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NBA Shifts, Shakers and Stumblers

   by Bryan Leonard - 02/11/2007



It’s amazing how NBA teams change during the course of a season. Some teams play better than expected and are motivated, especially in the second half of the season. Some teams are underachievers and pack it in, maybe even getting a coach fired. And some teams can handle losing some players to injuries, while others wilt.

Take the Milwaukee Bucks. They lost ace scorer Mike Redd and went totally in the tank, going 2-13 straight up and 5-9-1 against the spread without him. They were never a good defensive team to begin with and no one was able to step up and fill his offensive shoes. The good news is they are expected to get Redd back soon, but will they improve? Will they even care? The season is in the tank anyway, so watch them closely.

The Celtics are similar, losing 14 in a row while star Paul Pierce watches (grimaces?) from the bench. Notice that Boston is 10-4 under the total the last 14, all losses. Like the Bucks, no one has stepped up offensively. If you’re a totals player, it shows at the betting window with fewer points.

The young Charlotte Bobcats started the season 11-8, but since then they are 7-21. Their biggest need is a go-to scorer. The Bobcats have less of a go-to option than just about any team in the NBA. Emeka Okafor and Raymond Felton are nice building blocks, but they have a long way to go. That’s not surprising, either, as not one of the eight most recent NBA expansion teams reached the playoffs in their third season. In fact, none won more than 31 games in season three. Notice that Charlotte is 10-3 under the total the last 13 games.

An NBA team needs to be flexible, meaning they need to have different ways to win or be competitive. This requires talent in the starting rotation and the bench for when guys get hurt, as well as a coach who can teach the guys to adapt. Take the Houston Rockets. They lose star center Yao Ming and what happens? They go 13-6!

This isn’t a knock on Yao, it’s a testament to how flexible the Rockets are under Jeff Van Gundy. What do they have to fall back on? Defense. Houston allows 90 points per game, tops in the league. They also allow just 42% shooting by opponents, also tops.

A team to keep an eye on in the East is Miami. They are barely hanging in as the No. 8 playoff seed, but they are getting healthy. Shaq is back and slowly working his way up to over 20 minutes per game, which allows Alonzo Mourning, James Posey, Antoine Walker, and newcomer Eddie Jones to come in off the bench. One thing we learned is that we played well out on the West Coast, Wade said this week, referring to the Heat’s 4-2 record from a six-game road trip last month. A successful handicapper needs to keep up on changes constantly and how that might translate to a team’s play.

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