Top five NBA teams against the spread

Top five NBA teams against the spread

Top five NBA teams against the spread
By MATT SOUTHARD

Looking at the top five teams ATS in the NBA, it's easy to see how Cleveland is at the top of the early-season throne. While the Cavaliers dominate home and away, Milwaukee and New Jersey have taken their show on the road. For Denver on-point ATS success came in a special delivery and Orlando's success lays in the hand of its special big man.

Cleveland Cavaliers (18-4 ATS)

Much is made of LeBron James awe-inspiring offensive play so far this season, but it has been his defensive acumen that has set the true tone for the Cavaliers. James is on pace for a career high in steals (2.05 steals) and set the Cavaliers’ franchise record for steals on Tuesday against Toronto. 

As a team, the Cavaliers have the best defensive team in the league allowing 90.4 points per game and holding opponents to a scant 41.7 percent shooting from the field.

With the dynamic play of James and the impressive team defensive effort, Cleveland has been outstanding since losing to the Pistons at Detroit on Nov. 19.  The Cavaliers have rattled off 10 straight ATS wins, at one point winning nine straight by 12 or more points. 

Granted, some of those victories were against teams with less-than-stellar records like Golden State (6-15 SU), Oklahoma City (2-20 SU) and Charlotte (7-14 SU). But take this into consideration: The combined record of the 10 teams the Cavs have played since the Detroit loss is 117-105-2 ATS. 

Milwaukee Bucks (15-8-1 ATS)

As certain as it is for James to be great season-to-season, it isn't uncommon for the Milwaukee Bucks to be a shoe-in for the opposite. 

But that's meaningless to the NBA bettor, especially when considering underdog value.  While 9-14 SU, the Bucks are 15-8-1 ATS.  More importantly, the Bucks are 11-6-1 as an underdog and 9-5-1 ATS on the road. 

After losing at Chicago to open the season, the Bucks ripped off a 5-0-1 ATS streak on the road, including covers against Boston and Cleveland and a push against Denver.  Milwaukee has cooled down some but still boasts road covers against Orlando, Atlanta and the Lakers. 

The Bucks have had a tough time fielding their complete team this season, but with perennial leading scorer Michael Redd back after missing much of the first month of the season, Milwaukee should be in line for more surprise covers in the future. 

Denver Nuggets (13-8-1 ATS)

Since jettisoning former MVP and eight time All-Star Allen Iverson to Detroit for Chauncey Billups, the Nuggets have been much improved with the Colorado-native running the point, going 10-7-1 ATS, with seven of those victories coming as favorites.

To be fair to Iverson, the Nuggets were 3-0 ATS with him keying the offensive attack to start the season. But the NBA's plus/minus offensive efficiency stat show the true impact of Billups. Prior to the trade, the Nuggets were plus-10. Since the trade, Denver is plus-30. 

What's more, this is a team succeeding without last season's leading scorer Carmelo Anthony yet to find his stroke. As evidence by Anthony's 45-point performance Wednesday night against the Timberwolves, the cold snap may be over. 

The Nuggets need to be more consistent against the better competition in the league.  With the exception of a 94-85 defeat of the Celtics at Boston on Nov. 14, the Nuggets are 5-5 ATS against teams .500 or better. With games against Cleveland, Houston, and Portland looming on the horizon, the Nuggets may lose some value.

New Jersey Nets (12-8 ATS)

The New Jersey Nets have been one of the surprises of the Eastern Conference this season and they have Devin Harris to thank for that. 

The speedy point guard leads one of last year's worst ATS teams (33-47-2) in scoring (24.4 points) and assists (6.1) and has given the team a fresh breath of air since coming to the Nets last season.

And like the Bucks, they've done it on the road, going 9-2 away from the Izod Center.  New Jersey has covered in seven of its last eight road games largely due to Harris' MVP-like play.

Two of those road wins came against Phoenix and the always-tough-at home Utah Jazz on back-to-back nights to close out November. The Nets covered and won both games straight-up.

Orlando Magic (12-9-1 ATS)

After dropping the first two games of the season to the Atlanta Hawks and the lowly Memphis Grizzlies, there was worry the Orlando Magic didn't pack the 50-win "oomph" from last season.

But now sitting at 17-5 SU, the Magic look as powerful as their team leader and superstar, Dwight Howard. The league-leader in rebounds (14.5) and blocks (4.0) has helped muscle the team to a 12-9-1 ATS record.

The Magic also rely heavily on 3-point shooting. Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu picked up the slack against Portland Tuesday night with Howard struggling. Orlando was 14-27 from 3-point range, with Lewis hitting six 3-pointers and Turkoglu draining the game-winner.

Gambling on deep-range teams can be nerve-wracking, but the team's offensive diversity inspires hope. The Magic’s outside shooting makes opposing teams pay for doubling Howard. And if the big fella doesn’t get doubled down low, watch out.

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