Three Eastern Conference NBA Teams to look out for

October 5, 2018

The 2017-18 NBA season was quite interesting as many teams made significant changes in their shot selection and shooting performance, surprising both the bookmakers and bettors who will have to pay attention to those sides during the upcoming 2018-19 NBA season. Let’s take a look at what teams in the Eastern Conference were the most drastic in these changes last season and see how it will affect totals and ATS odds.

BROOKLYN NETS

The Nets’ head coach Kenny Atkinson is well-known for his ideas about shooting selection, insisting on taking 3-pointers instead of mid-range shots. In the 2016-17 season, Kenny’s first in the career as a head coach, the Brooklyn Nets were taking 37.1% of their field goals from beyond the arc, while last season, 41.1% of their field goals were 3-pointers. Interestingly, the Nets took fewer corner threes last year (20.1%) than they did two seasons ago (21.5%), but the direction of their development under Kenny Atkinson is obvious. The Nets also improved their efficiency from downtown, going from 33.8% in 2016-17 to 35.6% last season.

However, with the 10th-worst offensive rating (106.9) and the sixth-fastest pace in the league, the Brooklyn Nets managed to win just 28 games in 2017-18 season. It is still four wins more than two years ago when the Nets had the third-worst offensive rating in the league (104.1) with the fastest pace, recording 101.3 possessions per 48 minutes. The bettors can expect offensive progress from Kenny Atkinson boys, while their biggest problem is at the other end of the ball, allowing 110.6 points to their opponents for two seasons in a row.

If they continue to grow offensively and find the way to improve at the defensive end, the Nets could surpass the 32-win mark at -105 odds at Bet365 Sportsbook, but the bettors should be alert during the season, as Brooklyn Nets were the fifth-best team in the league at covering the spread with a 46-36-0 record. On the other hand, 43 out of 82 Nets’ games went in the under, and bettors can expect more high-scoring affairs in this term.

CHICAGO BULLS

The Bulls made a huge change in their system last year, hitting 35.0% of their field goals from downtown which is a significant leap from 25.6% in the 2016-17 season. Last summer, the Bulls drastically changed their roster, including departures of Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo, while they acquired some young guns such as the skillful wingman Lauri Markkanen. The rebuilding process is always painful, but the head coach Fred Hoiberg knew he has to make some moves and rebuild the system, too. Not just the Bulls started to hit threes more frequently, but they also improved the efficiency, nailing 35.5% from beyond the arc last season (34.0% in the 2016-17 season).

The Bulls had the 11th-worst offensive rating (107.4) and the 11th-slowest pace in the league (95.3), so they need to improve offensively if they want to win more games than last season when they finished 13th in the Eastern Conference with a 27-55 record. At the 2018 NBA Draft, with the 7th overall pick, Chicago selected the talented big man Wendell Carter Jr. who should bring more power in the paint, which could lead to more open threes. The Bulls also signed Jabari Parker this summer, and the former Bucks shot 38.3% from beyond the arc last season.

Against the spread, the Chicago Bulls had a 41-40-1 record last season which was the 14th-best record in the league, while 43 of their games were finished in the over. The bettors can expect more of the same in the 2018-19 season, as the Bulls are a young and inexperienced team, but with some solid range and a few big men who can nail shots from beyond the arc. They should have a difficult time to surpass the 29-win mark at -130 odds, as the bettors can expect a lot of ups and downs during the campaign. However, if they continue to develop the shot selection, Chicago Bulls will be one of the most intriguing teams to bet on this year.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS

The Wizards had a turbulent 2017-18 season finishing eighth in the Eastern Conference with a 43-39 record, mostly because of John Wall’s injury problems. Wall missed a half of the regular-season games, so the head coach Scott Brooks had to adapt and make some changes in his team’s play. The Wizards started to shoot more threes (31.0% of their field goal attempts) than two seasons ago when 28.4% of their field goals were 3-pointers. They also kept almost the same efficiency from downtown (37.2%), and it should be a role model for the 2018-19 NBA season, although the Wizards don’t have many sharpshooters in their roster, besides Bradley Beal and Otto Porter.

Bradley Beal averaged 37.5% from downtown last season, while Otto Porter was excellent, nailing 44.1% of his 3-pointers on 4.1 attempts per game. With healthy John Wall and the new addition Dwight Howard in the paint, Beal and Porter should get more open shots this year. The talented combo guard Tomas Satoransky should get more freedom after a solid 2017-18 season when he averaged 7.2 points and 3.9 assists on 46.5% shooting from beyond the arc in 22.5 minutes per game. Another combo guard Austin Rivers arrived this summer after tallying 37.8% from beyond the arc with the Clippers last season, and if Kelly Oubre Jr. continues to improve his range, the Wizards will be a great danger from beyond the arc.

With LeBron James moving to the west, the Wizards will be looking for the breakthrough season, so I think they will surpass the 45-win mark at -115. Last year, the Wizards were quite inconsistent, making a 37-44-1 record against the spread, while 44 of their regular-season games were ended in the under. They had the 13th-slowest pace in the league with 96.6 possessions per 48 minutes, and this should change in the 2018-19 season if the Wizards’ best players avoid injury problems. They should be more consistent with covering the spread, and the bettors can expect more high-scoring affairs.

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