About a fifth of the NBA regular season has been played as teams have played 15 games or so. A look at the standings shows a number of both surprises and disappointments.
The biggest early season surprise continues to be the Boston Celtics who have won 15 straight since their 0-2 start. More impressively, the Celtics are 14-1 ATS in this streak even though they have been favored in 10 of the 15. They staged an impressive comeback last Thursday in their 92-88 home win over defending champion Golden State and followed that win up with a win and cover at Atlanta two nights later in what might have been considered a letdown spot.
The Warriors have the second best record at 13-4 but they share that record with the Houston Rockets. The Rockets lead the Southwest Division by 2.5 games over 10-6 San Antonio as the Spurs are still without Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard, who have yet to play this season due to injury. That the Spurs have still started strongly is a testament to the organization and coach Gregg Popovich in fashioning a roster with depth and getting the maximum from that roster.
One team that has high expectations is Minnesota. With a roster that has some emerging great talent the Timberwolves, despite inconsistent play on a game to game basis, have also started 10-6 and have a one game lead over both Denver and Portland in the Northwest.
A team that may mirror Minnesota in terms of emerging young talent is Philadelphia. The 76ers are perhaps a season away from making a big breakthrough but their 8-7 start is encouraging. Joel Embiid is quickly becoming a force and the only true concern is his ability to stay healthy. If he can play 65 games or more this season, the Sixers might just make it to the Playoffs and achieve a winning record.
Detroit, at 11-5 and leading the Central Division, is also an early season surprise and the Pistons are tied with Toronto for the second best record behind Boston in the East.
Memphis, Oklahoma City and the LA Clippers are early season disappointments in the West. There really are no such disappointments in the East as teams such as Atlanta and Chicago were expected to struggle and indeed have started the season with 3-13 and 3-11 records respectively.
Aside from Boston’s outstanding 15-2 ATS record both Detroit and Philadelphia have rewarded their backers to the tune of 11-4 ATS marks (with Detroit also having one push). Toronto (10-6) and the New York Knicks (9-6) are also at 60 percent or better. Notice all five of these teams are in the Eastern Conference.
The best ATS team in the West has been Houston at 10-7. The costliest teams over the first month or so have been Dallas (4-11-2 ATS), Cleveland (5-10-1) both Portland and Sacramento (5-9-2), and Denver (6-10). Four other teams at exactly 40 percent are Charlotte, the Clippers, Memphis and Miami.
Small sample sizes to be sure but they can provide a gauge as to teams to watch in coming weeks to see if their results revert back toward the mean or continue in their upward or downward directions.
Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving Day holiday, here are previews of three games to be played over the holiday weekend.
Detroit at Oklahoma City (Friday): Detroit has been one of the pleasant surprises in the early season while Oklahoma City is starting to play well with the several key offseason additions. The Thunder had won 3 of 4 through Sunday although the one loss was a tough 3-point loss at San Antonio when OKC jumped out to an early 17 point lead.
OKC is off a Wednesday home game against Golden State while Detroit has been idle since Monday. Reputation often precedes reality and the Thunder should come as decent favorites in this spot, making for an attractive play on the improving visitors. DETROIT
San Antonio at Charlotte (Saturday): The Spurs continue to play well despite not being at full strength and their pedigree can never be overlooked when assessing their chances. Charlotte is struggling at 6-9 and lost at San Antonio by 8 points early this month, failing to cover as short 4.5-point road underdogs.
That loss was the start of a six game losing streak that was snapped last Saturday with a solid 15 point home win over the Clippers. Charlotte is off what should have been a tough game at Cleveland Friday night whereas the Spurs have been off since Wednesday. The price should be reasonable enough to back the rested and well prepared Spurs. SAN ANTONIO
Brooklyn at Memphis (Sunday): At 6-10 Brooklyn has played better than many expected at the start of the season while Memphis’ 7-8 start is disappointing. The Grizzlies are still noted for their defense but their play has been inconsistent at that end of the court. Memphis starts the week having lost four in a row, although only against Indiana were they favored.
Both teams last played on Friday and whereas Memphis is off until Wednesday the Nets play in Houston on Monday. Memphis has a number of matchup edges in this contest and although they would be solid favorites the Nets are the type of team they should handle easily. MEMPHIS