I do love the NBA but I am not a fan of the current format of the regular season if truth is to be told.
Each team plays an eighty-two game season, but only fourteen of the thirty teams in the League will be eliminated at the end of that before the rush of the Play Offs. I do think they could squeeze the Play Offs a little bit because it does make the regular season almost irrelevant as Seedings don't always matter to teams across the board either outside of at least one home Play Off series.
It is part of the reason I am not a big fan of the potentially expanded NFL Play Offs in the coming years even if the money men are only concerned about the ratings in the post-season which are not going to be affected but improved.
There have been some very good First Round series in the NBA in the past so I don't expect there will be any decrease in the teams that move into the post-season, but I do think there will be a reduction in the regular season games in the coming years when that format is tweaked a little.
One of the more surprising elements of the NBA to this point has to be the way the two Conferences are shaping up- for years the Western Conference has been much deeper than the Eastern Conference but that looks to be changing this time around.
Some of the expected teams to dominate in both Conferences have done that through the first two and a bit months of the season, but the biggest disappointments remain the Washington Wizards, Houston Rockets and New Orleans Pelicans. All three made the Play Offs last season and were expected to kick on this time around, but all have failed to impress and I think at least two of those teams will struggle to make the post-season this time around barring some huge personnel moves and better health over the next four months.
The Golden State Warriors continue to hold the best record in the NBA, but I am looking forward to see how they deal with adversity as it looks like Stephen Curry will need some rest in the coming weeks. He is battling a couple of injuries, but the Warriors won't care about missing out on the most wins in the regular season as long as they can get Curry set to go for the Play Offs in April.
The NBA Picks through December have been solid with three straight winning months, but things can quickly change if I spend too much time patting myself on the back. I decided against any picks through the first three days of the New Year, but this thread will cover the picks from Monday 4th January through to Sunday 10th January 2016.
Monday 4th January
Boston Celtics @ Brooklyn Nets Pick: The Boston Celtics might be picking up the First Round Draft Pick from the Brooklyn Nets at the end of the season, but they haven't done themselves any favours in that regards. The Celtics trail 1-2 in the four game season head to head with Brooklyn having dropped a home game to them this weekend and now visit the Barclays Center for this home and home series.
It always was going to be a difficult season for the Nets, but they have raised their game while Boston have dropped theirs in the head to head. That didn't go down too well with some of the Boston players though who were self-critical for not playing their usual style and allowing Brooklyn to beat them.
The Celtics are one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, but they have admitted themselves that they cannot play 'down' to the level of an opponent like they did at home against Brooklyn. That should focus the Celtics, but I can't help think they will still have a difficult time covering a lot of points like they are being asked to do on the road here.
Jarrett Jack is a big loss for Brooklyn who continue to be linked with trade talks for some of their better players, most notably Brook Lopez. That hasn't affected Lopez' game at this moment but he will need to be at his best again to help Brooklyn keep up with what is the better team. However, I like the way the Nets have played against Boston this season and Brooklyn have also gone 7-1 against the spread when backing up an upset win this season.
San Antonio Spurs @ Milwaukee Bucks Pick: Much of the dominant San Antonio Spurs record for the season can be based on the fact that a large number of their games have been played at home. Over the coming weeks we will get to see how strong the Spurs are with a number of road games coming up including the annual road trip in February, although this might not be the game to really give them too many troubles.
The Spurs hammered the Milwaukee Bucks at home a little over a month ago when they held them to just 70 points. Surprisingly that isn't a low point for the Bucks in terms of points scored as they will be looking for revenge against the Chicago Bulls tomorrow night after scoring just 66 points against them in another dominant blow out loss.
Milwaukee's struggles can be blamed on a very poor Defensive performance through much of the season, although those have gotten even worse of late. The Bucks have won two in a row to build confidence and snapped a run of five consecutive games where they allowed at least 100 points, but the San Antonio Spurs present a huge challenge for them.
That is because San Antonio's Defensive unit has been much more consistent than Milwaukee's and they can record another double digit win over them here. San Antonio are 5-1 against the spread in their last six games in Milwaukee, while they have a very impressive 15-7 record against the spread over the last couple of seasons when favoured by between 6.5 and 9 points on the road. That becomes 21-9 against the spread when increasing the parameters to include up to being a 12 point favourite on the road and I like San Antonio to win this one big and cover the big number being asked of them.
Tuesday 5th January
The picks were a mixed bag yesterday as one came in and the other fell just short of the mark. On Tuesday there are only four games scheduled and one of those, the Golden State Warriors at the LA Lakers, is going to be off the board for quite a while as it is decided whether Stephen Curry will be risked on a back to back.
Milwaukee Bucks @ Chicago Bulls Pick: The Milwaukee Bucks are on a back to back having been blown out by the San Antonio Spurs as expected on Monday night. They now try and recover from an embarrassing loss to the Chicago Bulls who held the Milwaukee Bucks to just 66 points when they last met in the Play Offs back in April 2015.
That game won't have been erased by the time between that one and this one and Milwaukee will have something to prove. They couldn't do that against the Spurs, who held Milwaukee to 70 points last month before beating them easily enough again on Monday.
Some might also think the back to back hurts the Bucks, but the team have a 7-1 record against the spread in the second of those games this season. Chicago might also be missing Derrick Rose for this game and could easily be looking ahead to the home game with the Boston Celtics which is next up on deck.
You also can't ignore the fact that Chicago have been a dreadful big home favourite to back in recent years as the public have forced some inflated numbers for them. In fact the Bulls are just 1-6 against the spread when favoured by 6.5 and 9 points at home this season and they might not be able to get over this number of points as I look for Milwaukee to bounce back in the correct manner from their heavy loss to San Antonio on Monday.
Wednesday 6th January
It was a disappointing Tuesday with the one pick failing to come up trumps, but hopefully better is to come this week.
New York Knicks @ Miami Heat Pick: The Miami Heat are not exactly a team that can be trusted to cover these big numbers on the spread, but they remain one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Miami have also dominated the New York Knicks in both games this season as they have won each by 18 points per game.
The Knicks are coming off an impressive win over the Atlanta Hawks on the road, but that is a rare occurrence for them. New York had been beaten comfortably on the road in previous games before that win but this is a back to back which can be tough for teams.
I like the way New York have been competing, especially after the way last season went down, but this could be a big ask for them on the back to back. The Knicks are 4-3 against the spread in this spot so far this season which isn't too bad, but the match up with Miami has been difficult and I think the home team will be too good Defensively.
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Washington Wizards Pick: The Washington Wizards and the Cleveland Cavaliers will both look to their Defensive performances to spark a long Play Off run. Recent games have seen both teams improve on those aspects, although the Wizards will hope they can show more Offensively if they are going to earn the upset home win.
I am not going to worry about the spread in this one, but I think the points total might be on the high side in this one after what I have said above.
Both teams will look to show off their Defensive skills to open things up Offensively and both have played well in that regards for the most part. It has been more of a struggle for Washington of late, but Cleveland are not a team that is used to blowing out teams on the road and I can see this being a low-scoring and competitive game throughout.
Overtime would be a concern, but I do see this game falling under the total if it is completed in regulation.
LA Clippers @ Portland Trail Blazers Pick: Blake Griffin might have missed the last few games, but that hasn't prevented the LA Clippers from continuing their winning run which has moved on to six games. The Clippers will be returning home after this game and I don't like the spots where teams come off a long road trip for a single home game before heading back on the road ahead of a home stand.
That is the spot the Clippers find themselves, but they have stepped up their play in recent games and I expect them to have too much for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Damian Lillard is back for Portland, but he showed his rustiness in his first game off an injury and I am not sure that would have been shaken off completely. The Trail Blazers have struggled as expected this season but they have won four of their last six games so won't be short of confidence, although I am not sure they match what the Clippers will bring to the court.
The Clippers have won two of their last three at the Rose Garden and I like their chances of being too strong and winning this one.
Thursday 7th January
It wasn't a good Wednesday with the first two picks both going down in ugly flames without looking they would ever come in. I was stunned by the lack of any Defensive cohesion put together by both Cleveland and Washington, while the Miami Heat highlighted why I don't really enjoy backing them as a big favourite at home.
Fortunately the LA Clippers maintained their strong run of form by winning in Portland fairly comfortably, but the week totals remain in a disappointing position to open the calendar year and the month of January.
Boston Celtics @ Chicago Bulls Pick: The Boston Celtics blew a big lead to fall to a defeat on Wednesday, but they can't be underestimated as the road underdog here in Chicago.
I have to respect the performances the Celtics have put together on a back to back this season, especially as the underdog in the second game, while they are also thrived as a road underdog of six points or fewer with a 19-11 record against the spread in that spot over the last couple of seasons.
In the past I have made the point about backing Chicago as a home favourite and not always being comfortable in that spot. However, the Bulls look healthier and should be fresher on the court, while the three point struggles of Boston can't be swept under the carpet in a game where both teams will feel their Defensive play can give them the advantage.
Chicago have definitely begun to improve on that side of the court and having Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler in the back court should give them another advantage. The Bulls are 7-3-1 against the spread in their last eleven home games against Boston and I think they can cover against a team that took a devastating body blow just last night.
Utah Jazz @ Houston Rockets Pick: The Utah Jazz were taking another blow out loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday while the Houston Rockets were resting, but I still believe this might be too many points being given to the road underdog.
It has only been a few days since the Rockets won a road game in Utah, but the Jazz will be kicking themselves having dominated the first half and leading by 10 points at the break. Even the back to back might not be a concern considering Utah are 4-2 against the spread in that spot and the starters did get their rest having been blown out by San Antonio.
The secondary point also remains that the Houston Rockets continue to struggle for consistency this season while having a Defense that has been porous. Houston are 0-3 against the spread when favoured by between 6.5 and 9 points at home this season while they are 1-5 against the spread when having at least two days rest between games.
Houston will give Utah a chance to stay with them in this one and I just feel the points represent the fact the Rockets are rested while the road team played on Wednesday. However the trends have seen that not to be a problem when it comes to covering for the Jazz and they can end their run of blow out losses in Houston by keeping this one much closer.
Friday 8th January
I was extremely irritated that the Utah Jazz failed to cover against the Houston Rockets last night as they again led at half time and were within 4 points with two minutes left to play. To only earn a push with 9 points in the pocket is a real disappointment from that position, but it was still a winning day thanks to the Chicago Bulls covering against the Boston Celtics.
The week is still not back up into a positive, but there are three more days to go to change that.
Dallas Mavericks @ Milwaukee Bucks Pick: The Dallas Mavericks should restore the starters who were rested for the last game, although the win over the New Orleans Pelicans would have shown Rick Carlisle there is plenty of depth here. The Mavericks have been a surprise in the first half of the season as many thought they had lost too much talent and hadn't brought in the players to make them a challenger in the Western Conference, but the veteran blend has worked to this point.
Dallas play the second of a three game road set at the Milwaukee Bucks who continue to struggle Defensively while trying to find some consistency at the other end of the court. The Bucks have allowed at least 116 points in four of their last five games and that isn't going to get too many wins on the board as they drop out of contention in the Eastern Conference.
Jason Kidd remains sidelined as Head Coach and Milwaukee have just had a hard time getting themselves fully motivated for the season in front of them. After making the Play Offs last season, more was expected from them but they are playing with revenge having lost in Dallas last month.
That might not be enough against a Dallas team looking for their third win this week, especially as the Mavericks are 5-1 against the spread in the last six against Milwaukee. Add in the fact that Dallas are 23-14 against the spread in games where they are either a small favourite or underdog on the road and I think a confident team comes here and picks up the win.
Miami Heat @ Phoenix Suns Pick: The Miami Heat disappointed me as a big home favourite earlier this week, but I am going back to the well with them, albeit this time as a fairly healthy road favourite. I do think they are going to have a little too much for the Phoenix Suns to handle at the moment, even if the home team finally won a game without the injured Eric Bledsoe who has been lost for the season.
That win over the Charlotte Hornets will give Phoenix some confidence, but this has been a poor season for them with off court distractions affecting on court performances. Prior to that win, the Suns had lost nine in a row by an average of 14 points per game although it has to be said they have been more competitive at home.
The problem for Phoenix has been the lack of effort on the Defensive side of the court and that can be a big issue when facing a team like Miami who prides themselves on that side. This is also a Miami team with something to prove on that side after a loss to the New York Knicks which disappointed them so badly and I like the Heat bouncing back today.
Miami have covered in their last seven games in Phoenix and they are 4-2 against the spread when set as the road favourite of six points or fewer this season. I like the Heat to make amends for their last performance and win this with a cover.
Oklahoma City Thunder @ LA Lakers Pick: This is the third time the Oklahoma City Thunder have taken on the LA Lakers this season and the third time I will back them to cover. The Thunder haven't let me down the previous two times with heavy beatings of the Lakers by at least thirty-five points each time and they are still playing well enough to take care of Kobe Bryant's team one more time.
The Lakers are coming in off a close loss to the Sacramento Kings when they put in a huge effort to rally from twenty-seven points down. Bryant was rested in the fourth quarter, but many of the rotation might be feeling that on a back to back even if they are 5-3 against the spread in that spot this season.
However, one of those spread losses came against the Thunder and I do think there is too much scoring in the road team to keep this one close. Oklahoma City will expect better from the Defensive side of things if they are going to reach the NBA Finals this season, but their athleticism has shown up against the Lakers who have failed to score more than 85 points in either game against them.
Oklahoma City have cracked at least 104 points in their last six games and I think it will still be difficult for the Lakers to keep up with them. The Lakers are also 1-4 against the spread when given at least 12.5 points as the home underdog over the last couple of seasons and I like the Thunder to dominate again and cover a big number.
Saturday 9th January
It was another mixed bag from the picks on Friday as they ended 1-1-1 with Dallas so close to the upset that the one point spread actually forced a push.
It means the weekly total remains in the negative side of the board and I am hoping the last two days of this week can turn that around.
Charlotte Hornets @ LA Clippers Pick: No Blake Griffin hasn't led to any problems for the LA Clippers and I want to back the most in-form team in the NBA to continue their run of success. Losing a player of the calibre of Griffin should have had a much bigger impact on the Clippers than it seemingly has, although his team mates have not downplayed how important Griffin is to the team.
The success that the Clippers have enjoyed means they can at least allow Griffin to get fully healthy before they bring him back into the team. The Clippers have won seven in a row coming into this game and that includes a win at the Charlotte Hornets who have been struggling without Al Jefferson.
Five straight losses have dropped the Hornets to below 0.500 and put them under a bit of pressure in the Eastern Conference. However they have been playing better than expected through the season and I wonder if the Hornets are perhaps dropping into a position that many thought they may end up in.
The Hornets are just 1-4 against the spread in their last five games at the LA Clippers and the form of the home team means I will back them to cover again.
Toronto Raptors @ Philadelphia 76ers Pick: Through much of this season I have found a number of spots to back the Philadelphia 76ers to come up trumps with a big spread behind them. This won't be one of those times as they host the Toronto Raptors who complete a four game road trip on Saturday as they search for a three game winning run.
The Raptors have whipped Philadelphia twice this season already and I do fear for the 76ers during their home stand when they host some of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. They were blown out by the Atlanta Hawks in their first of those games and the previous games with the Raptors suggest that this is going to be another big challenge for them.
Toronto have a 7-1 record against the spread when they are playing a team with a sub 0.500 record on the road this season. They are 23-9-2 in their last thirty-four games in Philadelphia and Toronto have played well on both ends of the court during their two game winning run and I think that will show up here.
Philadelphia are just 1-3 against the spread when given between 6.5 and 9 points as the home underdog this season and they are 11-19 against the spread in that spot over the last couple of seasons. A double digit win for the Raptors looks on the cards for me.
MY PICKS: 04/01 Brooklyn Nets + 7 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
04/01 San Antonio Spurs - 9 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
05/01 Milwaukee Bucks + 8 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
06/01 Miami Heat - 7.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
06/01 Washington Wizards-Cleveland Cavaliers Under 200.5 Total Points @ 2.00 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
06/01 LA Clippers - 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
07/01 Chicago Bulls - 5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
07/01 Utah Jazz + 9 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
08/01 Dallas Mavericks + 1 Point @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
08/01 Miami Heat - 5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
08/01 Oklahoma City Thunder - 13.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
09/01 LA Clippers - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
09/01 Toronto Raptors - 9 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
November Final: 27-22-1, + 2.69 Units
October Final: 5-4, + 0.57 Units
Season 2016: 59-47-4, + 6.93 Units