Three things to watch in NBA

November 23, 2021 08:04 PM

It was a wacky week in the NBA, folks. LeBron James broke a dude’s face open, home teams ran roughshod over visitors and Unders continued to dominate the landscape. Let’s dive in and see what we can learn.

Betting Report

Favorites: 26-24-1 ATS (Season: 145-113-2 ATS)

Total O/U: 22-30-1 (Season: 104-153-5)

Home-court advantage: + 3

After a chalky week in which favorites covered 69.1 percent of the contests, bettors saw a much more even split last week with a 26-24-1 ATS mark for favorites. That regression was expected, but what was not expected, at least by me, was the dominance by home teams. Through Sunday’s contests, home-court advantage peaked at + 4 before the Monday results brought that advantage down a point. This early in the season, some lopsided results will alter the strength of home court, but last week was nuts. Four teams won home games by 25 or more points, and overall home teams went 38-15 SU. Through five weeks, playing at home has been worth three points, and that advantage is something to note.

Totals continue to be one of the biggest stories of the season, and yet again we saw a low-scoring week. The average closing total last week was 214.5, but Unders won the week yet again at 30-22-1 in 53 games. In the first week of the season, the average total was 223.1. Offenses are getting more efficient, though. The average offensive rating in non-garbage time is up to 108.3, and the leaguewide average on 3-point shooting is up to 37.3 percent, according to Cleaning The Glass. We’re still far off the average offensive rating of 112.9 from last season, so it is probably time to stop predicting when this slew of low scores ends and go with the flow.


Wizards Wavering

After a loss to Charlotte on Monday, the Washington Wizards fell to 1-3 SU and ATS in their last four games. Over an 82-game schedule, a four-game slump is barely worth noting, especially when Washington is still 11-6 and in control of the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. However, there have been signs that the Wizards’ early success is fleeting, and these four games could be the start of their slide down the standings.

Washington is one of the most inefficient offenses in the league, averaging just 106.7 points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time, which is 22nd in the NBA. Shooting is a major problem. The Wizards take just 35.0 percent of their attempts from deep and shoot only 32.8 percent from the perimeter. Their leading shooter right now is Spencer Dinwiddie at 37.6 percent on 5.6 attempts per game, and behind him is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who is shooting 36.2 percent on 5.5 3-point attempts per game. Those poor numbers have led to this extremely inefficient offense, and their defense is starting to show its warts as well. The Wizards might allow only 104.7 points per 100 possessions, but opponents are shooting 66.9 percent within 4 feet of the hoop, and their half-court defensive rating of 92.0 is perfectly average. These statistics are indicators of a team playing above its head, and I suspect this is where the ground falls out from under Washington.

Rising Suns

Phoenix came out of the gate 2-3 SU/1-4 ATS, and it seemed that the magic from last season had all but disappeared. Three weeks later, the Suns look every bit like the team that made it to the NBA Finals last season. This month Phoenix is 12-0 SU/8-4 ATS with a + 11.8 net rating. The Suns have limited opponents to 100.9 points per 100 possessions during this run, and they are checking all the same boxes they were last season.

As of Tuesday, Phoenix has the second-highest rate of midrange attempts in the NBA and shoots 45.5 percent on those attempts. The Suns’ shooting is down slightly, but that is the case within the entire league, and they currently rank seventh at 37.1 percent from the perimeter. It is somewhat troubling that opponents are shooting 64.5 percent at the rim, but that was their statistical weakness a season ago. Phoenix is still one of the worst transition defenses as well, which does not bode well in the postseason, but this team is just as dominant as last year. The Suns’ power rating has shifted, which is why they are 1-4 ATS in their last five games, but there is still some value in the futures market. DraftKings still has them as the fourth choice to win the Western Conference at + 600 and + 1500 to win the NBA Finals. Those are odds worth investing in considering Phoenix is clearly the second-best team in the West.

The Worst of the Worst

As all bettors know, the point spread is the great equalizer. The point spread is why someone would consider betting on Orlando in a game against Golden State, but this season that has not been the case. By my ratings, the three worst teams in the league right now are the Rockets, Pelicans and Magic, and they have shown very little fight. They have combined for eight SU wins, and all three have cover rates of 38.9 percent or worse. November has been particularly bad for Houston and New Orleans. The two have a combined 2-21 SU/6-17 ATS record this month, which equates to an atrocious 26.1 percent cover rate. That is despite an average spread of + 8.5 for Houston and + 5.8 for New Orleans. Houston has been particularly terrible, failing to cover by an average of 4.8 points per game.

Bettors never want to regularly fade a certain team, as the betting market will adjust and there will be value on some of these bad teams, but that might not be true with the Rockets. New Orleans can at least point toward the return of Zion Williamson, which will help the Pelicans become more competitive on a night-to-night basis. Orlando has a bunch of injuries as well, including most recently the loss of Cole Anthony to an ankle injury. No savior is coming for Houston. Yes, Kevin Porter Jr. has missed three games, but Houston has a -8.7 net rating with him on the floor and he is averaging just 0.926 points per shot attempt. The Rockets are the lone team averaging under a point per possession. Should that persist through the season, they would be the first team since the 10-win 76ers in the 2015-16 season to do so. Last season Cleveland had the worst cover rate in the league at 35.2 percent, and right now Houston is on its way toward an even worse season.

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