New Year’s Eve NBA Betting Odds & Picks: Friday Projections, Analysis for Suns vs. Nuggets, Trail Blazers vs. Warriors (Friday, Jan. 1)
Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers.
For the 2020-2021 NBA season, I’ll be publishing my projections for every NBA game. Here’s what you’ll find in my model: projected team totals, projected combined totals, projected spreads for the matchup and the implied odds for the moneyline.
Note: My projections won’t be updated in real-time throughout the day, but Action’s PRO Projections tool is dynamic and will reflect the latest injury and lineup news.
I’ll also be highlighting some of the slate’s most intriguing matchups with in-depth, game-level analysis that goes beyond the numbers.
NBA Projections Model
NBA Odds & Picks
Although projections give us a solid baseline for what a number should be, it’s also important to handicap each matchup for things that the numbers can’t tell us. For the first week or two of the season, my numbers heavily incorporate priors, so we’ll be relying much more on handicapping ability when looking for an edge.
Check out my analysis for tonight’s massive 10-game slate.
Boston Celtics at Detroit Pistons
I don’t typically like to lay close to double digits in professional sports but I’m not sure the market is accurately pricing how bad this Detroit Pistons team is. My projections make this game Celtics -11 with the market sitting at -8.5.
They come off a game in which they suffered a 10-point loss to the Golden State Warriors who needed a buzzer beater to beat the Chicago Bulls and weren’t remotely competitive against the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks.
The Pistons are 26th in Point Differential (-9.1), 24th in Offensive Rating (105.6), 21st in Defensive Rating (114.6), 28th in Effective Field Goal Percentage (53.5%). They rank in the bottom 10 in shooting percentage in every area of the floor particular from behind the arc where they’re shooting 31.8% — 27th among NBA teams.
To make matters worse, the Pistons will be without Blake Griffin who suffered a concussion in Tuesday night’s loss against the Warriors. The Pistons have lost every game by eight or more points this season and now face a Boston Celtics team whose starters didn’t play heavy minutes in their blowout win against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre have struggled this season but put up their best performances of the year in Tuesday night’s matchup so we can expect big games from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
With the Celtics scoring a whopping 113.5 points per 100 possessions and shooting 39.9% from 3-point range, I don’t see the Pistons having the horses to keep up in this one.
Miami Heat at Dallas Mavericks
My projections actually make this game Mavericks -2.7 and at the current number of Miami Heat -1, this would normally be an autoplay. However, there are far too many basketball reasons why this is a game I’d rather stay away from.
For starters Luka Doncic who was the odds on favorite to win the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award has come into this season out of shape. While he’s averaging 23.8 points, 6.3 assists, and 5.8 rebounds he’s shooting 5.3 threes per game at just 9.5% from behind the arc, yes you’ve read that correctly 9.5% on 3s.
Swapping out Seth Curry for Josh Richardson hasn’t helped this offense as he’s shooting just 33.3% from 3-point range compared to the 45.2% we saw Curry shoot on five attempts per game last season.
When you factor in the absence of Kristaps Porzingis, you have an offense that scored a league best 115.9 points per possession now scoring just 109.5 points per 100 possessions. Their Offensive Rating is actually skewed by their 124 point scoring outburst against the Clippers in which they scored 1.36 points per possession.
Despite the addition of Josh Richardson and James Johnson who were supposed to give them wing defenders, this defense hasn’t been particularly good either, allowing 112.9 points per 100 possessions in their non garbage time minutes.
They gave up 117 points to a Hornets team that has been a little under league average offensively. Overall with the way the Mavericks looked on both sides of the ball, I wouldn’t be rushing to back them. However, I’m also not in a rush to fade my numbers either particularly after a game in which the Mavericks lost by 19 and will be looking to rebound.
At some point we’ll see shooting regression from Luka and we’ll know exactly what this team is. In the mean time, I’ll sit back and enjoy the game.
Phoenix Suns at Denver Nuggets
There couldn’t be a better spot for an under than tonight’s matchup between the Phoenix Suns and the Denver Nuggets. Since the addition of Chris Paul in the off season, the Phoenix Suns have gone from the ninth fastest pace (101.74) to the slowest pace (99.10) in the league this season.
The Nuggets don’t play particularly fast either as they’re just 24th in pace (100.39). Although the Nuggets do have a top tier offense, scoring 115.7 points per 100 possessions, they’ll be facing a Suns team that is tied for first in Defensive Rating (98.0).
When you factor in the Suns playing on a back-to-back in altitude addition to Michael Porter Jr missing tonight’s game due to contract tracing, I expect a lower scoring game tonight.
It’s always good to assume that NBA players are professionals (crosses fingers) but with last night being New Year’s Eve, even in pandemic it wouldn’t be a surprise if some of these players found a way to party with friends and family, negatively impacting their scoring output.
Partying aside, my projections make this game 219 so at the current market number we have a positive expected value proposition.
Portland Trailblazers at Golden State Warriors
The Warriors come off a two game winning streak against the lowly Chicago Bulls and the Detroit Pistons and now welcome back Draymond Green from both a foot injury and Covid-19.
The market is pricing this game as if we’re seeing the “Strength In Numbers” Warriors back but I’m not buying it. The Warriors are 27th in Offensive Rating (102.6), 20th in Defensive Rating (113.8) and have just a Net Rating of (-11.1) in their non garbage time minutes.
While Green should fix some of these issues on both ends of the floor, he didn’t have a full training camp, preseason and it should take some time to get adjusted to his new teammates.
In addition, despite having arguably the greatest shooter of all time at point guard, the Warriors are just 23rd in three point shooting percentage (33.6%) and 29th in effective field goal percentage (47.4%).
They’ll be facing a Blazers offense that is scoring 112.7 points per 100 possessions and is shooting 38.5% from behind the arc — tenth among NBA teams. The Warriors have faced double digit deficits in every single game this season and against an offense as good as the Blazers, they’ll likely be facing one in this game as well.
While the Blazers certainly have struggled defensively particularly with their drop scheme and with Melo/Kanter units, are we sure the Warriors as constructed have the fire power to take advantage? The Blazers have faced a tough schedule with games against the Jazz, Rockets, Clippers and Lakers to start the year.
All of these teams except the Jazz rank in the top seven in Offensive Rating while the Warriors have an anemic offense. My projections make this game Blazers -5.96 so I’ll take my chances on Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum outscoring Steph Curry and his group of cast offs.