Cleveland Cavaliers ATS Trends without LeBron

League: NBA
By: Doc's Sports Published on: 01/13/2015

LeBron James is set to return to Cleveland after being away from the team for two weeks to rest his body and recover from multiple nagging injuries. The “King" missed only five games during that span, but for the Cavaliers it may have felt like a lifetime. The team lost five straight games, a few of them in an embarrassing fashion, and looked completely lost even though other competent players were still on the floor. James is entering his 11th year in the league and is in the middle of his fifth year carrying an enormous workload that includes close to an extra year in postseason games, a summer dedicated to the Olympics and 38-plus minutes a game during that span. The one thing that is almost certain for Cleveland is that James will miss more games and have his workload decreased over the second half of the season. Let’s take a closer look at the Cavaliers without James and figure out if they are a viable betting option when the “King" is out. SU and ATS Records Cleveland is currently sitting on a disappointing .500 record, which is still good enough to earn the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference if the postseason began today. The team, however, is six games behind the top four teams in the East and 10 games behind the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks. During James’ absence Cleveland dropped five straight games by an average of 14 points per contest and fell from the top of the pack, where it had been sitting comfortably with a 19-14 record. Against the spread, the team has been even worse. Overall the squad owns the second-worst mark in the league—it only trails New York with a 13-26-1 ATS record—and failed to cover any of the games that James missed. The former MVP is scheduled to return sometime this week, but if things haven’t changed inside the Cavaliers locker room then the group will still face the same set of problems. How Much Will James’ Return Help? James’ return will certainly help Cleveland going forward, but will it be enough to right the ship heading into the All-Star Break? Most NBA pundits continue to believe that the Cavaliers will eventually figure things out, even though there is no evidence to believe that a turnaround is on the horizon. For bettors, ignoring the media and proceeding to view the Cavaliers as an overrated team with overinflated lines is still the best option possible. James, at the moment, is not playing his best basketball and is in the middle of one of the worst statistical seasons in his career. Maybe it’s because of injury or fatigue, but James is currently producing the worst win-shares and plus/minus stats since his rookie year. Those numbers are not to blame James for Cleveland’s struggles or suggest that he has declined as a player, but they are only an indicator that, for whatever reason, he is not impacting the team enough to expect a big change upon his return. Bettors should expect Cleveland to struggle until the time that the team gets its act together. Sure, the squad will probably make the playoffs and maybe even be a force when they get there, but what they will not be is a good ATS bet for the remainder of the year.