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Zion Williamson is roughly twice the size he should be after apparently hitting all of New Orleans’ fine restaurants as he rehabs from a broken foot. And with his struggling team appearing in the nightcap of tonight’s TNT doubleheader, the over/under on fat jokes from Shaquille O’Neal and his cohorts is 22.5.

Williamson’s New Orleans Pelicans are on the road to face the defending Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns and are 11-point underdogs. But before you go out and bet the ranch on Chris Paul, Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton, consider the fact that no NBA team has done worse against the spread than the Suns (1-4-0), who are not exactly hitting an early-season stride as they have lost three of their first five games.

The opener of the TNT doubleheader should be a great one, with the 5-1 Miami Heat, led by MVP outsider (for the moment) Jimmy Butler, traveling to Dallas to face the Mavericks, whose own MVP contender, Luka Doncic, is struggling.

Doncic’s scoring average is down 5.2 points to 22.5 points per game, his 3-point shooting has dropped from 35 percent to 22.8, and his assists are down 1.1 per game to 7.5. Yes, it is early in the season, and Doncic certainly has the talent to correct things, but you have to wonder why he is lumped with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant at +650 in the MVP futures market. (Steph Curry is the +550 favorite).

Butler is sitting at +4000 for a Miami team that has won five of its first six games and is favored by a point and a half tonight. Miami is 5-1-0 against the spread and Dallas is 2-4-0 as the Mavs go through some growing pains under new coach Jason Kidd, and it is questionable whether they will have Kristaps Porzingis, whose bad back has kept him sidelined for the past three games.

It behooves Kidd, Porzingis, Doncic and owner Mark Cuban to err on the side of caution when it comes to Porzingis, and here is why: The Western Conference is so loaded with bad teams, it will not be difficult to finish in the top 10 and make the league’s play-in tournament.

The Mavs (and most of the other 19 postseason qualifiers) do not care all that much about games in early November, so take that into account when pondering whether to lay the 1.5 points and go with the Heat, who have come out of the gate with a league-leading point differential of 17.0.

Only the Chicago Bulls (6-1-0) are performing better against the spread than the Heat, who are getting 25.3 points per game from Butler on 52.9 percent shooting. Butler is also second in the league in steals (behind Paul George) with 2.8 per game for the Heat, who are allowing only 97.0 points per game – the best in the NBA.

So whether it is a straight-up game wager you are interested in, or a parlay, or something in the futures market, the Heat is a team you should be paying extra close attention to. They already have the leading Sixth Man of the Year candidate in Tyler Herro (+325), and their odds of winning the championship are now +1600 – trailing only the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks.

The Heat opened the season with a 42-point victory over the defending champion Bucks and have barely taken the foot off the gas since, their W/L ledger including a 13-point road victory at Brooklyn and a 26-point road victory at Memphis.

The next two weeks will be quite telling as to whether they are going to be playing at the same level that took them to the bubble NBA finals two seasons ago, as the road game at Dallas is followed by matchups with Boston and Utah at home and then a five-game Western trip that has them playing the Nuggets, Lakers, Clippers and Jazz before they get a relative break and finish the trip in Oklahoma City against the Thunder.

Butler, it should be noted, is ranked No. 1 in VORP (value Over Replacement Player) and win shares, and there are some MVP voters who rely upon those types of quantitative stats as one of their primary determining factors. ESPN’s Bobby Marks was touting Butler’s candidacy even before the season began, and Marks is one of the sharpest minds in the business. 

So do with that info what you want, but rest assured that you will not find Butler at +4000 for much longer if Miami continues playing at its current level.

And now back to Zion and the Pels.

It has not been a great start to the season for New Orleans, with single-digit losses to the Hawks, Kings and Knicks in the past week contributing to their 1-6 record. Their only victory has come against the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves, and starters Brandon Ingram (right hip) and Devonte Graham (left adductor) being listed as questionable tonight.

So victory No. 2 does not exactly look to be in the cards, but just remember that the Suns have not been all that spectacular, either, and there are internal issues there that were exacerbated by ownership’s refusal to offer a max contract extension to DeAndre Ayton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft.

Phoenix is only 1-4-0 on over/unders, and New Orleans is 3-4-0. Tonight’s over/under in the TNT nightcap is 215. In the Miami-Dallas game, the over/under is 210 – the lowest of the five games on the NBA slate. The Heat are 2-4-0 on over/unders and Dallas has yet to go over in a single game (0-6-0).

Also worth noting for tonight’s slate is another 0-6-0 team on over/unders, the Houston Rockets. They are 10-point ‘dogs against the Los Angeles Lakers, who have gone over in four of seven games but are just 2-5-0 against the spread as injuries to their geriatric lineup have contributed to their 4-3 start.

With fewer free throws being taken this season because of rules changes designed to eliminate fouls caused by offensive players initiating contact, the over/unders have been set too high over the first two weeks of the season. Brooklyn (0-7-0), Dallas (0-6-0), Minnesota (0-6-0) and Houston (0-6-0) have all yet to go over, Denver is 1-6-0 on over/unders, Golden State, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Jazz are 1-5-0, and Phoenix is 1-4-0.

Of the 30 NBA teams, a whopping 22 of them are .500 or worse when it comes to the over/unders.

So that is your most distinct early-season trend, but rest assured that the books will adjust to that, and to Butler’s MVP odds, especially if he goes off tonight on national TV when he likely will have the defensive assignment on Doncic.

If it is a lockdown effort, the over/under on Williamson fat jokes will have to drop, because even Shaq, Kenny, Ernie and the rest of the TNT crew will shelve the levity and save it for next week if they have a player in Butler that they may be raving about at halftime of the second game. Good luck!


Miami Heat (-1.5) -120

Heat vs Mavericks: Under 210 points -110

Pelicans vs Suns: Under 215 points -115

Jimmy Butler for MVP +4000