After taking an annual Thanksgiving off-day, the NBA is back with a 14-game slate Friday. My favorite looks are in the Pelicans-Grizzlies, Bulls-Thunder, and Lakers-Spurs matchups. (The games are handicapped in the order of my favorite to least favorite bets).
New Orleans Pelicans (11-7) at Memphis Grizzlies (10-8)
The Pelicans snapped a 3-game losing skid to the Grizzlies with a 113-102 win a couple of weeks ago in New Orleans for their first meeting of the year.
NOLA All-Star wing Brandon Ingram missed all three Pelicans-Grizzlies games last season. When Ingram plays the Pelicans are one of the best teams in the NBA.
NOLA is the ‘sharp’ side
DraftKings Sportsbook is reporting via VSIN that more than 70% of the money is on the Pelicans at the time of writing whereas a majority of the bets placed are on the Grizzlies.
Since professional bettors wager a lot more dough than you or I, it’s typically wise to follow the money especially when it’s counter to the public.
Pinnacle Sportsbook (Pinny) attached more juice to New Orleans’ line. Pinny is known as the sharpest shop in town because it books the largest sports bets in the world. By making the Pelicans more expensive, Pinny is trying to entice its whale bettors into staking the Grizzlies.
According to Pregame.com, nearly 90% of the cash bet in the consensus market but Memphis’ spread hasn’t budged off the 2.5-point opener.
Basketball nerds love the Pelicans
Basketball Reference gives NOLA the fourth-best adjusted for strength of schedule net rating (nRTG). CleaningTheGlass.com (CTG), says the Pelicans have the best non-garbage time nRTG in the NBA at +7.6 points per 100 possessions.
NOLA is trending in a better direction
Over the past two weeks, the Pelicans have by far the best non-garbage time nRTG in the Association at +18.0 points per 100 possessions, per CTG. In fact, the next closest team to NOLA is the defending Eastern Conference champion Celtics at a +10.0 adjusted nRTG.
The same can be said about New Orleans’ ATS margin with is a league-best +11.3 over that span, per CTG. While the Lakers’ +8.1 ATS margin is the second-best in the league in the last 14 days.
The Pelicans are healthier with more talent
The Grizzlies will be without second-leading scorer, SG Desmond Bane, and most likely rotational big Santi Aldama who’s listed as “doubtful” on the injury report.
Bane is second on Memphis for adjusted on/off nRTG at +15.9. The Grizzlies score 8.3 more points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time when Aldama is on the floor as well.
On the other hand, it looks like the Pelicans are going to be without PG C.J. McCollum. But, McCollum’s backup, PG Jose Alvarado, actually has a better non-garbage time on/off nRTG.
Alvarado, aka Grand Theft Alvarado, brings a defensive tenacity to the game that’s useful for defending Grizzlies superstar Ja Morant. NOLA All-Star Zion Williamson missed the previous Pelicans-Grizzlies game.
Lastly, New Orleans is 7-0 straight up (SU) vs. Memphis when both Ingram and Morant play.
NBA Best Bet #1: Pelicans +2 (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook, down to +1.5
Chicago Bulls (8-10) at Oklahoma City Thunder (10-8)
OKC hosts Chicago for the first meeting of the season at the Paycom Center with tip-off scheduled for 8 p.m. ET. The Bulls beat the Thunder 2-0 SU last season but OKC was 1-0-1 ATS. But, I’m …
Buying Bulls’ stock
To be honest, I pegged Chicago for regression entering the season because I was pessimistic about Bulls scores Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan playing at an All-Star level for a second straight season.
I thought the injury to Bulls PG Lonzo Ball would have a bigger effect on the team. But, Chicago’s roster has a nice mix of talent and glue guys. Also, Ball’s replacements have picked up the slack.
Bulls point guards Alex Caruso and Goran Dragic lead Chicago in adjusted on/off nRTG, per CTG. The Bulls score 17.9 more points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time Caruso is on the floor and are +13.7 with Dragic in the game.
Dragic is listed as “questionable” on Chicago’s injury report as of Friday morning but Caruso needs to play more either way. Thunder PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is playing at an All-NBA-caliber and Caruso is one of the best on-ball defenders in the NBA.
The dumbest decision the Los Angeles Lakers front office has made in recent seasons was not re-signing Caruso who was instrumental in their bubble title run.
Also, styles make fights and …
Chicago will crush OKC in the mid-range
Both LaVine and DeRozan like to take inefficient mid-range shots that analytics nerds hate. The Bulls attempt the fourth-highest volume of mid-range field goals, per CTG.
But, LaVine and DeRozan make those shots and that’s where OKC’s defense is vulnerable. The Thunder are 23rd in defensive field goal percentage vs. all mid-range jumpers, according to CTG.
Other than OKC wing Lugentz Dort, the Thunder don’t have anyone who can check LaVine or DeRozan. The Bulls can hunt the Thunder’s entire defense. Chicago has the fourth-most efficient offense in isolation sets and OKC has a below-average defensive efficiency vs. iso-ball.
LaVine and DeRozan being able to get theirs explains why the …
Line movement is running with the Bulls
Early pro-Bulls action from NBA sharps has steamed Chicago’s moneyline (ML) from the -125 opener up to the current number (-140).
This action is sharp because oddsmakers priced Bulls-Thunder as a coin-flip game to see how the market would react.
Well, the market has spoken and Chicago appears to be the sharp side. The Bulls’ spread went from -1 on the opener up to -2.5 currently. However, let’s …
Spend extra on Chicago’s moneyline
First of all, I hate giving out picks that cost a lot more than -110. The Bulls’ -140 ML is only 25 cents on the dollar more expensive than its current spread of -2.5 (-115). Chicago is 9-1 SU and 6-3-1 ATS as road favorites of -3 or less.
The reason why I’m bullish on taking Chicago’s ML in this spot is because of a bet I won in last year’s Bulls-Thunder meeting in OKC. I took the Thunder as 1.5-point home underdogs in that spot and it narrowly cashed with a 111-110 Chicago victory.
How it got there was insane. The Bulls outscored the Thunder in three of the four quarters and had a 14-point lead entering the final frame. But, OKC snuck in the backdoor with a Thunder big Mike Muscala made 3-pointer as time expired.
It was a gross beat for someone and a glorious win for me. So, while I’m confident the Bulls cover the spread here, Chicago’s ML is just the sharper play.
NBA Best Bet #2: Bulls (-140) ML at DraftKings Sportsbook, lay up to 4 points with Chicago if the ML goes north of -150
Los Angeles Lakers (5-11) at San Antonio Spurs (6-13)
Let’s hope that the line drop from Lakers -5 on the opener down to their current price of -3 is due to LeBron James trending towards missing his sixth consecutive game.
The fact of the matter is LA has played much better this year when LeBron is out of the game and Lakers big Anthony Davis is going nuts lately.
LA scores 5.9 more points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time when LeBron is off the floor and 9.3 fewer points per 100 possessions when AD is out of the game, per CTG.
In the last six games that LeBron has missed, AD is averaging 31.2 points per game (PPG) on 59.1% shooting with 16.0 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 2.3 blocks per game. Finally, AD is taking over.
The other reason for the line movement in San Antonio’s direction is that Lakers PG Patrick Beverly was suspended for shoving Phoenix Suns big Deandre Ayton in the back Wednesday.
However, Pat Bev sucks and I like the idea of Russell Westbrook getting back into the starting 5. Especially if LeBron misses Friday because Westbrook and AD make sense in pick-and-roll (PnR) action. San Antonio has the fourth-worst defensive efficiency in PnR action through the roll men.
On top of that, the Lakers have the best shot quality in the Association and attempt the highest volume of field goals at the rim, according to CTG. The Spurs are 25th in defensive shot quality allowed and give up the third-most paint PPG.
NBA Best Bet #3: Lakers -3 (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook, up to -3.5
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