Wednesday NBA Betting Odds & Picks: Palmer’s Top Bets for Bucks vs. Celtics, Mavericks vs. Suns & More (Dec. 23)
Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: A shot of the Dallas Mavericks logo at center court.
- Wednesday’s NBA schedule is hectic, but Raheem Palmer is using his betting model to find value in four matchups on tonight’s slate.
- Palmer is betting the spread in Hawks-Bulls and Mavericks-Suns and betting the total in Knicks-Pacers and Bucks-Celtics.
- Check out his analysis of the games below.
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 13-game slate.
New York Knicks at Indiana Pacers
Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau is the antithesis of former Suns and Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni. Thibodeau is known for one thing: defense. Thibodeau revolutionized pick-and-roll schemes with his “Ice” coverages, overloading the strong side and taking away shots at the rim.
While this isn’t ideal for today’s NBA where you’re vulnerable to pick-and-pops from 3-point shooters, whatever defensive schemes Thibs comes up with is likely to be more effective in New York than it was in Minnesota with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
Although the Knicks’ four preseason games came against the Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers — teams without high powered offenses — they finished second in Defensive Rating, allowing just 91.1 points per 100 possessions; it’s clear Thibodeau has already made an impact. The Knicks rank seventh in Rebound Rate, which also improves their defense.
Beyond that, the Knicks and Pacers are among the slowest paced teams in the league as they ranked 25th (99.11) and 22nd (99.41) in Pace respectively. In the preseason, both these teams were in the bottom half of the league in the amount of possessions per game.
With the Knicks shooting an abysmal 30.3% from 3-point range in the preseason, we shouldn’t expect this team to be in many high-scoring showdowns this season.
The Pacers are running a more perimeter based offense, shooting more 3s under new head coach Nate Bjorkgren, but given the lack of preseason games, I’m betting things take some time to come into form.
Atlanta Hawks at Chicago Bulls
This line doesn’t make much sense to me. It’s essentially saying that the addition of Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari together have a superstar’s impact on the point spread. The Bulls and Hawks played last season and the Bulls laid -6.5 and -9.5 in their home games and -1 in their road matchup, covering all three.
Although the Hawks have also added Kris Dunn, Tony Snell, Rajon Rondo and Clint Capela to the fold, they’ll all be missing in action in their opening game and they just so happen to be the best defenders on the team. Although the market is pricing the Hawks as an improved team, they’re essentially the same team plus Bogdanovic and Gallinari.
Trae Young made the All-Star leap last season, averaging 29.6 points, 9.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game and the additions of Bogdanovic and Gallinari should make this offense even more dangerous.
Still, the Hawks ranked 28th in Defensive Efficiency, giving up 114.4 points per 100 possessions largely due to Young who ranked last of 520 NBA players in Defensive Real Plus/Minus.
The Bulls, on the other hand, have dominated this Hawks team, winning three straight and four out of their last five meetings. They also should improve after firing Jim Boylen (he and Zach Lavine clearly didn’t see eye to eye) and hiring head coach Billy Donovan.
Even accounting for the improvement of this Hawks roster, my numbers still don’t put the Hawks as 2-point road favorites. The Bulls at +2 should be a positive expected value proposition.
Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics
My projections make the total for this game 223. You have to wonder who else will score for the Celtics outside of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. If the losing Gordon Hayward in free agency wasn’t enough of a blow, the Celtics will be without point guard Kemba Walker who will miss the first month of the season after receiving a stem cell injection in his knee.
Although I don’t want to take too much from preseason, the Celtics scored just 90.4 points per 100 possessions, dead last among NBA teams. They’ll be facing a Bucks team that ranked first in Defensive Rating, allowing just 102.5 points per 100 possessions. With their addition of Jrue Holiday, things won’t get any easier for this Celtics offense, which will miss the playmaking and scoring that Walker provides.
The Celtics added Tristan Thompson and he should be available to play in the opener, which will add depth behind Daniel Theis. The Celtics should still be a top-tier defense this season and with the Bucks getting two new point guards (Holiday and DJ Augustin) this offseason, I think there will likely be some hiccups offensively. I like this total to go under.
Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns
Besides championship contenders like the Los Angeles Lakers and the Bucks, there’s no team that is more overvalued in the betting market than the Phoenix Suns.
After going 8-0 in the bubble seeding games, the Suns added Chris Paul to the core of Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton and Mikal Bridges.
With the addition of veteran Jae Crowder who shot 44.5% from behind the arc with Miami Heat last season, the Suns look poised to snag their first postseason berth since 2009 if everything breaks right.
However, they come into this game banged up, not playing a single game with a full roster. Per our NBA Insiders tool, Paul is nursing an ankle injury, Dario Saric is set to miss the opener with a quad injury, and Abel Nader is in the concussion protocol.
The Suns open the season against the Dallas Mavericks who had the most efficient offense in NBA history last season, scoring 115.9 points per 100 possessions. Despite ranking 18th in defense, giving up 111.2 points per 100 possessions, the Mavs were sixth in Net Rating.
With a 17-24 (.415%) record in games that featured clutch-time minutes, the Mavericks struggled to win close games, finishing with a 43-32 record and a Pythagorean Expectation of 49-26 — well under expectation.
With Luka Doncic in Year 3 and the odds on favorite to win MVP, the return of Dwight Powell and Jalen Brunson, plus the additions of Josh Richardson, Wes Iwundu and James Johnson, the Mavericks are a better team than last season even without Kristaps Porzingis.
I don’t expect them to struggle in the clutch this season and while oddsmakers installed the Suns as 1-point favorites, I expect to see some positive variance in crunch time for this team. With my model making this game Mavericks -1.60, I believe the wrong team is favored.