The first month of each NBA season requires handicappers to pay especially close attention. New coaches, new players, injuries and line up shifts require the oddsmakers and handicappers to be at the top of their game. For example, after starting 17-3 last season under coach Nate McMillan, the Seattle Supersonics have stumbled out of the game under first-year coach Bob Weis. They got bombed in one game after which Weis read them the riot act. Defense is one major weakness. Heading into the weekend, Sonics’ opponents are shooting 50 percent from the field this season, the best in the NBA! Seattle started 2-5 against the spread, a money-burning machine quite different from the Sonics start a year ago.
Where did Nate McMillan go? To Portland, and the Blazers appear to have a happier ship than last season. The Blazers started 4-2 against the spread and 3-1 SU/ATS at home. Portland is overachieving under McMillan at 4-1 against the spread as an underdog.
In Charlotte, notice that this week rookie Raymond Felton started in place of the injured Brevin Knight. Felton busted out with 18 points and 10 assists in his first career start to help the Bobcats snap a five-game losing streak with a 122-90 victory over the Pacers. I’m not suggesting one change like that is going to turn the Bobcats into an offensive machine, or a good team to look at over the total. However, you need to keep a close eye on changes like that, as well as the effects on the court.
Another team with a ton of lineup changes this week us Utah. The problem is it’s the same thing that happened last season: Too many injuries. Andrei Kirilenko and Carlos Boozer are still out. In their blowout loss at Sacramento this week, Utah had a rookie guard in Andre Owens making his first NBA start, with reserve guard C.J. Miles and backup center Robert Whaley making NBA debuts!
In Dallas, Doug Christie left the Mavericks Thursday to return home to Seattle for a second opinion on his surgically repaired right ankle. Marquis Daniels started at shooting guard against Atlanta on Thursday and finished with 11 points. Coach Avery Johnson said until Jerry Stackhouse is well enough to return to action, the Mavericks will utilize a small lineup at times because they are somewhat depleted at shooting guard. This could hurt when playing big rebounding teams.
Some players take pride in being a sixth man, but not Corey Maggette. Maggette is playing well as a sixth man, but doesn’t like his role: “I ain’t no sixth man,” he said this week. Woah! Starting at the small forward position has been Quinton Ross, who has averaged 8.1 points and 4.6 rebounds but is the team’s best defender. Handicappers need to keep tabs on shifts like this, and when players begin returning from injuries, as it can affect the team’s play.
Finally, I’ll leave you with a note about the miserable Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks are the youngest team in the NBA. Their players average 23.5 years of age. “We got babies here,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. “That’s what we have to keep reminding ourselves. Most of these guys should be in college.” Youth is one factor that won’t change for the Hawks, which means Atlanta will be bad all season!