With more than a half season of play behind us there is enough current history to provide objective data to identify which teams are truly capable of winning the NBA Title in June.
While the list of teams is pretty obvious, both from looking at Future Book odds as well as the standings, there are other measures that can be used as a gauge as to how realistic those teams’ chances might be.
One such measure is to look at how the top teams have fared against one another, or, perhaps more accurately, against the entire group of elite teams.
A means of evaluating how teams perform against different types of competition is to classify the NBA into several groups related to teams’ winning percentages.
While a somewhat arbitrary case can be made that the elite teams are those that are winning at least 65 percent of its games. Those are teams that are on pace to win 53 or more for a full 82 game season.
Currently seven meet that definition – Houston, Indiana, the L A Clippers, Miami, Oklahoma City, Portland and San Antonio. Not surprisingly, five are from the Western Conference and the two Eastern teams, Indiana and Miami, have been head and shoulders above the others since day 1 and appear all but certain to meet in the Conference Finals.
Through this past Sunday, as a whole, the league is 93-241 SU against this group of 7. That’s a SU win percentage of just 27.8 percent. The ATS mark is a bit better at 46.2 percent (153-178-3).
Of those 334 games only 35 were between two teams in that group of 7 with the number of games for each team ranging from a low of 6 (Miami) to a high of 12 (both Oklahoma City and San Antonio). There are four with winning records against their fellow “elite” teams with Oklahoma City having clearly the best record of 9-3 SU. The Thunder is also 9-3 ATS in those dozen games.
The other teams with winning records are Indiana (5-3 SU, 6-2 ATS), Miami (4-2 but 2-4 ATS) and Portland (7-4 SU, 6-5 ATS). Two of the three teams with losing records against the other elite teams are not too far below .500 with Houston 5-6 both SU and ATS and the Clippers at 4-6 SU (but 6-4 ATS).
The most disturbing data is that compiled by defending Western Conference Champion San Antonio who lost to Miami in seven games in last season’s NBA Finals.
Against the other 6 teams in the group of 7, the Spurs are a woeful 1-11 both SU and ATS! Their average scoring margin in those dozen games is a minus 7.7 ppg.
Looked at another way, San Antonio is 33-2 against teams winning less than 65 percent of their games. Age seems to finally have caught up to Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. The trio is averaging a combined 45 points per game but their effectiveness against the top teams in the NBA is not at the level of prior seasons.
It’s been nearly 15 seasons since the Spurs won the first of their four NBA Titles in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season.
Current odds at the LVH have Miami and Indiana co-favorites to win the NBA Title at 2 to1. Oklahoma City is next at 7 to 2 odds, followed by San Antonio at 10 to 1, Portland and the Clippers each at 15 to 1 and Houston the longshot of the group at 20 to 1.
Interestingly there is one other team held at odds of less than 15 to 1 that is not currently a member of the elite class. Golden State is currently priced at 12 to 1. The Warriors are not too far below that 65 percent threshold at 29-19 (.604) and are just 5-9 both SU and ATS against the top 7 teams.
Keep an eye on this group of 7 going forward and look for spots to play on them when they are underdogs against any of the other 23 teams. Such spots are likely to be on the road or in the second of back to back games against an opponent playing with rest.
Here’s a look at three games this weekend.
Portland Trailblazers at Indiana Pacers (Fri): Indiana is rested after having last played on Tuesday. This is the third game of a four game road trip for Portland who played on Wednesday at the Knicks and plays again Saturday at Minnesota. Both teams’ play has been choppy of late despite their excellent season to date records. The Pacers are likely to be favored by a couple of buckets or so. Indiana’s depth becomes more of a positive factor at this point of the season and they should be prepared for a motivated effort. INDIANA.
Golden State Warriors at Phoenix Suns (Sat): Phoenix has an extra day of rest. The teams start the week seeded sixth and seventh but separated by just one half game. Phoenix starts the week as the hotter team, winning 8 of it’s previous 10 games and 5 in row. The Warriors were 5-5 over their last 10. Phoenix is 16-7 at home this season and the winner of those 23 games has covered the spread in 21 of them, with one Push. Golden State is just 2-6 SU as road underdogs this season despite a winning road record overall. PHOENIX.
New York Knicks at Oklahoma City Thunder (Sun): Oklahoma City routed the Knicks 123-94 at Madison Square Garden on Christmas Day. The Knicks have played better of late and just had a modest 4 game winning snapped last Saturday by Miami. That loss ended a stretch of 8 straight home games and their 4 game win streak came in the role of favorite. OKC is 20-3 SU at home with 11 double digit wins. New York relies way too much on Carmelo Anthony whereas the Thunder is a much better balanced team and has played the tougher schedule. The price will be steep which suggests the best play will be on the total. OVER.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]