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NBA Predictions, Picks & Betting Odds (Monday, Jan. 20): Keep Selling Nuggets Defense?

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Photo credit: Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Nikola Jokic

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.

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 Bulls-76ers under 214.5 and it closed at 213.5 (won)
  • I bet Bulls-76ers (2H) under 104.5 and it closed at 104.5 (won)
  • I bet Thunder -1.5 and it closed at Heat -1 (lost)
  • I bet Blazers-Mavericks over 228.5 and it closed at 228 (won)

Sometimes you can get the best of the number thanks to injury news, but sometimes it bites you. That happened to me in this Thunder game, since Steven Adams was ruled out after I bet it. That moved the line given his importance to this team, especially on defense. Oh well.

Anyway, let’s dive into today’s slate and find some angles.

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

YTD Record:

  • Overall: 177-144-2
  • Spreads: 69-60-2
  • Totals: 63-55
  • Moneylines: 16-7
  • Props: 29-22

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


Odds as of Monday afternoon and via FanDuel, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.


Betting Odds and Analysis

  • 2 p.m. ET: Detroit Pistons at Washington Wizards (-1), 233
  • 2:30 p.m. ET: Toronto Raptors (-8.5) at Atlanta Hawks, 230.5
  • 3 p.m. ET: Philadelphia 76ers at Brooklyn Nets (-2), 220.5
  • 5 p.m. ET: New Orleans Pelicans at Memphis Grizzlies (-2.5), 238.5
  • 5 p.m. ET: Orlando Magic (-4.5) at Charlotte Hornets, 207.5
  • 5 p.m. ET: New York Knicks at Cleveland Cavaliers (-1.5), 222
  • 5 p.m. ET: Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets (-6.5), 230
  • 5 p.m. ET: Chicago Bulls at Milwaukee Bucks (-14.5), 226.5
  • 5 p.m. ET: Sacramento Kings at Miami Heat (-6), 223
  • 7:30 p.m. ET: LA Lakers (-2) at Boston Celtics, 223.5
  • 8 p.m. ET: Denver Nuggets at Minnesota Timberwolves (-2.5), 221.5
  • 9 p.m. ET: Indiana Pacers at Utah Jazz (-7), 217
  • 9 p.m. ET: San Antonio Spurs at Phoenix Suns (-4.5), 229
  • 10 p.m. ET: Golden State Warriors at Portland Trail Blazers (-6.5), 220.5

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

Nuggets at Wolves

Man, do the Nuggets stink on defense right now.

And yet sportsbook keep opening their totals way too low for some reason. This one has already moved up a bit, but I still like the over.

It makes sense why the Nuggets in general have been so bad, and especially defensively. Over the last couple of games, they’ve been missing three starters in Gary Harris, Jamal Murray and Paul Millsap. Head coach Mike Malone said Harris should come back the soonest of the three, although it’s unclear when exactly that will be.

But let’s talk Millsap. He has the strongest on/off differential marks on the team, which has been 15.9 points per 100 possessions worse without him on the floor this year. That’s in the 99th percentile of all players when it comes to splits. A good chunk of that is on defense, as Denver has been 9.4 points/100 worse without him on that end.

He just helps in just about every area. Opponents shoot worse with him on the floor, they turn it over more, the Nuggets grab more defensive rebounds with him playing, opponents don’t get to the foul line as often and opposing teams get fewer shots at the rim and in the corner. He’s always been an underrated defender, especially as a help guy, but his value really shows this season.

Meanwhile, the Timberwolves have been terrible on both ends of the floor, although the offense should improve with Karl-Anthony Towns finally back from an extended injury absence.

He has perhaps the most ridiculous on/off splits in the entire league. The Wolves have been a stupid 14.1 points/100 (100th percentile) better with him offensively but 10.6 points/100 (3rd percentile) worse defensively.

Further, the Wolves have upped the pace recently, playing at a top-10 mark since the start of the new year.

Given the Nuggets’ defensive troubles, Towns’ return and the Wolves recent defensive struggles and pace, I think books still haven’t adjusted enough, providing some over value.

Lakers at Celtics

It’s the game of the day, although for the millionth time this season, a national TV primetime matchup could be marred by injuries.

In this one, Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown are both questionable for the Celtics and missed last game, while Anthony Davis is going to return after missing the last several games with a glute injury.

In terms of value, I think the Celtics ones are the most consequential here. They’ve lost three straight, which coincides with some of this poor injury luck, and without Kemba this season they’ve been 9.5 points/100 worse on offense. Their eFG% has dropped by 5.8%, which is a problem against a Lakers squad that ranks third defensively this year and fourth in eFG% allowed.

The splits for the Celtics are actually pretty darn interesting. In 817 possessions without Kemba and Brown on the floor, they’ve actually posted a +12.6 Net Rating. But a lot of those possessions were against bench units, which will not be the case tonight. Further, they’ve been bad on offense and amazing defensively, and a lot of those units include Enes Kanter — not exactly known for his defense.

They’ve done a decent job defending the rim in those minutes, although I wouldn’t expect that continue against starters. But really they’ve just run pretty hot in terms of opponent shooting from outside. The Lakers don’t take a ton of 3s, but they optimize around corner ones and nail those at an awesome rate.

The Lakers offense is, no surprise, pretty darn efficient. They attack the rim relentlessly and get up +EV looks from outside. Against a Celtics squad that’s going to play 48 minutes of Kanter and Daniel Theis, I’m not sure that rim defense is really going to hold up.

The Celtics are still getting respect in the market, whether because bettors believe Kemba and Jaylen will play or they like this spot for them as a short home dog. Interestingly, while the narrative around the Celtics is they thrive in these spots, in the Brad Stevens era they’ve actually gone just 27-31-2 ATS as a home dog. Where they really excel is as a road dog, going 88-57-1.

Still, two of the three steam moves tracked so far today have been on the Celtics. I was going to wait for injury news on this one with the Celtics guys, but with Davis just confirmed in, I grabbed the Lakers at -2.5.

Note: I wanted to get this out early given the early start time for the slate. I’ll either add to this file as I add bets today or just place them in the app, where you can follow me for free.

Projected Starting Lineups and Injury News

Note: Info as of 11:30 a.m. ET. For up-to-the-minute lineups and news, see FantasyLabs’ matchups page.

Projected Lineups

  • Atlanta Hawks: Trae Young – Kevin Huerter – Cam Reddish – De’Andre Hunter – John Collins
  • Boston Celtics: Kemba Walker – Jaylen Brown – Jayson Tatum – Gordon Hayward – Daniel Theis
  • Brooklyn Nets: Kyrie Irving – Spencer Dinwiddie – Joe Harris – Taurean Prince – Jarrett Allen
  • Charlotte Hornets: Devonte’ Graham – Terry Rozier – Miles Bridges – PJ Washington – Cody Zeller
  • Chicago Bulls: Kris Dunn – Tomas Satoransky – Zach LaVine – Lauri Markkanen – Luke Kornet
  • Cleveland Cavaliers: Darius Garland – Collin Sexton – Cedi Osman – Kevin Love – Tristan Thompson
  • Denver Nuggets: Monte Morris – Gary Harris – Will Barton – Jerami Grant – Nikola Jokic
  • Detroit Pistons: Derrick Rose – Bruce Brown – Tony Snell – Sekou Doumbouya – Andre Drummond
  • Golden State Warriors: D’Angelo Russell – Damion Lee – Glenn Robinson III – Draymond Green – Willie Cauley-Stein
  • Houston Rockets: Russell Westbrook – James Harden – Ben McLemore – PJ Tucker – Clint Capela
  • Indiana Pacers: Malcolm Brogdon – Jeremy Lamb – TJ Warren – Domantas Sabonis – Myles Turner
  • LA Lakers: LeBron James – Avery Bradley – Danny Green – Anthony Davis – JaVale McGee
  • 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: Eric Bledsoe – Wes Matthews – Khris Middleton – Giannis Antetokounmpo – Brook Lopez
  • Minnesota Timberwolves: Shabazz Napier – Jarrett Culver – Andrew Wiggins – Robert Covington – Karl-Anthony Towns
  • New Orleans Pelicans: Lonzo Ball – Jrue Holiday – JJ Redick – Brandon Ingram – Derrick Favors
  • New York Knicks: Elfrid Payton – Reggie Bullock – Marcus Morris – Julius Randle – Taj Gibson
  • OKC Thunder: Chris Paul – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Hamidou Diallo – Danilo Gallinari – Steven Adams
  • Orlando Magic: Markelle Fultz – Evan Fournier – Aaron Gordon – Khem Birch – Nikola Vucevic
  • Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons – Josh Richardson – Matisse Thybulle – Tobias Harris – Al Horford
  • Phoenix Suns: Ricky Rubio – Devin Booker – Kelly Oubre – Dario Saric – Deandre Ayton
  • Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard – Anfernee Simons – Nassir Little – Carmelo Anthony – Hassan Whiteside
  • Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox – Buddy Hield – Harrison Barnes – Nemanja Bjelica – Marvin Bagley
  • San Antonio Spurs: Dejounte Murray – Bryn Forbes – DeMar DeRozan – Trey Lyles – LaMarcus Aldridge
  • Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry – Fred VanVleet – OG Anunoby – Pascal Siakam – Marc Gasol
  • Utah Jazz: Donovan Mitchell – Joe Ingles – Bojan Bogdanovic – Royce O’Neale – Rudy Gobert
  • Washington Wizards: Isaiah Thomas – Bradley Beal – Isaac Bonga – Thomas Bryant – Ian Mahinmi

Injury News

  • Atlanta Hawks: Alex Len (back) is doubtful. Chandler Parsons (concussion) remains out.
  • Boston Celtics: Kemba Walker (knee) and Jaylen Brown (thumb) are questionable.
  • Brooklyn Nets: Wilson Chandler (hamstring) and DeAndre Jordan (finger) are out. Joe Harris (back) and Garrett Temple (knee) are off the injury report.
  • Charlotte Hornets: Nothing new.
  • Chicago Bulls: Lauri Markkanen (ankle), Ryan Arcidiacono (elbow) and Chandler Hutchison (shoulder) are probable.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers: Brandon Knight (knee) and Ante Zizic (illness) remain out. John Henson (back) is questionable.
  • Denver Nuggets: Gary Harris (adductor), Jamal Murray (ankle) and Paul Millsap (knee) are TBD.
  • Detroit Pistons: Nothing new.
  • Golden State Warriors: Jacob Evans (concussion, nose) is out. Glenn Robinson III (ankle) is questionable. Draymond Green (finger) is not on the injury report.
  • Houston Rockets: Austin Rivers (thumb) is questionable.
  • Indiana Pacers: Nothing new.
  • LA Lakers: Anthony Davis (glute) and Rajon Rondo (finger) are questionable.
  • Memphis Grizzlies: Nothing new.
  • Miami Heat: Nothing new.
  • Milwaukee Bucks: Robin Lopez (illness) is doubtful.
  • Minnesota Timberwolves: Allen Crabbe (illness) is questionable.
  • New Orleans Pelicans: Kenrich Williams (back) remains out. Zion Williamson (knee) is doubtful. Jahlil Okafor (back), Derrick Favors (back) and Jrue Holiday (tricep) are questionable. JJ Redick (hamstring) is probable.
  • New York Knicks: Dennis Smith Jr. (oblique) is out.
  • OKC Thunder: Abdel Nader (ankle) and Terrance Ferguson (personal) are out.
  • Orlando Magic: Nothing new.
  • Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid (hand) remains out. Al Horford (hand) is questionable.
  • Phoenix Suns: Aron Baynes (hip) is doubtful. Cam Johnson (quad) is questionable. Kelly Oubre (concussion) is probable.
  • Portland Trail Blazers: CJ McCollum (ankle) is out.
  • Sacramento Kings: Nemanja Bjelica (ankle) is probable.
  • San Antonio Spurs: Nothing new.
  • Toronto Raptors: Nothing new.
  • Utah Jazz: Nothing new.
  • Washington Wizards: Anzejs Pasecniks (ankle) is questionable. Jordan McRae (ankle) is not on the injury report.


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 Tomas Satoransky’s 5.5-assist total.

Sato has been all over the place in terms of his assists lately. Two weeks ago he had 14 assists against the Mavericks but then followed it up with just one against the fast-paced Pelicans.

He’s usually under this mark, and I think especially today the matchup trends toward that side. The Bulls face the Bucks, who play an extremely conservative defensive style, dropping their big and really staying attached to the pick-and-roll ball-handler. That means the Bucks force the roll man often to either hit shots or make plays, so I think Sato may just not have as many opportunities to operate the offense and rack up assists.

DFS Values and Strategy

It’s a massive NBA day today with 14 games, although not all of them are on the main slates given the holiday and early games. It also depends on the site: DraftKings’ main slate starts at 7:30 p.m. ET and includes just five games, whereas FanDuel starts at 5 p.m. ET and includes 11.

On DraftKings, LeBron James and Anthony Davis are the only guys on the main slate priced at $10,000 or above, and Davis is questionable with a glute injury that’s kept him out of five straight games. LeBron in that time has seen some big games, especially in the scoring and assist department. Against a Celtics team that could struggle to defend LeBron’s penetration, he’s obviously a very fine play if Davis is out.

Note: Davis has been confirmed in.

But the best values in the higher tier on DraftKings are with the Blazers, who traded away Kent Bazemore and will be missing CJ McCollum again with an injury. That means Damian Lillard will have to play big minutes and use a ton of possessions, and he’ll get to do that today vs. the awful Warriors. He’s gone for 34 points in two straight games and should be a priority at $8,400. His teammate, Hassan Whiteside, also pops as a value at just $7,500.

They have the two highest Projected Plus/Minus marks on the slate, followed by cheaper teammates in Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent, both of whom will see expanded roles given the injury and trade situations.

On FanDuel’s main slate, Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden join the Lakers guys as high-priced studs. Harden definitely stands out against his former team in the Thunder, and it will be interesting to see his ownership after struggling to hit value lately. Users will likely prefer LeBron at $400.

Values on FanDuel include Ricky Rubio, Marcus Morris, the Portland guys again, Jerami Grant and others.

Of course, that could all change given the notable injuries today: Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown are questionable. Other questionable guys include Jrue Holiday, Al Horford, Derrick Favors, Glenn Robinson III and Rajon Rondo.

You know the drill: Follow the news and make sure to subscribe to our models to see up-to-the-minute projection updates.

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

My Bets Currently

  • Nuggets-Wolves over 221.5
  • Lakers -2.5

[In New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana or West Virginia? Bet now at FanDuel]

Follow me in our free app if you want an alert on bets I make.

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