NBA is almost back again!
As we did last preseason we will touch on some free-agent signings, trades and players roles and how they affect the team’s style of play, players expected role and opportunity. Most of all, which player’s early line bets we will look to take advantage of when the season begins based on those changes. However, this season will be unlike any other with the shortened and compacted season due to the COVID19 pandemic. So this season we are going to do something slightly different. I will give a brief team overview of players to watch. Feel free to tail, however, we will not be counting this toward our pre-season prediction record. I would only recommend 0.25 of a stake/ unit just for fun.
Factors to consider
Factors will include but not limited to;
- Potentially limited amount of lines and the timing of when they open.
- Rest – back to backs, minutes limits and if it will be season-long or post all-star break.
- Tanking – the new flattened odds format makes it less likely for teams to tank that are going to miss out on the playoffs.
- Play-in tournament – teams in the 9-14 range are less likely to give up on there season as early as usual.
- Teams that did not play in the bubble will potentially have less continuity.
- Rookies – are historically ‘bad’ players, will the lack of training camp and pre-season see a dip in production.
Team by team notes;
John Collins has been highly discussed over the off-season and the two sides were unable to come to an agreement on an extension. Last season Collins played a lot of minutes at the 5 now with Capela healthy Collins will only see back up minutes and with Capela’s rebounding strength I envisage a drop coming in Collin’s rebound numbers.
Major roster overhaul with Kyrie and KD now both healthy along with their friend Deandre Jordan, who coincidently started the game after coach Atkinson was fired…DJ also missed the bubble games which allowed Levert and Allen to shine. Levert will come off the bench as will Allen. It’s hard to see Levert getting anywhere even close to the shot attempts that saw him perform so well in the bubble while Allen will be affected by minutes. It’s more likely Allen’s line moves less than Levert’s but a drop in output from both players is coming.
Some voids to fill early on with the departure of Hayward and the injury to Walker. Smart will start at point guard and although his shooting can be volatile the assist numbers should rise. I expect Tatum to do a majority of the secondary ballhandling seeing an increase in his assist numbers also. Free-agent signing Tristan Thompson is also injured to start the season which can lead to more points and rebounds for Thies. They still do have Rob Williams but he is foul prone and we could also see some Grant Williams at center which makes this a little shakey.
The aforementioned Hayward joins the Hornets and while he should be the number one option I not quite sure that will be the case, especially with his pre-season hand injury, it will be interesting to see where this line is set for a player that should be taking the most shots on the team at 15+ per game.
It also looks like Washington will run some backup centre minutes which should see him working closer to the rim and subsequently increasing his FG%.
The cat may be already out of the bag with White’s pre-season performance. I also do not like taking high variance FG% player’s for over tips but if this line happens to open too low look to take the over.
Markkanen’s season was disappointing like most of the Bulls but really the only thing that decreased was his attempts. His percentages stayed relatively steady except for his free throws, which dropped 5%. Similar to my claims with Brandon Ingram last year, I attest that confidence and happiness are an important contributor to a good free throw percentage. Look for Markkanen to bounce back to his 2018/19 stats.
Love and Drummond only played 5 games together last season and in those 5 games, Love averaged just over 8 rebounds. Any player that has become teammates with Drummond has seen their rebound numbers decline and I expect the same in this situation.
While Porzingas is out Richardson should be at worst the number 3 option. After being caught in the clogged toilet offense in Philly expect to see a bounce back from Richardson but certainly not to the level of his Miami days.
If Powell misses back to backs keep a watch on Kleber’s rebound line as he will most likely fill the starting centre roll.
An impressed double 3-1 deficit comebacks created plenty of hype about the Nuggets. This type of hype usually works in our favour. We saw the coming-out party of Porter Jr and Murray to a degree. While it seemed Porter may have started with the departure of Grant he will in fact come off the bench which doesn’t bode as well for unders as he will likely get more attempts on the second unit.
While I like Murray, he certainly won’t be getting 39 minutes a night and shooting 45% from 3 & 50% from the field. The addition of Barton who is a high usage player won’t help either. Look to take advantage of the hype and go with Murray unders.
A very confusing team with a lot of confusing signings. It’s hard to see how this is going to shake out. Usually, I would follow the money and look to play a Grant over but he certainly is not a shot creator. One player who may slide under the radar is the rookie Killian Hayes. The Pistons have committed to him as a starter opening night and although this team has a number of ball handlers with Griffin, Rose, Wright and Plumlee is also an above-average passing center. There should still be enough opportunity for Hayes to crack his assist line.
Golden State Warriors
Change is normally where we find value but in this case, there are too many changes. Thompson out for the season and such a small sample size of the rest of the players playing together its tough to crack. We may be lucky enough to get a Steph assists over, depending on the line, the first game of the season with Green sitting out.
Big changes similar to the Warriors, adding in Harden’s inevitable trade. Wood’s may not have got the attention he deserves with the Piston’s being in a small market and out of the playoffs but Wood is a per-minute monster that may just be a little under rated by the market.
Another bubble performer, TJ Warren had a stellar showcase. Like Murray, Warren will not be averaging 39 minutes this season. The Pacer’s were also missing Sabonis. Warren has also had a foot injury during the pre-season although the team say he will be ready to go for opening night this is a quick turnaround and does concern me. Warren under is one of my favourite plays to begin the season.
Los Angeles Lakers
A decent amount of turnover for a team that won the championship. The major change I see is the bench scoring which may have as much to do with Lebron and Davis not having so much on their plate during the season. Schroder and Harrell will run the second unit similar to what Williams and Harrell did in the other LA team. This creates even less opportunity for Kuzma than last year, who is still overrated by the general public. This is one of my favorite plays.
Los Angeles Clippers
Having come off shoulder surgery, George was viewed as a disappointment by most last season. George increased his FT%, career-best 3P% and essentially matched his career average FG%, so why was he a disappointment? Minutes! Which in turn lead to lower attempt, George averaged less than 30 minutes after barely dipping below 35 minutes the previous 7 seasons. Excluding the 5 game season, he played after his leg injury. Although George is a lot older now I do not see him returning to 35 minutes plus, I do see a middle ground. After a few embarrassing plays in the bubble, I expect a bounce-back year from George.
A fairly consistent roster from last season I don’t see much value in the Grizzlies squad. Valanciunas will see increased minutes and production with Jackson out to begin the season but we have seen this movie before with Jackson missing time the previous 2 seasons. Anderson will receive extra minutes but he is a very low usage player.
An entire team getting love after their trip to the finals, and so they should but do you see the Heat beating out the Bucks, Celtics and Raptors to make it back to the finals? Not likely. This pains me to say because I’ve seen this coming for a while but Bam may be a little hyped headed into this season. If we can get a line equal to or higher than his playoff average I’m taking it.
Another hyped player is Tyler Herro after his 37 point game. Some of Herro’s work was done without Dragic and although Herro will be in line for a minutes increase this season we may be lucky enough this line pushes up high enough.
A riskier play is Duncan Robinson because of a majority of his attempts being from 3 he is a high variance player. However, Duncan is coming off one of the historically great shooting seasons but can he keep it up?
Some roster change over with Holiday coming in for Bledsoe but the rest of the pieces are just role players. Expect more of the norm from the Bucks with Budenholzer’s refusal to have a plan B.
Rotation is a little up in the air with Beasley looking likely to be suspended by the league. When Beasley is playing it leaves little minutes for the recently acquired Rubio. As I mentioned earlier with Grant of the Pistons, usually you can follow the money to playing time but there are just too many mouths to feed at the 1 & the 2. Historically underrated, we may actually looking to playback on what are usually over tips for Rubio in both the points and assists lines.
New Orleans Pelicans
Newly acquired Pelican Bledsoe has been much maligned for his recent playoff performances and rightfully so. That doesn’t take away that he has been a solid regular season player. Look for Bledsoe to have another solid season and maybe even an increased role if the Pelican’s are looking to move on from Lonzo Ball who they could not come to a contract extension with.
A breakout season for Ingram saw his numbers decrease with the return of Zion, there may be some value here for the leagues most improved player to take the under with Zion coming into this season healthy.
New York Knicks
Thibs is known for running his starters into the ground but who are the starters on this team? Just about every position could be minutes split or close to it. I don’t see any players worthy of 35 minutes plus. A player who may fly under the radar though is starting SG Alec Burks. Burks should get the 2nd amount of shots of the starting line up and not being a household name there is over value to be had.
Oklahoma City Thunder
I would think the secret is out on SGA but we will have to wait and see where the line is set. The more uncommon name is Bazley. Bazley performed well in the bubble and will be the starting 4. Bazley should get all the opportunity to develop on a team with zero playoff aspirations.
The Magic have committed to Fultz with a contract extension. Fultz has also impressed in the 2 pre-season games albeit a small sample size. Fultz has averaged the same amount of minutes as last season while averaging 2 more points on an increased number of attempts while shooting a lower percentage. This is a great sign for Fultz who seems to be gaining more confidence as his experience grows.
New GM Darryl Morey has somewhat unblocked the toilet that was the 76ers offense. Ben Simmons will be the biggest beneficiary with the spacing that somewhat resembles the 2019 Sixers. Expect Simmons to have sufficient room to work to get to the basket and demand help to kick it out to shooters.
The sweethearts of the bubble, I’m personally not as sold on the Suns as a playoff lock as most are but more than likely they will slide into the 7th or 8th seed. We saw Paul co-exist with Harden and I’m sure there will be no drop in Booker’s production but there will be a slight dip in assist but probably not quite enough value unless we get a low line.
Jae Crowder’s play earned him plenty of attention in the playoffs, plenty of which was due to his hot shooting. His 3 point percentage with the Heat finished 10% higher than his career average. Recency bias and the likelihood of regression to the mean could help us with a couple of under to begin the season.
All of the Blazer acquisitions were minimal usage players. While Nurkic may see increased minutes and an uptick to match, my confidence level is not high. While I think the Blazers bettered their team, expect more of the same from the usual suspects.
The only player that really stands out here is Bagley. After two disappointing seasons if Bagley can stay healthy and get the minutes he will put up numbers. That is a very big if though, about as much confidence in this as the Nurkic minutes. Actually less.
San Antonio Spurs
Maybe I have a soft spot for this guy because I drafted him in a keeper league some years ago. With White out to begin the season and Aldridge moving to center this is a great opportunity for Murray to stuff the stat sheet. Although a low usage player Murray he is an elite rebounder for a guard. Not a household name we hopefully can take advantage of the rebound over to begin the season.
With the departure of Gasol and Ibaka we may see Nurse play Pascal at center at times. This will create more time for Anunoby who should see his minutes increase regardless if this happens or not as a far superior player than the likes of Powell, McCaw and the since-departed Hollis-Jefferson. Again, I am relying on Anunoby not being a household name adding with playing for a Canadian team. If the Raptors are planning on making it back to the finals they will need a leap offensively from Anunoby and I think he is ready.
Much of the same with the Jazz after inking Gobert to an extension. Conley did struggle to begin the season with a new team combined with injuries but started showing sign of the Conley we are familiar with in the bubble. If this line is set too low there could be some value in the over.
Another bubble star, Mitchell is in a similar boat to Murray and Warren. He won’t average 38 minutes a game and he certainly won’t shoot 53% from the field and 51.5% from 3 point land. If there are some recency bias and a line increase based on his playoff performance there will be value on the under.
Maybe I am being stubborn because I had this player to have a break out season last year but in my defence, his season was derailed due to injury. In 3 pre-season games, Bryant has averaged more points than he did last season in only 25 minutes with a dip in FG% but also taking more 3s. Bryant is a good free-throw shooter for a big man and the addition of Westbrook should get Bryant’s defender helping at the rim. I’m happy to run it back on the Bryant overs this season.
The hardest thing to do is guess where the lines will be set, the good thing is once they are after going through this exercise you will already know what side you are on! Below are my favourite pre-season predictions based on line assumption, or hope! Remember if there is any lineup change do not tail.
- Kevin Love rebounds under 10.5
- Jamal Murray under 22.5
- Killian Hayes over 3.5 assists
- TJ Warren under 20.5
- Paul George over 21.5 (Top 3 pick)
- Kyle Kuzma under 12.5
- Bam Adebayo under 18.5
- Tyler Herro under 16.5
- Al Horford over 11.5
- Darius Bazley over 12.5
- Jae Crowder under 11.5 (Top 3 pick)
- Dejounte Murray over 5.5 rebounds (Top 3 pick)
- Donovan Mitchell under 26.5
- Thomas Bryant over 13.5
- Marcus Smart over 4.5 assists
- Ricky Rubio under 10.5 and under 6.5 assists
- Brandon Ingram under 23.5
- Alec Burks over 13.5
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