We are less than a fourth of the way through the NBA season, but it has already been a crazy year in terms of expectations. . The Cleveland Cavaliers are hovering at barely over .500, while the Detroit Pistons are (unexpectedly) currently 2nd in the Eastern Conference. In the West, the Russ-Melo-Paul George trio was expected to make a lot of noise, but are 7-8. Obviously, the expectations for this season have not gone as planned. Not only has this thrown a wrench in the standings, but those betting on the live NBA lines . With that being said, there are couple teams that I am high on going forward, and a couple others that I believe will cool off quickly. Assisting me is ESPN’s Basketball Power Index. Here are some teams that you should and should not be putting your money on:
Team to Bet On: Indiana Pacers
The debacle that happened within the Pacers organization last year with Paul George resulted in the seemingly lopsided trade of George for only Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Apparently the Pacers knew something we all did not, because Oladipo and Sabonis are leading a resurgent Pacers squad. Oladipo is having a career year (averaging 25 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists per game) and Sabonis is a double-double machine. These two have led to the Pacers being an even 8-8 and a very competitive team. This has all been without star big man Myles Turner, who went down early with a concussion, and is just getting back into the swing of things.
Going forward, you should be putting your money on the Pacers. They are currently ranked 22nd in ESPN’s BPI, but will be steadily be climbing that chart. The Eastern Conference is very shaky from the top-down, and the Pacers will be in the hunt for one of the final couple playoff spots. The Pacers are also a Top-10 scoring team and Top-5 in field goal percentage. They are an efficient, motivated team, and will be a squad you need to bet on this year.
Team to Bet Against: Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies surprisingly started the season strong with a record of 7-4 behind their consistent play. Marc Gasol is having another strong year (20 points, 9 rebounds/game) and Tyreke Evans is making a case for 6th Man of the Year by averaging 18 points and 5 boards a game off the bench. They are also almost 1 point better defensively than the average team in the NBA, and have a Top-5 defense in the entire league. It seems like the Grit-N’-Grind era may not be over in Memphis after all.
However, there are two reasons why I do not like betting on the Griz for at least awhile: Mike Conley’s injury and the lack of offense.
The Grizzlies are currently 16th in ESPN’s BPI, but are 23rd in team points per game. With their leader and point guard Mike Conley being sidelined with a sore Achilles, the Grizzlies offensive will sputter even further. Not to mention they have dropped their last two games without Conley. This leads me to believe that the Memphis is going to struggle, and will continue to do so. That being said, stay away from putting any money on them anytime soon.
Team to Bet On: Cleveland Cavaliers
“The Cavs are too old, the Cavs are washed up, the Cavs dominance is over.” That is all that has been said in the wake of Cleveland’s struggles this year. Alright, let’s just calm down. The greatest player in the world (that’s LeBron James, if you were wondering) still plays in Cleveland. Not to mention that the Cavs offense is still great, and the only problem they have is their defense. The Cavs are 4th in points per game, and are 4 points better than the average offense in the NBA, good enough for 2nd best differential in the NBA.
Yes, the defense is a problem, but is something that will be figured out. They have also won 5 of their last 6, with the only loss being to the Rockets. The team has talent, and it will get it figured. It has never been a good idea to bet against a LeBron led team, and it still isn’t. The Cavs are just hitting their stride, so plan on betting on them as they head into an easy part of their schedule.
Team to Bet Against: Detroit Pistons
I have loved the Pistons surprisingly hot start just as every other NBA fan has, but I am not on their long-term bandwagon. I believe this because the team is just too average to keep winning so much. Their differentials compared to the average NBA team are very mediocre ( +0.2 more points game better than average, and +1.0 better defensively), and have no shining star this season. Tobias Harris, Andre Drummond, Avery Bradley, and Reggie Jackson have all played well, but not great, and their is plenty of time for them to drop-off.
I believe the Pistons are going to cool off very soon. There are at least 6 teams much better than them in their own conference, they do not have any superstar power, and are average statistically. Detroit has been able to win all of their close games this year, but going forward I would keep an eye out for them to start dropping these. I would advise to think about betting against the Pistons here soon.