Thursday NBA Odds & Picks: Our Staff’s Best Bets for Bulls vs. Wizards and 76ers vs. Magic (Dec. 31)
Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Markelle Fultz #20 of the Orlando Magic.
- While the entire wold is looking excited to turn the page on 2020 as soon as possible, our NBA crew is looking to close out the year on a winning note.
- They are looking at two point totals that currently present some value. Check out those bets below.
The NBA is closing out 2020 with a seven-game slate that features some early starts and fun national TV games: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Orlando Magic (6:30 p.m ET) and Phoenix Suns vs. Utah Jazz (9 p.m. ET).
Our experts are looking to end the year on a winning note, too, and they’ve targeted two totals on Thursday’s schedule that offer betting value. You can find their analysis and picks on those games below.
NBA Odds & Picks
Bulls vs. Wizards
Brandon Anderson: What do you know about the Bulls and Wizards, other than the fact that the greatest player in NBA history once played for both teams? It’s that both teams are really bad, and especially at defense, right? Well, that’s partially wrong.
It does look like both the Bulls and Wizards are bad again, but through four games, their defenses have been somewhere between below average and bad, but their offenses are even worse.
The addition of Russell Westbrook to the Wizards has led to a bevy of counting stats but not necessarily improved offense. Westbrook is averaging 19.0 points, 13.7 rebounds, and 12.7 assists, but has an ugly 45% True Shooting percentage that is gashing any semblance of efficiency. Bradley Beal hasn’t been as strong since being moved off the ball, while Washington’s bench remains a disaster.
The one thing this team has actually done a little better this season is defend. Thomas Bryant is still a disaster, but the team process has been much better.
The Bulls were already defending better than you would think last season and remain just above tragic on that end, but the offensive results are much more disappointing. They struggle to score efficiently inside the arc, turn the ball over a ton, and sophomore point guard Coby White has gotten off to a horrendous start. Like with the Wizards, the Bulls’ star shooting guard, Zach LaVine, has cooled off a bit after a career year.
These teams play at hyper speed, both ranking top three in Pace, and that along with the perception of terrible defense here has given us a very high line at 237. But bad defense can’t force the other team to take or make smart shots. Each team has played in just one game with a total over 231 all season.
Go under 237 and you’re basically just betting on these teams not being very good. With the Wizards and Bulls in recent years, that’s really been the only reliable trend.
This line is actually on its way up too, so keep an eye out for the best line and you might even get a better number. I’ll play the under to 236, but will watch closer to tip to see if I get something closer to 240.
76ers vs. Magic
Raheem Palmer: The Orlando Magic are 4-0 to the over while the Philadelphia 76ers are 4-0 to the under, so something has to give.
I think there’s a case for the under with my model putting this at 218. Both teams rank top-10 in Defensive Rating — the 76ers rank third (102.9) and the Magic ranking eighth (107.5). Both teams rank in the bottom 10 in 3-point attempts with the Magic sitting last (26.5) and the 76ers ranking 20th (31.8).
Despite the additions of Seth Curry and Danny Green, the 76ers are shooting just 30.7% from 3-point range — 27th in the NBA. I’m not sure there’s a doctor who can fix this 76ers offense given Ben Simmons’ limitations and they’ve struggled to find their footing under head coach Doc Rivers.
The Sixers are scoring an abysmal 103.6 points per 100 possession this season, which gives them the 27th-ranked offense in the league. Even against a 20th-ranked Wizards defense that allows 111.9 points per 100 possessions, the Sixers could only muster 1.05 points per possession every trip up the floor.
The Magic are sixth in Offensive Rating (114.4), but they’ve played the Wizards twice, a tired Heat team just a few months removed from the NBA Finals and a young Thunder team. None of those teams rank higher than 13th in Defensive Rating. The Magic are shooting better from behind the arc (34.9%), but still rank just 19th in the league this season.
The Magic are taking 49.7% of their shots in the mid-range area a while they rank first in field goal percentage at the rim (75.4%), they’ll be facing a 76ers defense that ranks first at defending the rim (54.3%).
The Sixers are holding teams to the fifth-lowest effective field goal percentage in the league this season, so it’s likely Orlando’s offense takes a step back in this matchup.
Overall, I think this total is a bit too high, so I’ll be playing the under 220.5 and would play this down to 219.