Wednesday, October 28, 2009

NBA Daily, Two-Ways

The NBA is back, and not a moment too soon!

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It's time to calibrate the old fantasy sports thermometer, and start tracking some key trends. These notes, as you may recall, will be your one-stop-shop for all the fantasy and wagering information your heart desires. With the NBA Season just getting started, it seems like as good a time as any to try a new format. Each and every day (or as close to that as possible), we'll post some wagering trends and thoughts, as well as fantasy advice, with both listed under their respective headings to assist readers in jumping to the section they prefer. And away we go!

Sports Wagering

There wasn't a great deal to LEARN from day one, though it certainly reinforced the notion that the basketball feels more like a brick to even seasoned NBA veterans at the start of the year. How about that -- 4 games, 4 unders.

Today is game one for a lot of teams, so there's still one night to take advantage of opening-night jitters and grab some Unders before the lines tumble in the afternoon. You saw it yesterday -- the Lakers-Clippers game dropped SIX full points from 208 to 202, and the total didn't even get close to that, at 191. Still, if you're a sharp bettor, and have accounts at multiple books, you can jump on some of these Unders early and set yourself up for some enormous middles! Hell, you could have done that with one of the sides last night, too.

Despite action on the Blazers, that line came down from 10 points to 8.5, and lo and behold, Portland somehow managed to hang on and win by 9. If you had the notion that sharps would be on Houston +10, you could have grabbed it, then hedged with Portland -8.5 for a bankroll-boosting middle-winner!

Now a quick glance at some of tonight's matchups...

Sixers/Magic - The Sixers open their season with a road contest in Orlando against the defending Eastern Conference champion Magic. Orlando is favored by 9, and the total is set at 195.5. This total is too high for game one. None of the four games yesterday reached 194, and this game is going to be just the same. Philadelphia has Brand back, so they'll spend some time tonight trying to get their stocky PF back into the flow of the offense. They're a fast team, but they'll find easy buckets hard to come by against Dwight Howard and his retooled squad. As far as the Magic go, this team can really put up big numbers, but they rely HEAVILY on the 3-point bomb, the perfect way to ensure a low-scoring home opener. It's hard enough to make a free throw with butterflies on opening night, try a 24-footer. I also like Philly to keep this thing within 9 points.

Pacers/Hawks - The best question for either of these teams this season is which version of Josh Smith will show up...two years ago, Smith showed signs of becoming a better version of Shawn Marion, only to regress hugely last year, and closed the preseason this year with a 1-for-10 free throw shooting dud. The Hawks have a lot of pieces, and should be a pretty solid playoff team once again. The Pacers were one of the worst defensive teams in the league last year, but signed (overrated, in my opinion) playoff pest Dahntay Jones to try to help annoy the opposition into missing shots. When this team is healthy, they can play with anyone in the East, and have a solid track record of playing BETTER against the best teams. A total of 206.5, and a line of Hawks -8.5 has me leaning to the dog and the under, though the stronger of the two leans is to Indy with the points.

Cavs/Raptors - Toronto is getting 5.5 points at home with a total of 190.5. The Cavs are coming off a tough loss to the Celts last night in their home opener, and Toronto is jazzed up to show their fans they've made drastic improvements. I don't see the Cavs opening the season 0-2, but at the same time, Toronto poses some huge mismatches for Cleveland, especially in the middle. Andrea Bargnani can drag Shaq out of the paint, clearing the lane for Raptors scorers like Chris Bosh, Hedo Turkoglu, Jose Calderon, and so on and so forth. Of course, coming back the other direction, Bargnani is going to get tossed about like a 3rd grader. Believe it or not, this is the one total I think we might see go Over, though only with mild confidence. In terms of the side, if Cleveland had WON last night, I think they'd play a little flat; coming off a loss, LeBron is going to be irritated for 48 minutes, and I would not be surprised to see him log close to 44 or 45 minutes in this one to make sure the Cavs win. Will they cover 5.5? I just don't know.

Bobcats/Celtics - The Celtics are playing their back-to-back at home against the possibly-relevant Charlotte Bobcats. Charlotte has an absolute TON of young talent, though the move to trade Emeka Okafor for Tyson Chandler is still a bit of a head-scratcher. The only logical conclusion is that they wanted length, since Chandler is going to disappear without Chris Paul actin' the alley to Chandler's oop. Still, Raymond Felton, D.J. Augustin, Gerald Wallace and Boris Diaw make this a decent team, but a team looking for a doctor. Raja Bell is out; Flip Murray is out, and Tyson Chandler is playing, but is easing back into shape after offseason ankle surgery. Is all that enough to push Charlotte behind by 12 to 15 points? I doubt it. This line opened at 184.5, with Boston favored by 10.5, but looking back, this Charlotte team plays the Celtics very, very tough. They lost 2 of 3 last year, but all 3 games were close, with 2 going into OT. I would lean to the Under and the dog, once again, in this one.

Knicks/Heat - This is a game that really baffles my crystal ball. We know D'Antoni will try to keep things at a breakneck pace, but both of these teams are just packed with question marks. At least with Miami, you know what you're going to get from D-Wade. A total of 207.5 and a line of Miami -5 looks pretty accurate to me. I see the Knicks keeping this thing close until the 4th quarter, when Miami pulls away for a 7 or 8 point victory. Still, I'd avoid this game until we know a bit more about the personality of each of these teams.

Pistons/Grizzlies - A total of 191.5, and Memphis getting 2.5 points at home, very interesting. Both of these teams had some changes in the offseason, though the Pistons went through what we might call a complete overhaul, signing a pair of scorers, and presumably shedding their previous slow-the-game-because-we-can't-keep-up skin and donning a cloak of pull-up-3's-and-triple-screen-midrange-jumper offense. Ben Gordon is a great addition, the kind of firepower that only a handful of teams can bring off their bench. Charlie Villanueva, I'm not quite sold on. The triumphant return of B-b-b-b-b-ben Wallace might turn out to be a great move, as he's looked motivated in the preseason, and apparently just missed Auburn Hills. The Grizzlies are the same young underachievers as last year, but fresh for 2009, they added a clubhouse cancer. I think Detroit wants a good season more than Memphis, and with defense well ahead of offense this early in the year, I expect the Pistons to cover 2.5. I think that total is pretty accurate, though I would lean a point or two to the Under.

Kings/Thunder - Yikes! Is someone going to watch this game? The Thunder are 7.5 point favorites at home, so they're definitely getting some respect this year, and a lot of that has to do with their young nucleus. Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook form a dynamic trio, and with a top pick in this year's draft, they added James Harden. Still, with all the talent on both sides (Sacramento boasts Kevin Martin, Jason Thompson, Spencer Hawes, and rookie Tyreke Evans), this game should be pretty unbearable. Someone has to win, and it'll likely be the home team. The total of 205 seems awfully high, though the Kings play zero defense. I think this game goes Under the total, with the Thunder surprising some folks with a marginally decent defensive effort. Since none of the 17 viewers post in this forum, I'll just tell you now the final score is going to be 102-96, Thunder win.

Hornets/Spurs - 186.5 and 8.5. That's a pretty hefty portion of the total to give to the dog, but amazingly, I agree with oddsmakers on this one. The Spurs got better, and got healthy, adding Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess, and more importantly, got Manu Ginobili back after a season of nagging injuries. The Spurs are going to be one of the best teams in the NBA this year, boasting a veritable treasure trove of athletes, all of whom understand how to play team defense. The Hornets, meanwhile, acquired an infirmed Emeka Okafor, and otherwise, stayed mostly the same. The Spurs know what everyone else does -- this team is Chris Paul against the world. Can he score 80 points by himself? I doubt it. I'd avoid this game because of the big line, but I think this might be a situation where the fave covers. I think this game goes Under, as well, since I don't see the Hornets breaking 85.

Nets/Wolves - A pretty high total of 198 for this one, and the Wolves favored by 2 at home. I have to admit, I'm just not sure how Minnesota plays this year. Al Jefferson is a huge threat, so they'll stay in just about every game against marginal competition like the Nets, but do they have the gumption to win? Both teams are in rebuilding mode, and both teams are dealing with some unfortunate preseason injuries. Devin Harris has been slowed by a groin strain, Kevin Love is out for 2 months with a broken left hand, and Jonny Flynn is sick. So, where does that leave us? I'd say it leaves us with Minnesota taking their home opener by more than two. I'd lean to the favorite and the Under.

Jazz/Nuggets - One of the best matchups of the night, and one featuring a stratospheric total of 209.5. The Nuggets are favored by 6.5 points, as well. I'm very curious to see how the Nuggets play this year. Will they continue to improve with Chauncey at the helm, or will they take a step back after some tough playoff losses to the eventual champs? For Utah, there's the Carlos Boozer drama -- how long he'll be a Jazz, will he truly give full effort, blah de blah. I think this game comes down to the fact that the Jazz still haven't shown, at any point in recent years, that they can beat good teams on the road. I have to lean Denver in this game, but because of opening night jitters, 209.5 seems way too high.

Rockets/Warriors - The Rockets nearly backdoored the Trailblazers last night, losing by 9 after cutting into a lead of nearly 20. Tonight, they get a slightly less troublesome matchup with the chaotic Warriors. A franchise in disarray, I'll be surprised every time the Warriors win, and yet, Golden State is getting 6.5 points. The total here is set at 216 because the Warriors are going to run, run, run. I'm pretty close to saying "I lean Under", but with the scariest word in Oakland right now being "defense," almost anything can happen. This is a game I wouldn't touch unless someone was funding my wagers.

Suns/Clippers - How about THIS? The Clippers are FAVORED at home, against the Suns. True, it's just one point (with a total of 223), but when was the last time the Clippers were favored against Phoenix? I think the Clip-show is getting too much credit. Sure, they kept last night's game with the Lakers close, but that was mostly because the Lakers were so far out of sorts they couldn't sustain any sort of run...not to mention Phil Jackson donned his miner's cap, pickaxed his way to the deepest caverns of his bench, and played all 5 of those guys TOGETHER. Shannon Brown, Sasha Vujacic, Luke Walton, Josh Powell and D.J. Mbenga, at the same time? I felt like I was watching the NBA Summer Leagues, but this was a real game, that really counted! In any case, the Clippers did less to keep last night's game close than the Lakers, and in that respect, this seems like a fine time to grab the road team with a point. Let's keep a close eye on line movement, since I wager the public is going to come rushing in on Phoenix, as well, and we might be able to set ourselves up for a middle. The total of 223 seems pretty high, but with Phoenix, you just don't know.

Fantasy Sports

Presumably, you have all had your drafts, if you're in a League, so an extensive analysis of the so-called "O-ranks" of every NBA player won't be terribly helpful here. That being said, I do feel like there are a few players that can be picked up well after their supposed draft slot, and should provide value well above what's expected.
  • Elton Brand - Brand is back to getting zero respect, almost as though he played a full season and stunk last year. But wait just a moment, didn't he just get hurt and miss 2008? Absolutely. When Brand is healthy, which he should be this year, he's a first or second-round fantasy talent, combining absurd rebounding numbers with blocks, scoring, and often a pretty solid FG%. People not autodrafting may avoid Brand until after his slot, and if you play your cards right, he can be acquired cheap even after draft day.
  • Manu Ginobili - I love the upside for Manu this year. Another injury case from last year bumped all the way down to late 3rd round or early 4th, depending on league size. The Spurs have a few younger players they can turn to, so Manu still won't put up 36 minutes a game, but as you may or may not recall, his prowess in steals, 3's, FT%, and just general scoring at the right time has been known to boost Manu up to the teens in rank.
  • Greg Oden - Portland's version of the man-child is listed WAY down in the "late round dregs", but he's the starter this year for a loaded Blazers squad, and he'll be asked to rebound and block. He could be this year's Ben Wallace-2003 edition. Hell, last night we got 12 rebounds and 5 blocks! Yeah, 7 ungodly turnovers sullied the otherwise juicy defensive line, but with Oden patrolling the paint, he'll see minutes in the high 20's this year, and will pull down some box scores that could singlehandedly win you boards and blocks.
This is an extremely important time of year to keep your eye on box scores. There are going to be some guys that jump out early and deserve your attention, and we'll be watching for them here, as well.

Until tomorrow!

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