It's natural to believe Miami spreads will be inflated in the 2010-11 season, making the Heat prime fade material. That wasn't so for Boston a few years back, however.
One of my former professors once compared writing a doctoral dissertation to mental masturbation. That line went through my head last week while watching LeBron James present “The Decision” on ESPN.
If LeBron had stroked his own ego any harder, the results would have been messy. As it was, we ended up with an unsurprising decision handled incredibly poorly by a media giant and superstar player.
Of course, if you’re reading this, you’re a bettor. The message boards at SBR lit up over the next 48 hours with discussions about LeBron, the Heat, the Cavs and every other topic that could possibly be tied into the story. One of the interesting threads that I posted in involved the effect of James, Dwyyane Wade and Chris Bosh on Heat lines next season, particularly early. Like many posters, I felt that Miami's basketball betting spreads would be inflated and that fading them might present great value.
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There is, however, some NBA history to examine here, and the results are fascinating. I decided to take a look at the 2007-2008 Boston Celtics, as I felt they were the closest to next season’s Miami Heat. That was the season they added Kevin Garnett to form the trinity of KG, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce. Surely lines would be inflated in that situation.
The results are stunning.
In their first 20 games, the Celtics were favored 19 times, including eight of nine road games. Boston went 18-2 SU out of the gate. The Celtics also went 14-5-1 ATS. Against double-digit spreads, they were 4-2-1. I am certain that many bettors viewed that Celtics team like the 2010-2011 Miami Heat. Those who faded the Celtics early got burned.
Let’s look at the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls. This was Michael Jordan’s first full season back after his White Sox experiment. The presence of Jordan resulted in large lines and profits for Chicago backers. The Bulls were not as impressive as the Celtics. Chicago was also 18-2 SU in its first 20 games, but only 11-8-1 ATS. The Bulls did struggle with double-digit spreads, going 3-5 in that situation. If you backed Jordan, however, he did pay off for you in the first 20 games.
Now it’s time for the other side of the equation. If you felt that the 2007-2008 Celtics would get too much credit, you may have liked the Minnesota Timberwolves early. After all, they had lost their superstar and might be receiving too many points.
Betting the T’Wolves early, however, would have been a losing proposition. They came out of the gate 3-17 SU, and posted a below-average 9-11 mark ATS in their first 20 games. They were favored once during that stretch (winning the game SU and ATS). They faced double-digit spreads six times, posting a 4-2 record.
So, what does this tell us? As serious bettors, we are looking for an edge. We analyze point spreads and look for value. We may think we see value by fading the 2010-2011 Heat early, but history tells us that may be a losing proposition. Conversely, the woeful Cleveland Cavaliers (and, yes, they will be bad) will be underdogs in the majority of their early games. 2007 tells us that the lines may not be inflated.
If these trends follow, betting with the Miami Heat and against the Cleveland Cavaliers will be profitable early in the 2010-2011 season. That seems very “square”-ish in theory, but the books may want us to view it that way. In any regard, be careful blindly following or fading any team. I think it is important to realize, however, that fading the Heat early may not produce desired results among SBR posters.
In summary, if you like my argument I have three suggestions for the first 20 games of 2010-2011:
- Tail the Heat.
- Fade the Cavs as single-digit dogs.
- Tail the Cavs as double-digit dogs and favorites.
It’s going to be an interesting season.