NBA Summer League 2018 Betting: Trends and Leans for Saturday’s Slate

NBA Summer League 2018 Betting: Trends and Leans for Saturday’s Slate article feature image

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Josh Hart

  • The NBA Summer League circuit in Vegas continues Saturday 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.

As mentioned in yesterday’s piece, NBA Summer League betting has been very profitable over the past two years. According to Bet Labs, underdogs went 117-66-5 against-the-spread in 2016 and 2017. Overs went 107-77-4 during that time.

Yesterday’s dogs went 5-4 ATS, although I think value will increase each day. Some of the best players will get only a game or two of action; for example, Dallas Mavericks guard Dennis Smith Jr. probably won’t play again.

As the best players sit, variance will increase, which means it will be more profitable to load up on dogs. It’s wise to take that strategy today, but we’ll dive into a couple games in which it might still be worth it to bet on the favorite.

Let’s get to the 10 games on today’s slate…

Portland Trail Blazers (-4.5) vs. Utah Jazz | O/U: 170.5

3 p.m. ET | NBA TV

  • The Blazers are bringing a lot of NBA talent in guys like Archie Goodwin, Caleb Swanigan, Gary Trent Jr., Jake Layman, John Jenkins, KJ McDaniels, Wade Baldwin, and Zach Collins.
  • That’s a loaded roster, and they’re rightful 4.5-point favorites against a Utah squad with very little NBA experience. Rising sophomore Donovan Mitchell is obviously way past playing in the Summer League, so they’ll be relying on recent draft pick Grayson Allen, along with last year’s pick, Tony Bradley.
  • The Jazz did go 2-0 in their first three non-Vegas SL games, although they weren’t against especially impressive teams. Their most recent was against the Hawks, who didn’t play John Collins or Kevin Huerter. — Bryan Mears

Lean: Trail Blazers -4.5, Over 170.5

San Antonio Spurs vs. Indiana Pacers (-2) | O/U: 171

3:30 p.m. ET | ESPN 2

  • The Spurs don’t have a lot of high-pedigree guys in San Antonio. Their standout should be first-round shooting guard Lonnie Walker, although he’s a streaky player and could struggle to adjust to NBA-level athletes.
  • Still, the Pacers didn’t exactly look like world-beaters in their inaugural SL game yesterday. Last year’s first-round pick T.J. Leaf was especially atrocious, scoring just four points on 2-of-14 shooting in 27 minutes of action.
  • As I mentioned yesterday, performances in Summer League for rookies, while useful data points, are not make or break. For sophomores, however, a poor performance is a very bad sign. If Leaf can’t be efficient this week in Vegas, it’s unlikely he’ll ever be a useful NBA player. That pick of him over OG Anunoby is looking worse and worse each day. — Bryan Mears

Lean: Over 171

Miami Heat vs. New Orleans Pelicans | O/U: 168

5 p.m. ET | NBA TV

  • The Heat didn’t play yesterday, but they did get some early action last week against Sacramento. Their defense in particular looked excellent: The combination of Derrick Jones Jr. and Bam Adebayo held No. 2 draft pick Marvin Bagley to just one point and three rebounds in 30 minutes.
  • Adebayo should be in the running for the starting center spot for Miami this season, so it’s unlikely he’ll get a lot of run in Vegas outside of today’s matchup against the Pelicans.
  • The Pels looked good in their opening-day win yesterday, putting up 90 points against a solid Toronto squad. However, they could be due for regression: Trevon Bluiett went off, scoring 24 points on 6-of-8 shooting from 3-point land in just 19 minutes of action. — Bryan Mears

Lean: Over 168

New York Knicks (-2) vs. Atlanta Hawks | O/U: 173

5:30 p.m. ET | ESPN

  • The Knicks have a lot of intriguing prospects fans will be excited to see in Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox, Luke Kornet, and Mitchell Robinson. If you’re a fan of wingspan, this is the game to watch. Jay Bilas will definitely be tuned in.
  • Atlanta, meanwhile, has some work to do. Rookie Trae Young looked very bad in the Utah Summer League games (shooting at least; his passing was still tantalizing), and John Collins and Kevin Huerter rested their final game.
  • Look out for news on Collins as he would be the best player on the floor and change the dynamic of this game if he plays. If so, the Hawks should provide value against-the-spread.
  • Trae has struggled with creating separation against NBA-level athletes, and New York guard Frank Ntilikina has upside in his career to legitimately be the best defensive guard in the league. Trae will get things going eventually, but I wouldn’t bet on that happening today.
  • Given that point, if Collins doesn’t play, hammer the Knicks. — Bryan Mears

Lean: See above on how to handle Collins news

Oklahoma City Thunder (-2) vs. Brooklyn Nets | O/U: 167.5

7 p.m. ET | NBA TV

  • The Thunder narrowly lost to a talented Hornets squad yesterday and had nice performances from frontcourt players Rashawn Thomas and Dakari Johnson, who combined for 43 points in 49 minutes.
  • The Nets have an intriguing roster, and I was high on them yesterday against the Orlando Magic. However, for whatever reason, they did not play their two best players in Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert.
  • If those guys end up playing today, the Nets will be perhaps the most intriguing underdog of the day, and I would definitely take the two points. If they don’t play again, it’s tough to get excited about this Nets roster. — Bryan Mears

Lean: Nets +2 if Allen and LeVert play, over 167.5

Phoenix Suns (-3) vs. Sacramento Kings | O/U: 169

7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN

  • I underestimated the Suns on Day One. Second-year man Davon Reed, who averaged 14 points during last year’s Summer League play, slipped under my radar vs. Dallas. (Also, Dennis Smith Jr. failing to dominate was a big letdown for his stock.)
  • The Kings went 1-2 in Sacramento play, and are 4-9 ATS in since 2016 in Summer League play.
  • De’Aaron Fox isn’t playing in Vegas; he had some soreness in the Sacramento league, but he also wasn’t expected to play in Vegas to begin with. So for once, he’s the one ducking the competition.
  • Sidebar: One of my favorite debates at Vegas Summer League is whether or not a guy should have to play in the first game. Fox probably shouldn’t be above it. Dennis Smith Jr. should have been above it (and yet still struggled). If Lonzo Ball was healthy, he certainly should have played.
  • I’m nervous about overreacting to Phoenix’s win, but they did handle Dallas who has actual NBA players when DeAndre Ayton and Josh Jackson both had quiet games.
  • I’m also nervous about fading the Kings with Harry Giles now playing, and Justin Jackson coming off a 26-point performance. I also think Frank Mason is decent at point guard.
  • However, given the fact that the Suns are stacked with firepower, I’m reversing course and backing Phoenix. Check out Mikal Bridges’ ability to find shots and adjust on the move for the spot-up.


Lean: Suns -3

Detroit Pistons vs. Memphis Grizzlies (-4) | O/U: 168

9 p.m. ET | NBA TV

  • An informed individual yesterday told me “Ride Memphis. Their Summer League team is a beast.”
  • Meanwhile, Detroit scored — let me check the score sheet here and, ah, yes, I found it — 63 points vs. Milwaukee.
  • Reason for pause, here: Summer League teams favored by four points or more are 29-53 ATS in our system. Yikes!
  • However, with Luke Kennard out for Summer League, there’s a startling lack of firepower compared to Memphis.
  • If Wayne Selden plays, this thing should be an absolute rap.
  • Meanwhile, behold the Jevon Carter-Jaren Jackson combo:


Lean: Memphis ML (-180), under 168

Chicago Bulls vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (-1.5) | O/U: 165.5

9:30 p.m. ET | ESPN 2

  • Watch for Cedi Osman’s availability. Between Osman and Colin Sexton, the Cavs have the two best players on the floor and they’re both perimeter guys, which is huge in summer league. If Osman is held out of the game, maybe jump on Chicago.
  • This is Chicago’s first Summer League game. They have some talent on the wing with Chandler Hutchinson and Antonio Blakeney, but it’s a frontcourt-heavy roster. Wendell Carter Jr. is the big flashy name to watch.
  • I’m talking myself into another favorite, aren’t I?

Lean: Cleveland -1.5

Boston Celtics (-4) vs. Denver Nuggets | O/U: 166.5

11 p.m. ET | NBA TV

  • I’m on Denver, here. They have showed up with a ton of energy in Summer League. They have length, shooting, and quality rebounding Vlatko Cancar showed some real potential in their win Friday, and Monte Morris will be the best point guard on the floor.
  • Malik Beasley continues to show more effort than control, and three years in, that’s tough for a quality locker room guy.
  • The Celtics beat the Sixers, but their frontcourt looked shaky with wildly inconsistent reviews from scouts in regards to Guerschon Yabusele, Celtics Twitter’s mascot.
  • I found out yesterday Denver’s first-round pick in 2017, Tyler Lydon (who they traded Donovan Mitchell for in addition to Trey Lyles), has a nickname from the G-League: “Spicy Mayo.”

Lean: Denver +4

Philadelphia 76ers vs. Los Angeles Lakers (-2.5) | O/U: 170

11:30 p.m. ET | ESPN

  • Furkan Korkmaz had 40 in a Summer League game and Philly still couldn’t win. If one of your Summer League guys gets 40, you should automatically get a win.
  • Zhaire Smith was a minus-21 in a Summer League game, which is at once the most meaningless stat imaginable and yet wildly depressing.
  • Demetrius Jackson went 0-for-5. Don’t think that happens again.
  • The Lakers’ homecourt advantage is a huge deal. Given Vegas’ proximity to LA and the popularity of the Lakers in general, these Saturday night marquee games turn into wild Lakers parties. It’s the most fun atmosphere at Summer League, though this year takes a step back, because, well, none of their good young players are playing anymore.
  • Which leads me to taking Philly here. I don’t think they’re as bad as they looked vs. the Celtics, and I think the Lakers are vulnerable.

Lean: Sixers +2.5