This article is part of our Handicapping the NBA series.
We have entered 2017. Everybody has been warned now that we are here. There was no Handicapping the NBA last week, as I was on a much-needed vacation. Let's kick off the new year with a quick look at the five best teams ATS this season, plus some other fun notes pertaining to the books.
Houston Rockets: 24-12
Toronto Raptors: 21-11-1
New York Knicks: 20-14
Boston Celtics: 19-14-1
San Antonio Spurs: 19-14-1
I don't know how many times I need to write it in this article, but backing the Rockets is a great idea that the book-makers are yet to catch on to.
Team to watch out for: New Orleans Pelicans
Why, you ask? They have four straight wins ATS and have pulled their season record to 17-18-1.
Only one team this season has not been an underdog at any point so far – shockingly, it's the Golden State Warriors. I suspect at some point when they opt to rest Steph Curry or Kevin Durant, maybe against a team of the Clippers', Spurs', Cavaliers' or even Raptors' caliber, they will become a slight underdog if, and only if, they are the road.
As for the other powerhouses in the NBA that Charles Barkley thinks are ruining everything (as if the 90's were not dominated by 2-3 teams; or the 80's...oh...right and the 70's, too)
Powerhouse teams as 'dogs this season (maximum seven games as an underdog):
I love Kemba Walker – never forget his step back at Madison Square Garden while leading UConn past Pitt in the Big East Tournament Quarterfinals – but the Hornets have no business among those four other teams.
Given all these fun notes, the picks for this week's NBA action would normally have been straightforward. However, there are only seven games and almost none of the aforementioned teams are playing. In the last installment of this piece, I went 2-0 (15-11-1 on the season), but since it was last year's news, I don't really remember what I regret, save for spending New Year's Eve in Las Vegas.
On to this week:
Thunder at Hornets (-2.5)
The Hornets will be slightly shorthanded in this tilt with Cody Zeller out with a concussion. Both teams are coming off road losses, but the Thunder defense held the Bucks to 98 points, while the Hornets allowed 118 points to the Bulls, 52 of which came courtesy of Jimmy Butler. Westbrook packs a bigger punch than Butler, and the Thunder just have to keep it close.
The pick: Thunder +2.5
Trail Blazers at Warriors (-15)
While the Blazers are enjoying a full two days of rest before taking the very short trip to Oakland to take on the Warriors, they will be without Damian Lillard (ankle). These teams have collided twice so far this season and here were the outcomes withDamian Lillard:
November 1: Warriors defeat Trail Blazers 127-104
December 17: Warriors defeat Trail Blazers 135-90
It is a lot of points, but the Warriors big three scorers have been dropping 20 points apiece with relative ease, while Draymond Green racks up triple-doubles.
The pick: Warriors -15