by Larry Josephson, Top Market Sports
Mid-Season NBA Power Rankings
1. Golden State – Savvy bettors are fading the Warriors, who are just 21-26-1 ATS this season. But if you can’t stomach investing money on the best team not covering, consider taking them only on the road, where they are 21-4 SU. Keep an eye on Steph Curry’s ankle issues going forward; bettors should look for signs that Curry will be getting rest here and there.
2. Houston – The Rockets are another mediocre cover team (basically .500 vs. the spread) but could be a big player at the trade deadline if they can bring in help without disrupting their core of Harden, Paul and Capela. Houston won the season series against GS, which could set up an epic Western Conference finals.
3. Boston Celtics – Four straight losses (three at home) to mediocre opponents -- before a needed win at LA against the Clippers -- have Celtics backers on edge. Kyrie Irving is playing added minutes as the offense struggles, Jayson Tatum may have hit the rookie wall and the bench has been listless.
4. Toronto Raptors – Management’s decision to re-sign Kyle Lowry and keep the core together for at least this season has paid dividends. The Raptors have been consistent and relatively healthy all season, and have more than a puncher’s chance of stealing home-court edge in the East.
5. San Antonio – What’s going on with Kawhi Leonard? Would the Spurs actually consider trading their franchise Swiss Army knife forward in a dispute over rehabbing an injury? San Antonio is slipping a bit and we’ll see if Popovich can pull things together and make a decent playoff run.
6. Oklahoma City – Bettors who bought into the Westbrook/George/Anthony hype got burned badly in the first several months, but the Thunder have shown signs that they’re starting to get their house in order. If OKC stays together enough to get home court advantage in one series and is playing well in April, a hot Westbrook could be enough to cause a major headache for Houston or GS.
7. Minnesota – Tom Thibodeau had a habit of wearing out his starters while in Chicago, so keep an eye on the minutes that Towns and Butler play post-All Star game. That said, the Wolves are a nice cover team at home. On the road? Not so much.
8. Cleveland – The pressure to appease LeBron and move the Brooklyn pick for one last shot at a title in what looks like James’s last year must be intense. Thomas’s return has made a bad defense even worse, and locker room back-biting hasn’t helped. Cavs have more drama than a middle school.
9. Miami – Looks like we never gave Erik Spoelstra enough credit when he had Wade and James. This guy can coach. Only one West Coast swing left, and it looks very manageable (Portland, Sacramento, Lakers). Heat could be a tough out in Eastern Conference playoffs.
10. New Orleans – The Pels are developing into the prototype Team That No One Wants to Play. Davis and Cousins are figuring things out and putting up monster numbers. NO is also becoming a reliable (28-19) over team for totals bettors.
15. LA Clippers
20. New York
23. LA Lakers