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Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Thursday, February 11, 2016 at 1:00 PM

The annual NBA All-Star Break starts tomorrow. That makes this a good time to review the biggest market surprises in the “first half” of the season (though it’s really more like 65% the way the league structures its schedule). Next week, I’ll talk about the market dynamics of the “second half” of the season which often sees a lot of teams skew in one direction or another.

Even though the Golden State Warriors don’t have the best record against the market thus far (an excellent 31-20-1 ATS), I personally think that their run at history is the biggest surprise of the 2015-16 campaign. They have a legitimate chance to top Chicago’s 72-10 mark from 20 years ago. This against a Preseason Over/Under in the 59-60 range. Remember when all the pundits were saying the Warriors would drop off this year because they enjoyed such good luck last season? Yeah, right!

San Antonio is also a big surprise, even though everyone knew they’d be great. In fact, the Preseason Futures had the Spurs priced around 7/2 to win the title, slightly better than the rough composite of 9/2 posted for Golden State. Right now, San Antonio is 34-19 against the spread. And, a 45-8 record has them on pace to fly past their Preseason win projection of 57 to 57.5. (Golden State had the higher Over/Under, but the Spurs were slightly more favored to go the distance in the playoffs). Amazingly, just betting these two obviously great teams would have yielded a 64-38-1 record (taking out the one game they played against each other).

A unique circumstance where known favorites were actually the biggest surprises because they turned out to be much better than expected.

Other “good” surprises compared to market expectations:

*Boston is 32-23 straight up, and 31-23-1 against the market, vs. Preaseason expectations that had them just over the .500 mark for the season. Nice young team with a great young coach.

*Toronto is on pace to go about 10 wins over their expectation, while posting a 29-23 ATS record so far. Will be interesting to see if they can scare Cleveland in the playoffs.

*Portland is playing .500 ball when they were supposed to collapse (28.5 and 53.5 was the Preseason expectation). The Blazers are 30-24 ATS. Nice little hidden gem.

*Denver is 30-22-2 against the spread.

*Orlando is 29-22-1 against the spread.

On the other side of the coin, the biggest “bad” surprise to me is the Phoenix Suns. They were supposed to win about 37 games. But, amidst all sorts of turmoil, they’ve basically turned into the Western Conference version of the Philadelphia 76ers in recent weeks. Their current won-lost record of 14-40 makes things look better than they really are! The slow adjusting market has Phoenix just 21-33 against the spread. Once again, just simply recognizing an obvious reality would have helped bettors make some money.

The Chicago Bulls have also been a big disappointment. Though, that’s hidden a bit because they’re still very much in the playoff hunt in the East. Their Preseason Over/Under was in the 50 to 50.5 range. They’re currently on pace to win only 43 games this season. An Over/Under mark of 19-33 ATS tells the story better. The market kept pricing the Bulls like a serious contender in the East. It’s not happening yet! And, new head coach Fred Hoiberg from Iowa State continues to seem “in over his head” in terms of in-game tactics.

Other “bad” surprises:

*Projected bad teams Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and the LA Lakers are all even worse than expected. A lot of “anti-parity” this season, where the rich got richer and the poor got worse.

*Oklahoma City is only 21-32 ATS, which is weird because they’re still a high-quality team that has a chance to derail either Golden State or San Antonio in the playoffs. The problem here is that the market keeps pricing them as equals to those other two. The Thunder just aren’t winning by big enough margins to get there. Oh, like Chicago, we have a head coach transitioning from the colleges (Billy Donovan from Florida) who’s been a money-burner in market terms.

*Houston made it to the Western Finals last year. Right now, they’re under .500 straight up against a Preseason win expectation of 55.5. They’ll miss that by double digits if they keep playing around the .500 mark. Houston’s ATS record is a putrid 23-32. Even though Houston was getting all that media run about analytics, it’s Golden State and San Antonio who are truly ahead of the curve right now.

You regulars know that I personally prefer college basketball because that’s always been my favorite sport to handicap. I hope those of you who like the NBA better have been riding some of the trends we discussed today. You can tell why many Nevada sportsbooks are terrified of the quants who live and breathe this sport. But, even casual fans had a chance to “bet the obvious” and do well in the first half of the 2015-16 season.

If you haven’t been doing well with your own basketball selections, you can purchase daily BEST BETS from your friend in Las Vegas right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the VSM office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours.

Thanks for reading. That’s it for this week. Through the month of February I’ll be running Wednesday (college hoops) and Thursday (NBA) market reports. When March arrives, we’ll really go in-depth through the Big Dance with updates on how sharps are betting the tournament. That’s always a very popular feature, and I’m really looking forward to this year’s NCAA’s.

See you next week!


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Richie B. on twitter @vsm_baccellieri

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