The NBAGeek Goes Back to Vegas

Before the season started, I went to Vegas and placed a few bets. I promised to revisit them as the season went on, and as it happens, I was recently in Las Vegas again, so this seems a pretty good time to do a quick checkup.

So, how do things look?

Team Bet Current Pace Bet Pays Winner?
Knicks Under 50 15 wins $1,000 10:11 Y
Hawks Over 40 41 wins $100 10:11 MEH
Pelicans Under 40.5 41 wins $300 10:11 MEH
Celtics Over 28 30 wins $500 10:11 MEH
Pacers Under 55 77 wins $600 10:11 N
76ers Over 17 27 wins $500 10:11 Y
Jazz Over 25 14 wins $800 10:11 MEH
Warriors Under 51.5 46 wins $600 10:11 Y
Trailblazers Under 38.5 68 wins $400 10:11 N
Celtics Win Division WOOT $40 60:1 Y
Jazz Win Division No Way $40 100:1 N
Grizzlies Win Division Not Likely $60 7:1 N
Pistons Win Division Hell No $20 17:2 N
Cavaliers Win Division Hell No $20 16:1 N
76ers Win Division WOOT $20 500:1 Y
Totals $5,000    

So far, the results look mixed. Rather than grab-bagging it, I'll look at each pick.

The Knicks Under 50

I'd always considered this the "safe" pick, and many told me that I should have mortgaged my house to bet more here. This roster is simply a disaster. Even with Chandler this team had no chance at 50, and without him they are a lottery team. I don't think there's a ton to say here, this team has played exactly as we thought they would. What would really worry me as a Knicks fan is that Bargnani is actually playing at a career high levels (meaning he's "only" bad, not "worst player in the league") and Shumpert is overperforming the projection, and they are still terrible. The second thing that would worry me is the Knicks have virtually no future, since they have traded away a hell of a lot of picks.

The Hawks Over 40

This wasn't one of the safest bets, but conventional wisdom was that Josh Smith was a better player than Paul Millsap, and that's the kind of mistake we try to capitalize on. I think the Hawks are going to get even better as Ayon gets more minutes. I've only caught a couple of games but Korver sure has been amazing for them so far.

The Pelicans Under 40.5

The Pelicans are on pace to win 41 games, but have had a very easy schedule so far. This is way too early to say much about but I still like this bet. Of course, Anthony Davis breaking his hand is a tough break for the Pelicans, but likely a factor here; he has single-handedly kept this team in the hunt, as everything else we were concerned about has come true regarding this roster.

The Celtics Over 28

This bet is now pretty decent. Initially, I was a little worried that the Celtics were actively trying to lose because of their messed up rotations (Humphries was amazing in 21 minutes in game one, then racked up 3 straight DNPCDs). But it looks as though they are trying to win, and they have had a tough schedule. If Rondo comes back and plays, I really like this bet. If they go the Derrick Rose route and keep him out for the year, it will be very close. Other than Jordan Crawford, this team is who we thought they were. 

The Pacers Under 55

I've watched the last several Pacers games and I have to say that in addition to their easy schedule, the refereeing has really been helpful for this team. The Pacers play 90s basketball. They are as physical as it gets, and I've actually been really surprised at what the officials have let them get away with. I think Vogel deserves a lot of credit for recognizing what his team can get away with and pushing that boundary. When teams are getting pounded on constantly, and not getting a lot of calls, they start settling for long jumpers, and the Pacers profit from that tendency.

In any case, I do not think the Pacers are a 70+ win team (as their current pace suggests), but clearly they are a better team than we thought they were. One reason is that when Paul George made the leap this year, he skipped right on over "all-star" and went straight to "MVP". Another is that Roy Hibbert decided to become a top 3 center -- his true shooting is at 55%, a huge improvement over his career average of 49%. And finally, Danny Granger got injured, which was a huge lucky break for ths Pacers, as that meant that Lance Stephenson got a lot more minutes than he might have otherwise. And now, he has played so well that if and when Granger gets back, he won't take any minutes from Stephenson.

I think regression to the mean will bring this team back down a bit (raise your hand if you really think this is a 77-win team, which would be GOAT territory), but obviously they aren't likely to crash hard enough for me to like the under on 55 wins.

The 76ers Over 17

Well, I think we all know where this is headed. As a segway from the Pacers, I watched a 76ers team without Thad Young or Spencer Hawes on the second night of a back-to-back in Indiana take the Pacers to the wire. The scary part here is that so far, Young has had a very sub-par season. If he can return to form, and if this team decides to play Noel in January/February, this team will make the playoffs. I also think MCW is for real. He can't really shoot, but you do not just "run hot" over 500 minutes to average 4 steals, 10 assists, and 7 boards per 48 as a point guard. Whenever a player is really good at all the non-shooting categories, and is at least average at scoring efficiently, this is a very good sign.

If I were running the sixers, I'd be shopping Turner very aggressively right now. He gets a lot of (undeserved) credit for thier play so far. The meme is that Turner has finally made "the leap" to stardom, but I think he's still overrated (those turnovers!), and there's a great possiblity that the Sixers could sell high on him right now. Hawes is one they should also shop, as it's highly unlikely that they will want to pay him $12 million + next year, but the reality is that lots of teams aren't going to offer much for a 4-month rental, and it may be more useful to just keep him, let the contract expire, and perhaps sign-and-trade him in the summer.

In any case, as I said before the season, this team doesn't have enough terrible players to lose 65 games.

The Jazz Over 25

Meh. I don't think anyone could have predicted the Jazz would start THIS bad. They're on pace to set all kinds of offensive futility records, and to top it off, Enes Kanter has been awful. At this point, the Jazz will have to run hot for me to win this bet, and the big concern is that it seems unlikely that they will want to. 

I am holding out some hope that Burke becomes a good rookie, and Hayward comes out of his funk, and the team can be good enough to give the bet some legs.

The Warriors Under 51.5

Here's another bet that looks pretty good. One can say that I got "lucky" with Iguodala's injury, but I thought 52 wins was pretty crazy for a team that just ran really hot during the playoffs last year. Of course, then Klay Thompson tried to make me look bad with his outrageously great shooting the first few weeks. Just when I thought he was calming down a bit, he went 8-of-11 from three last night. The Warriors continuing to shoot a nearly-unsustainable 44% from three is about the only way I will lose this bet, and I'm ok with taking that bet.

The Trailblazers under 38

This one looks even more hopeless than the Pacers bet. As I said on the podcast, I do not think the Blazers are "truly" a 50-win team, but they will probably win 50 anyway. The Blazers have had a very easy schedule, but almost all of the credit for the team being 14-3 instead of something like 10-7 (where I might have a chance that they'll cool down enough to get under 38) should go to Wesley Matthews. What the hell happened to this guy in the offseason? Not only is he shooting a ridiclous 51% from three, he's also nearly doubled his career rebounding numbers while lowering his turnovers and fouls. In short, Matthews has been as good as Dwyane Wade. Raise your hand if you predicted that, so I can shoot it off.

Celtics to Win Division (60:1)

Love this bet. There's a reason this division is called the Titanic by Arturo. At 60:1, the chance that Rondo comes back and leads this team to .500 ball and wins the division is delicious. I wouldn't take this bet at 5 or maybe even 10 to one, but at 60 to 1 it is a very high +EV high-variance bet.

Jazz to Win Division (100:1)

I would not take this bet at 1000:1 now. Not much more to say here.

Grizzlies to Win Division (7:1)

The Grizzlies are going to bounce back and get good, I'll say that. But barring a Kawhi Leonard injury, they aren't taking the division crown from the Spurs. Of course, injuries happen, so I won't tear this ticket up.

Pistons or Cavaliers to Win Division

I may as well tear these up.

76ers to Win Division (500:1)

WOOT. I liked this bet before the season and now it's probably the best bet on the board. No, the 76ers are not a good team. However, neither is any other team in this division. I don't think the 76ers have great chances at this, but let me remind you that Toronto is currently in first place with a 6-10 record! It is entirely possible that 37 wins will take this division. And the key here is that the payout is huge, making this a big +EV bet.

To put it another way, who wants to give me 500 to 1 that the 76ers won't win 37 games? Anybody? Anyone at all?

Bueller? Bueller?