In an attempt to ostensibly limit, though not eliminate, tanking, there has been a change in how the odds for the NBA draft lottery are distributed.
In the past, the team finishing with the worst record in the NBA had the highest percentage chance of getting the top draft pick with the odds decreasing as you went up the standings. For the past few seasons the team finishing last would have a 25 percent chance of getting the top pick with the second and third worst teams having 19.9 and 15.6 percent chances respectively.
For this season’s lottery the bottom three teams will have the identical 14.0 percent chance of getting the top pick. The fourth worst team will have a 12.5 percent chance and the fifth worst team at 10.5 percent. The odds then drop steadily to the team with the 14th worst record having odds of just 0.5 percent.
One factor I like to utilize in my handicapping is to regularly monitor how the worst teams in the NBA fare against the best teams in the league, and vice versa. In general, the worst teams will usually be significant underdogs in such matchups.
I classify the 30 NBA teams into four groups based upon winning percentage. In the top group are teams that have won at least 65 percent of their games and the bottom group is comprised of teams winning less than one third of their games.
Using the standings through Monday’s games the top group consists of four teams – Milwaukee, Toronto, Golden State and Denver. The bottom group also has four teams – New York, Phoenix, Cleveland and Chicago.
As one would expect, the bottom group has a terrible record when facing the top group. In fact, those four teams are a combined 6-34 SU when facing the NBA’s elite. They are still only a combined 17-22-1 ATS. Of the four, only Phoenix has been profitable, going 8-4 ATS when facing the top teams.
Obviously the four elite teams have the reverse record when facing the bottom four teams. But here is where we may find a clue that could point to some issues for how the defending champion Warriors may fare in the playoffs.
Overall, the Warriors are 45-21 SU and 26-39-1 ATS through Monday. In their nine games against the bottom four teams they are a very strong 8-1 SU and 7-2 ATS with an average scoring margin of plus 16.3 points per game. They have feasted against the weakest of the weak.
Against the rest of the league Golden State is 37-20 SU and 19-37-1 ATS. Their average margin in those 57 games is just 3.5 ppg. It is also worth noting that against the other three members of the top group (Denver, Milwaukee and Toronto) the Warriors are just 3-4 SU and 4-3 ATS with a slim average margin of plus 1.4 ppg.
Despite the small sample sizes the best member of that group has been Milwaukee. The Bucks have gone 6-2 both SU and ATS with an average margin of plus 6.5 ppg. The Bucks split their two games with the Warriors, winning by 23 on the road and losing by 10 at home when the teams met in November and December.
Both Denver and Toronto have losing records both SU and ATS against this elite class of teams.
It’s no surprise that despite Golden State the odds-on 2-5 favorite to win the NBA title the Bucks are the second choice at 6-1. Milwaukee is also the 7-5 favorite to win the East. Could they pull off what would be a major upset by dethroning the two-time defending-champion Warriors?
Their lack of recent playoff success may work against the Bucks as they’ve been eliminated in the opening round in each of the past two seasons. They’ve not won a playoff series since the made the Eastern Finals nearly two decades ago, in 2000-01.
But should they get by their opening-round foe this season – likely the seventh or eighth seed – the Bucks might be poised for a long run, and perhaps a date with Golden State in mid-June.
Here are thoughts on three matchups for this weekend:
Lakers at Pistons (Friday): It’s become clear that the Lakers will almost certainly miss the playoffs, thus ending LeBron James’ streak of having played in the last eight NBA Finals. Detroit is in a contentious battle to make the Eastern playoffs, currently sitting seventh.
The Pistons are off a Wednesday game in Miami whereas the Lakers played Thursday night in Toronto. Detroit seeks to avenge an earlier 13-point loss at the Lakers in early January. PISTONS
Warriors at Thunder (Saturday): These teams have not met since they played twice in Golden State in the first month of the season, both of which stayed under the total. Each team won once with OKC covering in both.
Both will make the playoffs and the top-seeded Warriors have just a 4.5-game lead over the fourth-seeded Thunder. Neither team has been in great form over the past two weeks and they are a combined 14-5 to the under since the All-Star break. UNDER
Nets at Clippers (Sunday): Both teams are seeded sixth in their respective conferences as of Tuesday but neither is comfortably in the playoffs.
The Nets are in the third of a seven-game road trip and six of the games are against teams currently holding a playoff spot and the seventh is at ninth-seeded Sacramento. Adding to this tough scheduling dynamic is that Brooklyn played Saturday night in Utah.
The Clippers are playing their best ball of the season, covering seven straight and nine of 10 through Monday while winning five straight and eight of the 10. CLIPPERS
Last week: 3-0