NBA Odds, Picks & Projections: Bets for Mavericks vs. Spurs, Nuggets vs. Suns & More (Friday, Jan. 22)
Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Deandre Ayton (left) and Nikola Jokic.
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.
Check out my analysis for tonight’s massive 11-game slate.
Chicago Bulls at Charlotte Hornets
This is one of tonight’s more perplexing lines. My projections, which weigh recent games more heavily, make the Charlotte Hornets a -1.3 point favorite in this matchup while the market has this spread pegged at -3.5.
Looking deeper, the market appears to be severely undervaluing a Bulls team that has won two straight games over the Mavericks and Rockets and played the Clippers and Lakers down to the final possessions of each game. If the Bulls don’t blow a 16-point fourth quarter lead against the Oklahoma City Thunder with 4:40 to go in regulation, it’s likely we’d see this game priced differently coming off three straight wins.
While these teams have the same record at 6-8, the Bulls have played the 14th-ranked schedule of opponents and the Hornets have played the 21st.
As a whole, I think the Bulls are the better team and trending upwards after starting the season 0-3. Led by Zach LaVine — who is averaging 27.4 points, 5.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 49.8% from the field and 38.7% from behind the arc — the Bulls have had one of the best offenses in the league over the past two weeks. Chicago has scored 116.7 points per 100 possessions, seventh among NBA teams during that span.
The Bulls are sixth in Effective Field Goal Percentage (56.3%) against a Hornets team that’s given up 111.4 points per 100 possessions over the past week, which ranks 17th. Although Chicago does have some defensive concerns of its own, it will be facing a Hornets team ranks just 22nd in Offensive Efficiency (107.5) and hasn’t played in a week due to COVID-19 concerns, which means rust could be a factor.
The Bulls will welcome the returns of Tomas Satoransky and Chandler Hutchison, who were out with COVID-19, while the Hornets get Cody Zeller back from a fractured left hand.
Still, I think this spread is a bit mispriced. I’ll take the Bulls with the +3.5, and they should have a chance to win this game outright. Given the defensive deficiencies of both teams, there’s also some value on the over, based on my projections.
Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs
This feels like we’re getting a deflated number based on San Antonio’s abysmal offensive performance against the Warriors on Wednesday night in a game that saw the Spurs score just 99 points with an Offensive Rating of just 97. The Spurs shot just 37.2% from the field and 4-of-33 (12.1%) from behind the arc as the game stayed under the total of 228.
Variance in 3-point shooting is something else. On Monday, the Spurs put up their best shooting game of the year making 15-of-33 (45.5%) 3-pointers on their way to a 125-104 victory over the Blazers.
The truth is somewhere in the middle, and I think we should see San Antonio’s shooting percentages regress to the mean tonight.
The Mavericks haven’t been great offensively, but I think they’ve found something with the return of Kristaps Porzingis while starting Jalen Brunson and Josh Green as opposed to Wes Iwundu and Willie Cauley-Stein.
Offensively, Dallas got whatever it wanted against the Indiana Pacers, and I expect it to continue tonight against a Spurs defense that gave up 121 against the Warriors and struggles to defend the rim, allowing the sixth-highest field goal percentage (58.9%).
Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Clippers
I’m not showing much of an edge based on my projections, but I do think we’re seeing a suppressed total based on the Clippers-Kings game from Wednesday night. The Clippers are the league’s best offense, scoring 117.1 points per 100 possessions which would rank as the best in NBA history.
When you remove Los Angeles’ garbage-time possessions, it’s scoring a whopping 120.1 points per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning The Glass. The Clippers will be playing a Thunder team that ranks 21st in Defensive Rating (111.9) in non-garbage-time minutes.
Despite their performance against the Kings on Wednesday, in which they held Sacramento to just 96 points with a Defensive Rating of 92, the Clippers haven’t been a good defensive team this year, giving up 112.9 points per 100 possessions in their non-garbage-time minutes.
Oklahoma City isn’t particularly great on offense, but it does shoot the fifth-highest percentage of 3-point attempts. With the Clippers going 9-6 to the over this season, I can see this game turning into a track meet and I’ll back the over at BetMGM, which has the best odds. You can also play the over on the Clippers’ team total at 116.5.
Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns
I’ve said before that I don’t buy into the revenge spot angle, but these two teams played earlier this season with the Nuggets closing at -3.5 at home in a game they lost outright, 106-103.
The final score was much closer than the game played out, as the Suns held a 16-point lead before letting the Nuggets back in the game. Denver’s loss to the Suns marked its fourth loss of the season, bringing it to 1-4 on the year.
The Nuggets are much improved since then, winning six out of their last nine games.
Nonetheless, I have home-field advantage tracked at 0.53 points this year and it feels like the adjustment from Suns +3 to -1.5 feels a bit much. The Suns (8-5) are much improved this season, ranking ninth in Offensive Rating (113.1) and 10th in Defensive Rating (109.3) in their non-garbage-time minutes according to Cleaning The Glass.
Phoenix has been slipping as of lately, ranking just 18th in Offensive Rating (109.5) and 20th in Defensive Rating (113.2) over the past two weeks.
Nikola Jokic is averaging 25.1 points, 10.0 assists and 11.4 rebounding, leading the Nuggets to the league’s No. 2 offense, which is scoring 117.5 points per 100 possessions. This feels like an ideal matchup for a Nuggets team that is shooting 66.8% at the rim against a Suns defense which is allowing the 11th highest field goal percentage at the rim.
The Nuggets have underperformed their point differential this season at 7-7 despite having a Pythagorean Expectation of 9-5. Denver is simply the better team at this point and has done everything better than the Suns except defend, which really hasn’t been the case recently.
That said, I think the Nuggets are being undervalued in this spot and should win outright.