Here are three teams that look poised to have a good run coming out of the NBA’s All-Star Break and three that are trending downward:
Cleveland: How can the Cavaliers not top any list of teams trending upward? All they have done is win 13 games in a row (8-5 ATS), and it sure seems like the Cavs will be acquiring Amare Stoudemire from the Suns to bolster their frontcourt. In fact, Cleveland could well get Stoudemire just for J.J. Hickson. Zyrdunas Ilgauskas is reported to be included in the deal with Hickson, but it’s thought that Phoenix will buy Ilgauskas out and that he will then return to Cleveland (after a league-mandated time sitting out). Despite the NBA’s best record, the Cavs are only tied for sixth in the league with ATS wins (28). They are only 10-16 ATS against teams with a losing record. Adding Stoudemire would make the Cavs even bigger favorites in most games, so don’t automatically go betting on them.
Charlotte: The Bobcats entered the break at 26-25 and sixth in the East despite not getting much at all from Tyson Chandler this season. Charlotte’s road record looks terrible (7-19), but the Bobcats started 1-14 away from home this season and thus are 6-5 (and ATS) since then. Chandler is back from his foot injury and should improve what already is a good defensive team. There’s also talk that the Bobcats may get Glen Davis from the Celtics for seldom-used point guard D.J. Augustin. Davis has been playing much better of late -- in the last three games, Davis has 31 points and 14 rebounds -- and would be a huge boost to Charlotte’s playoff hopes if the Bobcats can make that deal. Charlotte is excellent at home (19-6, 14-11 ATS) so if it has figured out how to win on the road, then look out.
Oklahoma City: The Thunder entered the break with the second-longest win streak in the Association at six games. They are tied with the Hawks for the most ATS wins this season with 32, and OKC leads the NBA with an 18-7 ATS road mark. Kevin Durant has been unbelievable with 25 straight games of 25 or more points. Only two other players in the game over the past 30 years have done that: Allen Iverson and Michael Jordan. It’s shocking that this team was 4-29 only 14 months ago. And it’s still the second-youngest in the NBA and should only get better.
Memphis: The Grizzlies were a nice story for a while, but they stumbled into the break having lost six of their final seven games (the one win coming, surprisingly, against the Lakers). Point guard Mike Conley and forward Zach Randolph both are struggling. Conley is averaging just 8 points this month on 17-for-43 shooting. Randolph reinvented his career and made the West All-Star team, but his numbers are all down this month. Thanks in large part to Randolph, who leads the NBA in offensive rebounding, the Grizzlies rebound nearly 33 percent of their own misses, which could be the highest team offensive rebounding rate since the Utah Jazz grabbed 35 percent of its misses in 2004. I still say Randolph is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off.
Detroit: How is Joe Dumars still employed as the Pistons’ GM? His offseason signings of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva haven’t worked (and he is the guy who drafted Darko Milicic ahead of Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade). Detroit is lousy and is a bad bet at home (12-14-2 ATS) and on the road (9-13-1). The Pistons entered the break having won just three of their final 10 games (same ATS record), and two of those wins were close games against the inept Nets. Gordon was 0-for-8 from the field in last Wednesday’s home loss to a Kings team that entered with four road wins. Look for Detroit to be very active before the trade deadline, with Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton both being shopped.
Houston: The Rockets have overachieved this season with no Yao Ming or Tracy McGrady, with T-Mac expected to be traded by Thursday’s deadline. But the NBA is all about stars, and while Houston has a few good players right now it doesn’t have any stars (no All-Star for the first time in 25 years) and that’s beginning to catch up to the team. Houston entered the break off a home loss to the lousy Sixers and then a 33-point setback in Miami. The Rockets have three wins in their past nine games and are 7-11 (4-14 ATS) in the New Year. Houston is good enough to beat on bad teams, going 13-3 vs. teams below .500, but not good enough to hang with the good teams (11-14 ATS).