October 2009


Football picksOctober 30, 2009

The Worst Sunday Ever for Sportsbooks

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article questioning the existence of parity in the NFL this season. In that article, I stated that through the first five weeks of the NFL season, underdogs had been really struggling to cover the spread. I wondered aloud whether 2009 would turn out to be another 2005 (the worst year ever for underdogs – hitting 42% for the year).

Two weeks have transpired since then. Week 6 was a revenge week for the dogs as they went 9-5 ATS. But, as quickly as they gained some ground, they lost it and more the next week. Week 7 was one for the record books as just two underdogs covered the spread. That is truly unprecedented! Even in the original year-of-the-favorite (2005) when underdogs had their worst year, there was never a week where fewer than three underdogs covered.

The average margin of victory last week was 20.3 points per game. We saw six teams win by 28 or more points!

As they did in 2005, the sportsbooks have been getting absolutely hammered this year. The general public loves favorites and especially loves betting on the good or great teams vs. the awful teams. Las Vegas Hilton sports book director Jay Kornegay, who has been in the business for 22 years said of last week, “No doubt, it was the worst day ever for the books.”

This year is most definitely a year of the have’s and the have-nots. Kornegay said this week, “I can’t remember an NFL season with this many bad teams.” The worst of the worst continue to lose against the spread, no matter how many points they are handed. How bad is it for the bad teams this year? The Buccaneers, Rams, Browns, Chiefs and Raiders are a combined 4-31 straight-up and 11-24 against the number!

The number of double-digit favorites this season is also on pace to break records. Over the past decade, we usually see somewhere between 20 and 30 double-digit favorites per year. So far in 2009, we’ve already seen 21.

Here are the updated numbers through seven weeks in 2009:

  • Underdogs all sizes: 45% ATS
  • Underdogs of 7+ points: 39%
  • Underdogs of 9.5+ points: 35%
  • Underdogs of 10.5+ points: 27%

So the question remains… Will this season continue down this very unique path, with favorites covering any number thrown their way? Or will the underdogs make a comeback? It could be that given the unique disparity in team strength this season, the favorites will continue to roll. Or, we could see the books adjust more, forcing teams to lay 17 or more points in games, and that is likely to result in dogs finally having their day.

A colleague of mine pointed out something very interesting this week. What we are seeing this year, in essence, is something we saw with one team back in 2007. The 2007 Patriots were simply on a tear through the first half of the season. It didn’t matter how many points the underdog had in the game. Through their first ten games, the Pats covered spreads of -7.5, -16.5, -16.5, -16.5 and -16. They were simply that good. But before you go lay your whole bankroll on big favorites the rest of this season, remember how the Pats finished that year. They faced lines of -22, -19, -10.5, -24, -21.5 and -13.5 in their final six games. Their ATS record in those games? 1-5. In the playoffs, they were favored by -13, -14 and -12. They lost all three of those, finishing the season on a 1-8 ATS run. Food for thought…

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Basketball picksOctober 27, 2009

NBA Picks Previews 2009: Pacific Division

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

1. Los Angeles Lakers
2. Los Angeles Clippers
3. Phoenix
4. Golden State
5. Sacramento

LOS ANGELES LAKERS
COACH: PHIL JACKSON
LAST YEAR: 65-17
BEST ADDITION: F RON ARTEST
BIGGEST LOSS: F TREVOR ARIZA
 

OUTLOOK
The Lakers won it all, and what do they do? They go out and add Ron Artest to the mix. Artest is a top defensive player and can score as well. If the Lakers aren’t fat cats after winning last year, they certainly will be every bit as good as a year ago, if not better. If the hunger is still there, this team stands a good chance to win again.
 

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
COACH: MIKE DUNLEAVY SR.
LAST YEAR: 19-63
BEST ADDITION: F BLAKE GRIFFIN
BIGGEST LOSS: F ZACH RANDOLPH
 

OUTLOOK:
This team has a lot of holes, and Zach Randolph is gone as he was a very good player, but considered a cancer. He will be replaced by Blake Griffin who could put up similar numbers, but a much different work ethic and attitude, which is a gain. This team has a long way to go, and Griffin is a nice player and may help down the road, but there just isn’t enough talent here to be much better than a year ago.
 

PHOENIX
COACH: ALVIN GENTRY
LAST YEAR: 46-36
BEST ADDITION: C/F CHANNING FRYE
BIGGEST LOSS: SHAQUILLE ONEAL
 

OUTLOOK
The Suns brought in Shaq to try to push them over the top, but their style is just not suited for what Shaq brings to the court. They will go with Channing Frye in the middle and he has a world of potential, but just never seems to bring it, and maybe the running style here triggers something. Shaq’s departure should help Amare Stoudamire as he will own the paint again. The Suns look like a team that if they somehow get Frye to step up, could produce a 50-win season.

GOLDEN STATE
COACH: DON NELSON
LAST YEAR: 29-53
BEST ADDITION: G STEPON CURRY
BIGGEST LOSS: G JAMAL CRAWFORD
 

OUTLOOK
Don Nelson loves the run-and-gun, up-tempo game. Although that makes for entertaining basketball, it isn’t producing wins, and nothing was added here to make me feel that this team will be any better. Stepon Curry fits in nicely to an offensive style as he can really shoot, but so could Jamal Crawford, so they’re just replacing one scorer for another. If they stay healthier they might add a few wins, but I don’t see them making the playoffs with this group.
 

SACRAMENTO
COACH: PAUL WESTPHAL
LAST YEAR: 17-65
BEST ADDITION: G TYREKE EVANS
BIGGEST LOSS: NONE
 

OUTLOOK
The Kings have all the parts back from a poor team, so they should at least improve from that alone. Tyreke Evans will run the offense and he could be a good one, although not a natural PG, he is big and will be able to get in the lane and cause problems, something missing from the Kings a year ago. Overall, maybe more is expected, but there is still not enough talent here to threaten for a playoff berth. Top upside is 25-30 wins.

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Basketball picksOctober 27, 2009

NBA Picks Previews 2009: Northwest Division

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

NORTHWEST
1. Portland
2. Denver
3. Utah
4. Oklahoma City
5. Minnesota 

PORTLAND
COACH: NATE McMILLAN
LAST YEAR: 54-28
BEST ADDITION: G ANDRE MILLER
BIGGEST LOSS: C/F CHANNING FRYE
 

OUTLOOK:
The Blazers turned the corner last year and are definately heading in the right direction. They return their key players, starters and bench. They have added Andre Miller who is very steady at the point, although he can’t play mega minutes anymore. Their top players are gaining experience, and getting better. If that continues, this team could advance over 55 wins this season, and at least a mild threat in the playoffs.

DENVER
COACH: GEORGE KARL
LAST YEAR: 54-28
BEST ADDITION: G TY LAWSON
BIGGEST LOSS: G DAHNTAY JONES
 

OUTLOOK:
The Nuggets made great strides last season. The offense is solid, and they get good complimentray minutes off the bench. The problem is that the playoffs are about defense, and they can only get so far with their high-octane offense. Billups had his minutes held down, and he asked for more of the same, so they need Ty Lawson to stay healthy and contribute. This looks like a 50-win team again, but may slip a few games from a year ago.

UTAH
COACH: JERRY SLOAN
LAST YEAR: 48-34
BEST ADDITION:
G ERIC MAYNOR
BIGGEST LOSS: NONE
 

OUTLOOK
The Jazz decided to stay pat and bring back the same team. There is a potential that they have issues with Carlos Boozer who swore he would opt out of his contract, but a bad market made him decide to stay. It is likely he will be traded at some point, so this is a hard team to gauge right now, depending on how hard Boozer plays, and if/when the Jazz trade him. Until then the 48 wins they put up a year ago are certainly in reach, up or down depends on Boozer, or who they get for him. Stay tuned!
 

OKLAHOMA CITY
COACH: SCOTT BROOKS
LAST YEAR: 23-59
BEST ADDITION: G JAMES HARDEN
BIGGEST LOSS: F/G DAMIEN WILKENS
 

OUTLOOK:
The Thunder have a good young core of players with Westbrook, Green and Durrant, and the addition of James Harden should help. They appear to heading in the right direction, and they just need a lot more experience. Their biggest problem is that the dropoff is severe after their core players, and the team depth definetly isn’t there, and as injuries occur, they struggle. They could make it to 30 wins this year, but they are not a playoff team yet.

MINNESOTA
COACH: KURT RAMBIS
LAST YEAR: 24-58
BEST ADDTION: G JOHNY FLYNN
BIGGEST LOSS: F/G MIKE MILLER
 

OUTLOOK:
The Timberwolves had some big draft picks and surprisingly took all guards. This roster is going to potentially have seven new players – never a good thing in the short run. The Wolves have been rebuilding since the departure of Garnett, and three years later, they seem to be starting all over again. Jeferson is back and healthy and should be good for a few wins, but this team still has a long way to go.

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Basketball picksOctober 23, 2009

NBA Picks 2009: Southwest Division

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH:
1. SAN ANTONIO
2. NEW ORLEANS
3. DALLAS
4. HOUSTON
5. MEMPHIS

SAN ANTONIO
COACH: GREGG POPOVICH
LAST SEASON: 54-28
BEST ADDITION: F RICHARD JEFFERSON
BIGGEST LOSS: F DREW GOODEN

OUTLOOK:
The Spurs needed another scorer, and Richard Jefferson will be interesting. He may miss some games early with a thumb injury, but it will be interesting to see how he fits here. One day the Spurs will take the floor without Tim Duncan, and although he can’t take on 40 minutes a night anymore, he makes them dangerous come playoff time. The Spurs seem to always find a way to win 50+, and this year should be no different.

NEW ORLEANS
COACH: BYRON SCOTT
LAST SEASON: 49-33
BEST ADD: C OMEKA OKAFOR
BIGGEST LOSS: C TYSON CHANDLER
 

OUTLOOK:
I think the Hornets made a great trade bringing Okafor in. It gives the Hornets a big body and a proven rebounder to bang with the bigs in the west. They have a rising star in Chris Paul at the point and a lot of new faces, but if everything gels for the Hornets they could definetly step up and win 50+ and I expect that they will.

DALLAS
COACH: RICK CARLISLE
LAST YEAR: 50-32
BEST ADDITION: F SHAWN MARION
BIGGEST LOSS: G JERRY STACKHOUSE
 

OUTLOOK:
The Mavs, with the addition of Shawn Marion, have a pair of forwards that can each produce 20+ points per night and a PG in Jason Kidd that can get them the ball in the right places. I think that the Mavs know that if they are going to win, it will have to be now, with Nowitski and Kidd not getting any younger, so Marion is that key third player to help put them over the top. The competion is strong in their division, so will it be enough? I tend to think it will not.
 

HOUSTON
COACH: RICK ADELMAN
LAST YEAR: 53-29
BEST ADDITION: F TREVOR ARIZA
BIGGEST LOSS: F RON ARTEST
 

OUTLOOK:
The Rockets coldn’t win with Artest, so they went in a different direction and traded for Ariza. The Rockets, however, face bigger issues. T-Mac is coming off of surgery and has simply shown that he can’t stand up to the rigors of the NBA and is often unmotivated. Yao Ming has said that he will not return this year from his foot injury – and maybe not ever. That will put Houston in a serious rebuilding mode, and a falloff is likely from their 53 wins a year ago.
 

MEMPHIS
COACH: LIONEL HOLLINS
LAST YEAR: 24-58
BEST ADDITION: F ZACH RANDOLPH
BIGGEST LOSS: F HAKEEM WARRICK
 

OUTLOOK:
The Grizzlies took a gamble and signed Allan Iverson, but I’m not sure how much that will help. They have Thabeet coming in an offering defense inside, but he is going to take time to develop. Randolph has a lot of ability, but is a mal-content, and with him and Iverson competing for bad news, the chemistry on this team becomes a bigger issue. Long way to go, and no playoffs once again.
 

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Basketball picksOctober 23, 2009

NBA Picks 2009: Southeast Division

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

1. Orlando
2. Atlanta
3. Miami
4. Washington
5. Charlotte
 

ORLANDO
COACH: STAN VAN GUNDY
LAST YEAR: 59-23
BEST ADDITION: G/F VINCE CARTER
BIGGEST LOSS: F HEDO TURKOGLU
 

OUTLOOK:
The Magic is knocking on the door but a lot of changes, which sometimes effect team chemistry. Turkoglu will be sorely missed, but Carter gives them a player capeable of going off for 40 on any given night. They will have 4 new faces on the roster battling for minutes, and it may take this team awhile to get the chemistry down. I think they may be about the same as a year ago, and may take a slight step backward, but can’t argue the talent is still rich enough to make a run if all the pieces fit.

ATLANTA:
COACH: MIKE WOODSON
LAST YEAR: 47-35
BEST ADD: G JAMAL CRAWFORD
BIGGEST LOSS: G SPEEDY CLAXTON
 

OUTLOOK:
The Hawks young team is begiining to gel, and they improved dramatically a year ago, and gained valuable playoff experience in the process. Jamal Crawford is a dynamic add for a team that often struggles on the offensive end, and he could become a potent 6th man providing instant offense off the bench. The Hawks should continue to mature and could top 50 wins this season, and the playoffs are quite likely, even a series win.
 

MIAMI
COACH: ERIC SPOELSTRA
LAST YEAR: 43-39
BEST ADD: G PATRICK BEVERLY
BIGGEST LOSS: F JAMARIO MOON
 

OUTLOOK:
The key for the Heat will be the obvious, keeping Dwayne Wade on the court, and somehow getting Jermaine O’Neal back to his 20ppg 10rpg status. They have good complimentary players, but if those 2 can have big year’s the Heat will be better than the 43 wins of a year ago, and could be at or over 50. Anytime you have a player like Wade that can take over a close game, your gonna win your share. Playoffs likely, but still distance between them and the Eastern heavyweights. 

WASHINGTON
COACH: FLIP SAUNDERS
LAST YEAR:  19-63
BEST ADDITION: G/F MIKE MILLER
BIGGEST LOSS: C/F ETAN THOMAS
 

OUTLOOK:
The Wizards have had all sorts of injury problems to key players, and many feel Gilbert Arenas’ knee will never be the same, and that will remain to be seen this season. Mike Miller will add to this team, and Randy Foye could be a key off the bench. Butler and Jamison are very good players, and the trio needs to stay healthy for this team to get better. I think this team if healthy could win 30 games this year, but the playoffs are a dream right now.

CHARLOTTE
COACH: LARRY BROWN
LAST YEAR: 35-47
BEST ADD: C TYSON CHANDLER
BIGGEST LOSS: C OMEKA OKAFOR
 

OUTLOOK:
Okafor was a good steady player, but seemed to reach his ceiling, and Chandler has a much higher ceiling if coach Brown can get him motivated he will be a definate upgrade. The Bobcats are good defensively, but lack the true firepower to advance to the playoffs at this stage, and another sub-.500 season is in store for Bobcat fans.
 

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Basketball picks & Sports picksOctober 20, 2009

NBA Picks 2009: Central Division

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

1. Cleveland
2. Chicago
3. Indiana
4. Detroit
5. Milwaukee

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
COACH: MIKE BROWN
LAST YEAR: 66-16
BEST ADDITION: C SHAQUILLE ONEAL
BIGGEST LOSS: C BEN WALLACE

OUTLOOK:
The Cleveland Cavs made a bold move and acquired Shaq to team with LeBron and hopefully push them over the top to an NBA Championship. The Cavs may be down to their last chance as LeBron is free to walk after this season, and if he doesn’t sniff a championship now, or on the horizon he could walk. The Cavs certainly have the ability to make a run, but they have a lot of competition at the top, and it won’t be easy, odds are they come up short again.
CHICAGO BULLS
COACH: VINNY DEL NEGRO
LAST YEAR: 41-41
BEST ADDITION: F JAMES JOHNSON
BIGGEST LOSS: G BEN GORDON
OUTLOOK
The Bulls will really miss Ben Gordon, more than they realize, as he helped them take the Celtics to the wire in the playoffs. The Bulls still have enough talent to make the playoffs, but not much more to put them over the top and battle the heavyweights. I think they will look a lot like last year’s team, playing poorly in stretches, and looking like world beaters at other times, but in the end a .500 team.
INDIANA PACERS
COACH: JIM O’BRIEN
LAST YEAR: 36-46
BEST ADDITION: F TYLER HANSBROUGH
BIGGEST LOSS: G MARQUIS DANIELS

OUTLOOK:
The Pacers did some good things at home, and knocked off a lot of big teams, but the youth on this team simply doesn’t translate to the road, and the high flying offense doesn’t either. Hansbrough will add toughness and help change the culture, as he never take a minute off. He will likely not rise to stardom, but a very fundamentally sound player with a strong work ethic, that should help. Pacers still a couple players away from being a factor.

DETROIT PISTONS
COACH: JOHN KUESTER
LAST YEAR: 39-43
BEST ADD: G BEN GORDON
BIGGEST LOSS: C/F RASHEED WALLACE

OUTLOOK:
The Pistons really slipped last year, and trading Chauncey Billups for a now departed Allan Iverson was not a good move. They are taking on the look of Uconn turned pro with Hamilton,Villanueva, and Gordon now in the fold, not a bad trio. They will miss Rasheed, but it was time to retool this team, and I expect them to improve, but not nearly enough to be more than a borderline playoff team.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS
COACH: SCOTT SKILES
LAST YEAR: 34-48
BEST ADDITION: G BRANDON JENNINGS
BIGGEST LOSS: F RICHARD JEFFERSON

OUTLOOK:
Bucks fans have to be patient, salary dumps on Jefferson, and Villanueva were necessary. They have a couple very good players in Redd and Bogut, the problem is trying to keep them on the court. If both stay healthy the Bucks could challenge the .500 mark, but I don’t see them going beyond that. If either goes down for an extended period, they will be last again in the Central.

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