NBA Odds & Betting Picks: Can Thunder Keep Historic Road ATS Streak Alive? (Feb. 25)
Photo credit: Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Dennis Schroder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
- Bryan Mears combs through odds for every NBA game on Tuesday's slate to find betting value.
- He's got picks on Thunder vs. Bulls and Lakers vs. Pelicans, among others.
- Get Mears' full NBA betting and DFS manifesto for Tuesday, Feb. 25 below.
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 3-5 for -1.0 unit. 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 Hawks +8 and it closed at Hawks +8.5 (lost)
- I bet Hawks-Sixers under 228.5 and it closed at 227 (lost)
- I bet Hawks (live) +15.5 (lost)
- I bet Knicks +14 and it closed at Knicks +12 (won)
- I bet Knicks-Rockets under 227.5 and it closed at 225 (lost)
- I bet Magic-Nets (2H) under 108 (lost)
- I bet Grizzlies-Clippers under 233 and it closed at 235 (won)
- I bet Clippers-Mavs-Rockets ML parlay (won)
Monday was sort of a weird, frustrating day. The NBA is just such a unique sport to bet within the market. For all sports, it’s generally more profitable to grab lines early before it becomes more liquid and thus gets closer to a closing line and the rightful, true lines.
But with football or golf or soccer or whatever other sport, you can fairly confident handicap an opening line and not have to worry about other factors — maybe weather, but that’s about it. But with the NBA, you have to make a choice: Bet against a soft opener but open yourself up to risk of injury news, or wait for injury news but bet against a tougher market.
I got hit with that yesterday in the Hawks-Sixers game. I bet the spread and total early when Ben Simmons was out and Tobias Harris was doubtful. But then later in the day, Harris was upgraded to questionable and ultimately ended up surprisingly playing. And he played great alongside Joel Embiid, hitting four of his six 3-pointers and putting up 25 points on 50% shooting.
It was also a weird day for CLV for the other games. I really liked the Grizzlies-Clippers under, and I won that bet despite negative CLV. But for the Knicks-Rockets under, I lost despite gaining CLV. Fun stuff!
Anyway, let’s dive into today’s slate and find some angles.
- Overall: 239-220-3
- Spreads: 93-89-3
- Totals: 90-98
- Moneylines: 24-11
- Parlays: 3-0
- Props: 29-22
NBA Betting Odds and Analysis
- 7 p.m. ET: Charlotte Hornets at Indiana Pacers (-10.5), 210
- 7:30 p.m. ET: Milwaukee Bucks (-1.5) at Toronto Raptors, 231
- 8 p.m. ET: OKC Thunder (-7.5) at Chicago Bulls, 217.5
- 9 p.m. ET: Detroit Pistons at Denver Nuggets (-12.5), 214
- 10 p.m. ET: New Orleans Pelicans at LA Lakers (-8), 239.5
- 10 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics (-6.5) at Portland Trail Blazers, 225.5
- 10:30 p.m. ET: Sacramento Kings (-6) at Golden State Warriors, 224.5
Thunder at Bulls
The Thunder have been the most undervalued team in the NBA this season, full stop. They are 38-18 ATS overall, and most of that value has come on the road, where they’ve gone an astounding 21-5 ATS. I mean, that’s just ludicrous.
In situations like this, though, you have to take into account that this trend is widely available, both to the public and oddsmakers. And if the market is efficient given markets trend towards efficiency, then things will regress and go towards .500 over a bigger sample.
And I think we’re headed there right now. Take a look at their spreads against teams you could argue are in a similar tier right now: At the end of January, they were -1 favorites against the Suns and -2.5 favorites over the Kings — both on the road. Now against the Bulls tonight they’re 7.5-point favorites.
That said, even in those games — and more recent ones, too — they’ve often covered fairly easily and a high rate, which suggests that the market doesn’t just need to adjust; it needs to adjust in a big way. So is 7.5 enough?
I think it’s close … I grabbed this number at 6.5 — again showing the potential value of betting against opening numbers vs. closing ones — but there’s obviously less value at 7.5. The market has certainly adjusted.
But the Bulls may not even be at the level of the teams mentioned above. Since Jan. 1 they are 27th in the league with a -6.2 Net Rating. The Thunder are fourth in the NBA in that span with a +5.9 mark. The Bulls have really struggled recently, going 2-7-1 ATS over their last 10.
They also struggle at home, going 12-17-1 ATS, which provides a stark contrast against the Thunder, who dominate on the road.
But I would still lean towards the Thunder here (given I bet them). The Bulls just seem to be imploding. Historically, it’s been profitable to fade potentially tanking teams later in the year, and while that calculus has changed compared to five years ago given the lottery odds, it’s still beneficial for franchises to maximize their odds for a top pick.
The Bulls are going nowhere fast, and it’s hard to trust them given the locker room dynamics right now. Jim Boylen might be the worst coach in the league, and it seems like it’s a daily occurrence now that Zach LaVine or someone on the roster publicly questions him and his decisions. There’s little evidence to believe this is a healthy team right now.
And if we’re just looking at on-court matchups, the Thunder have a variety of ways they can win and win big here. They’ve been awesome lately at getting to the foul line and generating efficient looks, and the Bulls allow those at a high rate. The only thing the Bulls do well defensively is force turnovers, and OKC is one of the best teams at protecting the ball.
I wouldn’t go too big on the Thunder now that it’s 7.5, but the value is likely on that side. I definitely wouldn’t be able to pull the trigger on a Bulls bet.
Note: Otto Porter, Wendell Carter Jr. and Denzel Valentine were all ruled out, solidifying this bet for me.
Pelicans at Lakers
OK, let’s let the market talk for us a bit here. This line opened at Lakers -8.5. These teams played in early January in L.A. — which is where the game is today — and the only real difference was that the Pels were missing some players in Zion Williamson, Nicolo Melli, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and others.
That line close at Lakers -10.5.
So what the market is saying is that with the addition of those players, with Zion obviously the biggest domino, that the difference is only 1.5 points. I’m not sure I agree with that at all.
Here are the Pelicans splits BZ (Before Zion) and AZ (After Zion)…
- Pelicans BZ: -1.7 Net Rating (18th), 110.8 ORtg (13th), 112.5 DRtg (24th)
- Pelicans AZ: +6.6 Net Rating (5th), 116.7 ORtg (6th), 110.1 DRtg (10th)
Diving deeper, the starting unit with Zion now in has a fairly decent sample size together now, and it’s dominated, posting a +23.2 Net Rating. It’s scored 116.3 points/100 and allowed just 93.2 points/100. All lineups with Zion — a sample size of nearly 750 possessions at this point — have posted a +12.6 Net Rating.
We’re still very early into his career, I get it. But it was thought he might be a generational prospect, and so far he’s consistently made a huge on-court impact on the Pelicans — on both sides of the ball.
Let’s also look at the over/under here. In that January game, it closed at 225.5 and finished at 236, easily hitting the over. So for this one, they opened it at 238.5 and it’s now up at 239.5. And it seems like it’s sharp money, as that movement has occurred despite 66% of the bets and 65% of the total money wagered coming in on the under.
I thought that over/under was a bit of a overreaction so I bet the under, but with the sharp money coming in on the over, I would probably recommend staying away. I think this falls under, but I also respect sharp money.
The reason I like the under is because the Lakers are one of the best teams at protecting the rim, and that’s where Zion and Co. really like to operate. Since he debuted in late January, they’ve been second in the league in frequency of shots at the rim at 42.0%. On the season, the Lakers have had a top-six mark in opponent FG% at that location.
I don’t think the pace should change much from where we’ve seen these teams, and the Lakers have often dictated that dynamic. The Pels will try to run, but the Lakers might prefer to make this more of a halfcourt affair. Further, Zion’s presence has really contributed to the Pelicans playing excellent defense of late — it’s been perhaps the biggest change to the team.
Again, I would stay away given the sharp money, but my personal handicapping of this game led me to the under and the Pels +8.
Projected Starting Lineups and Injury News
Note: Info as of 1 p.m. ET. For up-to-the-minute lineups and news, see our live lineups page.
- Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart – Jaylen Brown – Jayson Tatum – Gordon Hayward – Daniel Theis
- Charlotte Hornets: Devonte’ Graham – Terry Rozier – Miles Bridges – PJ Washington – Cody Zeller
- Chicago Bulls: Ryan Arcidiacono – Zach LaVine – Tomas Satoransky – Thad Young – Christiano Felicio
- Denver Nuggets: Jamal Murray – Gary Harris – Will Barton – Paul Millsap – Nikola Jokic
- Detroit Pistons: Derrick Rose – Svi Mykhailiuk – Tony Snell – Sekou Doumbouya – Thon Maker
- Golden State Warriors: Jordan Poole – Damion Lee – Andrew Wiggins – Draymond Green – Marquese Chriss
- Indiana Pacers: Malcolm Brogdon – Victor Oladipo – TJ Warren – Domantas Sabonis – Myles Turner
- LA Lakers: LeBron James – Avery Bradley – Danny Green – Anthony Davis – JaVale McGee
- Milwaukee Bucks: Eric Bledsoe – Wes Matthews – Khris Middleton – Giannis Antetokounmpo – Robin Lopez
- New Orleans Pelicans: Lonzo Ball – Jrue Holiday – Brandon Ingram – Zion Williamson – Derrick Favors
- OKC Thunder: Chris Paul – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Luguentz Dort – Danilo Gallinari – Steven Adams
- Portland Trail Blazers: CJ McCollum – Gary Trent Jr. – Trevor Ariza – Carmelo Anthony – Hassan Whiteside
- Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox – Bogdan Bogdanovic – Harrison Barnes – Nemanja Bjelica – Harry Giles
- Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry – Fred VanVleet – OG Anunoby – Pascal Siakam – Serge Ibaka
- Boston Celtics: Kemba Walker (knee) is out.
- Charlotte Hornets: Nothing new.
- Chicago Bulls: Luke Kornet (ankle), Otto Porter (foot), Denzel Valentine and Wendell Carter Jr. (ankle) are out.
- Denver Nuggets: Nothing new.
- Detroit Pistons: Bruce Brown (knee) is questionable. Khyri Thomas (foot) is probable.
- Golden State Warriors: Draymond Green (pelvis) and Marquese Chriss (calf) are questionable. Andrew Wiggins (leg) is not on the injury report.
- Indiana Pacers: Jeremy Lamb (knee) is out for the season. Victor Oladipo (back) and Edmond Sumner (hip) are questionable.
- LA Lakers: Anthony Davis (calf) is probable.
- Milwaukee Bucks: Kyle Korver (back) remains out. Brook Lopez (back) is TBD.
- New Orleans Pelicans: Nothing new.
- OKC Thunder: Terrance Ferguson (back) is not on the injury report.
- Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard (groin) remains out.
- Sacramento Kings: Nothing new.
- Toronto Raptors: Marc Gasol (hamstring) and Norman Powell (finger) remain out. Pat McCaw (illness) is questionable.
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 example is Domantas Sabonis’ 5.5-assist prop.
The Pacers have really struggled of late and just got embarrassingly blown out by the Toronto Raptors the other day. They just haven’t found their rhythm with Victor Oladipo back in the fold, and after missing that Raps game he’s likely to play in this one.
The Pacers need to figure out the Oladipo thing and let him work through his funk, which might hurt the team in the short-term but help in the playoffs. That could mean a downswing for Sabonis, who had good assist numbers early in the year as the man but has been down lately.
He’s had five or fewer assists in five of his last six games, and today he gets a Charlotte Hornets team that has played at the slowest pace in the league over the last couple of months. With Dipo back, the Pacers in flux and the Hornets playing at a snail-like pace, I think the under provides some value here.
DFS Values and Strategy
There are four players tonight priced at $10,000 or higher on FanDuel: LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Among those, Jokic is likely to be the least popular option. He’ll face the Pistons in what should be a slow-paced game, and there’s a definite blowout risk in that one.
Giannis is in play, although he did play in an overtime game last night and now will be on a road back-to-back in Toronto. That may not be a huge downgrade, though, as his problems with producing in fantasy have mostly just been due to blowout situations. But against the Raptors, the Bucks are only 1.5-point favorites, which means he might get a bump from normal in playing time.
The Lakers guys will likely be the most popular, mostly because they’re playing the Pelicans, who love to run and run some more. It’s one of the biggest pace-up spots of the day, which means LeBron and AD are likely a bit underpriced. It’s also a big national TV game and the first against Zion — the heir apparent in many NBA fans’ eyes — so there’s a fun narrative here as well.
Value-wise, look towards the Boston Celtics, who will again be without Kemba Walker. Given his big minutes and usage load regularly, that opens up a ton of opportunity for other players. That’s especially true against a Blazers team that isn’t exactly awesome defensively. Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart, Daniel Theis and Jayson Tatum are all projecting as nice values.
Other values today include Myles Turner, Alex Len, Dennis Schroder, Danilo Gallinari, George Hill, Fred VanVleet and others.
And of course make sure to monitor injury situations. Among those who are questionable (and thus could open value) are Draymond Green, Wendell Carter Jr., Bruce Brown, Marquese Chriss and Victor Oladipo.
You know the drill: Follow the news and make sure to subscribe to our models to see up-to-the-minute projection updates.
My Bets Currently
- Thunder -6.5
- Pelicans +8
- Pelicans-Lakers under 238.5
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