ESPN Insider Request: Clippers Are NBA's Best Team

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LAWLERSLAW
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The Clippers, led by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are the NBA's best team according to Vegas.

With roughly a month to go in the 2013-14 NBA regular season, teams are already positioning themselves for the playoffs -- or draft -- and in a rare occurrence, there are as many as six squads with a legitimate shot at the title.

This will mark the third edition of ESPN Insider's NBA Vegas Rankings this season. Our esteemed panel of handicappers consists of Dave Tuley, Geoff Kulesa and yours truly, Erin Rynning. As mentioned in the first and second editions, these rankings represent the perceived neutral-court value of each NBA team in the eyes of Vegas bettors and handicappers. In other words, if the Heat played the Warriors on a neutral court, you could use the ranking system to determine what these three panelists would grade as the perceived line of the game (before adjusting for home-court advantage)...

FightOnRon
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With roughly a month to go in the 2013-14 NBA regular season, teams are already positioning themselves for the playoffs -- or draft -- and in a rare occurrence, there are as many as six squads with a legitimate shot at the title.

This will mark the third edition of ESPN Insider's NBA Vegas Rankings this season. Our esteemed panel of handicappers consists of Dave Tuley, Geoff Kulesa and yours truly, Erin Rynning. As mentioned in the first and second editions, these rankings represent the perceived neutral-court value of each NBA team in the eyes of Vegas bettors and handicappers. In other words, if the Heat played the Warriors on a neutral court, you could use the ranking system to determine what these three panelists would grade as the perceived line of the game (before adjusting for home-court advantage).

The chart below has our rankings for each team, along with the NBA power rankings from ESPN's Marc Stein, Kevin Pelton's SCHOENE projections (a player and team projection formula), John Hollinger's power rankings and the current NBA title odds and NBA preseason win totals from the Las Vegas Hotel. We'll also identify the most undervalued and overvalued teams in Vegas' eyes right now.

Here are all 30 NBA teams ranked by their Vegas power rating.

2013-14 NBA Vegas Rankings

Rank Team Stein SCHOENE Hollinger Futures Win Totals Vegas Rank

T-1 Los Angeles Clippers 2 1 1 8/1 56.5 30

T-1 San Antonio Spurs 3 2 3 6/1 55.5 30

T-3 Miami Heat 4 4 4 8/5 60.5 29.5

T-3 Oklahoma City Thunder 5 5 7 4/1 55.5 29.5

5 Houston Rockets 1 3 2 16/1 55.5 28.5

6 Indiana Pacers 6 7 8 5/2 55 28

7 Portland Trail Blazers 12 8 6 30/1 44.5 27

8 Golden State Warriors 10 6 5 16/1 51.5 26

9 Toronto Raptors 9 12 9 60/1 37.5 25.5

T-10 Chicago Bulls 7 13 12 60/1 57.5 25

T-10 Memphis Grizzlies 8 10 14 60/1 51 25

T-10 Minnesota Timberwolves 16 9 10 200/1 41.5 25

T-13 Dallas Mavericks 11 11 11 100/1 44.5 24

T-13 Phoenix Suns 15 16 13 100/1 19 24

T-15 Washington Wizards 13 14 15 60/1 40.5 23

T-15 Brooklyn Nets 14 15 17 100/1 52.5 23

17 Charlotte Bobcats 17 20 16 500/1 27 22

18 Atlanta Hawks 24 18 20 500/1 40 21.5

19 Denver Nuggets 18 19 26 9999/1 45.5 20.5

T-20 New York Knicks 20 17 19 500/1 49 20

T-20 Detroit Pistons 25 22 22 1000/1 40.5 20

T-20 New Orleans Pelicans 19 21 21 9999/1 40.5 20

T-23 Cleveland Cavaliers 21 24 23 1000/1 39.5 19

T-23 Sacramento Kings 22 23 18 9999/1 32 19

25 Boston Celtics 26 25 24 2000/1 28 18.5

26 Orlando Magic 28 28 25 9999/1 23 18

T-27 Utah Jazz 27 27 27 9999/1 25 17.5

T-27 Los Angeles Lakers 23 26 28 9999/1 34.5 17.5

29 Milwaukee Bucks 29 29 29 9999/1 29.5 15

30 Philadelphia 76ers 30 30 30 9999/1 16.5 12

There is new blood at the top spot, with the Los Angeles Clippers playing their best basketball of the season. But the gap between the Clippers and the rest of the contenders is minuscule. The defending champs and current betting favorite Miami Heat rank tied for third, while the Indiana Pacers drop to the sixth spot.

Let's look at the overvalued and undervalued NBA teams right now from a Las Vegas perspective.

Overvalued NBA teams

Dallas Mavericks (37-29 ATS)

All three handicappers agreed that the Mavericks, ranked in a tie for 13th, are a fringe playoff squad. They currently are in the eighth seed in the Western Conference but their remaining schedule is tough and with the return of Eric Bledsoe, the Phoenix Suns are very live. The Mavericks continue to have the makings of an overvalued basketball team with offense-only players like Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, and Vince Carter. They rank 21st in my defensive numbers and I expect them to fall as the relentless schedule wears down this aging team.

Tuley: "I know our Vegas Rankings have the Mavericks overvalued, but I'll be a devil's advocate there, as it's my personal power ratings that have helped skew their number higher. They were my long-shot pick (50-1 in my Insider piece at the All-Star Break, and I bet them at 75-1), as I felt they have the veteran leadership to know what it takes in the playoffs. But I do agree that they've been losing value on an individual game basis as more people are giving them respect."

Sacramento Kings (28-35-2 ATS)

The Kings face an uphill battle nearly every night playing in the Western Conference. They're currently tied for 23rd in our power ratings, and now may be a good time to "sell." While this team has shown to be capable on occasion, poor performances are starting to occur with far more frequency. Sacramento is an intriguing team to handicap. I like coach Mike Malone but can't stand many of their players. In the end, and with nothing to play for down the stretch, the combustible mix of the fiery Malone, lazy Rudy Gay and unpredictable DeMarcus Cousins will be too much to overcome.

Undervalued NBA teams

Minnesota Timberwolves (32-31 ATS)

The Timberwolves deserve better and it's a shame they'll likely miss the playoffs despite clearly being one of the top 16 teams in the league. They are currently 5.5 games behind the Mavericks for the eighth seed but are tied for 10th in our power ratings. The betting market has liked this team for much of the campaign. That respect was on full display Sunday when they were 5.5-point home favorites over the Toronto Raptors, who are currently the third seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Timberwolves rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency along with the Clippers, Rockets, Heat, Thunder and Spurs -- some pretty good company. No question, this is a top-notch offense with Kevin Love and a healthy Nikola Pekovic. And their pace-adjusted defensive numbers are surprisingly solid.

Kulesa: "This is about Pythagorean wins. On average this team is winning by nearly 4 points per game, which is good enough to make them a top-10 team. Their win-loss record should eventually catch up at some point."

Tuley: "The Timberwolves were my dark horse pick in the futures last summer, so they've actually been a disappointment to me overall as I was hoping they'd be in contention for a playoff spot all year, but I'm glad they're showing some life. I still don't trust them when favored, but they have some upcoming games where they could be live road dogs (March 19 at Dallas, March 20 at Houston, March 24 at Memphis)."

Oklahoma City Thunder (36-28-1 ATS)

The Thunder have slumped, particularly on the defensive end of the floor, but they unquestionably belong among our "super six." When fully healthy, the product on the floor has as much pure athleticism and scoring ability as any team in the league. The question remains: Can coach Scott Brooks take them to the next level? They seemed to peak without All-Star guard Russell Westbrook and have hit a lull since his return. Sunday's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers should serve as the ultimate wake-up call. The Thunder need to make some defensive adjustments before the playoffs start. Assuming they do, they'll contend for a title.

Atlanta Hawks (28-34-1 ATS)

The Hawks dropped from 13th to 18th in our power ratings following a brutal stretch of the schedule that included four straight road games at Phoenix, Portland, Golden State and the L.A. Clippers. As they regain their health and the schedule shifts back to the Eastern Conference, we should see better play the rest of the season.

They have the potential to make bettors money in the next two months. They've lost 14 of 16 both straight-up and ATS, and seemingly have bottomed out. Paul Millsap's return should not only help their scoring efficiency but also give them some much needed resistance in the middle. Coach Mike Budenholzer has made some recent rotation adjustments that will help the defense.

Kulesa: "The Hawks are not a great team but they are better than their current 2-14 ATS slump as evidenced by the fact that they've been outscored by only one point per game on average this season. That's better than Brooklyn, Charlotte, New York and Denver."

Clippers_FTW
CTB MVP X1
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Not even going to pretend what that stuff means.

cleepers
CTB MVP X2
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All I see is that we've pulled in from 25-1 to 8-1 during this season. That tells me we're doing things the right way.

Wgreen
Clipper 6th Man
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But Miami has won back to back championships. If the Clippers win the championship then they are the best team.

cleepers
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^ So now you're a Miami fan? That was quick.

Wgreen
Clipper 6th Man
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Only sometimes

cleepers
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Yellow_Flash_Colorz_PDT_04

I love this kid!

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