May 2 NBA Action: Randle's Knicks Making History
Season-to-date record: 85-78-3, 52%
Fading New York's run at height of expectations: Rockets +10.5
Julius Randle has emerged as a legitimate superstar for the Knicks. ESPN's Real Plus-Minus framework estimates Randle is the third best Power Forward in the NBA this year, and forecasts his effort is single-handedly responsible for ten of New York's 38 wins on the season (Giannis ranks at the top of this list, contributing about 12 wins to Milwaukee's record). Last year Randle ranked 39th at his position and was good for roughly two wins, by this measure.
Powered by Randle's impressive body of work, and perhaps more impressive than their 56% SU win rate, the Knicks are 40-22-1 (62%) versus the number this season, and are the best bet in the League.
Consistent with NY's elite record against the spread, the Knicks are 8-1 ATS in their last nine. We think this run marks a sell high opportunity, and we are taking the points with the Rockets Sunday.
New York's recent success has elevated expectations for the turnaround team, in our estimation, to excessively frothy levels. Such a reaction is not unusual, as we have observed that, in general, teams tend to come back down to earth after a stint of superlative play.
Fading favored teams after nine-game stretches with at least nine-point average cover margins has delivered a statistically significant 11% long-term return on investment, including a 5-2 run versus the number this year.
As an attestation to the historic ascension of expectations surrounding the Knicks, prior to Sunday's action, New York had only been cast as a BIG favorite (i.e. of ten points or more) 22 times in the history of the franchise--back to at least 2004. The last such occasion was almost seven years ago (the Knicks are 10-12 ATS from this position).
Across the court, at 22-42, the Rockets are the absolute worst team in the NBA against the spread. Most recently, Houston is off a 26-point home loss to Golden State. In the Rockets' favor though, Houston's record is a serviceable 6-5 ATS when taking ten or more this year. Further, the second-best team in Texas is 7-5 versus the number in the second of back-to-back sequences... that's about all we can muster in terms of supportive team-level trends in effect this season.
We do find validation for our thinking though from a different angle. ESPN's Basketball Power Index makes the Rockets about three point dogs to New York on a neutral court, while FiveThirtyEight's frameworks imply a 3.5-6.5 point Knicks edge. Thus, two leading fundamentals-based assessments of team strength jibe with our pick and suggest meaningful value with the big home dogs Sunday.