Friday NBA Predictions, Picks & Betting Odds (Dec. 6): Will Magic Keep Recent Hot Streak Going?
Photo credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Jonathan Isaac
This NBA season, I’m trying something new. I’m going to write a daily piece that highlights everything bettors and DFS players need to know for that night’s slate. For more on what to expect, read the inaugural piece.
Yesterday I finished 1-0 for +0.5 units. While I don’t want to get sucked into the past, I think it’s worth reviewing things each day.
The best way to do that is to look at closing line value (CLV), which is just measuring whether the line you bet moved for or against you by closing.
- I bet Suns-Pelicans over 234.5 and it closed at 235 (won)
I thankfully avoided the 76ers-Wizards game. I wasn’t as comfortable with the -7.5/-8.5 number it had risen to once I wrote about it, and while I thought there might have been a little value on Philly even then, I decided to ultimately pass once Ian Mahinmi and Moe Wagner — not good players but at least bodies — were ruled in, giving the Wizards at least semi-passable depth.
It was a lucky non-play by me, and if you had asked me before the game, I still would’ve said Philly was my lean, to be fully honest.
There’s not much left to say about yesterday’s slate, so let’s get to today’s 10-game slate and find some angles.
Note: For updates, see the chat at the bottom of this post.
- Overall: 121-104-1
- Spreads: 43-43-1
- Totals: 37-33
- Moneylines: 8-6
- Props: 29-22
Betting Odds and Analysis
- 7 p.m. ET: Orlando Magic (-3.5) at Cleveland Cavaliers, 210
- 7 p.m. ET: Indiana Pacers (-2) at Detroit Pistons, 211.5
- 7 p.m. ET: Brooklyn Nets (-3.5) at Charlotte Hornets, 219
- 8 p.m. ET: Minnesota Timberwolves at OKC Thunder (-4), 219.5
- 8 p.m. ET: Washington Wizards at Miami Heat (-9.5), 231
- 8 p.m. ET: Golden State Warriors at Chicago Bulls (-4.5), 214
- 8 p.m. ET: Denver Nuggets at Boston Celtics (-3.5), 205.5
- 8:30 p.m. ET: LA Clippers at Milwaukee Bucks (-4), 233
- 8:30 p.m. ET: Sacramento Kings at San Antonio Spurs (-4.5), 216
- 10:30 p.m. ET: LA Lakers (-4) at Portland Trail Blazers, 225.5
Let’s run through a couple angles I’m eyeing.
Magic at Cavaliers
Around 11 a.m. ET, it was announced that Kevin Love was questionable with an illness and didn’t participate in shootaround.
Ideally I wanted to wait for final word on that, but the line immediately moved from Magic -3.5 to -4, and I think it’ll move up more, so I went ahead and grabbed it at -4 for a half unit. I’ll likely buy a bit more Magic if Love is indeed ruled out and it’s not above -5.
The data on Love this season actually indicates that the Cavs are about the same with or without him: The Cavs have been 4.3 points/100 worse offensively with him on the floor but 5.5 points/100 better defensively. Part of that is likely just starter/bench splits, although Cedi Osman and Tristan Thompson — two other starters — notably have very high on/off differentials.
Still, I believe Love is important to this team, especially when factoring in the lack of depth if he’s absent. Larry Nance Jr. would likely fill in and he’s been very bad this season, particularly on defense.
Further, the Magic have played much better recently than the Cavs, who have lost four straight and 10 of their last 11. The most recent loss was a 33-point loss at home to the Pistons, who are not exactly a juggernaut. The Cavs played the Magic just last week in Cleveland and lost by 12 points.
Over the last two weeks, the Cavs have posted a shockingly bad -16.4 Net Rating — second-worst in the league. And I’m not sure there are many indicators that would suggest things are going to dramatically improve, especially with Love legitimately questionable tonight and Tristan Thompson also battling an illness (he’s probable to play).
All lineups with Nance Jr. have posted a -13.6 Net Rating — the fourth percentile — and even when he’s with the starters, it’s been a -6.8 mark. Now, the Magic haven’t been elite or anything, especially since Nikola Vucevic went down with an injury. Tonight’s projected starting lineup has posted a -8.9 Net Rating in 129 possessions together.
But the bench, led by DJ Augustin, Terrence Ross and Mo Bamba, has been very solid lately, and the Magic have been one of the league’s hottest shooting teams over the last week, finally seeing regression on their unlucky start.
Given how these teams are playing right now and the potential absence (or limited play) of Love and Thompson, I think the value is on Orlando here.
Wizards at Heat
Yesterday afternoon, in our NBA slack chat, I remarked about how excited I was to see the opening line for today’s Wizards-Heat game in Miami.
But then, well, the Wizards played awesome last night and not only covered against the 76ers but won outright despite missing starters Thomas Bryant and Isaiah Thomas. Rookie Rui Hachimura exploded for 27 points, and Davis Bertans continues to be a revelation off the bench, going 7-of-13 from beyond the arc last night to upset Philly.
That said … all of the reasons I was intrigued by Miami still exist. The Wizards are on a road back-to-back, and this will be three games in four nights. That’s probably a bigger deal come March than it is in December, but note that because of the injuries, these main Wiz guys are playing huge minutes. Hachimura has played more than 40 minutes twice since Tuesday; Bradley Beal has approached that as well.
The Wizards have traveled over twice the miles as the Heat have recently, and their main guys are playing huge minutes with huge workloads. This looks like a “schedule loss” if there ever was one.
That said … Goran Dragic is still out for the Heat, and this morning they announced that Justise Winslow is now questionable with a strained lower back. What was once the more deep and rested team might be pretty thin in the backcourt if Winslow can’t go.
Further, I’ve written a lot lately about how the Heat have been way overperforming due to their shooting luck both on offense and defense. That’s still true as well, but it also applies to the Wizards, who last night posted a stupid eFG% 81.8% on open shots. They didn’t get many admittedly, but that’s another issue on top of the shooting luck. All in all, I think it’s a wash.
So if we set home court as three points, do we think the Heat are six points better than this Magic roster? What about on the third game in four nights on a back-to-back with their main guys playing so many huge minutes?
I do if Winslow is playing and the Heat are at least semi-whole tonight. I’ll grab the Heat at anything in single digits, and I’ll likely take a piece of the Wizards team total under as well.
Pacers at Pistons
I’ll be quick on this one since this post is so long. These teams have both been in the top-10 defensively over the past two weeks. I’ve written a lot about the Pacers lately, mostly because I’ve been wanting to buy them now that they’re healthy. I think their starting lineup is darn good and the market hasn’t yet caught on.
That main unit has posted an absurd +18.4 Net Rating this season in 255 possessions together, ranking in the top-25th percentiles in both offense and defense. Their unit with Aaron Holiday and JaKarr Sampson in has been just as good, although they’ve done it more with defense (91st percentile) than offense (58th).
Further, both of these teams rank in the bottom-10 in pace this season. The Pistons are 29th in seconds per play, and they’re third in percentage of their possessions that take place in the halfcourt (the Pacers rank ninth).
But really, I wanted to highlight an interesting Pro System from Bet Labs here, which identifies under with sharp action:
This is one I actually adjusted slightly, but the reasoning is the same: It’s typically a good idea to take the under when it’s getting a minority of bets but the line has moved down.
That’s the case today: 74% of the bets and 80% of the money is on the over, and yet it moved down from 213 earlier this morning to 211.5, where it sits now.
Clippers at Bucks
It’s the game of the
night season, and somehow it’s not on national TV? Not sure the reasoning on that one.
There’s still a ton of uncertainty around the Clippers: It’s December, and their potential closing lineup in the playoffs still hasn’t played a single possession together (that’s if Landry Shamet rebounds from a tough beginning of the year and an injury). Even Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have played just 344 possessions together ever.
Those lineups have been solid, posting a +8.7 Net Rating, with almost all of that positive value coming on the defensive end. Interestingly, those lineups have rarely gotten to the rim — 29.3% of the possessions, fifth percentile.
Further making this game tough to handicap is the fact that when these teams met earlier in the season, Kawhi Leonard sat to rest and Paul George wasn’t back from injury. The Clips still battled, losing by five at home and actually covering the spread.
For what it’s worth, the line was around Bucks +1 before Kawhi was ruled out, and it closed at -6.5. Bucks +1 suggests that with Kawhi but no PG the Bucks were about two points better. Today’s line — Bucks -3.5 with George playing — suggests the Bucks are about a half-point to a point better.
One battle I think is going to be crucial in this one is on the bench. With Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton off the floor, the Bucks have still beaten teams by 7.1 points per 100 possessions.
The main Clippers bench lineup this season — Lou Williams, Rodney McGruder, Jerome Robinson, JaMychal Green and Montrezl Harrell — has posted a stupid +34.9 Net Rating. The Clips unit has bigger names, but the Bucks are deep and have been so good this year.
Motivation is also an interesting factor here. I usually hate talking about this because it’s a nearly data-less issue and feels very First Take-y. But Kawhi and Co. have little to prove; they’re veterans and have their eye on the title.
Leonard sitting on national TV the last game at least suggests that’s true. The Bucks, meanwhile, haven’t been resting Giannis, and they seemingly want to prove they are legit title contenders after Leonard came out of the East a season ago.
I’ll be honest: I’m not sure if I buy the motivation angle. It seems thin at best, and I don’t think Kawhi and PG are the type of guys to play lazily while on the floor. If they’re out there, and it seems they will be, they’re going to want to win the game and continue to jell together.
Let’s talk about how things will go on the court. I’ve written a lot about the Bucks defense because of how unique it is. After switching became so en vogue in the league, the Bucks after Jason Kidd adjusted to a conservative style, dropping their bigs into the paint and relying on their athleticism and length.
It’s obviously worked given the Bucks’ defensive efficiency marks over the last couple of seasons, but it has brought about some crazy splits: This year they’ve allowed the fewest shots at the rim but the third-most 3-pointers. They also allow a bunch of mid-rangers, as their big drops and typically allows that shot in favor of letting the ball-handler get close to the rim. That was the case last season, too.
Look how far Robin Lopez drops when defending the pick-and-roll in this play from Monday. The result is an open mid-ranger for RJ Barrett:
That might be a bit of an extreme example, but it highlights the scheme and the type of shots the Bucks are willing to give up. Further, a lot of the 3s they let up are to big men as opposed to guards, and mostly off those pick-and-pops. It’s honestly a smart strategy and is seemingly based on math.
The problem: The Clippers have three of the best shooters, especially in the mid-range, in the entire league in Kawhi, PG and Lou Williams.
You’ve heard the cliché: it’s a make-or-miss league. It’s simultaneously true and also not a reason to not try to analyze and handicap the game. Just because it’s often random in areas doesn’t mean it’s completely random.
But in this game, as much as it might seem like a cop-out, I think it’s going to come down to whether the Clips can hit the shots they’re getting from the Bucks defense, which dictates a lot things. If so, the Clippers will likely win this game outside of a Milwaukee offensive explosion. If not, the Bucks will sweep the series. As a result of that potential randomness, this game is a stay away for me.
Projected Starting Lineups and Injury News
Note: Info as of 2 p.m. ET. For up-to-the-minute lineups and news, see FantasyLabs’ matchups page.
- Boston Celtics: Kemba Walker – Marcus Smart – Jaylen Brown – Jayson Tatum – Daniel Theis
- Brooklyn Nets: Spencer Dinwiddie – Garrett Temple – Joe Harris – Taurean Prince – Jarrett Allen
- Charlotte Hornets: Devonte’ Graham – Terry Rozier – Miles Bridges – PJ Washington – Bismack Biyombo
- Chicago Bulls: Kris Dunn – Zach LaVine – Tomas Satoransky – Lauri Markkanen – Wendell Carter Jr.
- Cleveland Cavaliers: Darius Garland – Collin Sexton – Cedi Osman – Kevin Love – Tristan Thompson
- Denver Nuggets: Jamal Murray – Gary Harris – Will Barton – Paul Millsap – Nikola Jokic
- Detroit Pistons: Bruce Brown – Luke Kennard – Tony Snell – Blake Griffin – Andre Drummond
- Golden State Warriors: D’Angelo Russell – Glenn Robinson III – Eric Paschall – Draymond Green – Willie Cauley-Stein
- Indiana Pacers: Malcolm Brogdon – Jeremy Lamb – TJ Warren – Domantas Sabonis – Myles Turner
- LA Clippers: Patrick Beverley – Paul George – Kawhi Leonard – Maurice Harkless – Ivica Zubac
- LA Lakers: LeBron James – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Danny Green – Anthony Davis – JaVale McGee
- Miami Heat: Kendrick Nunn – Jimmy Butler – Duncan Robinson – Bam Adebayo – Meyers Leonard
- Milwaukee Bucks: Eric Bledsoe – Wes Matthews – Khris Middleton – Giannis Antetokounmpo – Brook Lopez
- Minnesota Timberwolves: Andrew Wiggins – Jarrett Culver – Josh Okogie – Robert Covington – Karl-Anthony Towns
- OKC Thunder: Chris Paul – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Abdel Nader – Danilo Gallinari – Steven Adams
- Orlando Magic: Markelle Fultz – Evan Fournier – Aaron Gordon – Jonathan Isaac – Khem Birch
- Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard – CJ McCollum – Rodney Hood – Carmelo Anthony – Hassan Whiteside
- Sacramento Kings: Cory Joseph – Buddy Hield – Harrison Barnes – Nemanja Bjelica – Richaun Holmes
- San Antonio Spurs: Derrick White – Bryn Forbes – DeMar DeRozan – Rudy Gay – LaMarcus Aldridge
- Washington Wizards: Ish Smith – Bradley Beal – Isaac Bonga – Rui Hachimura – Moe Wagner
- Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart (abdomen) is expected to play.
- Brooklyn Nets: Kyrie Irving (shoulder) remains out.
- Charlotte Hornets: Nothing new.
- Chicago Bulls: Chandler Hutchison (shoulder) and Thaddeus Young (personal) are out.
- Cleveland Cavaliers: Kevin Love (illness) is questionable. Tristan Thompson (illness) is probable.
- Denver Nuggets: Nothing new.
- Detroit Pistons: Luke Kennard (knee) is not on the injury report. Markieff Morris (cervical strain) is questionable.
- Golden State Warriors: Jacob Evans (adductor) is out. D’Angelo Russell (finger) will play.
- Indiana Pacers: JaKarr Sampson (back) is doubtful. Edmond Sumner (hand) is available to play.
- LA Clippers: Landry Shamet (ankle) and Rodney McGruder (hamstring) are out. JaMychal Green (tailbone) is questionable.
- LA Lakers: Kyle Kuzma (ankle) and Anthony Davis (shoulder) are probable.
- Miami Heat: Goran Dragic (groin) is out. Justise Winslow (back) is questionable.
- Milwaukee Bucks: Nothing new.
- Minnesota Timberwolves: Jake Layman (toe) is out. Andrew Wiggins (thumb) is questionable. Karl-Anthony Towns (knee) and Shabazz Napier (hamstring) are probable.
- OKC Thunder: Terrance Ferguson (hip) is out.
- Orlando Magic: Michael Carter-Williams (nose) said he’ll play.
- Portland Trail Blazers: Gary Trent Jr. (hamstring) is questionable.
- Sacramento Kings: Marvin Bagley (thumb) is out. Cory Joseph (back) and Bogdan Bogdanovic (knee) are questionable.
- San Antonio Spurs: LaMarcus Aldridge (thigh) is available to play.
- Washington Wizards: Isaiah Thomas (calf) and Ian Mahinmi (rest) are out.
To bet props, I use our FantasyLabs player props tool. Follow me in the Action Network app to see my bets (or go to the bottom of the article), but the more important thing is the tool, which measures our projections for every player vs. current odds in the market and highlights the biggest edges for you.
Player props are an inefficient market, which allows casual bettors (limits are low, so pro bettors aren’t incentivized to prioritize them) to grab very +EV bets. That said, the lines move quickly. Our props tool is set up so you can always see whether there’s an edge even at the updated numbers throughout the day.
It’s one of my favorite tools we offer and should be one of your bookmarked pages if you like making a few extra bucks. Here’s a screenshot of what it looks like:
My usual recommendation: Bet unders.
Last season, 10-rated props in our tool hit at a 60.31% rate. But overs hit at a 57.08% rate vs. 66.47% for unders. For 9-rated props, 55.96% of overs were successful bets vs. 62.60% for unders.
As I have noted in the past, unders have more outs: A blowout, an injury, a poor shooting night — all will likely make the under hit. But also, props are less efficient as a market given the low limits, so they’re less likely to adjust for things like opponent and pace.
One under I think is intriguing is Jakob Poeltl’s 7.5-rebound total.
This line I think is a bit inflated by last game, during which Poeltl pulled down 15 rebounds in 41 minutes of action. That was without LaMarcus Aldridge, however; otherwise he’d been below this mark in 10 of his 15 prior games this year.
We currently have him projected for 14.8 minutes of action with Aldridge in, and it’ll require an awesome rebounding game for Poeltl to pull down eight in that few minutes. The Kings have been average in rebound rate this season, so it’s not exactly a plus matchup in that regard, and they’ve actually played quite slow this season.
DFS Values and Strategy
Despite facing two of the world’s best defenders on the wing, Giannis Antetokounmpo still leads tonight’s studs with a +9.23 Projected Plus/Minus on DraftKings in our models. Part of it is that he’s actually projected to have a full minutes load for the first time in a while given the competitive game. His last three games: 27.6 minutes, 21.6 minutes, 19.4 minutes. As a result, he’s failed to hit value in seven of his last 10 games despite posting solid per-minute marks. If he’s pushed in a close game, he’s so good and his usage is so high that he should be able to return value.
Still, the stud position is not lacking today. Below him, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond and Bradley Beal all have Projected Plus/Minus marks of at least +3.70. They’re all projected for a bunch of minutes and high-usage roles and could be lower-owned if users elect to go with Giannis or jump down to someone like Jimmy Butler in an awesome matchup at $8,100.
I’m not convinced necessarily the Lakers guys will be low-owned, but they’re obviously solid plays. Note, however, that it’s not wise to use them together. Our FantasyLabs models show that Bron and AD have a negative correlation together of -0.33, meaning that they cannibalize each other’s ceilings. Use one for sure, but I wouldn’t use both in the same lineup.
Value-wise, we have at least one easy play in Ish Smith, who went for 33.25 DK points against the 76ers last night and is just $3,600 today. He’ll likely get over 30 minutes again tonight with Isaiah Thomas out again, and while there’s some blowout concern (see my writeup on this game above), that salary is just so cheap for his new role. He doesn’t have to clear much to hit value.
Other values today include Davis Bertans (crushing right now), Bam Adebayo, Justise Winslow, Rui Hachimura, Jonathan Isaac and Eric Bledsoe in the mid-tier, although note that we’re waiting on injury news for a ton of players. Make sure to follow our news feed and subscribe to our models to see up-to-the-minute player projections after each bit of news.
My Bets Currently
- Magic -4 (wouldn’t bet past the number currently, would if Love is out)
- Washington under 111 points (wouldn’t bet past the number)
Follow me in our free app if you want an alert on bets I make. I’ll also make updates in the chat below.
Updates and Live Chat
I will put updated thoughts below, whether they’re about line movement, injury news, etc. You can also ask questions, which I’ll answer as quickly as I can.