By, matt | Sept. 19, 2019, 2:46 p.m.
Man, these past few weeks, I’ve been itching for the NBA season to start. Half because, on paper, it should be one of the more exciting, unpredictable seasons we’ve had in a long time, and half because I get to be a full-time degenerate again. Betting MLB and college football is fun but I’m only a casual fan in those sports, so ending the summer even is a win for me. But for the first few months of NBA action, you can get some real good lines before Vegas starts to wise up, and make some easy cash.
One strategy I used last season that worked pretty well, was just to parlay a few no-brainer moneylines together. I’d take maybe Bucks, Warriors, Rockets MLs against mediocre to bad teams to win more than I risked. Day-to-day betting seems like it’ll be a little trickier this year tho, especially after All-Star break, once Vegas really starts nailing the lines, so I’ll be sticking to future bets mostly. So here are my best prop bets that you can find on BetOnline.ag or Bovada today*, make some easy money.
*All odds accurate as of 9/19/2019
Detroit Pistons Miss the Playoffs: -115 (Bovada)
Last year, Detroit limped their way into 8th seed with a .500 record before getting swept by Milwaukee in the first round. Most of last season’s core is still in tact, namely Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, and Reggie Jackson and new faces like Derrick Rose and Markieff Morris have joined the roster as well. A few interesting prospects fill out the depth chart, like the rookie from France/Senegal, Sekou Doumbouya, G-League standout, Kyhri Thomas, and Summer League sensation, Bruce Brown, but Blake remains the only real needle mover on the roster. Vegas has the win total over/under set to 37.5, which sounds about right, so to me, their ceiling is another 8th place, first round exit.
Betting on the Pistons to miss the playoffs is essentially banking on Blake to miss ~9 or more games. His injury history is exstentive -- he’s played 67, 35, 61, 58, and 75 games in each regular season from 2014-15 until last year, missing time due to various quad, hand (not basketball related), toe, and knee injuries. He was able to put in 75 regular season games last year, his highest since 2013-14, but had to sit the first two games of the playoffs due to a left knee injury. And at 30 years old, coming off another knee surgery, I think the probability of Blake playing another 75 game season this year is slim, unfortunately.
Milwaukee, Boston, Philly, Indy, and Brooklyn are locks... there’s five spots gone. The Kawhi-less Raptors and Butler-led Heat are better than Detroit and should make the playoffs as well… two more down. Orlando was a solid 7-seed last year, won their division and finished 21-9, and Washington will try to make a push as well this year -- two more teams to have to fight. There’s likely only going to be one to two games seperation between 7th and 9th, so if Blake misses more than a handful of games, I find it highly unlikely they remain in the top 8. Too little room for error, not enough talent or depth -- this is a pretty safe bet.
LA Clippers Championship: +350 (BetOnline.ag)
Not the best odds ever at +350, you’d like to see the line closer to +425 or +450, especially in the preseason, but the play is still solid. Free agency, trades, and injuries reshaped the league this summer and no team was the beneficiary quite like the Clippers. Adding two top-ten players to a team who no longer has to worry about the Hampton Five, makes the Clips insta-contenders out west. LeBron and AD’s Lakers and Harden and Russ’ Rockets are their biggest threat now, but I think they match up nicely against both teams. The two-way dynamism Kawhi and PG13 bring to the table should help nullify the Harden/Westbrook duo on both sides of the ball, and the Lakers don’t have defenders to adequately guard them either -- outside of Lebron and AD, there aren’t really any other guys that stand out or could make a real impact over a seven game series. Bringing in AD was the right move but gutting the roster to do so always makes it difficult the following season.
When Kawhi decided to sign in LA instead of running it back with Toronto, he erased any realistic hope the Raptors had of repeating. The Sixers
also got worse, losing Butler and Irving in free agency, leaving the Bucks as the lone favorite to come out of the east. We saw how Kawhi was able to nullify Giannis in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, and the addition of George adds another competent body they can throw at him. And losing Brodgon, an apt two-way guard who compliments Giannis’ game perfectly, is going to hurt them more than people realize... I just don’t like the Bucks’ chances of being able to route the Clips in a seven game series.
This is more of a process of elimination pick -- on paper, the Clips are better than the Lakers, Rockets, Bucks, or any team in the East and I wouldn’t feel confident placing a serious wager on any other team in the league. Maybe you take a flyer on the Sixers at +900 or hell, even Warriors at +1200 and bank on some injuries or trade deadline moves, but if you’re looking to bet on the team with the best chance of winning a championship right now, I’d put my faith in the reigning Finals MVP and the Clippers at +350 to get it done.
Giannis Antetokounmpo MVP: +350 (BetOnline.ag)
The reigning MVP will look to keep all momentum rolling forward this year. This will be year two in the Budenholtzer system with full autonomy over the offense. Last year, he posted a 32.3% usage rate, set career highs in scoring, rebounds, assists, free throws, threes, led the league in defensive plus/minus and defensive win shares, ranked second in VORP, overall plus/minus, and win shares… dominance is the word that comes to mind. And voters felt the same -- he received 78 first place votes, to Harden’s 23, and won by over 150 total points to pick up his first career MVP award
And while the Greek Freak set the bar high for himself, he has a few things going for him this season. For one, nearly all the other MVP candidates are now playing alongside other superstars. Harden now has Westbrook, LeBron has The Brow, Kawhi has Paul George -- it’s not that those players can’t or shouldn’t win the award because they play alongside top tier talent, but voters tend to go with the guy who has to “do more himself”. Giannis’ next best teammate is Khris Middleton, a fringe All-Star who serves more of a complementary role, so he has a leg up against his competition in that regard.
Voters also put heavy stock into team success (except in Westbrook’s triple-double MVP award in ‘17) and with the East getting generally worse, the Bucks are the pre-season favorites to win the East. Vegas has their win total O/U at 57.5, three wins more than the next highest team and being the best player on the best team in the league is sometimes all it takes to get a vote. Putting up the numbers he’s capable of and leading his team to the best record in the league would make him hard to vote against -- the other contenders would need to have a real compelling case to get first place votes.
There’s also an interesting trend seen over the past 20 years: first-time MVPs win consecutively 44% of the time. Duncan in ‘01-’02 and ‘02-’03, Nash in ‘04-’05 and ‘05-’06, LeBron in ‘08-’09 and ‘09-’10, and Curry in ‘14-’15 and ‘15-’16. I think the implication here is you have players entering their primes who fans and voters become infatuated with -- they haven’t been dominant long enough to experience voter fatigue yet, a la MJ or LeBron, but they’re able to double down on an MVP caliber season for the repeat.
This is a lock as far as I’m concerned and at +350 odds, you’re getting a good return as well. Whale bet this one, folks.
Ja Morant ROY: +350 (Bovada)
I know what you’re thinking -- you’d have to be an idiot to put money on anyone besides Zion. He’s the prodigy, the most hyped prospect since LeBron. He’ll run away with the ROY award, may as well give it to him before the season even starts…
I don’t doubt Zion’s potential. He has the physical tools to be a superstar, easily the highest ceiling out of anyone in the draft -- that’s why he was the unanimous number one pick
by every mock out there. But I do think there’s a scenario where he struggles his first season and someone like Morant could come in and steal the award.
The best version of Zion, offensively, would look similar to a LeBron or Giannis -- a point-forward centerpiece who the rest of the team is built around. I don’t doubt he can’t get to that point, but banking on that happening seamlessly, right away, could be wishful thinking. I expect to see a lot of turnovers, forced plays, and general inconsistencies for a while, until Zion grows accustomed to playing against pro-level talent. I think his height and length might induce a bigger learning curve as well -- he’s only 6’7” with a 6’10” wingspan, which could cause problems for him against the better rim protectors of the league. And I imagine he’ll see a lot of double teams in the paint, where his size and length could be more of an issue.
The jumper concerns me as well. Zion hit the three at 33% last year, which isn’t terrible, but he was only taking around two per game. Based on his line-drive shot with awkward mechanics and 64% conversion rate from the foul line, I think his three-point percentages would have been worse at higher volumes. And if he isn’t willing to shoot the three ball, he’d run into Ben Simmons-like issues in the half court, where teams will dive under screens and give him plenty of space outside, allowing for easier rotational help defense on drives.
Ja Morant’s a much more polished prospect heading into the season. He’s athletic and aggressive but also has great court vision and awareness, racked up 10 assists per game at Murray State last year. He never seems out of control or wild, despite the aggression… reminds me of a De’Aaron Fox lite. And having teammates like Jaren Jackson, Jr. and Brandon Clarke to run pick and roll actions with will make life easier for Morant, should have plenty of lob opportunities for him to showcase his feathery touch.
I think we could be looking at a situation similar to last year’s ROY race. Trae struggled the first half of the year but after growing more comfortable playing against pro-level talent, put together a stellar second-half, looked like the best rookie in the league. Luka was real good all season and was much more consistent than Trae, didn’t have a long slump or ramp-up time, which is how he ultimately won the award. And if you look back over the recent ROY races, you’ll notice that voters tend to go with consistency over the guys with higher, but more sporadic, highs -- Simmons over Mitchell, Brogdon over Saric, MCW over Oladipo.
I think at +300, you gotta throw down on Morant. He’s polished, will have the ball in his hands a lot, should be consistent from start to finish, whereas Zion, who has a much higher ceiling, could struggle at first. You can always hedge if you want to play it safe.
Grizzlies Over 26.5 Wins: -115 (BetOnline.ag)
It makes sense that Vegas has the Grizzlies’ win total set lower than what they finished at last year. They traded away the aging, Grit n Grind core of Gasol and Conley and are instead looking to rebuild with their young prospects. Jaren Jackson, Jr., Ja Morant, and Brandon Clarke will be the new-era core as the Grizzlies aim to build a Western Conference powerhouse to contend for championships in the mid to latter half of the upcoming decade. I’m optimistic about that panning out, as I’m high on all three of the top prospects -- JJJ is a lengthy, switchable, defensive minded unicorn who can stretch the floor, drive, and post up on offense, Clarke has the potential to become a more athletic and better scoring Draymond Green, and Morant looks like a De’Aaron Fox/John Wall type who can run the floor in fast breaks and command pick and roll actions in the half court.
Despite the optimism, it’ll take time for these guys to grow into themselves and develop chemistry, they’re far from contention now. They won’t even be a playoff team for a few more years… especially since they’re stuck in the deeper Western Conference. But I do think they’ll surprise this year. The roster is filled with long, agile, switchable defenders who could develop into a contemporary Grit n Grind team of their own. Guys like JJJ, Jae Crowder, Brandon Clarke, Andre Iguodala, Kyle Anderson, and Josh Jackson can all guard multiple positions and play smart, high IQ team defense as well -- they’ll be fast on rotations and help defense and because of the versatility, can recover on kickouts and swings. Their speed and length will allow them to push the break in transition and play an up-tempo, fast paced offense on the other end, something the Grit n Grind squads of old lacked. Morant, JJJ, Clarke, Anderson can all run the breaks and keep defenses on their toes for 48 minutes straight, really play to the benefits of having young, tireless legs.
I see similarities in this year’s Grizz and last year’s Kings -- Sacramento projected to be a ~25 win team heading into last year but they came out guns-a-blazin’ and posted 39 wins, finishing 9th in the West and in playoff contention for much of the season. Young guns De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Marvin Bagley along with the six-year vet, Harrison Barnes, ran a high powered, fast paced offense that would try to overwhelm opponents with aggression and speed. The Grizzlies have to tools to do the same this year but with a more stifling, versatile defense on the other end. I don’t expect them to get near the Kings’ 39 win mark, as they don’t have the talent of a Fox or Barnes and aren’t quite as deep, but a 28-33 win season is well within their wheelhouse. To me, it’s always safer to go over on these young, budding, high-potential teams than it is to go under... 27 wins is very doable for Memphis.