This phrase is uttered ad nauseam at the beginning of an NBA campaign when discussing early successes and failures. With such a short sample size, it is hard to decipher which teams experiencing success are authentic and which teams falling flat are just working out the kinks. Diving into some of the numbers around these teams can give bettors an idea which teams are likely to regress and which should stay the course.
Quite a few teams have been surprising early in the season, both positive and negative. Minnesota got off to an undefeated start through three games, Washington has covered each of its first three contests, and Indiana has been a massive disappointment, dropping its first three games. However, three teams to focus on this week will cover both sides of the spectrum.
The Hawks were a preseason darling for a lot of people, and many expected this team to make a run to the postseason. Through the first week of the season, Atlanta is making those people look pretty smart. The Hawks have covered all three games on their way to a 2-1 SU record. So why are they on this list? That would be because
of their defensive play. Heading into Tuesday, the Hawks were ninth in the NBA in defensive efficiency, allowing just 96.8 points per 100 possessions. This is a team that allowed 110.2 points every 100 possessions a season ago. There is always room for improvement, but a massive leap like this seems unsustainable. One look at their opponents, and there seems to be an answer. Detroit, Orlando and Philadelphia are all seemingly challenged offensively early this season. The Pistons rank the highest among those three in offensive efficiency (102.8), but Orlando and Philadelphia are averaging well below a point per possession. As a result, not only have the Hawks’ defensive numbers been inflated, they’ve started the season with all under results on totals. Bettors should expect both of those statistics to regress to the mean.
Golden State Warriors
After a pair of lopsided losses to open the year, Golden State rebounded nicely in a big win Monday night at New Orleans. The Warriors dropped 134 points, averaged 1.222 points
per possession and shot 41.2% from deep against the Pelicans. However, do not think all is fixed with Golden State. New Orleans still averaged 1.140 points per possession (114.0 points extrapolated over 100 possessions) and shot 71.8% at the rim. The Warriors have a real problem on defense. As of Tuesday, they have an NBA-worst defensive rating of 126.2 and a -16.3 net efficiency differential. That’s with an offensive rating of 109.9, which is ninth best in the league. The argument can be made that the Warriors have faced two opponents that are extremely competent on offense in the Clippers and Pelicans. But Oklahoma City ranks 24th in points per possession on offense (1.029), and that team dropped 120 points while averaging 1.125 points per possession over the weekend. The most troubling aspect of the Warriors’ defensive play is that in all three key areas of the floor (rim, midrange, 3 -point), they rank 28th or lower in opponent shooting percentage, according to Cleaning The Glass. It seems Golden State’s defensive struggles are here to stay.
Who in the world saw this coming? Sure, Phoenix is only 2-2 SU as of Tuesday, but this team has been insanely competitive. Not only did the Suns cudgel Sacramento 124-95 to open the season, but they pushed Denver to overtime on the road, beat the Los Angeles Clippers outright and fell to Utah by a single point. This adds up to a perfect 4-0 ATS record to start the season. Being perfect against the point spread is almost impossible, but do the Suns have the tools to be a winning team ATS this season? Let’s address the defense first. That will likely be unsustainable for Phoenix. Three of its four opponents (Denver, Utah and Sacramento) are averaging 1.007 points per possession
or fewer on offense. The lone team the Suns have faced that is adequate offensively, the Clippers, scored 122 points on an average of
1.163 points per possession. The jury is still out on Phoenix’s offense, but early returns don’t show the ability to continue its 11th - ranked offense. Look no further than when the Suns faced two top defenses in Denver and Utah and averaged just 1.009 points per possession or fewer. Phoenix is clearly better than it has been in years past, but expect both top-10 offensive and defensive ratings to regress to the mean.