Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Friday, April 18, 2014 at 4:00 PM
I had originally scheduled a baseball article for this spot. But, I’ve been hearing and reading so much basketball misinformation about NBA defenses heading into this weekend’s playoffs that I decided to come back with a special report clearing up the mistakes you may have been exposed to.
Here are a couple of quickies:
*The Western powers DON’T play soft defense. Many play at faster that average paces, which creates the illusion of soft defense. The media tends to celebrate many defenses in the East (where play is slower and there are fewer great scorers) while blasting defense in the West (where play is faster and there are many star scorers). When you adjust for context, you see how strong many of the Western defenses truly are.
*San Antonio DOESN’T play mediocre defense and win with great ball movement on offense. Sure, they have great ball movement. But, their defense is terrific! On a per possession basis, the Spurs rank #4 in the league. Their starting unit actually grades out #1 defensively of all regularly used five-man units! Coach Popovich knows how to keep his best players fresh. And, fresh players play great defense.
Let’s look at the defensive rankings in “efficiency,” which is points allowed per possession entering the 2014 NBA Playoffs. You won’t be surprised to see Indiana and Chicago at the top. They’re known for playing great defense, and get the benefit of playing in the weaker Eastern Conference. Look at who else is in the top eight.
NBA DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY (top 8)
Would you have guessed Golden State rated that well? Their fast tempo hides strong per-possession defense. Would you have had Oklahoma City and the LA Clippers in the top eight? They may play high scoring games against each other because of a fast pace and great athleticism. They both get more stops than you realized. How about Charlotte?! You may not have seen them play on TV all year unless you get League Pass. The Bobcats have one the third best defense in the Eastern brackets.
NBA DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY (the rest)
Portland and Dallas are really in tough shape in the West, bringing average or worse defenses to the party in a conference that’s absolutely loaded with offensive talent. Brooklyn has played better than that ranking in the second half of the season. But, they’re still off the pace defensively of what some of the East elites are capable of.
To me, the single most important issue in the whole playoff brackets may be the caliber of defense that the Miami Heat bring to the table. Their stars appear worn down from the grind of reaching the finals three years in a row. They were clearly slacking off on defense through the regular season compared to past standards. Will they kick things up a notch in an effort to earn their three-peat? Or, is that notch gone…with a defensive unit that’s no longer top 10 in the league? I’m telling you now…that’s going to become a big story in May and June at the very least.
It’s very important that serious handicappers understand the REALITY of basketball rather than being swayed by nonsense they hear from the media. Students here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping are constantly encouraged to do their own work to avoid this very issue! I trust you’ve been doing that all week. I hope today’s look at defensive rankings will help you see the coming challenges even more clearly as you try to pick game-by-game or series winners.
If you’d like some help finding the best plays on the board this weekend and beyond, you can always purchase my BEST BETS right here at this very website with your major credit card. Questions can be answered by one of my representatives in the Vegas-Sports-Masters office at 1-888-777-4155. You can also ask about baseball packages when you call.
We’ll be mixing basketball and baseball through the coming weeks. Coursework will largely be on a “read and react” basis so we can stay on top of developments from a handicapping perspective in both sports. I’d argue that “read and react” is more important during the NBA Playoffs than any other sport because of the adjustments coaches are forced to make throughout a series. The best-of-seven format really allows you to profit significantly if you can get in synch with a particular matchup. Seeing an NFL playoff game clearly gets you one team side winner. Seeing the ebb and flow of an NBA playoff series clearly can get you up to seven winners just in that matchup.
The Dean of Sports Handicapping KELSO STURGEON is here to remind you to keep your eye on the ball! That will make you a big money winner from now through the championships in June.