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Hoop and the Harm: Weekly NBA Betting Recap for January 12-19

Welcome to the Hoop and the Harm. This is a weekly feature on OddsShark where hoops bettors can uncover all the hottest need-to-know trends, stats and general info for the week that was on the hardwood.

We've officially reached the halfway point of the 2016-17 NBA season and it's mostly transpired as many expected. Teams like the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers are at the top of the Western Conference standings, while the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics lead the way in the East.

But a few teams have seemingly come out of nowhere to make some noise in the first three and a half months of the campaign, and that's translated to the betting window. This week we're going to examine three squads who are having surprising seasons thus far and the best ways sports bettors can properly bet them going forward.

Houston Rockets (33-12 SU, 28-17 ATS, 25-20 OVER/UNDER)

When the Houston Rockets brass hired Mike D'Antoni to be its new head coach, few could have predicted the wild success he would have in his first year patrolling the sidelines in the Space City. Houston has once again launched itself into the upper echelon of the NBA and possesses a sparkling 33-12 SU record as a result.

The Rockets' high-flying offense is hitting at a record-setting clip, as James Harden and company rank second in points per game (114.5) and sixth in 3-point percentage (37 percent). D'Antoni's decision to make Harden a point guard has paid dividends and then some, as the superstar is having a career year at his new position. Harden is averaging 28.9 points, 11.6 assists and 8.3 rebounds per game and has become the MVP favorite at most sportsbooks.

Houston's return to excellence is really something to behold when you consider how far this club has come in less than a year. It was only a season ago that the Rockets barely squeaked into the playoffs with a 41-41 record only to get bounced by the Warriors.

Houston ranks as the best bet in the NBA at 28-17 ATS, covering the spread at a 60.1 percent clip. Keep riding the red-hot Rockets while you can.

Philadelphia 76ers (14-26 SU, 23-17 ATS, 17-23 OVER/UNDER)

Considering that the Philadelphia 76ers have been the NBA's equivalent of the Cleveland Browns for the better part of the last five years, the Sixers' 14-26 record in mid-January is impressive. To put that into perspective, Philly won a combined 47 games in the last three seasons.

Led by a dynamic young group spearheaded by rookie sensation Joel Embiid, the 76ers look like a legitimate basketball team again. They've also been a lucrative play for sports bettors, evidenced by their 23-17 ATS record through 40 games. As of January 19, Philadelphia had covered the spread in eight of its last nine games including a huge 94-89 victory over the Toronto Raptors on January 18.

Embiid's rise to prominence has been the biggest revelation for the emerging 76ers. After sitting out for two full seasons due to a litany of foot injuries, the big man is averaging 19.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while working on limited minutes. When you remember that the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft, Ben Simmons, has yet to see the floor, this team is only going to get better when he returns in the coming weeks.

Denver Nuggets (17-23 SU, 20-20 ATS, 29-10 OVER/UNDER

While a 17-23 record normally wouldn't be considered a success story for most franchises, the young Denver Nuggets have improved tenfold as the year has gone on. Well-respected head coach Mike Malone has done wonders with this group, and even though they don't possess a traditional superstar, they're looking like a team that will contend in the Western Conference sooner rather than later.

Bettors who haven't paid attention to the Nuggets need to listen up. Denver scores in bunches and struggles on the defensive end, which has translated to an abundance of OVERs. The Nugs rank as the best OVER bet in the league at 29-10 OVER/UNDER.

The Nuggets are averaging 109.7 points per game (fourth in the NBA) but are giving up 111.5 points (28th in the NBA). Oddsmakers have noticed the trend and started to increase their totals as a result, but I don't see the Nuggets slowing down any time soon. At the time of writing, they were on an eight-game OVER streak.