Pace of Play and Overs
The NBA has literally gotten off to one of its fastest starts ever to a season. Teams are flat-out zooming up and down the floor. During the preseason, I tweeted this:
All 4 NBA preseason games tonight have seen their totals bet upwards from the opener by an average of 6 points… the game changes every year and the pace revolution (in both reality and fan/bettor perception) is as strong as ever
— ZB (@NBAZachB) October 1, 2018
While I may have been right about the pace-and-space revolution continuing its sweep across the league, I had no idea just how strong that wave would be. While the sample size is obviously small, some of these numbers are quite shocking:
Per basketball-reference.com, the NBA’s league average pace is at 102.1 possessions per 48 minutes, the highest that number has been since 1982. That number is almost five full possessions greater than the league average of 97.3 a year ago.
The league average effective field goal % is 52.1%, which would constitute a league record if maintained throughout the season and continue the trend of this metric increasing every year.
The league average offensive rating is 110.9, the highest ever by over two points per 100 possessions.
Field goal attempts per game, at 90.4, is the highest they’ve been since 1979.
Overs are an astounding 27-12 through the first 39 games of the season.
While these numbers are perhaps likely to regress over the course of the year, it is undeniable that the game has changed and we’re in the midst of a full-fledged paradigm shift. A 125-119 result should be far more expected than a 99-95 one. It’s the new normal. I’m not ready to into the en vogue explanations of the offensive rebounding rule change or “freedom of player movement.”
In my opinion, this is just the result of the movement that D’Antoni and Steve Nash created, Steph Curry’s Warriors perfected, and the rest of the league is now trying to copy. And until the books adjust their numbers sufficiently, these overs should continue to hit at an alarming rate. The sample size prevents me from saying that overs should be an auto-play, but it’s something to continue to monitor throughout the season — I’ll continue posting these trends for reference so we can stay locked into pace of play.
Another trend I’ve been riding early this season is home teams, and especially home dogs. If you’ve been following our nightly SGP NBA picks, you’ll likely have noticed that I’ve almost exclusively played home teams this season. What started off as a hunch is now backed by (again, a small sample size) some solid trends:
Home teams are 24-15 ATS so far this season. Home dogs are 8-3 ATS.
The logic seems sound, too, wherein the growing pains of rolling out a new roster and starting a new season are exacerbated by the uncomfortableness of going on the road. Likewise, the hope of a fanbase and desire to please a hometown crowd give home teams an extra boost early in the year before they eventually fall down the standings.
- Denver’s defense. They’re actually an 3-0 under team so far, holding teams to a stifling 92.9 points per 100 possessions. That number is about five points better than the next best defensive team in the league. Denver is a team that has been known for its offense under Mike Malone, and their inability to get stops has cost them a playoff berth in back-to-back seasons. Hopefully, their newfound physicality and want-to on the defensive end will make this team the “surprise” of the year. They’re already 3-0 and 3-0 ATS with a win against Golden State.
- New Orleans’ offense. They’ve scored 134, 131, and 149. Enough said
- Oklahoma City. This team might be really bad — they got pummeled at home by the Sacramento Kings. Losing to the Kings at home by double-digits happens every now and then, but allowing 131 at home to them is unacceptable. No matter the context of the NBA’s scoring increase, we all know the Thunder can do better than that. That’s an effort thing. They also have the worst offense in the NBA, scoring less than 100 points per 100 possessions.