Betting markets have been chasing the Nets the past several weeks. What is now a playoff-caliber team is still being priced too often like an also-ran, creating profitable opportunities for NBA bettors.
Even with Monday’s disappointing 116-95 loss in Boston, the Nets are 12-5 straight up and against the spread their last 17 games.
Granting that a team can be “playoff caliber” in the East without being all that great by league standards, Brooklyn is clearly playing with a purpose in recent action. That by itself can get results for a team and its backers. The NBA is known for seeing many contenders pace themselves midseason, while many non-contenders start thinking more about next season’s draft.
An interesting breakdown shows where the Nets are doing most of their damage:
- Brooklyn is only 4-5 straight up, 5-4 ATS versus playoff contenders during this recent run. Highlights were outright win/covers versus the Raptors, 76ers and Lakers when LeBron James was healthy. Boston was a lowlight Monday, as were road blowouts at the hands of the Bucks and Hornets.
- But, the Nets are 8-0 straight up, 7-1 ATS versus teams outside the playoff bubble. The only non-cover was a comfortable win over the Suns. Win/covers came against the Grizzlies, Pelicans, Bulls (twice), Hawks, Wizards and Knicks. The Nets are taking these games seriously, much more seriously than betting markets have given them credit for.
That sets up a good test of the markets Wednesday night. The Nets will be a home favorite versus the awful Hawks. How much respect will oddsmakers give the Nets on the opener? How will the sharpest bettors react to that number?
Bettors should at least consider betting the Nets versus also-rans until it cools off versus that segment. If you see a market adjustment, you can back off and look for other opportunities.
Unfortunately, some tougher challenges are immediately on deck, with games Friday at the Raptors, Monday at home versus the Celtics and Jan. 16 at the Rockets. That’s a terrifying trio. It’s followed by a softer stretch against the Magic, Kings, Magic again and Knicks in succession. If the Nets’ brain trust is as committed to making a playoff run as it seems, we should see some impressive wins versus those lesser lights.
One key to remember if you’re just now starting to handicap Nets’ games: Brooklyn has played at a below-average pace this season. That’s created some early illusions about offensive and defensive quality. In raw averages, Brooklyn is near league average on both sides of the floor. Once you adjust for that slow pace, the offense is actually knocking on the door of being in the top third in points-per-possession efficiency, while the defense is sitting in the bottom third.
Sharps have an acute awareness of team skill sets when handicapping sports. Be sure you’re adjusting for pace in pro (and college) basketball to get the cleanest reads.