Which Bad ATS Teams in the NBA Can Get Better?
T.O. Whenham of Doc's Sports Predictions
In all leagues, but especially in the NBA, a team's record against the spread does not correlate to their overall record. The best team ATS so far is the Toronto Raptors. They are 25-15 ATS but only 19-21 straight up. Right behind them is the Phoenix Suns. Their 23-14-1 ATS record isn't as good as the Raps, but their 30-8 straight up record is ridiculously better. The same contrast can be found at the bottom of the ATS list as well. Atlanta, Charlotte and Sacramento are all in the bottom five, and they are all pretty bad. Down there with them, though, is Cleveland, the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Regardless of what the ATS record may or may not mean to the league standings, one thing is clear - the teams at the bottom of the list are frustrating, and costly, to their loyal followers. As we are nearing the halfway point of the season it is important to evaluate which of the bad ATS teams are going to get better, and which ones are just going to stay bad. We generally want to bet on one kind of those teams, and against the other. Here's a look at the four worst teams ATS to see which ones, if any, stand a good chance of climbing out of the basement:
Los Angeles Clippers - 14-23-2 ATS - Though the Clippers are as bad as it gets against the spread, there are good reasons to be optimistic about their prospects in the future. After starting the season 4-2 ATS, the Clippers went on an impossibly horrendous 3-16 ATS skid. Since then they have gone 7-5-2. That's far from dominant, but it is a whole lot better than where they were. Don't get too excited about their future, though. On Wednesday night they played Golden State on the same day that the Warriors had made an eight-player trade with Indiana. The new players hadn't arrived yet, so the Warriors, who were already struggling with injuries, had to play the game with only seven players, including three who have played in the NBDL this season. Despite that, the Clippers were only able to earn a push as six point favorites. Last season the Clippers were a great story. This year they are back to playing like the Clippers we all know and no one can love. That will probably only get worse as the season progresses and all hope is lost.
Sacramento Kings - 14-22 ATS - With just two exceptions in 36 games, the Kings have covered when they have won and failed to cover when they have lost. That means that they aren't having a very successful season. Pretty awful, actually. The last seven games have been especially bad. All have been losses and none have been covers. The interesting thing about that is that they were the favorites in the first five of those seven games. That either means that it took a while for bettors and linesmakers to come to terms with how bad the team is, or that there are a whole lot of bad teams in the NBA this year. Kevin Martin has been a very pleasant surprise for the team, and Mike Bibby has been typically solid, but that's pretty much where the highlights end. The Kings will get better eventually, but not this year, and maybe not this decade.
Cleveland Cavaliers - 15-22-1 ATS - LeBron and his boys have struggled at the tail end of a long western swing, but they are basically playing solid ball. Before losses in Portland and Seattle, the Cavs had won nine of 11. Five of those nine wins were on the road. They are 6-5-1 ATS in their last dozen games, so thing are getting better. The season started off badly against the spread at 5-8. They were 8-5 straight up over that time, so it was clearly a case of the public expecting more from the Cavs after their good playoff run last year than they were able to deliver. They also had a rough seven game stretch right before Christmas. They were 3-4, but only 1-6 ATS. The Cavs still have two games left in the current western marathon, but after that they play nine of eleven at home. Their remaining road trips aren't nearly as long, and they are a dominant home team, so it seems almost certain that Cleveland will be better ATS in the second half then they were at the start of the season.
Charlotte Bobcats - 15-21-1 ATS - It's no mystery why the Bobcats are so bad against the spread. They are a really bad team and bettors understand that well. They have a load of potential, and their roster reads like a deadly college all-star team, but Okafor, Felton, Morrison, May et al are a long way from being ready for prime time. Emeka Okafor is playing well, but he should never be relied on to lead his team in scoring, and that's just what he is doing, despite only scoring 14.6 per game. There are all sorts of things you can point at to explain the teams' problems - Adam Morrison has seemingly forgotten how to shoot, Okafor could get foul shooting lessons from Shaq and the bench depth is far from enviable. That being said, there were signs of life last week when the Cats won and covered five of seven, including a big win in Detroit. It remains to be seen whether the team is actually improving over the long term, but that seems hard to believe. They'll eventually be a good team, but they'll get a couple more lottery picks before that happens.
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