Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thursdays with Chuck

Our first "short card" of the NBA season comes in day three, where TNT grabs the entire list of games and drops 'em softly into a pair of comfortable time slots.

Before jumping into the two games coming up, I want to take a quick look at last night's games, and see if we can't glean anything from them.

First, I think it's safe to say that the Cavaliers are suffering a very typical early-season letdown. After last year's success, it's pretty easy to slip into complacency, figuring you can coast your way into the playoffs, then really turn it on. Well, after falling at home to the rejuvenated Celtics, the Cavs got worked over by a wildly underrated Raptors team. Cleveland will get it turned around, and we'll be right there waiting to capitalize on an impending string of ATS and SU wins.

Second, the Celtics came to play, and don't seem to discriminate between competition, laying an unbearable beating on the Bobcats, who had played the Celtics bucket-for-bucket over the last 3 years. Not this time, and I apologize for a terrible call on Charlotte there. All the numbers pointed to Charlotte playing a good game, but Boston's defense was suffocating, and part way through the 4th quarter Charlotte was shooting 28% FOR THE GAME!

Third, Orlando hit the ground running. I'm not sure anyone on this planet could have predicted 16 threes in their home opener, and I'm not sure anyone in this galaxy could have predicted monster numbers from White Chocolate. These aren't excuses, just some quick notes on why the games listed went either the way we expected, or exactly the opposite.

Really, what it came down to was that I had the right call on about 5 games I did not play, and that's all part of Opening Week. I promise to sort out the false positives from the 24-karats and we'll gas up the car moving forward.

Now, to get right down to it.

Sports Wagering

Spurs/Bulls - Last night I pointed out that San Antonio was favored by 3.5 on the road in Chicago, which seemed pretty low, and suggested taking a few bucks and putting it on the Spurs under the assumption the line would move. Well, it's 5am in a few places (namely, Vegas), and the line is already up to 4. I figure this line will continue to move to 4.5 or 5, with San Antonio's vicious beatdown of the Hornets inspiring confidence in the betting public. Is this a case of the line being too good to be true? At first glance, yes. Right now, I'm looking at playing the Bulls when the line gets up to a higher value, but at 4, this game is a no-play. In terms of the total, we're looking at 193, which seems a tad low after the score that the Spurs rolled up last night. I would avoid this total, since we've got conflicting feelings about the Spurs. They've been a slow, defensive team for the last 10 years, but last night drained buckets like a drought was coming.

Nuggets/Blazers - How about the mad respect Portland is getting in this one? Portland favored by 7 at home with a total set at 198.5. Considering the Nuggets were the second best team in the Western Conference last year, and beat Utah SU and ATS last night, getting a large chunk of points would seem to make this selection pretty easy. That being said, like with the Spurs game above, I feel like this one is less obvious than people realize. Portland is a wildly dynamic club, and played much better in their opener than a 9 point win would indicate. Why would oddsmakers set this line, knowing full well that the Nuggets are going to be getting all kinds of love from the public? Well, Portland is a damn fine home team, and gets the Nuggets on the second half of a back-to-back. Obviously, having the second half at sea level is better than the other way around, but this game shapes up similar to the Cavs road contest in Toronto yesterday. Denver played their asses off to take down Utah, then had to immediately hop a jet to the Pacific Northwest to take on the third or fourth-deepest team in the West. I lean Portland to cover, and I lean to the Under with Portland trying to take it possession by possession.

Fantasy Sports

We didn't really get any information out of another dimension last night, but we did see a few values that you might be able to acquire via trade if you're willing to make a few deals. A lot of those guys were big men...
  • Marcus Camby - Another draft day "avoid" for a lot of guys, but if you were (un)lucky enough to snag him LATER than his draft slot would have indicated, you're probably giggling right now. Today is not the day to try to trade for Marcus -- wait until he tweaks an ankle, or chips his glass jaw, then grab him. When he's healthy, which he will be for 60 games this year, he is the most valuable Center in the Fantasy NBA, bar none. But, the 22 games of injury means temper your expectations.
  • Al Horford - A very quiet clobbering of the Pacers last night. Horford is going to be pushing double-double on a nightly basis, and he gets better every single night. He can probably be had for a reasonable price right now.
  • Brook Lopez - Much like Camby, now is not the time to try to pry Lopez away from whatever owner happily drafted him. He was a fantastic surprise last night, contributing right off the bat, and with the Nets in ultimate rebuilding mode, Lopez is going to be a focal point of both the offense and defense, as they look to construct a hovel around Lopez and Devin Harris. Wait until he hits a short unproductive stretch, perhaps a few games against Boston and/or Orlando.
  • Marc Gasol - He might be a free agent in your League, and he's worth a look. Hell, he's the only Grizz that did anything at all last night against Detroit, which bodes well for games when his teammates actually deserve to be defended.
Those big guys are all fine and dandy, but the player I've been waiting to discuss all night deserves his own paragraph. Many of you remember my intense hatred for one particular man, having been fooled into picking him up (and subsequently dropping him) at least 10 times over the last 3 or 4 years, and each time telling myself "never again."

Last night AND the night before, in a series of miraculous events, Shane Battier, despite playing alongside the likes of Trevor Ariza, Luis Scola, Aaron Brooks, and Chuck Hayes, found a way to do ABSOLUTELY nothing Fantasy-relevant, yet again. I'm reminded of the article published last year by a so-called expert that called Battier a "No-stats All-Star." What this article failed to note was that in order to take on such a worthless, pitiful role with a team, you have to be playing WITH ALL-STARS! When Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady (yes, he's a born loser, but he put up numbers), and Ron Artest are combining for 60 points, you have every right to avoid touching the basketball like it's got H1N1. When your starting Center's first name is Chuck, and last name is not Barkley, you NEED to contribute.

Houston beat an awful Golden State team last night, and it took a comeback to do it. If Battier doesn't learn how to take a shot every once in a while, this team will struggle to break 85 points against any team in this League.

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