NBA Odds, Picks & Projections: Bets for Cavaliers vs. Bulls, Grizzlies vs. Thunder, More (Wednesday, March 24)
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies.
For the 2020-2021 NBA season, I’ll be publishing my projections for every NBA game on the Wednesday and Friday slate. 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 x-game slate.
Denver Nuggets at Toronto Raptors
After a seven year run from 2013 through 2020, the Toronto Raptors have been one of the most successful franchises in recent memory.
Unfortunately the wheels have completely fallen off for the Raptors — they sit at 17-26, 11th in the Eastern Conference and come off 117-99 loss to a Houston Rockets team that had previously lost 20 games in a row.
As Eminem said on ‘Till I Collapse,’ “When your run is over, just admit when it’s at its end.” Toronto Raptors team president Masai Ujiri is smart enough to recognize that and it’s likely we could see Kyle Lowry and Norman Powell moved before the deadline.
I believe this number is mispriced regardless as my numbers make this game Nuggets -6.5 with a total of 225, a clear discrepancy from what we’re seeing within the market. The Nuggets are coming off a back-to-back against the Magic but none of their starters played heavy minutes as they quickly disposed of the Magic 110-99.
The Raptors have struggled to defend all season ranking 19th in Defensive Rating (113.1) in their non garbage time minutes according to Cleaning The Glass, but they’ve fallen even further recently. During the last two weeks they’re giving up 116.5 points per 100 possessions, 27th in the NBA over this time frame.
With Nikola Jokic the Nuggets offense is shooting 67.5% at the rim and can exploit the Raptors’ weak rim protection that is allowing teams to shoot 64.6% at the rim, 19th among NBA teams.
The Raptors are also allowing the fourth-highest frequency of opponent 3-point field goal attempts (41.1%) and while this worked out well for them in recent years where they fielded top-five defenses, in a season with no fans, opposing teams are shooting lights out.
Raptors opponents are making 38.2% of their 3s and the Nuggets should be able to exploit this poor perimeter defense as they’re seventh in 3-point shooting percentage (38.8%) this year. If you can’t protect the rim or guard the perimeter in the modern NBA, you’re in trouble.
I’m going to lay the points with the Nuggets at -2 and I also like this game to go over the total of 221.5 as the Raptors are playing the fourth fastest pace post All-Star break at 101.93 possessions. While the Nuggets play a slow pace, their efficiency should more than make up for that.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Chicago Bulls
The Cleveland Cavaliers have the worst offense in the NBA this season, scoring just 105.8 points per 100 possessions in their non garbage time minutes. Over their last four games, though, they’ve improved a bit scoring 110.9 points per 100 possessions.
One of the biggest differences is that this team is now playing the seventh fastest pace in the league during this time frame at 101 possessions compared to their season wide averages of 98.18 possessions.
Although the Cavaliers are 19-22-2 to the over this season, they’ve gone over in four out of their last five games and had their previous game against the Sacramento Kings go under by just a half point.
It’s clear that market is over adjusting to these Cavaliers totals and today’s game might be a good example of that as we saw this total get steamed from 218.5 to 215. A 3.5-point line move in the NBA is significant and should garner some respect, but I’m going to fade that line move as my model makes this game 218.
The amount of possessions in a game has the biggest impact on totals and this could be a fast paced game with the Cavaliers’ increased pace against a Bulls team which has been playing the seventh-fastest Pace (101.21) all season. For as bad as the Cavs have been on offense, they’ve been equally as bad on defense giving up 114 points per 100 possessions, which is 24th among NBA teams.
The Bulls should be able to capitalize on their perimeter defense which is allowing teams to shoot 39.3% from behind the arc, second worst in the league this season. The Cavs are also allowing teams to shoot the seventh most three point attempts so Zach Lavine should continue his season long hot streak as he’s attempting 8.1 3s per game and making a whopping 43.7% of them.
The Bulls are also generating offense in the midrange, an area which the Cavs are allowing teams to shoot 45.5%, third-worst in the NBA this season. It’s clear that the Bulls will have no problem scoring here and given the Cavs minor offensive improvement, the fast pace and this total being steamed down 3.5 points, I think there’s some value on the over 215.
Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder
If you follow my picks in the Action App, you’ll know that I played this to go under 222 but there’s still some value on this game as my model makes this game 217.
The Grizzlies are ninth in Defensive Rating (110.3) in their non garbage time minutes, according to Cleaning the Glass and they’ll be playing a Thunder team, which ranks just 28th in Offensive Rating scoring 106.2 points per 100 possessions this season.
The Thunder are shooting 35% of their field goal attempts at the rim while ranking 27th in field goal percentage. Unfortunately for the Thunder, this is an area in which the Grizzlies thrive defensively, ranking fifth in Defensive field goal percentage at the rim (61.9%).
There’s always a level of variability in Thunder games given how much they shoot the three. While the Thunder are shooting 39.5% of their field goal attempts from behind the arc, they’re making just 35.9% of them, 21st among NBA teams. Nonetheless, the Grizzlies should be able to hold this Thunder offense to a respectable number.
The Grizzlies are making their living offensively in the midrange via floaters and jumpers, but this isn’t an area where the Thunder struggle. The Grizzlies are the second worst 3-point shooting team in the league this year (34.2%) and it won’t get any better against a Thunder defense which is second-best in opponent 3-point percentage (34.8%).
Pace is a concern in this matchup as the Grizzlies are eighth in Pace (101) and the Thunder are 13th (100.32), but I’m just not seeing both of these offenses being very efficient. My model is showing value on this game so I’ll take the under.