NBA Quarter Season Review
If you haven't been watching the NBA this season, it has been a significantly better product than in seasons past. The new adjustment to foul calling and influx of new talent has made the league more competitive and more like actual basketball. Sure, there are a lot of blowouts and still some other issues to resolve - like stars sitting out games, but it is definitely better than we've seen in the past few years. Let's take a look at few surprises and see if there is any value in any future bet. As always if you want the full package - click above and receive your picks from me with the NBA 30 Day package. Into college basketball only? BTB and BTBJesse have you covered.
The Warriors are unbelievably good this year. It doesn't appear to be a fluke at all, either. It will likely take some adjustment when Klay Thompson returns (should be early 2022 I'd assume, barring another setback.) And, there is also the soon-to-be addition of James Wiseman. This will eventually make the Warriors better, in theory, but it will also disrupt the flow for a bit. Either way, they look like the best team in the NBA and Steph Curry has been the MVP thus far. He is down to +135 for MVP, I'd suggest waiting until Klay and Wisemen comes back, if he suffers or they lose a bit during that stretch that's when you can pounce on him at a better number.
The Suns have won 16 straight games as of this writing and are showing no signs of a drop-off after they made the Finals last year. It isn't really sustainable, but they may be better than I thought.
This might only be a surprise for me, but the Celtics have been terrible this year. I was under the assumption of playing for a new coach would get them more motivated and that Tatum would take a step forward. Jaylen Brown is the one that took the step forward. Maybe they put it together, but maybe they are just a .500 team.
The biggest surprise has been the Cavs. Not only are they ATS darlings, but they are above .500 a quarter of the way through the season. If someone told you they'd be good, I guess I could believe it, but this good? They are playing very well, and haven't really missed a beat, even with the injuries. Evan Mobley is a co-favorite to win Rookie of the Year. It makes total sense, but I don't think he ends up with it. There are too many bigs on the Cavs for him to get consistent numbers that make a difference in the voters eyes.
Not going to go into a ton of detail on any of these, but there are a few teams I expect to improve over the next 20 games. The 76ers were plagued by injury for that first stretch of games, now that they are healthy they should distance themselves from that .500 mark. They do miss Simmons, but it is mostly on the defensive end in my opinion. Trail Blazers couldn't possibly stay this bad on the road, could they? I think they can get it together enough that they maintain a strong home presence but perform better on the road too. The Pelicans are already better with Ingram back. Getting Zion Williamson back will make an even bigger impact. I don't think they go 11-9 over their next 20, but they also should win more than 6 of 23.
I'll put the Warriors here for reasons already mentioned. I also would be surprised if the Suns were 34 - 6 next time I write one of these. The Timberwolves are good, but I think their next 20 games will be harder than their first 20, and they were .500 during their first stretch. The Grizzlies are an obvious choice for this because of Ja Morant. Maybe he comes back quickly and it doesn't matter, but I'd expect them to drop quite a few games without him around.
If you're looking for some value, one candidate might be Wes Unseld Jr. The Wizards are playing very well for him so far. They used to be a no defense team, now he has a band of castaways that are playing cohesively and doing an admirable job on defense most nights. He's currently at +1500. They'd probably need to make the playoffs as a sixth seed or higher, but it could happen.
I think one of the only awards that doesn't have a clear-cut favorite right now is Most Improved. Sure, Miles Bridges is the favorite listed, but I think others have better value, especially as Bridges drops down to a 3rd or 4th option on the offense. My play would be Tyrese Maxey at +3000. He has the opportunity to play all year. Embiid will miss more games because he always does, and Maxey is playing very effectively so far. How he responds over the next 20 games will tell a lot. If he continues to score at a good pace, he should climb up the MIP rankings. If he falls back and doesn't run the offense well or score enough, we probably are looking at a loss.
One last one - Tyler Herro has the 6th man locked up... if he continues to play. He's got injury concerns and that can derail the campaign in a flash. There are good options out there at plus money. Montrezl Harrell is a great option at +1600. Alex Caruso has been a huge difference-maker for the Bulls at +4100. Even Jordan Clarkson has been a walking bucket off the bench for the Jazz at +2700. Sure, Herro could play and miss 15 games or something and still win - he's been great. But, if you're looking for sprinkles, those would be the guys I'd look towards.