With the 2020-21 NBA regular season heading into its fifth week of action, teams in both conferences are clearly beginning to find their new identities. Some teams are starting to look like potential online betting conference finals contenders while others are revealing themselves to be nothing more than mere pretenders. In addition to that, we’re also starting to see which teams look like they’re going to cover the spread at a high rate moving forward and which ones are struggling to do so.
With that said, let’s take a fun-filled look at the league’s ATS sportsbook betting landscape.
NBA ATS By the Numbers
Chicago Bulls (9-4 ATS)
The Bulls (5-8 SU) look like a completely different – and better – team under first-year head coach Billy Donovan, even if the former Thunder coach recently said his young team still needs to learn how to close out opponents. While the Bulls have been awful defensively in allowing a whopping 120.0 points per game (28th), Chicago is putting up an impressive 116.8 points per game to rank fourth in scoring. Seventh-year shooting guard Zach LaVine has been phenomenal in averaging a career-high 26.9 points per game on a stellar 48.6 percent shooting mark from the field and 37.9 percent from beyond the arc.
Indiana Pacers (8-5 ATS)
The Pacers (8-5 SU) were on the wrong end of an abysmal 129-96 blowout loss against the Clippers on Sunday, but the Pacers are off to a surprisingly solid start through 12 games. Indiana is ranked 11th in scoring (112.9 ppg) while ranking an encouraging 13th in points allowed (109.8 ppg). They have recorded winning records at home and on the road and are one of 12 teams with a positive scoring differential margin (+3.1 ppg).
San Antonio Spurs (8-5 ATS)
While the Spurs are a modest 7-6 on the season and just don’t have the talent necessary to challenge the best in the west, San Antonio has covered the spread at a decent rate through 13 games. The Spurs have recorded wins over the Clippers and Lakers this season, but the once perennially-powerful Spurs were also limited to just 88 points in a road loss against the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves. San Antonio is averaging 110.1 points per game (18th) while allowing 110.2 points per contest defensively (14th). On another note, it’s been pretty stunning to see how far, once perennial all-star forward LaMarcus Aldridge (13.6 ppg) has fallen in recent years.
Let’s take a look at the odds to win the 2021 NBA Conference Championships.
Teams To Watch
Phoenix Suns (7-4 ATS)
The addition of future Hall of Fame point guard Chris Paul has helped Phoenix improve in the early going of the new campaign – just as we expected. The Suns (7-4 SU) are averaging 110.5 points per game (17th) while shooting a collective 46.9 percent from the field and 36.7 percent from beyond the arc. While all of those offensive numbers rank in the league’s middle third, the Suns have made a big leap at the other end of the floor.
Despite ranking 18th in defensive field goal percentage (46.2%) and 14th in three-point defense (36.3%), the Suns are ranked an impressive sixth in points allowed (106.7 ppg). In addition to that, we’re starting to see Phoenix’s young players grow by leaps and bounds.
While superstar shooting guard Devin Booker is putting up a team-high 23.0 points per game, it has been the growth of third-year former Villanova forward Mikal Bridges (15.1 ppg), third-year center Deandre Ayton (12.5 ppg, 11.3 rpg) and second-year forward Cameron Johnson (12.4 ppg) that have been the most impressive things about the Suns so far this season. Chris Paul is averaging a modest 13.3 points per game but is dishing out 8.7 assists per night while helping his young teammates to truly reach their full potential. As far as the long-term outlook is concerned, I’m expecting Phoenix to cover the spread at a high rate all season long.
Utah (8-5 ATS)
The Jazz (9-4 SU) are off to a great start through 13 games. Utah got past Denver 109-105 on Sunday in a thrilling affair to move to 5-0 over its last five games. The Jazz are ranked a modest 16th in scoring, (110.5 ppg), but Rudy Gobert (2.7 blocks per game) and company are ranked a stellar fourth in points allowed (105.4 ppg).
LA Clippers (8-5 ATS)
The Clippers (10-4 SU) are starting to look a lot better as we move further into the 2020-21 season. Los Angeles has won three straight and four of five including an emphatic 129-96 rout of Indiana on Sunday as seven players scored in double figures. The Clippers are ranked eighth in scoring (114.9 ppg) and ninth in points allowed (108.6 ppg).
Toronto Raptors (3-9 ATS)
I swear, it doesn’t take long for things to change in the world of professional sports. One minute, you’re an elite ballclub that is winning the 2018 NBA Championship and the next, you’re a bottom feeder that is among the league’s worst teams. Not only have the Raptors gotten off to a horrific 4-8 start, but their four victories have come against the Knicks, defenseless Sacramento Kings and most recently, consecutive wins over the young and rebuilding Charlotte Hornets.
Toronto is averaging 111.5 points per game (12th) but has seen their perennially excellent defense take a huge step backwards by giving up 112.2 points per contest (19th). You’d think a team with three players that all average at least 18.7 points per game would be a lot better, but that clearly hasn’t been the case for Toronto this season. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Toronto turn things around at some point in the near future.
Denver Nuggets (4-8 ATS)
The Nuggets might have reached last season’s Western Conference Finals, but Denver has gotten off to a pedestrian 6-6 start through a dozen games heading into the upcoming week. The Nuggets are averaging 115.4 points per game to rank seventh in scoring, but the Nuggets are allowing a generous 112.5 points per contest defensively (21st). Denver has won two of three while covering the spread in both victories. With those wins coming against the Knicks and Warriors, I wouldn’t get overly excited about the Nuggets yet.
New Orleans Pelicans (4-7 ATS)
The Pelicans (5-6 SU) were expected to be one of the brightest young teams in the league in 2020-21, but New Orleans has struggled mightily out of the gate. Yes, this team has a plethora of young talent starting with Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson and Lonzo Ball, but they’ve struggled mightily to score under first-year head coach Stan Van Gundy.
The Pelicans have been solid defensively in limiting the opposition to just 108.8 points per game (10th), but New Orleans is averaging a paltry 107.8 points per game to rank an uninspiring 24th in scoring. The Pelicans got by defensively bereft Sacramento on Sunday, but I swear that this young team looked a lot better under the offensive genius of former head coach Alvin Gentry, who really got a raw deal from the organization.
Sacramento Kings (5-9 ATS)
I’ve been watching and covering NBA basketball for over four decades and I must say, I’ve rarely seen a team play defense as awful as Sacramento (5-9 SU) has so far. The Kings are allowing a whopping 123.2 points per game to rank a dismal 30th in points allowed. Sacramento heads into the new week riding a three-game losing streak in which the Kings have given up at least 128 points in every game, including Sunday’s loss at New Orleans. Ouch!
NY Knicks (6-8 ATS)
After an encouraging 5-3 start through eight games, the Knickerbockers (6-8 SU) had dropped five straight – until walloping Boston by 30 points, 105-75 in Beantown on Sunday. New York is averaging just 101.3 points per game to rank a discouraging 29th in scoring. But the good news is that defensive-minded head coach Tom Thibodeau has his new team playing great defense in limiting the opposition to just 104.1 points per game to rank second in points allowed. All in all, the Knicks look like a team that could hover around .500 ATS all season long if they continue to play defense like they have so far this season.
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