Lessons Learned Through November in the NBA

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Just over one month into the season, the NBA has written many story lines. On his way out, the NBA’s Godfather equivalent, David Stern, is tangling the strings of his metaphorical marionettes in the same way that D-Rose twisted the ligaments in his knees.

Without further ado, here are my top 10 obscure story lines of this season thus far. 

Part 1

Top 10 NBA Story Lines Through November

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1. The Boston Celtics (7-12) have more wins that the Boston Nets of Brooklyn (5-12) and the pathetic New York Knicks (3-13). By game-82 I expect this to change (the Celtics future dealings of Brandon Bass, Rajon Rondo and Geraldo Wallace will help this).

But forget the Celtics for a minute – what the hell is going on in New York? Jason Kidd is intentionally spilling soda for timeouts cause he can’t manage a game (why is he drinking those empty calories anyways?), and somehow Chris Smith is still on the Knicks. Both teams should be pushing the panic button at this point.

2. The Bobcats have willingly started Josh McRoberts in 17 of 17 professional basketball games and he has a respectable PER of 14.50). His PER ranks above Josh Smith, Ray Allen, Lance Stephenson, and more!

In other lesser-important player news, Tony Wroten is tearing it up off the bench for the Sixers. In his second year, the 6’6” guard from the University of Washington averaging 12.8 ppg while shooting 43% from the field, and is the first player in NBA history to have a triple double in his first NBA start. From high volume shooter, to 13 point scorer on a lottery team. Strides are strides!

3. Doc Rivers has decided to unleash J.J. Redick (15.8 ppg). As I write this, I find out he is out 6-8 weeks with a torn UCL. As I’ve torn my very own UCL and can speak from experience, I can say that the recovery is painful. However, I’m confident that J.J. will return to his regular, twine-tickling self – as I did when I returned to the hardwood.

4. Derrick Rose had his second catastrophic knee injury, causing Adidas to rethink/regret/be depressed about their $250 million deal with “Pooh.” This deal has become figuratively a pile of poo(h), and definitely makes the top-5 list for most awkward athlete endorsement deals.

5. The Jazz are 4-15 and the Spurs are 15-3!! Oh yeah, that’s what we expected…

6. Damian LillardLaMarcus Aldridge and the Portland Trail Blazers are 15-3 – are the glory days back in Portland?

7. The almost invincible Indiana Pacers are 16-2, and Paul George – not Kevin Durant – has the second best odds behind LeBron to win League MVP.

8. Something about the Rockets being not as good as they should be

9. Something about Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson being good shooters

10. Obligatory comments about LeBron James

Since I just mentioned gambling and can’t turn back, I will choose to forgo the details of 8 through 10, and will make my not-so-smooth transition to part 2 of this blog.

Part 2

A Life Lesson

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So I have a close friend who falls into the same trap every year. Coincidentally, (or not at all) it happens to be right around the start of the NBA season. While he knows that there are WAY more intelligent places to put his money, my idiotic friend insists that even if he does lose any money gambling, he values the entertainment he receives more than any of the financial losses. Fair. But he’s not going to lose money – not this year anyway – so he says.

When his gambling account reaches a certain value he’s going cash it out, and buy the equivalent number of shares of Apple stock ($AAPL) – so he tells himself. Turning sports knowledge and the ability to predict the future into a personal financial asset is simply an alternative investment strategy, and a sign of personal financial responsibility – he explains. But due to the annual whirlwind of “overconfidence and unforeseen circumstances,” I decided to dedicate a set of rules for my close friend in order to try and help him though this NBA season:

Suggestion #1 If you must gamble on sports, do NOT gamble on your favorite players

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For example, my friend has a special affinity for Wizard’s center Marcin Gortat. He’s felt this way ever since Marcin docked his row boat on the shores of Orlando.

Anyways, my buddy bet on Gortat over 9.5 points, and the Polish Hammer trollingly finished with 9. My buddy lost $20 that he said he would “never realistically cash out anyways.”

To be fair, he spends money way less productively on weekends, so whatever, he doesn’t really care. At the end of the day, he doesn’t really hate Gortat for losing a bet by half a point because he knows it happens all the time.

So the learning here is – don’t let gambling ruin your relationships. The relationships you (think you) have (with the players you love) are more important than the money anyway. Same rule applies to money and personal relationships in life. Right?

Too deep – next suggestion.

Suggestion #2 If you MUST gamble on sports, choose your team, and know everything about them

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If you must bet on sports – which I don’t recommend that you do – pick a team and always know when they play, how they play on back-to-back nights, if they’re especially good on national TV etc.

While this rule isn’t foolproof, narrowing your scope can help you mitigate your risk. There are certain intangible factors that you can pick up on if you watch your team often – see National TV Rondo vs Non National TV Rondo. Wait, what? Vegas factors that stuff into the lines also? Really?

Damn – well I guess that leads me to my third, and final suggestion.

Suggestion #3 Don’t gamble on sports

There’s only one rationale in which you should ever legitimize gambling on sports, and that rationale is if you think of your inevitable monetary losses on gambling in the same way as paying for any other form of entertainment.  You spend money, and receive entertainment.

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But since Vegas possesses the world’s first functioning crystal ball, always expect to lose in the end. Well, it’s either a crystal ball or a mathematical term called expected value, but you get the point.

So if you’re content gambling for the entertainment value, then go right ahead. However, if you’re convinced you can make a vats of cash gambling on sports then I suggest you convince yourself otherwise.

Michigan +7.5 @Duke

Any comments or questions? Feel free to comment below or reach out to me via Twitter @gregmschwartz. 

Las Vegas NBA Summer League: Days 9-10

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Markieff and Marcus Morris

 

The 2013 Las Vegas Summer League ends today, and oh, what a ride it’s been! I’ve been frustrated at times, like when I watched the Pseudo Miami Heat turn the ball over 60 times in their first two games, or when I watched Tony Wroten average 12.2 points per game on 25% from the field (the lowest percentage of the top-50 LVSL scorers by 5.5%). Despite the many turnovers and bad shots, I’ve been pleasantly entertained by the NBA Summer League product.

As the majority of the Summer Leaguers won’t make NBA rosters, they will soon face the decision of trying to latch onto a D-League team and grinding it out, or playing overseas. It’s an interesting decision, both financially and personally. In the D-League, players get direct exposure to NBA executives, but get paid like burger-flippers  – $19,000/$13,000/$25,000 are the three salary brackets. Overseas, these same D-League caliber players are paid significantly more – $65,000 is about an average salary. In a market where average ex-NBA players like Nenad Kristic get paid millions, I’d choose the overseas route.

For most of these players the decision is less about chasing a bigger paycheck in a foreign country – where they will likely experience an extreme level of culture shock – and more about their lifelong dream of grinding it out to make it to ‘The League.’ Here’s a decent article that breaks down the financial logic behind the decision behind going overseas or grinding it out in the D-League. However, I’d like to revisit this topic later in greater detail.

Back to the Summer League…

Quincy Acy

Quincy Acy

 

On Saturday… Despite 28-point outbursts by both Dwight Buycks and Quincy Acy, the Raptors lost to the Suns 103-98 in Saturday’s first quarter-final matchup. The undersized forward, Acy, even showed his new outside shooting touch, going 2-4 from behind the arc. I didn’t know he had that in his game, but the guy whose beard might be better than James Harden’s or Reggie Evans’s, was a force inside and out for the Raptors. For the Suns, Archie Goodwin and Marcus Morris stood out by scoring 20 and 23, respectively, in the victory. Kent Bazemore had the only other notable performance on Saturday, scoring 26 points, but had 7 turnovers in the Warriors’ 83-77 quarter-final victory over the Lakers.

On Sunday… the semi-finals: Heat v. Suns & Bobcats v. Warriors.

Suns 91 Heat 89

Marcus Morris

Marcus Morris

 

In the first game of the day, P.J. Tucker led the Suns with 19 points, and Marcus Morris chipped in with 17 points on 6-9 from the field as the Suns came away with the 91-89 victory to advance to the finals. Phoenix fended off a 20-point efforts from Heat roster hopeful, James Ennis (25 pts), and from D-Leaguer, James Nunnally (24 pts).

Warriors 75 Bobcats 67

Draymond Green

Draymond Green

 

In the penultimate game of the Vegas SL, the Bobcats disappointed everyone watching (me, mostly) by sitting all of their good players – Biyombo, Zeller, MKG and Jeffery Taylor all had DNPs. Just when we thought the Cats actually had a chance to win something, they chose to revert back to losing.

For the Warriors second-year tweener, Draymond Green, had double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds. He looks noticeably thinner, and was taking people off the dribble like a 3 while still rebounding like a 4. Despite the improvements to his body, Green will have a tough time finding minutes for the Warriors after the additions of Andre Igoudala and Mareese Speights.

The Championship: Pseudo Suns v. Pseudo Warriors

The Pseudo Phoenix Suns played their big-name young players in every game of the Las Vegas SL, and earned their spot in Monday’s Championship game against the Pseudo Golden State Warriors. It’s been entertaining to watch the chemistry between the reunited Morris twins, as they’ve led the Suns in scoring (Markeiff: 14.2 / Marcus 13.8) and to a perfect 6-0 record in the LVSL.

Opposing the Suns in the Championship Game are the Warriors, who have won 12 straight Summer League games dating back to 2010 – a fairly meaningless streak in the grand scheme of things, but certainly notable. While Kent Bazemore’s athletic dunk made some noise the other day, his overall play is what Warriors fans should be most excited about. The athletic 6’5” guard is averaging 19.6 points on 44% shooting with 5 boards per game, and looks like he could end up being a valuable asset in the upcoming season for Golden State.

I don’t think Golden State has the size to contend on the boards with Phoenix, and should have a tough time matching up with the Morris twins.

Championship Prediction: Phoenix 83 Golden State 72