The 2018-19 NBA season is barely three weeks old and already there are teams with cause for concerns given their expectations entering the season.
Note the choice of the word ‘concerns’ rather than the more potentially serious ‘alarm’ as there is plenty of season remaining and teams often take time to gel, whether there has been an influx of new players or the virtual intact return of veterans still working to regain their rhythm of last season.
Then, of course, there are the Golden State Warriors. The defending champions are off to a 10-1 start, which is tied with Toronto for the NBA’s best record. Perhaps even more impressive is that given their dominance over most of the past half-decade the Warriors have also been profitable at the betting windows, going a profitable 7-4 ATS. The Warriors are winning games by double-digit margins both at home and on the road. The margin at home is +15.5 points per game through six home games and through five road games their margin is +11.6 ppg.
The closest early-season challenger in the West has been Denver as the Nuggets are off to a 9-1 start. Both Houston and Oklahoma City are starting to play better following difficult starts while aging San Antonio, at 6-3, has been a surprise given their personnel losses and retirements over the past few seasons. Portland is also playing well and stands 7-3 both SU and ATS.
Milwaukee became the final team to lose its first game of the season but at 8-1 (6-2-1 ATS) is making known its intention to be in the conversation as the best team in the Eastern Conference along with Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto. The 6-4 start by Boston and Philadelphia’s 6-5 start cannot be really considered causes for concern other than from their backers in the Sports Books as the Celtics are 4-6 ATS and the 76ers are 4-7 ATS.
Washington remains the biggest early season disappointment with their 2-7 start, both SU and ATS. It’s a long season, but we do want to take notice of teams that perform according to expectations early and perhaps more importantly to those that start either greatly exceeding or falling short of expectations with an eye to finding explanations for those starts and looking to determine which starts are likely to continue.
Here are thoughts on three games this weekend.
Celtics at Jazz (Friday): Boston is playing the fourth of a five game road trip that began with losses at Indiana and Denver and was preceded by a Thursday night game in Phoenix. Utah last hosted Dallas on Wednesday and was still been seeking its first home win after an 0-4 start. The Jazz are 4-2 on the road. Traveling from the desert to the high altitude in Utah should be a negative in the second of back to back games for Boston especially with seven of its first 10 games decided by eight points or less including four straight prior to the game against the Suns. The preference will be to back the home team which should come in a slight favorite. JAZZ
76ers at Grizzlies (Saturday): Philadelphia has played inconsistent basketball in starting 6-5 with all six wins at home and all five losses on the road. Memphis’ 5-4 start is a surprise. The Grizzlies do have a pair of wins over Utah and their other wins have been over Atlanta, Phoenix and Washington.
Philly will be their toughest foe to date. The Sixers have lost to some very good teams on the road (Boston, Toronto and Milwaukee) but also to teams not expected to contend for the Playoffs (Brooklyn and Detroit). Despite the small sample size, Memphis has been dominant in their three home wins, winning by margins of 14, 21 and 12 points. As a potential home underdog, this is a team worth taking. GRIZZLIES
Bucks at Nuggets (Sunday): At 8-1 and 9-1 respectively, Milwaukee and Denver have been two very pleasant early-season surprises. Quick starts out of the gate do not earn you early entrance to the Playoffs. But it can serve notice both within and outside of the organization that, barring injuries or other unforeseen circumstances, the Playoffs are a realistic goal.
Denver’s 6-0 home start includes wins over Golden State and Boston, dealing the Warriors their lone loss to date. Milwaukee’s lone loss was at Boston, one of only three games the Bucks had played prior to games at Portland, Golden State and at the Clippers on Saturday. This is the final game of that four-game road trip and the Bucks could be a bit weary facing rested Denver, which last played Friday hosting Brooklyn. NUGGETS
Last week: 1-2