NBA betting: Weekend insights and best value bets
Chris Sheridan finds the value in the NBA this weekend, including some player props and a Defensive Player of the Year bet at a big price.
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We return today to a favorite subject in the legalized US sports betting market, the future bet. Specifically, Defensive Player of the Year.
On Thursday night, Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers blocked three shots and added in three 3-pointers before getting ejected at the same time as three other players, including Rudy Gobert, as Indiana became the first team to defeat the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City 111-100.
It was somewhat of a statement victory at this early point of the season for Rick Carlisle’s team, who stumbled out of the gate over the early part of the season but improved to 5-8 in the final game of a four-game Western trip. After a 1-7 start, they return home to play the COVID-decimated Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday before going back on the road next week for three games vs. East opponents.
Turner, Gobert, Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles were ejected with 4:01 left. Turner shoved Gobert, planting his shoulder in his back after a missed layup. Gobert responded by bear hugging him and trying to wrestle Turner to the floor. The two players had to be separated near the basket across from the Pacers bench. Turner blamed the scuffle on Gobert knocking him to the floor after the initial play.
"I had to stand up for myself in that situation," Turner said. "I don't think I did anything wrong. But that's not for me to decide. We'll talk to the league and see what happens from there."
Mitchell blamed the scuffle on built-up frustration over the referees allowing too much contact early in the game. Malcolm Brogdon, who had 30 points, wanted to make sure folks gave Turner his due after Turner blocked three shots and altered countless others, the ninth time in 13 games he's blocked three or more shots.
"We've got the best defensive player in the league on our team," Brogdon said. "I hope people saw that tonight. We got the best defensive player that was playing against the second-best player defensive player in the league tonight."
That latter player he was referencing was Gobert, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and currently the +300 favorite to win that award for the fourth time in the past five seasons. Gobert leads the league in defensive rebounds (157) and Defensive Win Shares (a favorite of the analytics crowd), but Turner has 41 blocks – 14 more than Anthony Davis, who is second in DPOY futures at +450 – and 19 more than Gobert.
Award voters, who are members of the media and broadcasters who cover the NBA on a regular basis, often use blocked shots and/or steals as the basis of their ballot, and right now the league leader in steals, Alex Caruso of the Chicago Bulls, is not in any awards conversations but is reminding everyone how important he was to the Los Angeles Lakers before he was allowed to leave in the offseason as a free agent.
The important thing to know here is that Turner is available at +2500 in the Defensive Player of the Year futures market, and the crystal ball here says that award is either going to go to him or Paul George of the Los Angeles Clippers, who may just get into the MVP discussion if Los Angeles continues winning at their current clip. They made it six in a row last night with a win over the Miami Heat to improve to 7-3 despite being without Kawhi Leonard, and it bears mentioning that George is not the worst flyer bet in the world at +3000 for MVP or +5000 for DPOY. He is second in the league in steals at 2.5 per game.
We have said this before and we will say it again: The folks who set the futures market are not always on the money with their numbers and their timing, and the trick to becoming a sharp gambler is to invest your money at the exact right time -- even if you have to wait until after the regular season ends to cash your ticket. Injuries and somebody randomly catching COVID-19 can have an impact (just ask any Sixers fan) on that investment, but that is why they call it gambling, no?
Right now, Gobert, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bam Adebayo and Joel Embiid are all listed with shorter DPOY odds than Turner, which makes about as much sense as having the Orlando Magic favored to win the NBA championship.
So get that while the getting is good. In the futures market, it may be the best bet out there right now. (And hedging with George is good insurance in case Turner gets injured).
A few other things to watch for over the weekend:
The New York Knicks have been getting very little from a majority of their starters, and coach Tom Thibodeau is considering lineup changes to pump some new energy into his 7-5 team. The ‘Bockers are favored by 1.5 on Friday at Charlotte before returning home next week, and the advice here is to stay away until Thibs settles on a starting and finishing five that looks mostly the same.
The Milwaukee Bucks are a .500 team now after their two-game winning streak, not looking all that worthy of defending their championship, although it is early. They are in Boston on Friday and are a 1.5-point favorite over a Celtics team that has won three of four. Antetokounmpo’s rebound totals in the past three games have been 15, 16 and 18, so we like the over on his boards (11.5) at +115. Also, we like the under on Al Horford’s 3-pointers (1.5) at +115 since he has gone 0-for-7 over the past two games. Coach Ime Udoka is likely to tell him to get his points down low tonight on putbacks and set plays, especially with Brook Lopez out.
The New Orleans Pelicans have the worst record in the league at 1-11 yet are only 8.5-point ‘dogs against the Brooklyn Nets, who have gotten triple-doubles from James Harden in three of their last six games. A straight cover seems like a cinch, so you may want to consider a combo line, such as Brooklyn -8.5 and the over (214.5). Both teams have gone over only three times each in 12 games, so that line has been set quite low. Alternative lines will be available later today, so you may want to choose Brooklyn giving even more points as the Pelicans have the worst point differential in the league at -11.1. In their last two games against quality teams, they lost to the Mavericks by 16 and the Warriors by 41. They are coming off a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in which they were down 14 after three quarters.
The Denver Nuggets have the worst over/under record in the NBA (2-9) and are 5-point favorites over Atlanta on Friday with Nikola Jokic coming off a one-game suspension. That over/under has been set at 215.5. Atlanta is 6-6-0 on over-unders, and the line dropped from Atlanta +6.5 to Atlanta +5 early Friday.
Only the Hornets, Heat, Magic and Lakers have winning records on over/unders. An astounding 26 teams are .500 or worse on O/Us as the league – and the bookmakers – adjust to changes in NBA rules that have led to a precipitous drop in free throws. After six straight season of increased scoring, teams are scoring 4.5 fewer points per game than they did last season. As an example, Harden has attempted 56 free throws in 12 games, 19 of them coming in one game against the Pacers. Last season in his first 12 games with Brooklyn, he attempted 85.
One more: The Detroit Pistons just lost their best veteran bench player, Kelly Olynyk, for six weeks. They scored only 82 and 88 points in their last two games, and they are only 5.5-point underdogs against a Cleveland Cavaliers team that has won four of five. The over/under is an astonishingly low 201, down from 202 early this morning. The presumption here is that this will be an epic blowout, and the best way to go flyer-wise may be an alternative line such as Cleveland -19 at +500. (That is quite the epic flyer, but the Pistons are epically bad).
Good luck this weekend!