How NBA teams are stacking up against the spread this season

How NBA teams are stacking up against the spread this season

Betting on the NBA is a great way to invest yourself into the action, literally. Around 35% of the way through the 2021-22 NBA regular season, I thought it would be an interesting time during the holidays to check in on how teams are faring against the spread.

For those wondering, what exactly is a spread? Well, it’s how much sportsbooks predict a team to win in that game. For example, the Utah Jazz were favored to defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves by at least 11 points on Thursday night with the spread at -10.5. (Since the Jazz won that game by 12, they covered.)

Here on, yours truly runs a daily NBA betting podcast called “Nothing But Bets.” If you haven’t already, make sure you check it out as I provide you the betting edge before tip-off with picks against the spread, plus over/under player props via PrizePicks.

When putting the whole league under a betting-related microscope, there are a few eye-opening takeaways. Here are teams' records against the spread as of Dec. 24, 2021:

Cleveland Cavaliers: 24-8

Oklahoma City Thunder: 20-11

Golden State Warriors: 20-11-1

Charlotte Hornets: 20-13-1

Chicago Bulls: 19-11

Miami Heat: 19-14

Memphis Grizzlies: 19-15

Sna Antonio Spurs: 18-13

Boston Celtics: 18-14

Phoenix Suns: 17-14

Utah Jazz: 16-15

Indiana Pacers: 16-16-1

Minnesota Timberwolves: 16-16

Houston Rockets: 16-16-1

Detroit Pistons: 15-16

Dallas Mavericks: 15-17

New Orleans Pelicans: 15-18

Milwaukee Bucks: 15-20

Toronto Raptors: 14-15

Washington Wizards: 14-17-1

Philadelphia 76ers: 14-18

Los Angeles Clippers: 14-18

Orlando Magic: 14-19

Sacramento Kings: 14-19

Brooklyn Nets: 13-17

Atlanta Hawks: 13-18

Denver Nuggets: 13-18

New York Knicks: 13-19

Portland Trail Blazers: 12-20

Los Angeles Lakers: 11-21-1

First off, hello Cleveland. The Cavaliers are well ahead of the pack as it relates to their record against the spread at a dominant 24-8 mark. They have a full four-game lead on second place, which says a lot not only about Cleveland’s eye-opening improvements this season, but also how often betting prognosticators continue to doubt the team's legitimacy.

Incredibly enough, the Oklahoma City Thunder are right behind Cleveland at No. 2 in the ATS standings. Before losing in Phoenix last night, OKC was 6-point underdogs at home against Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday evening. The Thunder not only covered the spread, but won outright in blowout fashion. This says a lot about the progress they’re making in their rebuild attempt. Somehow, someway, the Thunder are 27-36 overall when Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has started for them over the last two seasons.

On the other hand, at the bottom of the list, it's no surprise who ranks last. There were NBA Finals hopes for the Los Angeles Lakers this season, but they continue to get in their own way constantly. What were high hopes in terms of adding Russell Westbrook and ample floor-spacing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis have now turned disastrous. Not only has the Westbrook fit been clunky at best — which was a worry once the blockbuster trade happened during the 2021 NBA Draft — but the lack of depth is also startling compared to actual contenders within the league. Checking in with a 11-21-1 record against the spread, Los Angeles continues to lose cash for those who bet on the purple-and-gold at a rapid rate.

A good indicator of this list, as hinted at above, is how these teams rank in record are really based off preseason expectations. Alongside the Lakers at the bottom are the Trail Blazers, Knicks, Hawks and Nuggets, four teams who also got off to very slow starts. Atlanta and Denver are finally climbing out of their ruts, but Portland’s lack of aggressiveness to make a true contender around Damian Lillard continues to be a major problem. Meanwhile, New York’s magic from last season is wearing off, as Tom Thibodeau's crew seems stuck in the lower portion of the reloaded Eastern Conference.

At the top, Cleveland is going to stay at No. 1 for awhile unless it completely nosedives before the All-Star break. Next to the Cavs are the aforementioned Thunder, Warriors, Hornets and Bulls. Chicago and Golden State were expected to improve during the 2021-22 campaign, but not many thought they would reach these levels already; both teams seem settled into the top tiers of their respective conferences. I was high on the Hornets’ potential entering this season thanks to LaMelo Ball’s expected sophomore leap, but the defense has collapsed to the point where it’s hard to even trust them to stop opposing teams from scoring 125 points on a nightly basis. (Last night's 115-107 win in Denver was a step in the right direction at least.)

The rest of the standings within the middle are jumbled up together, which should come as no surprise with the unpredictability of the NBA from a betting perspective. However, that’s what makes it so fun. Current betting trends like this not only showcase the winners and losers to stake wagers on, but also  paint a clearer picture of how teams are valued in a different manner.

Stay tuned for more NBA betting content on throughout the season, and make sure to subscribe to “Nothing But Bets” on our own podcast network featuring 12 excellent shows.

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