Posted Friday, July 25, 2014 01:24 PM
Posted Wednesday, July 23, 2014 07:09 PM
by Michael Stewart
Combing the dredges of the betting teams in 2014 brings us to Florida, where the Jacksonville Jaguars continue to be one of the worst franchises in all of sports. The Jags were abysmal last year, but began to show some fight towards the finish line and this is why it's so hard to place them so low. Players seemingly adore Gus Bradley, so much so that they upped their game to up his job security. Good for them. Don't forget, however, that the Jaguars also went 0-6-1 ATS to start the season (Covers will list that they covered against Indy in Week 3 of 2013 but that was not the case against the opening line).
Where The Glass Is Half Full
There is a lot to actually like about Jacksonville from a parts standpoint even when their sum as a whole looks like an awful wreck. Toby Gerhart replaces MGD as the starting tailback, and the former Stanford product has some hope of being a fantasy impact player because of his overall utility behind what's probably going to be an average (on paper) offensive line. Cecil Shorts continues to be a delight, and the often problematic tenure of Justin Blackmon seems to be done with Marquise Lee importing from USC via the draft. See? Some things are good!
And I like this situation for Blake "Poppin'" Bortles (if you aren't aware I like to give players random nicknames...get used to it) overall. There are always zero expectations of the Jaguars in general and part of the reason they were so comical last year is because they were one of the only teams to never be favoured by the oddsmakers. Not once! Not even against Houston, in Jacksonville, in Week 17! Bortles has a great arm and is a cagey, Roethlisberger-type body who can move around. As long as he doesn't freak out too often, I think he'll be just fine.
Of course, "just fine" isn't going to cut it when we're talking about commodities in the sportsbook.
Why The Glass Is Half-Full Of Urine
In a vacuum, Jacksonville is in a pretty solid rebuilding mode. They have a young quarterback, they'll be really bad again this year and they have some young pieces. Unfortunately this also means that this team is bereft of Pro Bowl talent which is ultimately why talking heads will wonder if Alabama can beat them (which they can't...boys versus men argument nullifies the whole discussion). The Jags were one of five teams that didn't send a Pro Bowler to Hawaii last year. The other four teams included the Falcons, Jets, Giants and the Packers. Yes, the Packers. Obviously those four teams all had Pro Bowl caliber players. Jacksonville is the only team that didn't and still doesn't.
Where Jacksonville will run in to other major problems isn't necessarily about them: it's more so due to their division, where all three teams improved steadily. Tennessee is a darkhorse with a vicious defence that experienced some overhaul this season, while Indy is a playoff team and Houston isn't far behind. All three of those franchises boast incredible defences, especially heading in to the 2014 campaign, so those six games are going to be tough for Jacksonville with a rookie quarterback.
The rest of the schedule isn't easy either. Outside of their divisional games, the Jags have road tests against Philadelphia, Washington, San Diego, Cincinnati and Baltimore. Yikes. Bad road teams are a troller's paradise sometimes because of more generous betting lines but those are five opponents you don't want to play at home, especially when it comes to the Bengals and the Eagles. Travelling usually gives the road team some advantage on the line, but there are many disadvantages. Being the Jacksonville Jaguars is one of them.
Their home schedule, where the visitor is given the benefit of the doubt instead, is no cake walk either. Jacksonville hosts only two teams - Cowboys and Giants - which look like coverable games because of the lopsided backing those two teams get regardless of how they perform. This is a bad team facing good opposition. Not a great mix when you remember that the offence will be brand new, and the defence ranked in the bottom five against the pass, rush and points allowed.
Wait...So Why Aren't They #32?
The reason Jacksonville is listed above Cleveland is the public factor. The Browns have backers, and if Johny Manziel is playing there's no telling how the public will react. Will they love him or hate him? Jacksonville has no such love in the betting world. In fact, Gamblers LOVE to bet against them.
Bradley is a master motivator, however, and Bortles is an unknown who could stir himself in to the ROY conversation if Marquise Lee pans out from his currently injured state. The Jags finished 5-10-1 ATS against the closing number last season, ranking them fourth-last overall ahead of Washington, Chicago and Houston. Those are all teams that underachieved on massive levels for obvious reasons (injuries to RG3, Cutler and the presence of Gary Kubiak). The year prior, the Jaguars went 6-9 ATS, which isn't that encouraging.
But that's why I make weekly picks. There is a chance that Jacksonville offers some bargain pricing but there are too many variables to create any comfort with them until we've seen them play at least four or five games. They are actually a better play in the OVER because their defence allows so many points, and the offence tends to be a hopeful backdoor cover team as well.
If Bortles ends up being as half as good as Big Ben, the player he's most often compared to, then there is reason to be hopeful for the Jaguars. They won't threaten the division. They won't win many games. They probably won't cover a lot of betting lines either. But Bortles is the kind of quarterback that you can hopefully build around, and that's a step in the right direction for a franchise that is always forgotten in larger circles and ignored in general conversation. He could make them a daring backdoor cover team as well, which is really the only thing you can keep your fingers crossed for.
Why Are You Being So Nice To Jackonsville?!
Glad I asked myself! Listen, the Jaguars are a bad team. You don't need a thousand words to remind you of that. Neither do their fans. The offseason is a time where we can be optimistic to a certain degree, and Jacksonville's three fans have suffered enough already. There's no reason to pile on. I actually like Blake Bortles too, because he won me a ton of money last year at UCF and I believe he has the makings of a decent pro quarterback.
Even with my inherent kindness, I'm still pegging the Jaguars as the second worst bet in football. It's not like I'm being totally nice here.
Posted Wednesday, July 23, 2014 06:36 PM
by Michael Stewart
Yup, we're starting our rankings with the good ol' Cleveland Browns, or as I've called them in past articles - the Cleveland Steamers. This team was baaaaad last season, and somehow got worse during the summer. Let's look at how terrible they'll be, while offering a (sort of) silver lining to an otherwise gloomy forecast.
THE REALLY, REALLY BAD
Listen, there's nothing that encouraging to write about Cleveland. They're ranked dead last in my gambling power rankings for a reason - I think they're going to be awful on both sides of the ball. You should freely bet against them every chance you get until they show a glimmer of potential which probably won't happen for a few years.
They lost their two best playmakers in Josh Gordon and safety T.J. Ward. I'm not as high on rookie Justin Gilbert as other people are, but he could surprise and be a bit of a delight. Opposite Joe Haden, one of the best in the league, Gilbert and the Browns will probably be pretty good against the pass and they're thick enough up front to cause some disruptive problems for opposing run games.
But without Gordon, how in the hell is this team supposed to score? Their next best wideouts include Nate Burleson, Jordan Cameron and Miles Freaking Austin. That's a lot of name value, and a serious lack of actual value. Ben Tate has a chance to shine as the marquee running back, but he's never proven that he can handle a full workload and has been pretty seriously injured the last two seasons. He's one serious concussion away from never playing football again.
I'll get to the quarterbacks in a second, but I don't think this team really has the capability of being anything more than a punching bag, especially given that their division rivals are all taking steps forward in the right direction.
THE BETTING STUFF
Cleveland finished with a division worst 4-12 SU record and a 6-10 ATS betting record. They covered one game at home and it was against Oakland. At no point did they show that they were worthy of your money, and two late season covers in Week 16 and 17 against Carolina and Baltimore (both of whom had shut down at that point) were pointless endeavours. The defence is much better than you'd think (9th against the pass, 18th against the run last year) but they were also the 27th worst team in offensive scoring in 2013 with just 19.2 points per game. That was with perhaps the second most explosive wide out in the game last season. Even if there's an upgrade at quarterback, who the hell is he going to throw to? Yikes. Serious yikes.
Johnny Football vs. Brian Hoyer! Could there be anything more interesting about this team? It's actually the only interesting factor about the Browns.
Hoyer has floated around as one of those talents that general managers and fans are always curious about. After six seasons in the NFL, all we really know about him is that he was prized by the Patriots for a while and then injured after two stellar runs where he brought Cleveland's fans to their feet. He's from Ohio! Exciting stuff, right?
Well, Hoyer is now coming off a torn ACL that happened in a horribly heartbreaking manner - on Thursday night football against the Bills in a game where he was making his "hometown" debut. Now he has to deal with Johnny Manziel, a torrential hurricane of a personality.
I'm rooting for Hoyer, but I can't deny that I'm super excited to see Johnny Football in the NFL. Part of it is his talent - he's a proven playmaker at the college level and a scintillating athlete. You can hate on the kind of person you think he is through what you've seen in the media, but to downplay his athletic ability is silly.
I also love/hate it when the media can't help themselves with a certain player and I'm not really one to just go along with public sentiment for the sake of it. If broadcasters are so freaking sick of talking about Johnny Manziel then DON'T F----ING TALK ABOUT HIM ALL THE DAMN TIME! HE'S NOT EVEN GOING TO START WEEK 1!
But it's also fun to just watch the media be mandated to mention a player ad nauseum even when they really don't want to. Like Owens, Ochocinco and many, many players before him, Manziel is a fine gentleman. He serves his community, plays sports for a living and doesn't steal cars, do drugs, take steroids, hit women or murder people. So what if he's a cocky ego maniac? He plays in a league where you can't survive unless you're an alpha. Hell, it's a league played by alpha dogs, run by a self-serving millionaire (Goddell) and owned by a bunch of billionaire top dogs. Who cares if Johnny Football is having fun and pissing people off? It's really not that big of a deal to have an opinion about who Johnny Football is as a person. Look where all that arguing got us with Tim Tebow.
The sad part is that when the two most interesting parts of your team are a player who's suspended for the year (Gordon) and a backup quarterback, there isn't much else to really get that excited about.
At least the Cavaliers will be worth watching. God doesn't hate Cleveland. He/she just really despises the Browns.
Posted Wednesday, July 16, 2014 05:35 PM
by Michael Stewart
Are you ready for (reading about) some football?!!?!? I know I am even though I loathe proofreading! Over the next six weeks I'm going to be writing team previews about all 32 franchises in order of how I think they'll do. This article serves as a primer for how the power rankings work, and what to expect.
A few reminders about how my Power Rankings:
1) They are my opinion and while the in-season version of the rankings is more so designed to make you laugh hysterically (or roll your eyes and my lame attempts at humour), the preseason version will be rife with some statistical and betting information.
2) Teams are always ranked based on a reasonable balance of their recent records, their season record and their betting records. If a team is 8-4 SU, they'll probably be somewhere in the top-7, but if they're also 0-12 ATS I'll probably demote them much further down the list.
3) Personal biases and grudges influence how teams stand. Suck it, Miami.
4) You have to understand that we know almost nothing about how teams are going to perform in the 2014 season, which is why smart gamblers usually wait until Week 3 to start leaning heavy with their action. All we can do right now is speculate.
If you've been keeping up with my obscene NBA obsessions lately, you'll understand that that's a league that functions around the premise of more known commodities.
The NFL is a totally different beast. There are always sleepers, action magnets and huge injuries that influence how betting lines on football are generated. The biggest of those is the well known "public factor". So as you move from the last place team in the power rankings, towards the first place team, understand that I am making my best guesstimations about which teams are going to be absolute wretches and which ones are actually Super Bowl contenders.
Another way to think of it is that I rank the bottom ten teams as the worst bets in the NFL. I rank the top-7 as the legitimate Super Bowl threats. I probably should've just lead with that.
Ok, so that's it. Before I get to it, here was how each team ranked by the end of the regular season last year and remember that gambling records really matter. Houston's abysmal three covers last season drowned them on my rankings every week, while Arizona's routine surliness as a betting team (11-5 ATS) shoved them in to the top end despite missing the playoffs. Got it?
Revisiting the 2013 Rankings - Week 17
THE TOP SEVEN
1. Denver Broncos
2. San Francisco 49ers
3. Seattle Seahawks
4. New England Patriots
5. Carolina Panthers
6. Kansas City Chiefs
7. Cincinnati Bengals
The four conference champion finalists were the four best teams in the league. Duh. The next crop included Carolina (a defiant play), Kansas City (an undervalued team that went 9-7 ATS and won 11 games overall) and the Cincinnati Bengals (who were the worst team on the road and the best home team all year. The fact that the Bengals were seventh explains the parity we saw in 2013. And despite all of the "balanced market" crap we try to create, parity isn't as fun as you'd think. We had a lot of bad teams last year.
The next two or three teams on the rankings probably deserved to be ranked ahead of Cincinnati, but here's the one thing I loved about the Bengals - I knew what I was getting with them every week. No team was more profitable for me overall last year. That meant a lot in the grand scheme of things.
THE NOT SO GREAT EIGHT
8. Indianapolis Colts
9. Arizona Cardinals
10. Philadelphia Eagles
11. New Orleans Saints
12. San Diego Chargers
13. Miami Dolphins
14. Pittsburgh Steelers
15. Green Bay Packers
This was the over-achievers and under-achievers grouping. Indy, Arizona, Philly and San Diego were all wildly strong plays last year and surged in to the final week of the season. Pittsburgh, Miami and Green Bay started out poorly and then slugged their way in to near-contention. New Orleans was...well...let's just say I have a strong love-hate relationship with the Saints (as in I love to see them lose and I hate to bet on them).
16. Chicago Bears
17. Dallas Cowboys
18. St. Louis Rams
19. Buffalo Bills
20. Baltimore Ravens
21. New York Jets
22. Detroit Lions
All of these teams generally flirted with .500 in the ATS department except for the mildly frustrating Chicago Bears who couldn't seem to buy a cover at any point in the season. Chicago ended up with the second worst betting record in the entire league behind Houston, but they also won eight games so whatever. This is probably the letdown group, although the presence of the Jets probably discourages that idea.
THE WORST OF THE WORST
23. Tennessee Titans
24. New York Giants
25. Minnesota Vikings
26. Atlanta Falcons
27. Jacksonville Jaguars
28. Cleveland Browns
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
30. Oakland Raiders
31. Washington Redskins
32. Houston Texans
Eventually the bottom of the barrel gets sorted out in a simple way: teams that are supposed to be good but are terrible That's why Washington, playing with a backup to a backup quarterback, edged out Houston, a team that was simply supposed to be much better.
So now that that's out of the way, let's move on to our offseason team previews for 2014! They'll be some good news, a lot of bad news, and some betting analysis along the way. Hopefully you enjoy it and it helps stymie your never ending hunger for the sport we all love to watch, bet on and yell at our TV's about. First up...the Cleveland Browns!
Posted Wednesday, July 16, 2014 02:55 PM
by Michael Stewart
I'm at my busiest from late August to June when the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB are pretty much in full throttle. I have freely admitted I'm not the most committed when it comes to the pinetar league. Baseball betting is a full time job, unless you do it casually as a way to kill time between the lulls of the other majors. That's usually what I do - stripping things down by focusing on simple metrics like starting pitching and interior defence. I don't risk a ton, and there are a lot more handicappers that simply understand the sport better than I do. Scroll through my archives - I'm a roundball and eggball type of guy.
With the World Cup finally over, the NBA free agency period simmering down and three weeks remaining until my football frenzy starts to boil in to overdrive, my intrigue in baseball also begins to inch up. So if you're like me as a half-hearted baseball gambler, you might need a refresher on what's going on.
Half of the entire league is worth ignoring unless you have some vested hometown interest. Let's get an overall look through the lens of the all-telling division winner prices in the futures market. Odds listed below are to win the division, which you can find easily enough in our 2014 MLB Futures drop-down in the sportsbook.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
This is a two horse race between the Nationals (-200) and the Braves (+150). Washington has always been a problematic play down the stretch, and despite this the oddsmakers have always built in insulation against them for long term investments over the past few years. The best play in this division might actually be the - and I can't believe I'm even suggesting this - New York Mets (+5000) but right now the strongest actual gun belongs in the branded holster of the Atlanta Braves. I know it's a boring bet. If you prefer to swing for the fences in a division go with New York because why not?
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
I wrote early on in the season that something about the Milwaukee Brewers (+250) feels real, and there's really no better overall wager on a division winner here. The oddsmakers and pundits will always love the St. Louis Cardinals (+120) for very good reason, and there's always potential with the Cincinnati Reds (+350) but their injuries terrify me because they just don't seem to be clearing up any time soon. Excuse me while I continue to drive the Brewers bandwagon and pour one out for the Pirates...
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
The Giants and the Dodgers continue to be the two biggest action magnets in this division, and are also two of the most frequently bet on teams according to our bookmakers. There's no real value on the Dodgers (-350) and the Giants hold strong appeal at (+220) so that's where my money's going. It's an even numbered year and if you don't know what that means, just look at when the Giants won their last two World Series (it's 2010 and 2012 if you're feeling lazy). This is a number you should grab right now for San Francisco because nobody in their right mind is going to risk $3.50 to get a $1 return on the Dodgers. Not in the futures anyways.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Though the Seattle Mariners showed some fun punch in the early going, they've faded to the background where you'd expect to find them. The favourites in this division are still the Oakland Athletics (-180) which isn't a bad way to go considering they shored up their pitching recently and hold a 1.5 game lead on the Los Angeles Angels (+140). This is the part where I suggest that a bet is only as good as it's actual chance of coming through. The Angels leave me wanting more whereas the Athletics have everything going for them, plus tons of momentum. The A's are the only minus-favourite that I'd encourage in the entire league.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Kansas City sits 6.5 games back of the division dominating Detroit Tigers who are far and away the biggest favourite of any division winner anywhere at -800. MINUS EIGHT-HUNDRED! So go ahead and throw some cash at Kansas City if you have to get in here. Anything can happen, especially with Kansas boasting more fortitude than they did last year overall. I'd stay away from Cleveland.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Urgh. You can't really count any of these teams out of the rat race which is why the numbers here will continue to fluctuate right up until the tip of August. Tampa Bay and Boston are both +2000 longshots whom you can never count out and are probably the only flier bets worth taking a stab at. They're 9.5 games back each and anything can literally happen in the most harrowing division there is.
New York's +400 number is less than it actually should be. The injury to Tanaka feels like a nail in the coffin, but the ever present Yankees faithful will be there to buoy the futures prices of this team as long as Jeter is around. Talk about respect - even when the Yankees are bad their fans still back them.
Baltimore is the current favourite at -120 and are just inches ahead of Toronto (+260) which could actually be the best bet in the division right now. Injuries have killed the Blue Jays, who lost their four best bats to the shelf temporarily. It doesn't help the Jays that their overall reputation in the second half of recent history is absolutely dismal but I'm willing to throw some faith their way. Baltimore is the steady tortoise but Toronto is the better team...ya know, if they don't implode as per usual.
by Michael Stewart
I've been writing a lot about the Eastern Conference lately because most of the free agency action is there, but right now I want to give the better conference it's due and there is no better place to start than with the defending champions.
The San Antonio Spurs are +280 to win the conference right now, which are basically the same odds they'll have closer to the end of the regular season. There's no point in throwing yourself at the champs this instant since you can find around the same value later in the year when you know what they are.
Like any team that hasn't played 82 games yet, the Spurs are an expected commodity. Last year, they were a force to be reckoned with in the sportsbook going 15-4 ATS down the stretch and squashing nearly everyone in the playoffs. Those that underestimated their transformation in to an offensive beast were burned. So can we legitimately expect the same kind of production out of them next year?
Of course we can! They've kept the core of what made them great together and could peak as they moderate themselves through the regular season and give Tim Duncan that sixth ring that would push him over Kobe and in to the throngs of Jordan. It would make the arguments for the over lapping LeBron and Duncan Eras in the post-Jordan era even more violent. I do like debating these kinds of things.
There are problems with this team, but not many. Age will always be a "con" against them even though Kawhi Leonard seems ready to blossom in to an all-the-time All-Star, and you can't underestimate the fact that they won't have the same motivation that they did last year. The 2013 Finals loss was what motivated the Spurs throughout their awesome campaign in 2013-14. That won't be there. It's not really a reason to knock them down long term because Pop is the best minutes-manager in the game and they've been to two Finals in the past two years. Other little elements, like Patty Mills' injury, has me concerned but they also proved that they're the prime cut of the western conference without a shadow of a doubt.
Oklahoma City and the L.A. Clipper will probably have something to say about that. I'm going to get the Clippers out of the way because my opinion of them is pretty clear. The Clippers are a regular season team. That's the nutshell on them. Their bigs can't shoot free throws, which basically causes inadvertent playoff suicide, and the team has always lacked a reliable wing. Defence wins championships and the Clippers are amongst the worst offenders when it comes to playing reliable team defence. I have never trusted them in the playoffs, and though their 2014 run can be chalked up to Donald Sterling's bigotry placing unreasonable pressure on them, I just don't see how they improved or can improve anytime soon. Not until 2015 free agency, anyways.
The Thunder, however, represent a very reasonable threat to the Spurs. Their issue is always going to be depth because Coach Smiley (i.e. Scott Brooks) never seems to give any of his role players enough run in the regular season to become reliable playoff assets. They seem to prioritize rebounding in their drafting lately, taking Steven Adams and Mitch McGary in the last two years (and Cole Aldrich a few years ago though he's a Knick now). It's a decent plan, but it still means that the Thunder are going to be running Westbrook and Durant in to the ground.
I've said it time and again - they need to and have followed the 2011 Mavs plan for building around Dirk because if there's any guy that compares to the greatest foreign player ever, it's Kevin Durant. They're both insanely unique, stretch four, scoring machines. OKC has their rim protector (Ibaka), and another superstar guard who can create his own shot (Westbrook). They're a phenomenal Big Three.
But every "big three" needs a fourth and fifth guy, along with at least three more off the bench to really be championship worthy especially when the road to the Finals runs through San Antonio. The Thunder don't have that fourth guy anywhere. Perry Jones ended up being a bust and Reggie Jackson comes and goes. And if they don't have a fourth guy, you can bet that the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth options won't be there either.
I wailed on Scottie Brooks all through the season and the playoffs. He's a horrible coach, one that relies on the second best player alive too heavily without really building anything around him. I'm sure he's a wonderful person, but as a basketball coach he's proven to be extremely limited. If you're building a team to go up against the Spurs, which the Thunder have to do, then you need size and length on the edges to disrupt their passing lanes. You also need to develop more than your two (or three) All-Stars.
We can revisit the Harden Trade over and over again but the simple fact is that he's not on the team anymore and even then, his body of work in Houston is lacking where the Thunder need it most - on defence. Let's put this side of the story to rest. It's still not the worst trade in history (the Vince Carter to the Nets trade is).
This team can beat the Spurs at full health, but that's also been a major problem for them these past two seasons. Ibaka and Westbrook's injuries have as much to do with their insane amount of minutes as plain old bad luck. We saw what Ibaka meant as a real scale tilter in the Western Conference Finals last year, and if he was healthy that series probably would've been extended. But the Thunder have put their three eggs in to one basket and their absurdly cheap owners won't bend the books to improve their stature. We know what the Thunder are, and at +300 they have a balanced value to win their conference. Unless you believe that the Sonics actually cursed them (which is also entirely possible).
What about the other, mid-tier teams in the west? The Clippers, Spurs and Thunder are the three best teams in the conference and after that it's a relative platter of "I'm not sure". I hate the Houston Rockets. I think Portland is just missing too many important cogs in the wheel although they have some really attractive parts. Phoenix is tantalizing because they might as well be called Contract Year City. Gotta have motivation right? I think we've seen the best out of Golden State already and it's sheer lunacy that they valued Klay Thompson that much over Kevin Love. The rest of the teams out there are a blithering mess.
Except for the always curious Dallas Mavericks, a team I openly root for (they're not my favourite team but I love them anyhow). Dirk is one of my personal favourites of all time and if you've read any of my posts before, you know I'm a shameless Rick Carlisle supporter. He's the second best coach in the league as far as I'm concerned. And as long as those two are on the team, the Mavericks have a chance. They're the only team that really pushed the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs...and they were an eighth seed! Unreal.
Chandler Parsons is the big catch for them, and not because he's an All-Star caliber player but more so because this team can't get anyone to sign with them. He's a downgrade on the defensive side from Vince Carter, but he's a massive upgrade on offence and a more consistent threat who doesn't need his minutes managed. Parsons is a great toolbox type of player - a Gordon Hayward type who excels at a lot of elements but doesn't do one thing that well in particular.
Shawn Marion seems to be on his way back to Dallas too, now that Lance Stephenson has signed in Charlotte (and way to go Charlotte - you're now the team to beat in the Eastern Conference's horrible Southeast! I'm genuinely excited about Charlotte this coming year. MKG and Stephenson are havoc wreckers on defence, and the scoring is there. It's the East. C'mon.). Marion won't find a better team or a better fit for what he does at this point in his career. With Marion and Parsons, the Mavericks can patch up holes all over the place.
Which is a good thing because there are a lot of holes. Losing Calderon is a bigger deal than you might expect. He's been terrific his entire career and though he's a defensive nightmare (in a bad way), he's an exceptional point man on offence and a great scorer in his own right. Shane Larkin proposes intrigue, but Dallas is also in win-now mode so they don't have time for him to develop.
Carlisle's biggest challenge will be turning Raymond Felton in to anything more useful than big, fat, heaping bag of garbage. That's probably not going to happen. Devin Harris is still around, and there are talks of Don Nelson bringing in his good buddy Mo Williams but neither of those guys really makes Dallas any better. Calderon is an under-appreciated player in this respect and none of those guys can really replace what he does for an offence.
Still, we've seen Rick Carlisle work wonders before and I'm just so excited to see what kind of miracles he can pull out of his bag of tricks. One of the reasons I love Carlisle so much is that he doesn't force round pegs in to square holes. He wouldn't take a guy like Steve Nash and run the Princeton or force the triangle on guys who low basketball IQ's. He takes what he's given and adapts the team accordingly. Outside of the Spurs and Thunder, who are both reasonably decent bets, there's no better value play than the Dallas Mavericks at +2800...even if the Spurs are likely to win the conference for a third time in a row.