NBA betting: Best value bets for opening night
Chris Sheridan finds the value in Thursday's opening night NBA games, as the Nets face the Bucks before the Warriors take on the Lakers.
The NBA regular season is finally upon us, with or without Kyrie Irving, and we are weary of the Kyrie-fueled storyline that squashed everything else of import around the Association during the preseason. Not that there was a lot to talk about, but a couple teams looked especially good and one looked uncommonly bad. And that latter one is the Lakers, who show off the new geriatric edition of their roster in an opening night doubleheader Tuesday.
First up is Nets-Bucks, a rematch of the second-round, seven-game classic from last season’s playoffs. Milwaukee is getting very little coverage in the mainstream American media because there really isn’t much to keep an eye on with them aside from the status of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s knee.
This is a whole new season and what happened in last year’s playoffs is irrelevant, to an extent. The Bucks won fair and square, but the Nets will always know that if they had Irving and James Harden available things might have been very different. Harden, after a summer of healing from his hamstring injury, is expected to start at point guard and will be an entirely different test for Jrue Holiday, who will defend him.
The chances of winning this game for the Nets will probably hinge on the play of Kevin Durant, who tends to hold grudges and has not soon forgotten how the Nets practically gave this series away after holding a 3-2 lead. Durant had 48 points in Game 7 and nearly won it at the regulation buzzer, but his 3 became a 2 because his foot was on the 3-point line but the length of a toe.
Brooklyn is a one-point favorite despite the expected absence of Irving because the team Sean Marks and Steve Nash have built has so much depth that Irving can almost be considered superfluous, especially if newcomer Patty Mills steps into the starting lineup and plays like the featured offensive weapon he was for the Australian National Team at the Olympics.
It is unknown whether Nash will start Mills or Bruce Brown, but either way the Nets still have a bunch more experience and depth than they had a year ago, and Harden is not having to play himself into shape as he did a year ago following his acquisition from Houston.
Brooklyn was 46-38 against the spread last season while Milwaukee was 46-49, but 26-21 as a home favorite and 1-2 as a home underdog. However, the Nets used such a hodgepodge of different lineups that it has even less bearing on this year than it would for any other team.
The over/under is 238, which is high in comparison to the 228 on the board for the Lakers-Warriors nightcap in which Golden State is a 3.5-point road underdog. And while 238 is kind of high, the Nets were 18-9-0 on over/unders as a road favorite last season. The player props we find most interesting are Durant’s made 3-pointers (we like the over 2.5 at -105), Giannis Antetokounmpo’s assists (over 4.5 at -130), James Harden’s assists (over 8.5 at -125) and Jrue Holiday’s points (under 18.5 at -115).
The Warriors-Lakers nightcap is especially interesting because the Lakers have just completed an 0-6 preseason that has their famously entitled fans feeling a little wishy-washy. It is going to take some time for geriatrics LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard to acclimate playing alongside Anthony Davis and Talen Horton-Tucker, but these guys will get it, and veterans are famous around the NBA for never taking the preseason too seriously. So read NOTHING into that 0-6 preseason record.
The Warriors still do not have Klay Thompson back and will not until January, so we are going to see a lot of Jordan Poole for starters, and if he is clicking he will rise straight to the top of the Most Improved Player rankings. What’s more important is that Golden State will have Steph Curry on the floor, and coach Steve Kerr was effusive in his praise of Curry after he scored 41 points in the preseason finale against Portland.
"He's been building up perfectly from before camp started to all of the training over the summer to now," Warriors coach Kerr said after the game. "Obviously missed the game in L.A. the other night, that was part of the plan, he didn't need to play all five games, but the last few days he got a lot of individual work in and he's clearly ready to roll for the regular season, so he’s in a great place.”
The point spread line is what it is because the sportsbooks have made the Lakers the prohibitive favorites to emerge from the West, and the books are always trying to get equal action on both side of the line. But the Warriors are not going to be pushovers and tend to play their best when performing in the national spotlight, and it doesn’t get any bigger than an opening night doubleheader on TNT.
Golden State was only 8-16-0 ATS as a road underdog last season, including a 2-point win as a 9-point underdog and a 26-point loss as a three-point ‘dog at Staples Center against the Lakers last season. It should also be noted that the ‘Dubs laid an egg in their opener last season, losing to Brooklyn by 26.
Again, last season’s results should have little impact on this season’s matchups in cases where at least one of the teams has made significant changes. That certainly is the case here for the Lakers, who dealt Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and the draft rights to Isaiah Jackson to Washington for Russell Westbrook. The Lakers have also brought in Dwight Howard, Anthony and Kendrick Nunn as free agents, and defensive stalwarts Alex Caruso and Dennis Schroder are now elsewhere.
That begs the question of who is going to defend Curry, the reigning NBA scoring champion. The over/under on Curry’s points is 32.5, which seems about right in the abstract and will likely seem horribly deficient by halftime if Curry knocks down his first five or six 3-point attempts.
Where it looks like the book set the line a little high was Andrew Wiggins’ points (under 19.5 at -115). Wiggins scored 15, 3 and 18 in the three meetings between the teams last year. So the play that looks good here is the under on Wiggins points and the over on Curry’s assists (over 5.5 at +135).
The Lakers are too new and too much of an unread novel to forecast anything with any degree of certainty, other than the fact that they will be in a perennial battle with the Nets for Most Drama. There is no award for that, but the way. But keeping abreast of what’s happening on the dramameter can help give you an edge, and we’ll highlights those happenstances when they are happening. Good luck!
Kevin Durant over 2.5 made 3-pointers -105
Giannis Antetokounmpo over 4.5 assists -130
James Harden over 8.5 assists -125
Jrue Holiday under 18.5 points -115
Andrew Wiggins under 19.5 points -115
Steph Curry over 5.5 assists +135