The figurative midpoint of the NBA season, the All Star break, is still two weeks away. This season’s festivities will take place in New Orleans with the All Star game to be played on Sunday, Feb. 16.
The literal midpoint of the season has already passed with teams having now played at least half of their 82-game schedule with some teams having played as many as 46.
This is a good time to review the first half of the season and take a look at those teams that have been pleasant surprises or major disappointments. Although this is often a subjective exercise, there are ways to make an objective study of the subject using data available from prior to the start of the season.
Perhaps the best data to use is about which money can be won or lost, specifically, the projected season win totals for each team.
Using that data the team that clearly has been the greatest overachiever has been the Phoenix Suns. Projected to win just 21.5 games at the LVH the Suns have already eclipsed that total with their record of 24-18 through last Saturday.
Philadelphia has also done better than expected, winning 14 games despite a full season projection of just 17 expected wins.
Portland is right up there as well. Projected to win just 38.5 games the Trailblazers were 33-11 through Saturday and on a pace to win 61 or 62 for the full season.
Using those projections and the current records of the teams, only five others figure to exceed their expected wins by at least five games if they continue to play at the same pace they have shown thus far. Those other teams are Charlotte, Indiana, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Toronto.
In contrast to the eight that are on pace to exceed their projected win totals by five or more games, there are 10 more currently on a pace to fall at least five wins short of their projected totals. Those teams are Brooklyn, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, the LA Lakers, Memphis, Milwaukee, New Orleans and New York.
Of this second group the current form of both Brooklyn and Denver suggest they are turning things around and might approach their expected totals with better play over the second half of the season. The balance of the season does not appear as bright for the other eight on this list.
Here’s a look at three games to be played this weekend.
Memphis at Minn (Fri.): Both teams have disappointed thus far but Memphis seems to have turned things around more than have the Timberwolves. The Grizzlies had won 7 of 8 games through Saturday to improve to 22-20. They are also a bit of an oddity in that they have a losing record at home (12-13) but a winning record on the road (10-7). Minnesota starts the week 21-22 and has been within a game or two of .500 for almost all of the past two months.
Memphis is playing with revenge for the only prior meeting this season. Minnesota won by 8 at Memphis in mid-December as 3.5 point underdogs. The T-Wolves are likely to be favored by a similar number on their home court. Minnesota’s Kevin Love has been bothered recently by ankle issues and he has been injury prone over the past few seasons. Both teams are currently out of the Playoffs, seeded ninth and eleventh and making this an important game.
Note: With their current much better play and ability to win on the road there is more reason to be enthusiastic about the underdogs. MEMPHIS.
Brooklyn at Indiana (Sat.): Despite losses in 2 of its last 3 games, Indiana still has the best record in the NBA (34-9). As noted above, Brooklyn has been an under performer over the first half of the season but seems to have found the right combinations since the calendar turned. After losing 6 of 7 to end 2013, the Nets have started 2014 on a 10-1 SU run, going 9-2 ATS. That despite the season-ending loss of Brook Lopez.
First year HC Jason Kidd is learning on the job – one made more difficult by the many new faces on the team, including ex-Celtics Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Of all the teams behind Indiana and Miami in the East, the Nets have the talent and the Playoff experience of those two ex-Celts to represent a potential challenge come late April. Thus far the Pacers have won and covered all three meetings with Brooklyn, the latest two of which came in that late December swoon.
Note: This is a chance for the Nets to make a bit of a statement not to write them off just yet. There will be value with them as they hosted Oklahoma City on Friday night while Indiana has been idle since Thursday. BROOKLYN.
Orlando at Boston (Sun.): This is the only NBA game scheduled for Super Sunday and, as such, should enjoy a large viewership, especially here in Nevada with many Super Bowl props tied to various aspects of this game, both related to team results and those of individual players. Boston won the first two games against the Magic this season but Orlando won the most recent meeting two Sundays ago.
Two of the three games were decided by exactly 2 points with each team winning once. Both teams continue to struggle in what are seasons of transition (Boston) and building (Orlando). As such it’s difficult to expect consistent play from either. Boston is likely to come a small underdog of no more than a couple of baskets. Considering the state of the teams both are a respectable 9-14 at home.
Note: Orlando is a woeful 3-19 SU on the road and 9-12-1 ATS but are on a current 0-8 both SU and ATS streak away from home. BOSTON.
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]