NBA Odds, Picks & Projections: Betting Analysis for Grizzlies vs. Timberwolves, Knicks vs. Nuggets and More (Wednesday, May 5)
Steph Chambers/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 nine-game slate.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Houston Rockets
Have you seen this Houston Rockets offense? They’ve been bad enough all season, scoring 106.8 points per 100 possessions (27th) in their non garbage time minutes, but over the past two weeks they’re scoring just 102.2 points per 100 possessions.
Somehow that isn’t the worst offense in the league during that time frame as the Oklahoma City Thunder have been exhibition of futility, magically turning themselves from a dangerous young team that you had to prepare for every night to the 2015-16 “Colonel of this MF Tank” Sam Hinkie led Philadelphia 76ers.
I’ve digressed but still, this is inept Rockets offense outside of games in which Kevin Porter Jr. decides to light the Milwaukee Bucks up for 50 points on 16-of-26 (61.5%) shooting. Against the 76ers who are third in Defensive Rating, holding opposing teams to 108.0 points per 100 possessions in their non garbage time minutes, I’ll take my chances on that not happening here.
The Rockets are 25th in eFG% (52.2%) while the 76ers have the third-lowest opponent eFG% (52.6%). Overall, I’m not seeing any area of the floor in which the Rockets score efficiently as they’re 30th in field goal percentage from behind the arc (34.0%) and from the mid-range (35.1%). Their most effective area of scoring is at the rim where they’re shooting 64.4%, however they’ll have to deal with Joel Embiid.
The Rockets’ defense is equally as inept as their offense, however the 76ers are just 13th in Offensive Rating (113.3). I think this total is just a tad bit too high as my model makes this game 220. I grabbed this at 223.5, but at 222.5 I’d take a small bite on the under.
Memphis Grizzlies at Minnesota Timberwolves
My model made this game 239 so when oddsmakers opened this total at 237, I felt there was a small edge here. The pace of these games simply doesn’t lend itself to an under. Both of these teams are top 10 in Pace, with the Timberwolves playing the fifth-fastest Pace in the league (101.92) and the Grizzlies playing the eighth-fastest Pace (100.98).
The Timberwolves are simply one of the worst defensive teams in the league this season, allowing 116.4 points per 100 possessions in their non garbage time minutes, 28th among NBA teams.
The Grizzlies’ offense primarily thrives in the mid-range where they’re taking a mix of jump shots and floaters. They rank fifth in mid-range shot frequency (36.7%) and the Timberwolves are 18th in field goal percentage in the mid-range (42.7%), so this is an area where we should see Ja Morant have no problems scoring. Morant should have no problems getting to the basket either with the Timberwolves allowing the sixth-highest percentage of shots (35.6%) at the rim.
The flip-side to that is that the Timberwolves are improving offensively as they’re scoring 114.3 points per 100 possession over the past two weeks, which is 11th among NBA teams.
The return of Karl Anthony Towns has drastically impacted this offense as they’re scoring 114.9 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor vs. 104.8 with him off (+10.1).
Phoenix Suns at Atlanta Hawks
The Phoenix Suns haven’t had many let down games this season. The same team that went 8-0 in the bubble last season added Chris Paul and now has the best record in the league at 47-18.
Given the season the Utah Jazz were having, many though the No. 1 seed in the West was all but locked up, however, the Suns are actually first in the West after sweeping the Jazz this season. Monty Williams appears to be on track for Coach of the Year as the Suns have a top-10 Offense and Defense, ranking sixth in Offensive Rating (117.1), and fifth in Defensive Rating (110.6) in their non garbage time minutes according to Cleaning the Glass.
The Suns have been equally as dominant against the league’s best and worst, going 25-8 against teams .500 and above and 22-10 against teams below .500. Even more impressive, the Suns are 21-6 in 10-point games and 7-3 in 3 point games. They’re blowing teams out at a high rate while also proving that they can win clutch games — 23-11 in games with a point differential of five or less in the last five minutes of a game.
Even when faced with bad spots, the Suns remain victorious as they’re 11-4 in games with zero days rest. I can’t help but think that today’s matchup against the Atlanta Hawks is different. Under normal circumstances, my model makes the Suns a -3.5-point favorite, but in this spot I think this game should be a PK.
The Suns are coming off a grueling 134-118 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers in overtime on Tuesday night and just two nights before that they played a tough game against the Thunder that went down to the wire.
Although you could say the Suns were overlooking these two bottom feeders, you have to wonder how much fatigue is coming into play? Last week they had a tough East Coast road trip against the Bucks, 76ers, Celtics, Nets and Knicks before playing the Clippers and Jazz; now they’re back on the road playing three games in four nights.
Given the schedule, it’s no surprise this team has been slipping defensively, allowing opposing teams to score a whopping 116.2 point per 100 possessions in their non garbage time minutes, 24th in the NBA during that nine-game stretch per Cleaning the Glass.
While the offense continues to score at will, putting up 120.4 points per 100 possessions at some point, you have to win games on the defensive end of the floor, particularly playing back-to-back sets and three games in four nights when your shots may not be falling.
The Hawks are much improved since firing Lloyd Pierce as they were just 14-20 with him and 22-10 since Nate McMillan took over. With Trae Young, John Collins and Bogdan Bogdanovic back in the lineup the Hawks are winners of two straight wins both by double digits against the Chicago Bulls and Portland Trailblazers.
The Hawks should be able to capitalize on a Suns defense that struggles to contain the long mid-range area of the floor where they’re allowing teams to shoot 41.9%. The Hawks thrive in that area as Bogdanovic and Collins are in the 94th and 92nd percentile on long mid-range jumpers.
The Suns are 22nd in opponent frequency of mid-range field goal attempts (31.7%), so look for the Hawks to attack via floaters and mid-range jumpers. The Hawks are also eighth in Offensive Rebound Rate (26.8%) and this could be an area the Hawks capitalize on given the Suns tired legs.
Overall, this is about the spot for me. The Hawks are rested and are playing great basketball. Over the past two games they’ve put up an Offensive Rating of 118.5 with a Defensive Rating of 108.2. I’ll back them to win a game against a Suns team that is playing three games and four nights and is struggling to stop team defensively.
New York Knicks at Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets just can’t catch a break.
After trading for Aaron Gordon at the deadline, the Nuggets were on their way to becoming viable championship contender. After winning seven of their first eight games with Gordon on the roster, it felt like the Nuggets got the wind knocked out of their sales when they lost Jamal Murray for the season with a torn ACL.
To everyone’s surprise, the Nuggets kept rolling, winning nine of their last 11 games as Nikola Jokic put his strangle hold on the MVP race. Since Murray went out on April 12, the Nuggets rank fourth in Net Rating (6.9) with an Offensive Rating of 115.8 (ninth) and a Defensive Rating of 108.9 (seventh), according to NBA Advanced Stats.
At some point, not even Jokic’s stellar play can overcome all the injuries on this team as they lost both Will Barton and Monte Morris to hamstring strains, while PJ Dozier was ruled out with a right adductor strain after exiting Monday’s night’s game early.
To make matters worse, Jokic is dealing with right toe soreness of his own, though he’s listed as probable. They host a feisty Knicks team that ranks fifth in Net Rating (6.1) since the All-Star break and looks very different compared to the Knicks whom they defeated by 25 points in January.
That version of the Knicks was offensively challenged and finished the game shooting 6-of-21 (28.6%) from behind the arc, an area that has become a strong suit of the Knicks recently. Since the break, the Knicks are shooting a whopping 41.3% on 3s, so I expect them to shoot a lot better in tonight’s game.
In their first game, the Knicks also shot just 58.8% at the rim and although this isn’t an area where they thrive, that game was in the 29th percentile of all games this season, so it’s pretty clear they ran under expectation against a Nuggets team that ranks dead last in field goal percentage at the rim (68%).
With the Jokic bothered by a toe injury, in addition to the injuries to Dozier, Morris and Barton, I’m expecting a much better offensive performance tonight from the Knicks. My model makes this game Nuggets -2.34, but this feels like a spot in which the Knicks can win outright. I’ll play the Knicks against the spread at +3.5 and I like their moneyline at +145.