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NBA Expert Betting Picks (Wednesday, Jan. 22): Best Bets for Lakers vs. Knicks, Spurs vs. Pelicans, More

Credit:

Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images. Pictured: Zion Williamson (1) of the New Orleans Pelicans.

There are 12 games on a loaded Wednesday slate in the NBA, and our experts are betting on these specific matchups:

  • 7:30 p.m. ET: Los Angeles Lakers at New York Knicks
  • 7:30 p.m. ET: Los Angeles Clippers at Atlanta Hawks
  • 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN: San Antonio Spurs at New Orleans Pelicans

See the four bets they’re making below.


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


Brandon Anderson: Zion Williamson Props!

9:30 p.m. ET

Somebody call the fun police!!

Zion Williamson is finally back! Zion will make the most anticipated NBA debut since maybe LeBron James tonight against the Spurs, and everyone is expecting huge things from the rookie sensation.

And just to be clear, I am too! — just maybe not in his first game after months away injured. Remember, it’s always way easier to go under than over. Zion could miss a bunch of shots. He could get double teamed with the ball. He could be rusty. He could struggle against a real NBA defense, like any rookie debuting. He could get in foul trouble or have a very strict minutes limit.

That last one is the real concern tonight, of course. I expect New Orleans to be uber cautious with Zion. Our models project him at 22.1 minutes, and personally I think that’s high. It’s hard to score points on the bench.

I think we get a couple ferocious dunk highlights and some serious buzz, but I also think the final stat line could be a bit tepid and that there has never been a more obvious public fade prop ever. And if Zion puts up 30 and 15 in his debut, at least I’ll always know I was the one idiot betting against the future Hall of Famer on his first night.

THE PICK: Under 13 points (+116)

World Wide Wob: More Zion!

9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

I am tailing Brandon here and fading the hype machine that is Zion’s return.

Eighty-five percent of my reasoning is the minutes restriction he is likely to be on. After how cautious David Griffin was with him to start the season, there is absolutely NO CHANCE this guy sees 30 minutes of playing time.

Even before the injury, Zion’s outside shot is still broken. Like, shattered into pieces. There is a long way to go until I will believe it starts reforming like the T-1000 from Terminator 2. That doesn’t mean Zion won’t be great or get his. He’s going to eat like a king around the rim, and everything he does will be a highlight.

But in regards to this bet tonight, 13 points is seven put-backs. Let’s say six put-backs with two and-1s. I just don’t see him on the court enough to get fulfill this type of volume.

Also, I’m getting plus money on my action? Remember: You’re betting the number as much if not more than the team or player itself. Godspeed, Zion, but sign me up for this tonight. Two viral highlights still gets me paid.

THE PICK: Under 13 points (+116)

John Ewing: Lakers at Knicks

7:30 p.m. ET

Stop me if you have heard this before: The Knicks are bad. New York is 12-32 and has lost eight of its past 10 games.

Bettors have no faith in the Knicks as 12-point underdogs at home against the Lakers. Only 17% of spread tickets are on New York.

But here’s the thing: Bad teams getting little public support have been sneaky good bets.

Since 2005, a $100 bettor following this system would have returned a profit of $3,818.

No one expects the Knicks to beat the Lakers, but don’t be surprised if New York gets the cover.

Bryan Mears: Clippers at Hawks

7:30 p.m. ET

The Clippers, who are on a back-to-back after playing Dallas last night, will be missing all three of Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Patrick Beverley. George has missed the last six games with a strained hamstring, Beverley went out last night with a groin injury and Kawhi is resting on the back-to-back.

It’s tough to make the case for the Hawks here based on data, admittedly. The Clippers without all three of those guys have played 844 possessions together and posted a still solid +4.8 Net Rating.

There’s even a decent sample of a unit — Lou Williams, Rodney McGruder, Jerome Robinson, JaMychal Green and Montrezl Harrell — playing well in sizable minutes together. That unit in 170 possessions has posted an awesome +26.5 Net Rating.

The issue: Those units without the three starters have largely played against bench players, which really skews the predictability of the sample. Net Ratings tell you how a lineup has done, sure, but it doesn’t tell you anything about the quality of the opponent. And that matters a great deal, of course.

The Hawks, meanwhile, have been up and down lately. They had two solid wins in a row against the Spurs and Suns last week, but then got blown out at home vs. the Pistons. That was a back-to-back, however, and they played the Raptors tough in their most recent game, losing by just five points.

I do think there’s reason for optimism for this squad moving forward. They have been dealing with a lot of roster uncertainty, with John Collins starting the year off suspended and Kevin Huerter dealing with an injury.

As a result, the Hawks’ most-used lineup — a combination of Trae Young, Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter, Jabari Parker and Damian Jones — has gotten pummeled, posting an ungodly Net Rating of -26.1 (fourth percentile of all lineups this season). But substitute Huerter and Collins in for Parker and Jones, and that lineup has posted a +8.4 Net Rating in 181 possessions together.

What do you know: Playing good players together helps your team.

It makes sense, too: Collins is a very skilled offensive player, and Huerter is extremely underrated in his value to the team. This roster has very limited shooting, and Huerter, now that he’s seemingly fully healthy, provides that next to Young, who was drawing defenses but didn’t have any players to whom he could kick for open 3s.

Now, the Hawks still aren’t amazing — and the Clippers aren’t bad without those three guys, as Williams, Harrell and Landry Shamet are all awesome. But I do think there’s value on the Hawks at +4 at home in that situation.

Update: The Hawks announced Trae Young is suddenly questionable tonight with a thigh injury. I would wait on that news: I still like the Hawks if he plays, but if he’s out I’ll likely buy myself out of the position I’ve already bet.

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