Playing The NBA Market: Who To Invest In, Who To Stay Away From

02.06.12 6 years ago
Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant (photo. Rob Hammer)

Facebook is about to go public with its IPO, which has everyone in a buy/sell mood and streaming “The Social Network” soundtrack on Spotify. It leads to conversations about how big the company can become. If you’re a hoops fan looking for a steal, it’s time now, at nearly a third of the way through the season, to see what teams you should invest your hopes in and who to sell off quick while you still can.

I don’t know anything about tech stocks but here’s who you believe in and what teams, if bought too aggressively, could ruin your portfolio.

BUY as NBA champs: Oklahoma City. Everyone wanted to buy in early because of the star power of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. No problem there; that Mark Zuckerberg isn’t a bad salesman for his company, either. But here’s the thing: The Thunder have delivered on those great expectations so far through the first third of the season. How much higher can this go — will this stock dive like LinkedIn under greater scrutiny? I say it can go higher — like Larry O’Brien Trophy higher. Buy now, though, because the stock will only rise after the next week of road games.

The Thunder are the most complete team with legs young enough to take on a compressed season and playoff grind. Many will look to their 9-4 road record and see validation for that. Others will see they’ve beaten the likes of Golden State, New Jersey, Memphis and Boston and see the mark as misleading. I take it like this: great teams not only knock off the best opponents, but they leave little room for error against mediocre ones, too. A six-game road trip began Saturday against mid-level Western teams — Golden State, Utah, Sacramento — San Antonio, and banged-up Portland that should validate their status as an efficient road team (despite the loss to the Spurs). The confidence gained now away from home will serve to pay back dividends in the playoffs.

BUY as the team you don’t want to face in the playoffs: Philadelphia. They had the chance to be good right out of the gate by returning their starting five, creating continuity from the long lockout and short preseason. But buy now — much in the same way the Thunder can be trusted because they take care of business — because of the way the Sixers are beating everyone. As Justin Kubatko wrote recently in The New York Times, the 76ers plus-10.3 points per game differential isn’t just staggering in a contemporary sense (Chicago’s second with plus-8.7) but historical. Nineteen of 38 teams to have at least a plus-10.0 differential through 18 games in a season have gone on to win a championship.

The schedule will get tougher for Doug Collins, Lou Williams, Andre Iguodala and Co., but you’ll want to hold on to this team’s stock for a while because it’s looking like a new version of Oklahoma City circa 2010. A hard first-round exit against the Lakers that year is this team’s version of playing the Heat in 2011. Given a taste of the playoffs before, they’re coming back for more, emboldened by the success so far. Buy in on the bandwagon.

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