Five Things Bettors Should Know for Cavs-Celtics

Five Things Bettors Should Know for Cavs-Celtics article feature image

In just a few short hours on Thursday, the Cavaliers traded away six rotation players and a draft pick. They cut bait early on the Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder experiments, who were the player pieces in the Kyrie Irving trade that many analysts thought the Cavs won or at least fared well in. That trade is looking worse by the day, and now, while they deal with the chemistry issues and growing pains of a brand new roster in mid-February, they’ll have to find a way to stop … Kyrie Irving and his new team. The NBA is a beautiful sport, and its timing remains perfect.

On that note, here are five many things bettors should know for today’s matchup.

1. The Cavs, Well, They Have Lots of Question Marks

  • Is George Hill alive? Was it just Sacramento? Is he washed? Can he run a bench unit with no dudes he’s played with outside of Rodney Hood?
  • Speaking of Hood, can he improve defensively? He ranked below the 50th percentile in defending spot-up shots, and he often had bad instincts, going under screens and closing out late. That’s a sore spot for the Cavs defensively. Can he improve there?
  • Will the Cavs just switch in pick-and-roll? They haven’t done that, and it has killed them when they’ve brought help over from the corners. When you don’t have time to install coverage, being able to switch is easier; with the athletes they added, that makes more sense.
  • Can the athleticism they added counteract how hard Boston plays all the time?
  • Is LeBron ready to try again now that the Cavs did what he wanted and got rid of everyone he didn’t like?
  • The Celtics can’t score. The Cavs can’t defend. Something’s gotta give!
  • Who makes more super-hustle plays: the Celtics or Larry Nance Jr.? — Matt Moore

2. The Cavs Improving on Defense Isn’t a Given

The Cavaliers’ projected starting lineup — a combination of George Hill-J.R. Smith-Cedi Osman-LeBron James-Tristan Thompson — has never played together, and their first test will be a Celtics defense that ranks first in both half-court and transition defense. There will be some growing pains on both ends of the floor, although the Cavs do have more defensive upside now. The question is whether their the new additions can make a difference: George Hill, for example, ranked 10th in Defensive Real Plus-Minus among PGs last year in Utah, but he ranks 89th out of 98 eligible players this season in Sacramento. Is he washed up or was he just in a toxic place in Sacramento? And will Cleveland be a less toxic place? The numbers for Cleveland look better on paper, but whether they will come to fruition — and how fast — is the big question for Sunday’s matchup. — Bryan Mears

3. Take a Look at the Total

Yes, the Cavs defense is bad, but when the total opens lower than 215 (as is the case today), the under is actually what’s cashed in Cleveland’s games more often than not this season. Cavs unders are 12-7 in this spot, compared to 13-20 when the total opens at 215.5 and above. The under is especially interesting in today’s matchup with the Cavs trades clearly geared toward getting better on defense. — Scott T. Miller

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4. DFS Spin

No one really knows what the Cavs rotation will look like with all their new additions, but LeBron should be forced into a massive offensive role. He’s projected to play 38.1 minutes in our NBA Models (most on today’s slate), and he’s averaged 1.54 fantasy points per minute with Isaiah Thomas and Kevin Love off the floor this season. Cedi Osman is also intriguing on FanDuel, where his $3,600 salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 98 percent. He’s averaged 0.93 fantasy points per minute over the past month and figures to be a much bigger part of their rotation following the trades.

The Cavs defense figures to improve with some of their new additions, but this still appears to be a wonderful spot for the Celtics. Unfortunately, Boston isn’t a great team to target for DFS purposes. They play a pretty balanced rotation — no one on the team is projected for more than 33.2 minutes — which doesn’t give any one player a clear path to returning value. That said, they are intriguing on FanDuel, where the majority of their key contributors have Bargain Ratings of at least 75 percent. Matt LaMarca

5. The Celtics Dominate the Cavs (in Covering the Spread)

The Cavaliers enter this game 16-37-1 ATS (30.2%) — the worst record in the NBA. Over the past two seasons, Brad Stevens and the Celtics are 36-25-2 ATS (59%) against under .500 ATS opponents. Despite being the worst ATS team in the league, the Cavs are 10 games above .500 in real life and the No. 3 seed in the East. Boston has faced eight teams this season who were over .500 SU and under .500 ATS: The Celtics are 6-2 SU and 6-1-1 ATS against such teams. — Evan Abrams

Photo via Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports