With the Super Bowl in the rearview mirror, the NBA can now take center stage, and it’s the perfect time for bettors who have not been plugged in to check out our coverage here in Point Spread Weekly and online.
This week we’ll discuss the stubbornness of the betting market, my willingness to adjust as a bettor and the evolving Most Improved Player Award market.
Hot Hornets Teaching Bettors Lessons
Many know of my affinity for the Charlotte Hornets, but this story goes beyond my win total bet or their current 10-8 SU/13-5 ATS run. I’m just really confused. On Monday the Hornets were playing host to the Houston Rockets, who were missing Christian Wood and resting John Wall and Eric Gordon. When the injury report was announced, the market moved from Houston -3.5 to -1.5, but there was an eventual push to make the Hornets a 1.5-point favorite. However, in the hours before tip-off, there was buyback on the Rockets, and Houston eventually closed as a 1.5-point favorite despite missing three starters. The Hornets won by double digits, but this is a normal phenomenon when it comes to Charlotte.
On Sunday, the Hornets closed as home dogs to the Washington Wizards. In games against Miami, Milwaukee, Indiana and even Orlando, the line moved in favor of Charlotte’s opponent. It’s perplexing to see a team consistently show the market that it is wrong, but the bettors refuse to budge off their stance. The Hornets are not a perfect team, but they’re much better than the betting market is giving them credit for. Having said that, we must keep an eye on the power rating for Charlotte now. The time is coming where the market will swing, and at that time we’ll pounce and play against our beloved Hornets.
Milwaukee Just As Deadly As Before
A big part of my handicapping process is using statistics and analytics to make informed wagers, but at times I rely on them too much. It is a weakness that has burned me a few times, and I believe I was burned by it again with Milwaukee. When I saw the Bucks sitting 17th in defensive efficiency and 30th in opponents’ 3-point shooting, I assumed this team was poor defensively and that the market was potentially overvaluing the Bucks due to previous seasons. I thought my theory was proven true when they suffered back-to-back losses to Charlotte and New Orleans, as they allowed a 126.0 defensive rating in those contests.
However, I was wrong. The problems with the Bucks did revolve around the perimeter, and they still do allow perimeter shots at a higher clip than an average NBA team, but I failed to recognize the somewhat random nature of 3-point shooting. Opponents were not going to shoot 42% from deep against the Bucks all season, and I was right. Since those losses to the Hornets and Pelicans, this team is 5-0 SU and ATS with a + 20.6 net rating. Opponents’ shooting over this winning streak is at 33.7%. The Bucks have improved to eighth in defensive efficiency over this time as well. I was wrong about Milwaukee, which is just as much a contender in the East as Brooklyn and Philadelphia.
Injuries Change The Award Market
The Rockets’ Christian Wood suffered an ugly ankle injury last week that will sideline him for the foreseeable future. The Celtics’ Jaylen Brown has been missing time with a knee injury as well, and this potentially opens the race for the Most Improved Player Award. FanDuel lists Jerami Grant as the even-money favorite, and rightly so. Grant has been spectacular, leading the Pistons in scoring while posting the highest usage rate of his career. However, do the injuries to Wood and Brown open the door for some midrange contenders?
A possible contender is Raptors center Chris Boucher. He has doubled his scoring output from 6.6 points per game last season to 13.8 this season. Over his last 13 games he’s averaging 16.1 points while shooting 60.3%. Boucher has improved his points per shot attempt from 1.174 to 1.309 this season as well, and with him on the floor the Raptors are outscoring opponents by 5.2 points every 100 possessions. These are all massive improvements, and they paint the picture of someone who has a much better chance than the 4% implied probability of his 24-1 price to win the award.