The Highlights

  • The NBA Summer League circuit in Vegas starts Friday with 10 games.
  • Betting underdogs has been profitable in the past, based on data from BetLabs.
  • Our NBA experts break down tonight’s Summer League games and give their takes on which teams to bet.

If you’re still wallowing in the news of Kevin Durant DeMarcus Cousins the Golden State Warriors ruining the NBA, have no fear: Summer League is here. The Las Vegas SL circuit begins Friday, and there are 10 games on the docket from 3 p.m. ET all the way through the night. There are some big hitters such as Boston vs. Philadelphia, and this will be the first time most fan bases will get to see their hopeful young draft picks from just weeks ago.

Summer League Betting Strategy

Before we dive into specific game notes, provided by yours truly and fellow Action Network analyst Matt Moore, let me give you some basic Summer League betting strategy, courtesy of awesome data from Bet Labs.

Honestly, it’s pretty simple. Because of the randomness of Summer League — news is hard to come by, handicapping motivation is oftentimes difficult and we really don’t have a lot of data on some of the youngins — it’s been supremely profitable over the past two Julys to simply load up on underdogs. Here’s how favorites/dogs have performed against-the-spread during that time:

  • Favorites: 66-117-5, -30.0% ROI, -$5,636 lost for a $100/unit bettor
  • Dogs: 117-66-5, +22.5% ROI, +$4,227 won for a $100/unit bettor

Even taking dogs on the moneyline has been a fine strategy, albeit slightly less profitable than just taking the points:

  • Favorites: 95-91, -19.4% ROI, -$3,607 lost for a $100/unit bettor
  • Dogs: 91-95, +19.0% ROI, +$3,534 won for a $100/unit bettor

And if you’d like to go all in on SL betting and put some cash down on over/unders, it seems the books have historically not adequately adjusted for the extreme pace of these young squads:

  • Over: 107-77-4, +12.0% ROI, +$2,252 won for a $100/unit bettor
  • Under: 77-107-4, -19.4% ROI, -$3,638 lost for a $100/unit bettor

We’ll have some more robust Summer League betting systems for you next week, but, honestly, you don’t need ’em right now to start making money for your weekend spending. Load up on dogs, especially ATS, and root for the overs.

 

Alright, onto Friday’s slate of games…

Houston Rockets vs. Indiana Pacers (-3.5) | O/U: 175.5

3 p.m. ET | NBA TV

  • There isn’t a lot of star firepower in the inaugural Vegas SL game between the Rockets and Pacers: There are no former lottery picks on either squad.
  • There are a handful of former first-round picks, although most of them have disappointed so far in their pro careers: RJ Hunter, C.J. Wilcox, Aaron Holiday and TJ Leaf.
  • In general, the idea with Summer League is that rookies will be hit or miss, and their performance may have little correlation with their upcoming season and future career. Sophomores are a different story. After spending a year in an NBA system, if they aren’t the best players on the floor, that’s very concerning.
  • True to that statement, I’m most interested in watching Leaf, the Pacers’ first-round pick from last year who was drafted before upside wings such as OG Anunoby. If Leaf has developed as planned, the Pacers (with guys such as Holiday and Wilcox) should take this one. It’s a big question, though. — Bryan Mears

Lean: Over 175.5

Toronto Raptors vs. New Orleans Pelicans (-2.5) | O/U: 169.5

3:30 p.m. ET | ESPNU

  • Both teams are 25-1 to win the Summer League title at Westgate. I lean toward the Raptors being more underrated than New Orleans based on those numbers, but it does give me pause in this matchup.
  • Both teams are strong at guard. Rookie Tony Carr is 21 and fluid; you want guards who have been playing long enough you can throw them on the court with a bunch of dudes. Frank Jackson is coming off injuries, but he showed flashes last year.
  • Cheick Diallo is making his third summer-league appearance for the Pelicans; this guy has playoff experience. He won’t play long but he may be the best player on the floor outside of Anunoby.
  • Meanwhile, the Raptors are stacked at wing — and not just with Anunoby. Malcolm Miller can play. Marquis Teague is an NBA fringe player. Jordan Loyd shot 54% eFG last Summer League. They’re not as talented up front as New Orleans, but they have them outmatched on the wing. Between Anunoby, Miller and Fuquan Edwin, Toronto has a lot of offense on this team. — Matt Moore

 

Lean: Raptors +2.5 and +115 ML

Brooklyn Nets vs. Orlando Magic (-2.5) | O/U: 168.5

5 p.m. ET | NBA TV

  • Orlando is likely favored in this game because of the excitement around big men Mohamed Bamba and last year’s No. 6 pick, Jonathan Isaac.
  • That said, Brooklyn has even more NBA-ready talent in Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen, both of whom should be heavy rotation players and perhaps even starters for the Nets this season.
  • LeVert has already played 128 NBA games in his brief, two-year career; Orlando’s best player, Isaac, played 27 last season while dealing with an injury. Bamba may have a higher ceiling than Allen, but the latter is almost certainly better right now.
  • I’m not sure why the Magic are laying 2.5 here for the reasons stated above. — Bryan Mears

Lean: Nets +2.5 and over 168.5

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Charlotte Hornets (-5) | O/U: 167.5

5:30 p.m. ET | ESPNU

  • OKC has one point guard on its roster (Phil Pressey). That’s not great for how Summer League is typically played.
  • OKC is 40-1 to win the Summer League title. Charlotte has the third-shortest odds at 10-1.
  • Charlotte’s stacked. Devonte Graham, Dwyane Bacon, Malik Monk and Willy Hernangomez are all NBA-rotation-caliber players. Rookie Miles Bridges is on the roster as well.
  • OKC’s not in as much of a development program; only two of their players on the roster were with their G-League team last year. They have size, but these games will probably be ugly. — Matt Moore

Lean: Under 167.5, Hornets -200 ML

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Detroit Pistons (-3.5) | O/U: 166.5

7 p.m. ET | NBA TV

  • The important young players to watch in this game are Milwaukee’s D.J. Wilson, Donte Divincenzo and Sterling Brown, along with Detroit’s Henry Ellenson and Luke Kennard. I also remain intrigued by Milwaukee’s Christian Wood, who definitely still has upside at just 22 years old.
  • I’m expecting Ellenson and Kennard to easily be the best players on the floor during this game, and, if they aren’t, that should be quite concerning for Detroit fans this upcoming season.
  • Many of Milwaukee’s young players remain a mystery, but the pedigree is there, and they have enough former first-rounders that they can win this game and make some noise in Summer League. — Bryan Mears

 

Lean: Pistons -3.5, Over 166.5

Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers (-2) | O/U: 168.5

7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN

  • This is a tight matchup which might be worth staying away from until we see what Boston looks like.
  • Philly has flashier talent with rookie Zhaire Smith, Furkan Korkmaz and Demetrius Jackson. Devyn Marble and Chris McCullough are former NBA roster guys, as well.
  • Boston has Semi Ojeleye, which makes me want to pick the Celtics outright.
  • Jabari Bird and Kadeem Allen can play a little bit as well and might thrive; Robert Williams could be great if he doesn’t oversleep and miss the game.
  • You have a whole lot of inconsistent players, and both teams are defensively centric in their systems.
  • Philly is 15-1 in Summer League title odds, Boston 20-1. — Matt Moore

Lean: Sixers -2, under 168.5

Washington Wizards vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (-2) | O/U: 167.5

9 p.m. ET | NBA TV

  • The players to watch in this matchup are Washington’s Troy Brown, Thomas Bryant and Aaron Harrison (no, the other one), along with Cleveland’s Ante Zizic, Cedi Osman and Collin Sexton.
  • Given the betting trends listed above — it’s wise to load up on dogs in the Summer League — I’m hesitant to recommend laying the two points with the Cavs. However, the talent disparity is enough where I think this could be the exception. The three main Cavs guys are legit rotation players this upcoming season.
  • Part of the fun of Summer League is also watching journeymen who have been playing overseas or in the G-League and refuse to give up on their dreams. Good for them. One example is Washington’s Phil Goss, who is 35 years old and has played in a variety of overseas leagues. — Bryan Mears

Lean: Cavs -2, Over 167.5

Dallas Mavericks vs. Phoenix Suns (-3) | O/U: 173.5

9:30 p.m. ET | ESPN

  • Top-level matchup: The Suns are favorites to win Summer League at 8-1, Dallas is close behind at 12-1.
  • However, in this one, fade the Suns. Dallas will likely play Dennis Smith Jr. DSJ will likely play only one game in Summer League, but he’ll also likely dominate that game. He’s well beyond this level.
  • Luka Doncic isn’t expected to play. If he does, hammer the Mavs late, but it might be a game-time decision.
  • The Suns’ talent is mostly centered around the frontcourt, with Deandre Ayton, Dragan Bender and Jack Cooley on the squad. Mikal Bridges and Josh Jackson provide wing depth, but their lack of a point guard gives me pause. Jackson could wind up running point a fair amount of time.
  • Dallas is bringing actual roster guys such as Dorian Finney-Smith and rookie Jalen Brunson. — Matt Moore

Lean: Hammer Dallas +3

Denver Nuggets vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (-1.5) | O/U: 165.5

11 p.m. ET | NBA TV

  • Denver has intriguing depth, including Summer League vet Scott Machado, along with G-League guys in Tyler Lydon and Monte Morris. Their star should be Malik Beasley, who should be ready to take a big step forward this season.
  • The Wolves, meanwhile, have solid players, especially in later picks from a couple weeks ago in Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop. However, they lack the super high-upside pedigree guys such as Denver’s Beasley.
  • Given the rosters, I’m a little unsure why the Wolves are favored here. — Bryan Mears

 

Lean: Nuggets +1.5, Over 165.5

LA Clippers vs. Golden State Warriors (EVEN) | O/U: 165.5

11:30 p.m. ET | ESPN

  • The Warriors are coming off a 3-0 campaign in the Sacramento Summer League.
  • Golden State has Jordan Bell and Damian Jones; the Warriors’ top-level talent is higher, but they don’t have the depth.
  • The Clippers’ players to watch are Jawun Evans, Sindarius Thornwell, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson.
  • Keep an eye on the under here; Golden State has had scores way low so far, and the Clippers’ best players are more developed defensively than offensively at this point. — Matt Moore

Lean: Under 165.5

Credit:

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Dennis Smith Jr.

Follow Bryan Mears on Twitter
@bryan_mears