Pelicans & NBA Basketball

The Pelicans have fallen short of expectations. Can they salvage a rough season?

A season of turmoil resumes Friday for the New Orleans Pelicans when they visit the Indiana Pacers to tip off the second stage of the NBA Season.

New Orleans entered the All-Star break with a straight up record of 26-33, well below market expectations. “Regular Season Win Totals” centered around 45 before the 2018-19 campaign began. That means a 45-37 mark was “par.” The Pelicans would have to finish 19-4 in their last 23 games just to push. No way that’s going to happen in the brutal Western Conference, with or without Anthony Davis.

Against game point spreads, New Orleans went 28-30-1 before the break. That’s worse than it sounds from an investment standpoint because of the 11/10 vigorish (10 percent) that’s charged to lost bets. In real-money terms, it’s a record of 28-33-1, which is minus five betting units.

So, the Pelicans haven’t been a good betting investment from a full season or game-to-game perspective.

Worst stretches: a five-game non-cover streak from October 31 through November 7, and another from December 21 through December 29.

Best stretch: a five-game cover streak from January 29 through February 6.

Despite the disappointment, the Pelicans were able to cover five in a row that one time. Smart bettors know that hot runs can begin in a finger snap.

It’s difficult to map out future betting strategies for New Orleans until more is known about the shoulder injury suffered by Davis just before the break. He left the Oklahoma City game and didn’t return, then only played 5 minutes of the All-Star game this past Sunday.

It’s clear that the markets still consider the Pelicans as close to “playoff caliber” when Davis is healthy. Their Power Rating drops when he’s out. Upcoming point spreads at Indiana, vs. the Lakers, vs. Philadelphia, and then at Denver and at Utah on a road trip in early March will provide a good sense of where oddsmakers place the Pellies in the big picture.

As the personnel picture clears for the Pelicans, VSiN will talk more about betting strategies in the final weeks of the regular season.

Other notes

Futures prices still show Golden State as heavy favorites to win the Western Conference and the NBA Championship. A composite of global prices show the Warriors at -350 to win the West (meaning you risk $350 to win $100) and -275 to win the Finals this coming June (risk $275 to win $100).

Elsewhere in the West, Houston ranks second in market futures at around 8/1 to win the conference (risk $100 to win $800), 14/1 to win the league. Oklahoma City centers around 12/1 and 22/1 in those markets, Denver 14/1 and 25/1.

Markets agree with the media that it’s going to be a four-team free-for-all in the Eastern Conference. Current odds to win the East center around: Toronto 2/1, Milwaukee 9/2, Boston 3/1, Philadelphia 3/1. To win the NBA title: Toronto 9/1, Milwaukee 10/1, Boston 12/1, Philadelphia 12/1.

The battle for seed positions in the East is going to be fascinating, with Indiana a monkey-wrench the market currently doesn’t respect much. That means bettors will be handicapping “playoff caliber” basketball long before the postseason even begins.

New Orleans isn’t the only NBA team virtually eliminated from reaching its Regular Season Win Total. Washington must finish 22-2 to leap from its current 24 wins up to its market projection of 46. Boston must also go 22-2 to rise from 37 wins to what was expected to be a dominant 59-win campaign. As great as James Harden is, there’s no way he’s leading Houston to a 24-1 record down the stretch to raise the Rockets from 33 wins past 56.5. LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are also a big longshot, needing a 20-5 flurry to get from 28 wins to 48.

Of course, the class of “tankers” focusing on draft position aren’t going to reach their market targets either: Cleveland, New York, Phoenix, and possibly others in the final weeks. (Be sure you watch “A Numbers Game” with Gill Alexander weekday mornings on VSiN for details on “Tankapalooza!”)

Jeff Fogle writes the daily VSiN newsletter. Sign up at VSiN.com/newsletter
Patrick Magee is a sports writer who has covered South Mississippi for much of the last two decades. From Southern Miss to high schools, he stays on top of it all.
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