Monday NBA Predictions, Picks & Betting Odds (Dec. 2): Trust the Bulls’ Offense Against the Kings?
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8), Sacramento Kings forward Harry Giles III (20).
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 1-2 for -0.1 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 Knicks +8 and it closed at Knicks +6.5 (won)
- I bet Jazz-Grizzlies over 222.5 and it closed at 223 (lost)
- I bet Bulls-Blazers over 226 and it closed at 227 (lost)
What do you know? Another day of positive CLV across pretty much all games but a mediocre record. At least I’m consistent, I guess.
The Knicks ended up barely holding on despite being up by 12 points at halftime. They were outscored by 18 points in the fourth quarter but managed to still cover the 6.5-point closing spread.
One thing worth noting in that game was the spread value of Al Horford and Josh Richardson, both of whom were out. Those guys have been very valuable this season, with Richardson in particular posting a +11.4 on/off differential. The Sixers are loaded up front but don’t have a lot of depth, which makes them vulnerable if one but especially two starters are out.
So you might think that just 1.5 points (it was at -8 before the injury news) is too little for those guys. And it likely is against a good team, but you can’t just calculate player value in a vacuum. Who the team is playing matters a lot; Richardson and Horford being out probably moves the spread at least three points against a top-tier team.
Anyway, enough about Friday’s games. Let’s get to today’s six-game slate and find some angles.
Note: For updates, see the chat at the bottom of this post.
- Overall: 110-94-1
- Spreads: 37-37-1
- Totals: 36-31
- Moneylines: 7-5
- Props: 27-21
Betting Odds and Analysis
- 7 p.m. ET: Phoenix Suns (-4.5) at Charlotte Hornets, 224.5
- 7 p.m. ET: Utah Jazz at Philadelphia 76ers (-5.5), 208.5
- 7:30 p.m. ET: Golden State Warriors at Atlanta Hawks (-6.5), 222.5
- 8 p.m. ET: Indiana Pacers (-9.5) at Memphis Grizzlies, 216
- 8 p.m. ET: New York Knicks at Milwaukee Bucks (-17), 220
- 10 p.m. ET: Chicago Bulls at Sacramento Kings (-5.5), 212
Let’s run through a couple angles I’m eyeing.
Pacers at Grizzlies
The Grizzlies not only covered last night as a 12-point dog in Minnesota but actually won outright despite missing Ja Morant.
Morant is out again tonight, and the Grizz could be super thin, which isn’t particularly ideal for a back-to-back. Kyle Anderson and Brandon Clarke have been ruled out, and Jonas Valanciunas is questionable with an illness.
Last night’s game was pretty weird: The Grizzlies hit everything pretty much, going 42.9% on non-corner-3s, and the Wolves couldn’t get anything. They generated a ton of open looks, but very few of them actually dropped. I would be hesitant to say that game was super indicative of much moving forward.
Let’s talk injuries: Morant, Clarke, Anderson and Valanciunas might not be worth too much to the spread in the vacuum. But, as mentioned in the intro to this piece, things don’t occur in a vacuum in basketball.
You can’t just add up player values and call it a day. They can multiply, and team missing four main players may hurt more than the data might say given the lack of depth.
Meanwhile, the Pacers are finally getting healthy. All of their main guys outside of Victor Oladipo are back in the rotation, and they’ve been playing great basketball of late. Over the last two weeks, they’re fifth in the league with a +10.9 point differential.
The Grizzlies found a lot of success inside last night, especially defending the rim. With a potentially very thin frontcourt tonight, and I’m not sure they’ll find as much success against Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis.
I grabbed this at -9 and don’t think it should be single digits.
Warriors at Hawks
OK, the Warriors suck. We all know this by now. But you’re telling me this Hawks team is laying 6.5 points? The one that gave up 158 points the other night? The one that has lost 10 straight games? We’re doing this?
On the season, the Hawks have actually taken Golden State’s spot for the worst point differential in the league with a -12.1 mark. They’re 28th on offense and 29th on defense. They’ve had a ton of games over the last three weeks in which they’ve gotten terribly blown out.
Now, it’s important to note that their schedule has been pretty darn tough…
But still, a -19.8 Net Rating in those 10 games? They’ve scored just 102.7 points per 100 possessions and have allowed 122.4! They’re 28th or worse in three of the four defensive four factors. It’s been a brutal stretch of games.
There are some minor signs that things could improve: Over that 10-game stretch, they’re 11th in expected eFG% but 26th in actual eFG%. But those marks (per Cleaning the Glass) may be a bit misrepresentative for the Hawks. Sure, they’ve been getting to the rim at a high rate, but they don’t exactly have the players to finish in those situations outside of Trae Young. They have been one of the worst teams at getting open shots, and they honestly haven’t even been that unlucky on those.
With John Collins and Kevin Huerter out, this team just isn’t very good outside of Young. The Hawks have been 20.7 points per 100 possessions better on offense with Jabari Parker on the floor — the 100th percentile of players this year — which honestly tells you everything you need to know about this team.
They’re also a little banged up outside of the main guys out: Cam Reddish is questionable and DeAndre Bembry is probable. The Warriors have injuries of their own, of course, and Draymond Green is out tonight on the second leg of a back-to-back.
But they will also get back Kevon Looney, who outside of Green is their best rim protector and has been legitimately good on defense most times. For a team that has relied on getting to the rim and has struggled there, Looney being back (even if limited minutes-wise) could help the Warriors.
I’m going to wait to see if this moves up after the Draymond news. Maybe I’m undervaluing the road back-to-back here, but this Hawks team has been too bad to be getting potentially 7-8 points against any team.
Bulls at Kings
Here we are, talking about another Bulls game.
I am intrigued by their recent move of starting three guards in Tomas Satoransky, Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine last game. It didn’t really translate to offensive success: They scored just 103 points against the Blazers, posting a miserable eFG% mark of 46.2%.
Shooting has been their issue all season. They are fourth in the league with an expected eFG% mark of 54.0% but 27th in actual eFG% at 49.7%. It’s an absolutely massive discrepancy, highlighted by their inability to hit any shots despite consistently getting awesome looks.
The problems in that Blazers game were Zach LaVine (8-of-24) and Lauri Markkanen (4-of-14), the latter who is one of the most confusing players in the league.
Look at his splits by season through his first three years in the NBA:
- 2017-18: 43.4% FG Pct | 36.2% 3s | 51.8% eFG%
- 2018-19: 43.0% FG Pct | 36.1% 3s | 50.6% eFG%
- 2019-20: 34.9% FG Pct | 28.2% 3s | 41.7% eFG%
He has pretty significant splits from before his injury last year to now, and while it’s been awhile and he should be 100% — maybe he’s not? Or maybe it’s a Markelle Fultz-like mental/confidence issue?
Regardless, the guy who was supposed to be Dirk-lite has turned into not just a mediocre player but a pretty disastrous one.
Not to be too reductive, but Markkanen’s play is a huge reason why the Bulls have been so bad/volatile, and it’s a huge reason why they’re so difficult to handicap right now. Everything about him, his data and the eye test screams regression — and yet is hasn’t come and maybe it won’t (or not for a while).
The Bulls have an optimized offense; it just hasn’t produced. But back to the three-guard lineup change. Against the Blazers, the Bulls added 11 points in transition — the 96th percentile of games. They really pushed off steals — a Kris Dunn special — and did really well in plays off live rebounds.
Again, it didn’t really matter, as the shooting wasn’t there and they were absolutely atrocious in the halfcourt, but it’s an interesting change. The Bulls on the season have played quite fast, ranking fourth in seconds per play, but a lot of that was the bench units led by UNC point guard (the Heels system is predicated on speed) Coby White.
Dunn is a great defensive player and can generate steals, and he’s better in transition than in the halfcourt. Will splitting White and Dunn make the Bulls faster for both units? Will his lack of offense hurt the starting unit?
And add to those questions the ongoing one about Markkanen and these young guys. There are so many question marks about this team, so while I think there’s some value in the over in this one — the Kings might be a little undervalued offensively after three straight games in Boston, in Philly and home vs. Denver — I want to watch and live bet this one.
The Bulls are going to be the death of 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.
- Atlanta Hawks: Trae Young – Cam Reddish – De’Andre Hunter – Jabari Parker – Damian Jones
- Charlotte Hornets: Devonte’ Graham – Terry Rozier – Miles Bridges – PJ Washington – Cody Zeller
- Chicago Bulls: Tomas Satoransky – Kris Dunn – Zach LaVine – Lauri Markkanen – Wendell Carter Jr.
- Golden State Warriors: Ky Bowman – Alec Burks – Glenn Robinson III – Eric Paschall – Willie Cauley-Stein
- Indiana Pacers: Malcolm Brogdon – Jeremy Lamb – TJ Warren – Domantas Sabonis – Myles Turner
- Memphis Grizzlies: Tyus Jones – Dillon Brooks – Jae Crowder – Jaren Jackson Jr. – Jonas Valanciunas
- Milwaukee Bucks: Eric Bledsoe – Wes Matthews – Khris Middleton – Giannis Antetokounmpo – Robin Lopez
- New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina – RJ Barrett – Kevin Knox – Julius Randle – Taj Gibson
- Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons – Furkan Korkmaz – Tobias Harris – Al Horford – Joel Embiid
- Phoenix Suns: Ricky Rubio – Devin Booker – Kelly Oubre – Dario Saric – Aron Baynes
- Sacramento Kings: Cory Joseph – Buddy Hield – Harrison Barnes – Nemanja Bjelica – Richaun Holmes
- Utah Jazz: Mike Conley – Donovan Mitchell – Bojan Bogdanovic – Royce O’Neale – Rudy Gobert
- Atlanta Hawks: Cam Reddish (wrist) is questionable. DeAndre Bembry (hip) is not on the injury report. Allen Crabbe (illness) is doubtful.
- Charlotte Hornets: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (calf) is questionable.
- Chicago Bulls: Chandler Hutchison (shoulder) is doubtful. Tomas Satoransky (toe) is probable.
- Golden State Warriors: Draymond Green (rest) is out. Kevon Looney (hamstring) is not on the injury report.
- Indiana Pacers: JaKarr Sampson (back) is out.
- Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant (back), Kyle Anderson (heel) and Brandon Clarke (hip) are out. Jonas Valanciunas (illness) is questionable.
- Milwaukee Bucks: Sterling Brown (AC joint) and Brook Lopez (back) are out.
- New York Knicks: Marcus Morris (cervical spasms) is out. Frank Ntilikina (back) is questionable.
- Philadelphia 76ers: Josh Richardson (hamstring) is out. Trey Burke (illness) is questionable.
- Phoenix Suns: Cheick Diallo (illness) is out. Mikal Bridges (quad) and Cam Johnson (illness) and Aron Baynes (calf) are questionable. Ty Jerome (ankle) is probable.
- Sacramento Kings: Bogdan Bogdanovic (hamstring) is probable. Trevor Ariza (groin, personal) is not on the injury report.
- Utah Jazz: Nothing new.
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 Willie Cauley-Stein’s 7.5-rebound total.
This one is a little nerve-wracking given the Warriors and Hawks could miss an obscene number of shots. But if Looney returns to the lineup after an extended absence, it could limit Cauley-Stein’s role. We currently have Looney projected for around 20 minutes, which could drop Cauley-Stein from the higher-20s to more the lower-to-mid range.
Further, Cauley-Stein just isn’t a huge rebounder anyway. He got 12 boards last game, but that was his first double-digit rebounding effort in weeks. Prior to that he had gone under this mark in four of his last five games. If Looney is good to go, I’ll take the under on this one.
DFS Values and Strategy
Giannis Antetokounmpo is the highest-priced player by quite a bit on both sites, but he’s tough to fade, especially on this value-filled slate. He’s hit value in only four of his last 10 games, but that’s mostly due to blowouts. That’s a factor again today unfortunately — the Bucks are 16-point favorites — but the floor here is still ridiculous, and you can easily afford him.
The rest of the studs are likely better suited for GPPs, and they’ll provide nice leverage from those loading up Giannis against the Knicks. Trae Young has a nice matchup against the Warriors, and despite the Hawks’ struggles of late he has exploded in fantasy. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have a tough matchup but always have a high ceiling.
The next guy worth looking at in cash games is Domantas Sabonis. He disappointed in his last game against the Sixers but should bounce back here against the Grizzlies, who, as mentioned above, could be missing four of their key players.
Even in a down game, Sabonis still had a double-double, and he should be able to do damage in this one, especially if Jonas Valanciunas is out, moving Jaren Jackson Jr. to center to battle with Myles Turner.
Value-wise, you can take your pick today. Tyus Jones should be a popular option with Ja Morant (and lots of Grizzlies) out. Jaren Jackson Jr. would be very chalky if JV is out. Glenn Robinson III of the Warriors has been playing massive minutes and should be popular at $4,900 on FanDuel against the Hawks. Alec Burks, same thing.
Make sure to monitor injury news — especially the JV one — and subscribe to our models to see updated projections. It looks now like a build of Giannis-Sabonis-value plays is the way to go, but of course that could change in an instant with injury news. NBA DFS is fun!
My Bets Currently
- Pacers -9 (I would bet anything in single digits)
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.