Before the 2016-17 season began, the Brooklyn Nets were at the bottom of the pile. They were tabbed as +50000 long shots to win the NBA championship, with a win total of just 20.5 – last in the league on both counts. The Los Angeles Lakers weren’t much better; they were +20000 with a total of 24.5 wins following Kobe Bryant’s retirement.
Like the song says: Buy low, sell high. The Nets (4-5 SU, 7-2 ATS heading into Monday’s action) and the Lakers (6-5 SU, 8-3 ATS) have both gotten off to surprisingly competent starts this year. It’s one thing to beat the NBA betting odds when you’re an undervalued commodity, but winning basketball games straight-up is another matter. Will the good times continue, or has this all been smoke and mirrors?
The improvement is real. Both Brooklyn and LA have played about as well as their records indicate; the Nets have a point differential of minus-1.2 per game, while the Lakers are plus-1.1. If you use those figures to create expected Pythagorean win records for both clubs, they’ll come out the same as their actual win records: 4-5 for Brooklyn, 6-5 for Los Angeles.
It’s easy to laugh at how poorly the Nets and Lakers have played in recent years, but it’s also important to recognize how far along these teams are with their rebuilding programs. Brooklyn cratered last year at 21-61 (38-43-1 ATS); this season, the Nets have a remodeled front office under promising GM Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson. The Lakers (17-65 SU, 36-46 ATS last year) still have Mitch Kupchak calling the shots, but they also have Luke Walton as their new bench boss, and Walton’s basketball bona fides are beyond reproach.
Randle With the Handle
Then you have the development of all those young players. The Lakers, in particular, have been stockpiling talent during this prolonged three-year playoff slump, and they’re already getting above-average results from power forwards Julius Randle (+2.4 BPM) and Larry Nance, Jr. (+4.2 BPM). The Nets, meanwhile, have a defensive stud in swingman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (+2.5 DBPM), although he still needs a little polish at the other end of the court (–3.7 OBPM).
Combine these rising starts with solid veterans like Brooklyn PG Jeremy Lin (+2.3 BPM) and LA center Timofey Mozgov (+0.5 BPM), and you’ve got the recipe for continued growth. Just don’t expect these hot commodities to retain their betting value indefinitely. They both play in huge markets, even if they’re the B-teams in their respective cities at the moment. Their secret will be out soon.