.

Bettors who have paid attention to these issues have benefited, and I have taken my shots against this team as well. They covered in one of the worst beats of the season Nov. 8 against Minnesota but then dropped the next three by an average of 15.3 points per game before topping Houston on Monday night. Their schedule this week is not daunting by any stretch, but there is value in betting against this team, which has been overvalued by the betting market. The Grizzlies opened as favorites over Phoenix in a game they lost by 25 points, they laid 4.5 against a Charlotte team I power-rate as identical to them and they opened -6 over Minnesota in that affair last week. Look to play against the Grizzlies and their defense until the market adjusts.

Indiana Pacers

A very poor fourth quarter against New York on Monday snapped a 6-1 ATS run for Indiana, but bettors should be monitoring what is going on with the Pacers. Despite a 6-9 SU record, Indiana has shown some life. It owns a point differential of + 0.1, and its + 0.5 net rating ranks fifth in the league. Those are not eye-popping statistics, but they represent a team that is better than the results have indicated through 15 games. According to Cleaning The Glass, the Pacers have won 1.8 fewer games than a team usually would based on their efficiency differential, the second-worst win differential in the NBA. This adds up to the Pacers being undervalued by the market, and that is represented by that seven-game run they were on before falling to the Knicks.

So how do bettors take advantage of this? The obvious answer is to play Indiana until we see a market adjustment in its power rating. They are in Detroit on Wednesday, and bettors should be looking out for some relatively cheap prices. Three nights ago the Kings were four-point road favorites against the Pistons. Should the Pacers, a team I power-rate stronger, be laying anything less than that, it would be a play for me. There are also future props to consider. Indiana was a small favorite to make the postseason before the campaign began, but DraftKings now has the Yes at + 160 to make the playoffs. That is solid value on a team that is improving and better than what we have seen.

San Antonio Spurs

The worst team in Cleaning The Glass’ win differential metric is the San Antonio Spurs. Their win differential of -2.3 signifies a team that is playing way below its floor, and I would agree. San Antonio is giving up just 107.1 points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time, the 10th-best defensive efficiency mark in the league. The Spurs have limited opponents to 62.4 percent at the rim and 34.1 percent from the perimeter, both statistics well inside the top half of the league leaders, and their 31.9 percent on non-corner 3-pointers is seventh in the NBA. The Spurs are also the best transition defense in the NBA, allowing 101.1 points per 100 plays in transition and 0.1 points added per 100 possessions. These are signs of a legitimate defense, but their offense is holding them back.

San Antonio is scoring just 106.7 points per 100 possessions, and its half-court offense is putting up 91.5 points every 100 plays. Both of those efficiency marks rank below 19th in the league, and the Spurs have been held to under a point per possession in three games this season. Unlike the Pacers, the Spurs should not have postseason aspirations, so there is not much value in playing anything on the futures board. San Antonio should be handled on a night-to-night basis. Support them on nights when the market is undervaluing them, like when they were home underdogs last week to Sacramento. Regardless, bettors who took the Spurs to go Over their win total of 29.5 should feel relatively content with the numbers they are putting up. It’s clearly better than the dregs of the Western Conference, and DraftKings has even adjusted its in-season win total to 32.5 shaded to the Over.

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