Monday NBA Predictions, Picks & Betting Odds (Dec. 16): How to Bet Mavs-Bucks After Luka Doncic’s Injury

Monday NBA Predictions, Picks & Betting Odds (Dec. 16): How to Bet Mavs-Bucks After Luka Doncic’s Injury article feature image

Photo credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Luka Doncic

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.

On Friday I finished 3-1 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 Bucks -10 and it closed at Bucks -12.5 (won)
  • I bet Pacers-Hawks over 224 and it closed at 224.5 (lost)
  • I bet 76ers (1H) -4.5 and it closed at 76ers -4.5 (won)
  • I bet Hornets-Bulls (2H) under 104 and it closed at 103.5 (won)

It was a good night, although I did get pretty lucky on the Bucks. That was a tough beat if you had the Grizzlies, especially at the closing spread of +12.5.

Closing spread was Bucks -12.5

Grizzlies led 102-101 with under 7 minutes left in the game

Final score…

Bucks 127
Grizzlies 114

— Bryan Mears (@bryan_mears) December 14, 2019

It was a pretty good weekend, although there was a huge sweat on the Heat game. I bet heavily on Miami after Luka Doncic went down for the Mavs. I think the live market wasn’t accounting fully for the injury: They were up nearly 20 points, and the line was still around 3-8 points for most of the first half for the Heat.

The Heat ended up almost blowing that game, as the Mavs without Luka stormed back in the second half to force overtime. Thankfully I had some Heat -3.5 and moneyline and they won by four, although I lost my -6.5 number. Basketball, man. You never know.

Anyway, we have a pretty big slate today, so let’s dive in and find some angles.

Note: For updates, see the chat at the bottom of this post.

YTD Record:

  • Overall: 136-115-1
  • Spreads: 51-48-1
  • Totals: 41-39
  • Moneylines: 10-6
  • Props: 29-22

Jump To: Odds & Analysis | Projected Starting Lineups & Injury NewsPlayer Props | DFS Values & Strategy | My Bets

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Betting Odds and Analysis

  • 7 p.m. ET: Washington Wizards at Detroit Pistons (-5.5), 230.5
  • 7:30 p.m. ET: Cleveland Cavaliers at Toronto Raptors (-12.5), 217
  • 8 p.m. ET: Chicago Bulls at OKC Thunder (-5.5), 209.5
  • 8 p.m. ET: San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets (-9.5), 233
  • 8 p.m. ET: Miami Heat (-4.5) at Memphis Grizzlies, 216.5
  • 8 p.m. ET: Dallas Mavericks at Milwaukee Bucks (-11), 227
  • 9 p.m. ET: Portland Trail Blazers (-1) at Phoenix Suns, 228.5

Let’s run through a couple angles I’m eyeing.

Mavs at Bucks

Speaking of Luka, let’s talk about him and that situation. He’s likely out a couple weeks with an ankle injury he sustained in that Heat game, and his absence will obviously be felt by his team. But how much exactly?

Per Cleaning the Glass, Luka has a pretty middling on/off court differential: The Mavs have been just 1.4 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor vs. off. Delon Wright and Jalen Brunson, who will take over lead ball-handling roles in his absence, are at +2.1 and +4.9, respectively. So will the Mavs actually miss Luka (at least significantly to the spread)?

Yes. Remember that on/off metrics are raw metrics; they don’t capture context within the team. And that’s important for the Mavs, who have one of the best benches in the league this season. Luka and the starters have been awesome — a stupid-high +16.9 Net Rating, in fact — but the Mavs bench units have been even better against other bench units.

That last sentence is key: While Brunson has been a very solid backup and has one of the higher on/off differentials on the team, he’s mostly been doing his damage against bench players. He and Wright will now have to operate the offense with starting units (that helps) but against starting defenses (tough).

It’s also hard to overstate just how much the Dallas offense is built around Luka. The Mavs this season rank sixth in the league in wide-open 3-pointers, which is almost entirely due to Luka’s gravity, ability to get into the lane to collapse defenses and brilliance passing to pinpoint shooters. If you’re wondering why Dorian Finney-Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. have suddenly turned into clones of Ray Allen, that’s your answer.

That starting unit has posted a 62.9% eFG% mark this season — in the 96th percentile of five-man units. They’re taking 45.9% of their shots from beyond the arc and making over 40% of those attempts. That’s one on/off number that does matter: With Luka on the bench, the Mavs have taken 8.9% fewer 3-pointers, a massive drop-off. Add in the lower quality of those looks, and you can see why the offense should take a massive hit without Doncic.

The Mavs and Bucks haven’t played each other yet this season, so we don’t have a market-dictated number from which to work. The most recent big game the Mavs played was in the beginning of December on the road against the Lakers; they were 6.5-point underdogs. The Bucks are better than the Lakers, but they’re also down Eric Bledsoe for the next bit.

Let’s say that’s a wash and this game is around 6-7 with Luka playing. The line opened at Bucks -11. Do we think that he’s worth 4-5 points to the spread? I think so, and you could argue it’s worth even more against the Bucks, whose bench has been equally good and can negate those Mavs units.

I’ve written it before, but player value is not in a vacuum. Doncic may be worth 4 points against one team but 6-7 against another. I think this is one of those latter games given the matchup against Giannis and Co.

I grabbed the Bucks at -11, although I wouldn’t go far beyond that. One last note from our new Labs NBA Insiders tool: “The Bucks have covered in four of the last five games they’ve been favored by double-digits since Khris Middleton returned to the lineup.”

Wizards at Pistons

There’s a lot of uncertainty in this one with both Blake Griffin (knee) and Andre Drummond (eye) questionable to suit up.

The Pistons have been feisty lately, winning five of their last seven games, including victories over the Spurs, Pacers and Rockets (in Houston). Their two losses came against the Bucks and Mavs, which are very excusable.

Detroit has similarly odd on/off metrics as the Mavericks. The players with the highest differentials so far this season are Christian Wood (+11.7) and Derrick Rose (+8.5), which, again, shows the bench has been pretty darn good this year.

But so has the starting unit: In 196 possessions together, the five-man combo of Bruce Brown, Luke Kennard, Tony Snell, Griffin and Drummond have posted an absurd +27.9 Net Rating — the 96th percentile of units. They’ve been especially great defensively, allowing just 88.4 points per 100 possessions. Not having that unit together could hurt against a very potent Wizards offense that continues to surprise.

Don’t get me wrong: The Pistons have some talent; there’s a reason Derrick Rose continues to have strong on/off numbers. But losing Griffin and Drummond would move guys with good numbers against bench units into starting roles.

Christian Wood is actually pretty darn talented, but things will be tougher against Bradley Beal than against whatever bench unit the Wizards are running out. Further, it could be Thon Maker who gets a bunch of minutes, and he hasn’t exactly proven to be a NBA-caliber player yet.

But complicating all this is the Wizards’ play of late: They’ve lost nine of their last 11 games, including their last two to the Grizzlies and Hornets. The defense has been particularly problematic in that stretch, even vs. bad opponents.

They’ve probably been a bit unlucky, however. In the span shown above, the Wizards have been dead last in the league in opponent eFG% allowed on open shots at 59.5%. They’re slightly below-average in allowing those shots, which suggests that some of their defense has been just hot shooting by opponents. The same is largely true for “wide-open shots,” for what it’s worth.

This could be a bounce-back spot for the Wizards, and they probably provide a bit of value at +5.5 if Drummond and Griffin are both out.

Another interesting bet is the under, although that’s a bit scary given the Wizards’ defensive issues (all season long, not just the recent unlucky span). There could be some value watching how the Pistons play: Detroit has typically played faster with the bench units, although I think that’s mostly because of Rose, not the big guys.

I will likely take a bit of Wizards if one or both is ruled out, as well as the under. But I probably won’t bet too big and instead look for live betting value.

Projected Starting Lineups and Injury News

Note: Info as of 3:30 p.m. ET. For up-to-the-minute lineups and news, see FantasyLabs’ matchups page.

Projected Lineups

  • 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
  • Dallas Mavericks: Jalen Brunson – Tim Hardaway Jr. – Dorian Finney-Smith – Kristaps Porzingis – Dwight Powell
  • Detroit Pistons: Bruce Brown – Luke Kennard – Tony Snell – Blake Griffin – Andre Drummond
  • Houston Rockets: Russell Westbrook – James Harden – Danuel House – PJ Tucker – Clint Capela
  • Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant – Dillon Brooks – Jae Crowder – Jaren Jackson Jr. – Jonas Valanciunas
  • Miami Heat: Kendrick Nunn – Duncan Robinson – Jimmy Butler – Bam Adebayo – Meyers Leonard
  • Milwaukee Bucks: Donte DiVincenzo – Wes Matthews – Khris Middleton – Giannis Antetokounmpo – Brook Lopez
  • OKC Thunder: Chris Paul – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Terrance Ferguson – Danilo Gallinari – Steven Adams
  • Phoenix Suns: Ricky Rubio – Devin Booker – Kelly Oubre – Dario Saric – Frank Kaminsky
  • Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard – CJ McCollum – Kent Bazemore – Carmelo Anthony – Hassan Whiteside
  • San Antonio Spurs: Dejounte Murray – Bryn Forbes – DeMar DeRozan – Trey Lyles – LaMarcus Aldridge
  • Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry – Norman Powell – OG Anunoby – Pascal Siakam – Marc Gasol
  • Washington Wizards: Isaiah Thomas – Bradley Beal – Isaac Bonga – Rui Hachimura – Ian Mahinmi

Injury News

  • Chicago Bulls: Chandler Hutchison (shoulder) is out. Tomas Satoransky (toe), Zach LaVine (shin, shoulder), Kris Dunn (knee), Wendell Carter Jr. (abdomen, tailbone), Ryan Arcidiacono (elbow) and Denzel Valentine (ankle) are available to play.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers: Nothing new.
  • Dallas Mavericks: Luka Doncic (ankle) is likely to miss a couple weeks.
  • Detroit Pistons: Blake Griffin (knee) and Andre Drummond (eye) are questionable.
  • Houston Rockets: Austin Rivers (finger) is probable. Tyson Chandler (illness) is TBD.
  • Memphis Grizzlies: Grayson Allen (ankle) is out. Jae Crowder (ankle) is on track to play.
  • Miami Heat: Justise Winslow (back), Goran Dragic (groin), James Johnson (personal) and Dion Waiters (suspension) are out.
  • Milwaukee Bucks: Eric Bledsoe (fibula) is expected to miss around 2 weeks.
  • OKC Thunder: Terrance Ferguson (hip) is questionable.
  • Phoenix Suns: Devin Booker (forearm) is questionable. Cam Johnson (hip) and Dario Saric (back) are probable.
  • Portland Trail Blazers: Nassir Little (back) is questionable.
  • San Antonio Spurs: Lonnie Walker (knee) is questionable.
  • Toronto Raptors: Fred VanVleet (knee) is doubtful.
  • Washington Wizards: Moe Wagner (ankle) is out. Isaiah Thomas (calf) is questionable.

Player Props

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 Kent Bazemore’s 10.5-point total.

Reminder: A move into the starting lineup does not always mean a player will increase his raw stats. Sometimes it happens just because of volume; a move into the starting lineup can often come with increased minutes. But is also means that player is 1) playing with superior, high-usage teammates and 2) playing against superior defenders.

A good example is Bazemore, who has slid into the starting lineup with Rodney Hood out. He’s getting around 30 minutes now, but he’s also using very few possessions alongside Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Carmelo Anthony. We have him projected for a 17% usage rate, and even that could be high. Tonight’s matchup isn’t easy, and I like Baze to go under this mark for the fourth consecutive game.

DFS Values and Strategy

The biggest pieces of news for the slate are with the Pistons guys in Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, both of whom are projecting as awesome plays against a fast-paced Wizards team with a terrible defense. Both are questionable, however, and either of them sitting would provide immense value to the slate.

If one sits and the other doesn’t, the guy playing would obviously be a must-play on this slate against the Wizards. If both sit, then it opens up more must-plays, especially someone like Christian Wood, who is near the bottom of the pricing structure but would get big minutes. He’s been a great per-minute producer, notably going for 30.5 DraftKings points in 21 minutes last game with Blake exiting.

Luke Kennard, Derrick Rose and others would pop as values as well; the Pistons would be a very popular team stack.

James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo are at the top of the pricing structure yet again. Harden is $300 more but projected for 10 more minutes than Giannis, who will face the Mavs without Luka Doncic. I wouldn’t be surprised if users elect for someone like Jimmy Butler instead, who has a brilliant matchup against the Grizzlies and will lead a Miami squad down Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow, James Johnson and Dion Waiters.

Bam Adebayo stands out for that same reason, and I’m sure some of the Dallas guys will be popular minus Luka — particularly Jalen Brunson, who has a massive +12.7 Projected Plus/Minus on FanDuel at just $3,700.

It’s a super compelling slate with a ton of value and potential value still to come due to all of the injuries and plus matchups. Make sure to subscribe to our FantasyLabs models and check out our new Labs NBA Insiders tool to get up-to-the-minute information on injuries and projection changes.

For more DFS analysis and value plays, check out the FantasyLabs NBA models.

My Bets Currently

  • Bucks -11 (I wouldn’t bet past the number)

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