I knew the league was watered down, but damn, every time I update my NBA Power Rankings it gets worse… And worse… And worse. Last week, I likened the league to one of those free drinks you get at the casino. Understatement of the year. It’s more like an unfinished bottle of Perrier left on the counter for a couple of days. Yeah, there may a few bubbles here and there, but for the most part, it’s just overpriced water.
Now, don’t get it twisted. I’m not surprised. The league has been trending this direction since the early 2000’s, and has been Dolly Pardon-ishly top heavy for a while now… It’s just tough to swallow. However, gratitude is an honorable trait, and it’s easy to overlook what you have, and selfishly desire more. Therefore, begrudgingly, the Gambler’s Power Rankings…
*Note: NBA Power Rankings account for against the spread records. Records, ATS records, and Strength of Schedule courtesy of www.teamrankings.com and valid as of noon 1/12*
The Gambler’s NBA Power Rankings – 4th Edition
1. San Antonio Spurs (Last Rank: 1)
Record: 30-8 (2nd)
Record ATS: 22-15-1 (3rd)
Over their last 15 games, the Spurs have won, and covered the spread 12 times. They’re Top-5 defensively, execute offensively, blah, blah, blah… They’re still the Spurs. We all get it.
2. Houston Rockets (Last Rank: 3)
Record: 31-10 (3rd)
Record ATS: 26-15 (1st)
Does anyone remember when Daryl Morey was being lambasted for his obsession with the 3 ball, and analytics? Yeah, me neither. I mean I do, but that contingent has been more silent than Charlie Chaplin for quite some time. Meanwhile, he’s somewhere sipping Dom P, and smoking a Cohiba, while laughing all the way to the bank.
3. Toronto Raptors (Last Rank: 2)
Record: 25-13 (6th)
Record ATS: 23-14-1 (2nd)
The Raptors have been a .500 team since the last rankings, and while I feel this could warrant a larger drop, they’re #1 in terms of schedule strength, and just endured arguably their toughest stretch of the season… I’ll give them a pass. I don’t think they’re a serious contender, however (they’re 0-6 vs. Cle/GS/SA), but there’s no denying them as a quality bet.
4. Boston Celtics (Last Rank: 4)
Record: 24-15 (7th)
Record ATS: 21-16-2 (4th)
Winners of 11 of 15, the fighting, Irish, leprechauns are starting to gel. Which is beyond impressive considering the number of injuries they’ve faced. More notably (from the betting perspective), they’ve been balling offensively, and have gone over the total in 12 straight.
5. Memphis Grizzlies (Last Rank: 11)
Record: 24-17 (10th)
Record ATS: 21-20 (12th)
On Kanye’s 2010 track “So Appalled” Hov hit us with an enthralling question, “What would you rather be, underpaid or overrated?” Mike Conley said, “other”. After signing the richest contract in NBA history over the summer, he’s still one of (if not the) most underrated players in the league.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder (Last Rank: 12)
Record: 24-16 (T-8th)
Record ATS: 22-17-1 (6th)
In 40 games, Russell Westbrook has matched his triple-double total from last season. He’s been pretty good, and as a result (barring some cataclysmic event), the Thunder will forever be competitive.
7. Los Angeles Clippers (Last Rank: 10)
Record: 27-14 (5th)
Record ATS: 20-21 (15th)
This should come as a surprise to no one, but the Clippers are a completely different team with Chris Paul in the lineup. After losing 6 straight, they’ve won 5 straight. Guess who’s played in 3 straight, after missing 7 of 8? This ranking feels a bit arbitrary, since they’ve rarely been healthy, but hell this whole ranking system is.
8. Utah Jazz (Last Rank: 7)
Record: 24-16 (T-8th)
Record ATS: 19-20-1 (17th)
Another injury plagued team who’s come across rough times as of late. Though they’ve lost 3 of 5, those 3 losses came to Boston, Toronto, and Memphis. I can respect that, not putting too much stock in it.
9. Atlanta Hawks (Last Rank: 23)
Record: 22-16 (11th)
Record ATS: 20-18 (9th)
I can’t lie, I have a personal vendetta with the Hawks. Every time I bet them, they lose. Guess what happens when I bet against them? Yep, they win. Every. Single. Effing. Time. They’ve won 7 straight, however, and covered the spread in 6 of those games *eye roll*
10. Sacramento Kings (Last Rank: 9)
Record: 16-22 (20th)
Record ATS: 20-17-1 (8th)
Over the past month, the Kings have been around .500 against the spread. While that might not sound that impressive, play it right, and you don’t need much more than a 50% success rate to profit.
11. Indiana Pacers (Last Rank: 28)
Record: 20-18 (12th)
Record ATS: 17-21 (T-24th)
I did this before they lost by 28 to the Nuggets. It was in London, so does it really count?
12. Charlotte Hornets (Last Rank: 13)
Record: 20-19 (14th)
Record ATS: 19-19-1 (14th)
Like I said, the NBA Texans. They win the easy games, but as soon as they faced some tougher competition, they started taking Ls at a Meek Mill-ish rate. Who else we gonna put here though?
13. Washington Wizards (Last Rank: 15)
Record: 19-19 (15th)
Record ATS: 19-19 (13th)
Lose 1, win 3. Lose 1, win 1. Lose 1, win 3. Lose 2, win 3… That’s how you turn your season around. Oh, and John Wall better make the all-star team.
14. Phoenix Suns (Last Rank: 24)
Record: 12-26 (26th)
Record ATS: 19-18-1 (11th)
They’re one of the worst teams in the NBA record-wise, but they also happen to be one of the best against the spread. The logical take would be that they lose a lot of close games, but that’s not the case, as they have the 3rd worst point differential in the league… Another case of public perception, the Suns just benefit from being undervalued.
15. Portland Trailblazers (Last Rank: 25)
Record: 18-23 (18th)
Record ATS: 18-23 (27th)
The Blazers have won 4 of their 6 games in 2017, covered the spread in 5, and C.J. McCollum is the NBA’s leading scorer over that same timeframe. They’re one of the hotter teams in the league, and I don’t expect that to change as their schedule lightens up considerably.
16. New York Knicks (Last Rank: 8)
Record: 17-22 (19th)
Record ATS: 22-17 (5th)
Not sure what’s worse, being a Knicks fan or a Giants fan, but I do know neither is fun. One team can’t even dress right on boat trips, let alone show up for playoff games. The other, well they just bring in all these new players, give some glimmer of hope, then lose 6 straight, and 9 of 10. Their ATS record is still solid, but they’ve gone 2-4 ATS to start the year. Deception.
17. Chicago Bulls (Last Rank: 20)
Record: 19-20 (16th)
Record ATS: 19-20 (16th)
They’re playing the Knicks right now. Yay! *Hits up Narcos on Netflix*
18. Milwaukee Bucks (Last Rank: 21)
Record: 19-18 (13th)
Record ATS: 17-20 (T-21st)
Feels like every year I find myself saying, “Watch out for the Bucks!” but it feels different this time. Malcolm Brogdon might be the steal of the draft, Parker looks to have found his confidence after the ACL surgery, and then there’s Antetokounmpo… I don’t even have the words for Antetokounmpo, but I do know containing him is more difficult than spelling his name.
19. Golden State Warriors (Last Rank: 6)
Record: 33-6 (1st)
Record ATS: 16-22-1 (29th)
Only the Magic are worse against the spread… Yes, only the Magic. They’ve been at least a 12 point favorite in 7 straight games, they’re 0-7. Yet another example of public perception.
20. Cleveland Cavaliers (Last Rank: 5)
Record: 28-10 (4th)
Record ATS: 16-20-2 (26th)
Like the Warriors, the Cavs haven’t covered a spread in 2017. Their spreads aren’t as inflated, they just tend to get a nice lead, stop caring, and then do just enough to get the W.
21. Detroit Pistons (Last Rank: 17)
Record: 18-22 (17th)
Record ATS: 18-22 (23rd)
See #9 Atlanta Hawks minus the part about them winning games, the Pistons don’t tend to do that very often.
22. Brooklyn Nets (Last Rank: 16)
Record: 8-29 (30th)
Record ATS: 18-17-2 (10th)
They’re 1-5 against the spread since the last rankings, then there’s this…
23. Miami Heat (Last Rank: 18)
Record: 11-29 (29th)
Record ATS: 19-21 (18th)
You couldn’t have expected much more when they signed Tyler Johnson to a 4 yr/$50mil contract. He is kinda nice though.
24. New Orleans Pelicans (Last Rank: 26)
Record: 15-24 (22nd)
Record ATS: 18-20-1 (19th)
New Orleans is on the come up, and have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs after an 0-8 start. Time to research the worst start for a playoff team in NBA history… Looks like the ’67 Bulls started 1-15 and made it. We’ll go with that.
25. Denver Nuggets (Last Rank: 14)
Record: 14-23 (23rd)
Record ATS: 17-20 (T-21st)
I did this before they beat the Pacers by 28. It was in London, so does it really count?
26. Los Angeles Lakers (Last Rank: 19)
Record: 15-27 (24th)
Record ATS: 19-22-1 (20th)
D’Angelo Russell don’t want these problems.
27. Philadelphia 76ers (Last Rank: 29)
Record: 11-25 (27th)
Record ATS: 20-16 (7th)
Joel Embiid has quickly become one of my favorite players. He’s a beast, his social media is wildly entertaining, and then there’s this.
28. Dallas Mavericks (Last Rank: 22)
Record: 11-27 (28th)
Record ATS: 17-21 (T-24th)
I respect Dirk for his loyalty, but hate to see him go out like this. Feels a bit like Kobe’s last season. Praying for an epic last game, maybe he’ll go for 70? Hmmmm.
29. Minnesota Timberwolves (Last Rank: 27)
Record: 13-26 (25th)
Record ATS: 17-22 (28th)
Such a disappointing season. So much talent, coach Tibs, and this is what you give us?!
30. Orlando Magic (Last Rank: 30)
Record: 16-24 (21st)
Record ATS: 16-22-2 (30th)
The only thing worse than the Magic, is their mascot. What the hell is it supposed to be?! *Googles Orlando Magic mascot* Oooooh, he’s a “magic” dragon named Stuff. They’re kind of by the sea (or ocean, same thing) so I guess. Hey, did anyone ever discover the real story behind Puff the magic dragon? Was the kid high or what? If he’s a magic fan, surely he was. That’s the only way to endure this.
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