This week, my NBA notebook looks at a strategy for handicapping games with an ATS line of five points or less. I’ve also updated a list of the teams that are laying the highest average point spreads per night. Plus, an update on the Utah Jazz with NBA trends you do not want to miss!
Small Margin of Error
The top three margins of victory this season are by 3, 4 and 5 points. As you might expect, teams winning straight up by either of those margins are a combined 57-21-1 ATS (73%). What’s interesting is that the average spread for all of these teams is a microscopic +0.4 points.
Looking forward, it would seem that the recipe for a high win-percentage team against the spread is:
A. Strong straight up record in tight games.
Since 2018, the strongest straight up record in close games belongs to the Portland Trailblazers (37-21 or .638). They are followed by the Clippers (30-19 or .612), Nuggets (37-24 or .607), Lakers (29-20 or .592) and Raptors (37-27 or .578).
B. A low average point spread.
Statistically, and using regular season lines only, the best value teams of the past few years are the Mavs, Spurs, Heat, Warriors and Thunder.
C. Higher volume of games decided by close margins, to improve variance.
Teams with the highest number of close margin games since 2018 are the Kings (66), Mavs (65), Nets (61), Thunder (58) and Spurs).
In 2020, all five of those teams rank in the Top 11 for this category. The Kings are highest at 11 (T-2nd), The Mavs are lowest with nine (T-11th).
By combining this data with a few additional parameters and keeping it relevant to current rosters, the eight teams this model suggests circling over the next few months for potential value in tightly-lined games are as follows:
- Clippers, Kings, Mavericks, Nets, Raptors, Spurs, Thunder and Trailblazers.
Keep an eye on my Twitter feed @Wunderdog for additional NBA trends on these and other teams throughout the season. Sign up for my premium NBA package and get my official picks every day from now until the NBA champion is crowned!
NBA Against the Spread
Bettors are often cautioned about jumping on a heavy public fave. Through one-third of the NBA season, we are being reminded why.
- Of the seven NBA teams laying more than -3 points on average this season, only two have a winning record against the number (29%).
Teams are listed here in order of ‘Highest Average Spread’. Updated on Saturday, Feb.20, 2021.
Milwaukee Bucks, 13-16-1 ATS (.433)
Average Line: -7.6
The Bucks are home to Sacramento on Sunday. Milwaukee covered against the Thunder on Friday, ending a five-game SU/ATS losing streak.
Los Angeles Lakers, 13-15-2 ATS (.433)
Average Line: -6.7
The Lakers are hosting Miami (12-17 SU) at 8:30 pm ET tonight in the first meeting between these teams since last season’s NBA Finals. The current line is Lakers -3 and 209.5.
- Los Angeles has a 36-65 ATS (38%) record when hosting teams with a .400-.500 win percentage (1-4 ATS this year).
Utah Jazz, 22-8 ATS (.733)
Average Line: -5.4
I highlighted the Jazz in last week’s NBA notebook. Their loss to the Clippers last night ended a streak of eight-straight covers.
Los Angeles Clippers, 18-13 ATS (.581)
Average Line: -5.3
The Clippers will attempt to become the first team this season to win a game after knocking down an opponent that was on a win streak longer than five games. The previous five went 0-5 SU and 1-4 ATS.
Philadelphia 76ers, 13-16-1 ATS (.433)
Average Line: -4.0
Philly has lost five-straight ATS. They travel to face the Raptors in a back-to-back, starting Sunday.
Brooklyn Nets, 15-16 ATS (.484)
Average Line: -3.8
The Nets have won five in a row SU/ATS. On the road, they are 11-4 O/U this year, cashing 73% of the OVER tickets. Their past four away games, Brooklyn has averaged 126.8 points.
Denver Nuggets, 13-15-1 ATS (.448)
Average Line: -3.6
Denver is 19th in the league in fastbreak points, with 11.3 per game. Last game, however, the Nuggets had 14 in a 120-103 win over Cleveland. That has triggered an overvalued market for this team.
- The Nuggets are 8-13 ATS this year after scoring more than eight points via fastbreak, including a current run of 1-6 ATS. The OVER is 14-7 (67%) in this situation.
Denver will play in Atlanta next.
SU = Straight up
ATS = Against the Spread
O/U = Over/Under
NBA Notebook: Underdog’s Delight
At the other end of the ATS spectrum, Detroit (15-12-2 ATS) earns an average of +6.5 points from Vegas every night. The only team that gets more love is Oklahoma City (+6.9).
- The Pistons are 11-5 ATS (69%) this season when getting more than +5 points and facing a team with a sub-500 record.
It’s tough to say when this angle will be live again, but circle the date against the Toronto Raptors on March 2. Toronto has been a streaky team this year. They have games against the Sixers (two), Heat, Rockets and Bulls on-deck.
Don’t Use the L-Word
The Utah Jazz have been rewriting the NBA betting record book of late, shredding bookmaker’s numbers on a nightly basis.
- Utah is 13-3 ATS against teams that attempt 30-plus three pointers per game.
The Jazz lead the league in shots from beyond the arc at 42.1. They’ve played three games this season vs. teams that were averaging 39-plus three’s at the time, and Utah won all three by double-digits (3-0 ATS). The only other teams currently in their ballpark for long-balls are the Trailblazers (42.0), Rockets (40.8) and Raptors (40.4). If Dec. 23 is any indication, this trend is likely to continue. The Jazz took down the Blazers 120-100 in their season opener, and that’s before they got good!
- The Jazz are 9-2 ATS vs. teams that score more than the league average (112.5 PPG)
As much as the oddsmaker would like to jack the number on such a hot ticket, it’s tough when the competition is so fierce. Take last night’s game against the Clippers, for example. Utah had already downed the Clippers 114-96 on Wednesday as a 7-point favorite. Then, with Kawhi Leonard (leg), Paul George (foot), and Nicolas Batum’s (concussion) return, the line edged down to Jazz -1 or -1.5.
- With less than one hour before tipoff, the consensus report on this matchup showed 76-percent of bettors were backing the Jazz.
As a favorite off a win, the Jazz are now 19-1 ATS, covering the spread by an average of 8.5 points per game. I’m not big on the ‘L-word’, but this team is becoming increasingly hard to fade.