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From Barry Gossage, Phoenix Business Journal

The Best and Worst NBA Teams ATS

Who cares about what a team’s actual record is in the NBA?  If you’re betting on games, that figure should not matter to you one lick.  Why?  Because it’s all about the spread baby!  And when you know what teams are hot and what teams are not against the spread, you automatically have an advantage.  Zion and the Pelicans got you thinking their a surefire spread winner?  Wrong.  Are you a Knicks hater and love betting against them?  Whoops!  Let’s break down some of the best and worst NBA teams ATS.

Phoenix Suns: 35-19 ATS

Surprised?  You shouldn’t be.  The Suns have the best ATS record of any team in the NBA.  So, what exactly does that mean?  It means the Suns consistently outperform expectations.  That’s what is at the heart of spread betting, expectations.  It’s not about how good the two teams are.  It’s about how well you expect the two teams to perform against each other.  As more and more money comes in for one team, the spread is adjusted to favor them more, and vice versa. 

In the case of the Suns, bettors fail to realize how good they actually are, and bet accordingly.  Expectations are inaccurately low.  Let me provide an example that simultaneously roasts the Miami Heat.  On Tuesday, April 13, the Suns played the Heat and the spread was Phoenix -3.5.  The final score was 106-86 Suns.  Phoenix strikes again.  So, why was this -3.5 spread reckless?  The Suns were 38-15 at the time, the Heat were 28-25.  The Suns had won 9 of their last 10.  They also beat the Heat by 10 a couple weeks before.  Not to mention the Heat are only 23-31-1 ATS this season!

But history and recency bias from last season told bettors the Heat were good and the Suns were bad, so a close game was projected.  When betting the spread, you have to get rid of expectations and look at the facts.  The facts are, the Suns are better than the Heat, and way better than them ATS.  This kind of thinking gives you an advantage over people who bet based on their expectations alone and influence the spread for your benefit.

Indiana Pacers: 22-32 ATS

The Pacers have the 2nd worst ATS record in the NBA.  Who has the worst?  The Houston Rockets.  I’ll give you my quick take on the Rockets: don’t bet on them.  What’s that?  You think the Rockets will cover the spread and want to place a bet?  Stop it.  You’re a fool.  Now moving on to the Pacers.  This team came out of the gates playing really well this season.  Sabonis has had an all-star season, Malcolm Brogdon averages over 20, and Myles Turner is a defensive stud.  On paper, this looks like a playoff roster.  But is it?

Well, apparently not.  They’re 26-28 on the season and on the outside of the EC playoff picture.  Expectations are artificially high for the Pacers because of the hot start and flashy roster.  When they played the Clippers on Tuesday, the spread was LAC -3.  Yes, Kawhi Leonard did not play, but neither did Myles Turner!  The Clips were 38-18 at the time and spent all season with Kawhi and PG being in and out of the lineup.  Why was it expected to be so close? 

Because people think the Pacers are better than they are.  The Pacers have struggled against top-tier teams all season, and that game was no different.  Not to mention the Clips are 33-23-1 ATS this season, 4th best in the league.  In such a contest, it should have made sense to avoid a Pacers bet.

New York Knicks: 34-21-1 ATS

I hate to keep repeating myself, but I think it is a valuable lesson, expectations are flawed.  The Knicks sucked last year.  They sucked for many years before last year.  Of course it makes sense to bet against them… wrong!  The Knicks are a playoff team, and they have an all-star in Julius Randle.  Basketball is back in New York baby!  I’m playing with fire here showing love to the Knicks, especially after taking the over on the Cowboys in last week’s article.  But the fact of the matter is, they are better than people think.

On Wednesday they played the Pelicans and the spread was NOR -2.5.  Wait, the Pels were the favorite?  The 25-29 team was favored against the 28-27 team?  And the Pels are only 25-29 ATS on the season?  Hm, interesting.  It makes no goddamn sense!  Except it does.  The Pels have Zion and they have Brandon Ingram.  They are such a sexy team and people love sexy bets. 

So people bet on the Pels, and the spread gets influenced to favor them.  But it’s a simple fact that this season, right now, the Knicks are better.  They played the Lakers on Monday and were only favored by -1.  Oh yeah, the Lakers didn’t have Lebron or AD!  They covered in that game too.  Forget expectations, look at the facts.

Toronto Raptors: 23-33 ATS

What the hell happened to this team?  They were the 2-seed in the East last year and went to the conference semis.  They lost Ibaka and Gasol, but those aren’t huge departures.  Now they’re 22-34 in 2021 and couldn’t even sniff the playoffs if they tried.  I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t understand why the Raptors have experienced such a sharp decline, but they have.  As I keep saying, it’s time to ditch expectations and focus only on the facts.

On Sunday they played the Knicks, and the spread was TOR +3.5.  That seems reasonable, until you consider how bad the Raptors, and how good the Knicks, have been against the spread.  Not only that, but the Raps had recently lost to teams like the Pistons, Thunder, and Lakers (no Bron/AD).  They are so inconsistent and so untrustworthy, which is reflected in their ATS record.  They are not a team you should feel good betting on because of these factors.  The Knicks on the other hand, are a team you should feel good about, which brings me to the overall lesson from this discussion.

The Lesson To Be Learned

We have reached a point in the season where ATS records really matter.  They tell an interesting story, and you could analyze why each team has the record they do.  In general, teams that are underestimated tend to do better against the spread.  Teams that are overestimated tend to do worse against the spread.  All the teams we’ve discussed here fall into one of those categories.  My advice?  Only ever bet the spread on NBA games when a top-10 ATS team plays against a bottom-10 ATS team.  Regardless of what the spread is, the odds will be in your favor.  #moneytime.