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The Cleveland Cavaliers were expected to be one of the worst teams in the NBA this season.
The Cavs' preseason win total was about 26.5 or 27.5, depending on where you looked. It was among the five lowest totals in the league. It wasn't unfair. They hadn't won more than 22 games in a season since 2018, when LeBron James was still on the roster.
Then a weird thing happened. The Cavaliers have been good. And for bettors, they have been great. The best team in the NBA, actually.
Cavaliers are NBA's best for bettors
On Wednesday night, the Cavaliers were a 9.5-point favorite against the Houston Rockets. Nobody could have imagined before the season the Cavs being that big of a favorite against anyone. Cleveland won 124-89, easily covering a big spread.
That was the 13th time in a row the Cavs have covered the spread. They have a 18-12 record, currently the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. They've been the best team for bettors in the NBA this season, and by a wide margin.
The Cavs are a surprising 23-7 against the spread, according the Action Network's ATS standings. No other team has more than 18 wins against the spread. The Cavs are 12-4 at home against the spread and 11-3 on the road.
However you cut it up, the Cavaliers have been the best bet in the NBA. That's a shocker.
Cavs winning with defense
The Cavaliers have been the NBA's biggest surprise this year with a stellar defense.
Only the Golden State Warriors have a better defensive rating in NBA.com's advanced stats. They play at a slow pace and protect the paint really well. Cavaliers opponents have the NBA's lowest field goal percentage on shots inside five feet. Between Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley, Lauri Markkanen and Kevin Love, the Cavs have plenty of effective bigs. That defense and size won't go away, so maybe Cleveland can keep this going.
Mobley in particular has been fantastic as a rookie, with 13.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and a team-leading 1.8 blocks per game. He is BetMGM's rookie of the year favorite, with +130 odds.
Cavs fans got two stints rooting for James, and a long-awaited championship. When James hasn't been on the roster, they've mostly been an irrelevant, losing franchise. Maybe that's changing this season. If nothing else it has been a heck of a fun stretch for the Cavs, especially if you've been betting on them.