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NBA Notebook: T-Wolves get guard help, Wemby dominates, Knicks deal with injuries, and more

Welcome to the Tuesday, February 13th edition of NBA Notebook. 

It’s a short week with the All-Star break coming up this weekend, but there are still plenty of trends, spot bets, and futures updates to dive into. 

This week we’ll be taking a quick look at the Minnesota Timberwolves' sputtering late game offense, Victor Wembanyama’s historic production, and the best value odds for the winner in both conferences.

Jump ahead here:

Let's dive in!

Notwithstanding an impressive win against the Los Angeles Clippers last night, the Minnesota Timberwolves have a seriously shaky fourth quarter offense.

The Wolves have a 110.4 offensive rating in fourth quarters this season, a steep drop from an already well below average 117.5 rating for the season. 

That’s fueled some late game collapses to the likes of the San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, and Orlando Magic in recent weeks. Notably a lot of those losses came with Mike Conley absent or injured, and Conley is the old vet that keeps the team on track. 

Trading for Monte Morris should help. Morris is a steady backup guard, a legit shooter, and rarely turns it over. If Conley is hurt or DNP (old) he can step in to steady the Wolves’ closing unit. 

Victor Wembanyama recorded his first career triple-double on Monday night. His final line was an outrageous 27 points, 14 rebounds, 10 blocks, five assists, and two steals — in 29 minutes. 

It’s the first triple-double including blocks since 2021, and the first by a rookie since 1990, and Wemby is by far the youngest player to have done it. He isn’t a superstar in waiting, he’s a superstar today. Not only does Victor seemingly have Rookie of the Year wrapped up at -650, but he is going to be competing for the big boy awards as soon as next season. 

While Rudy Gobert has the award locked up this year, I will be placing a marker down on Victor to win Defensive Player of the Year next year, and every year while there is plus money on the table. He is already the most talented defender in the NBA, and a modicum of team competence is all it will take for him to be a leading vote getter. 

Lastly, after a dark winter in the Motor City, there are some signs of a coming spring. The Pistons have as many wins (four) in the last 10 games as they have the rest of the season combined. 

They’ve simplified the roster and moved off players that Monty Williams was obsessed with playing despite them being actively damaging to the team like Killian Hayes. That’s meant more minutes for Jaden Ivey, and he’s getting increased time on the ball. That in turn is alleviating things for Cade Cunningham, allowing him to improve his efficiency and reduce his turnovers. 

Per Cleaning the Glass' win differential, the Pistons have won 4.1 fewer games than a team with their point differential would be expected to. That misfortune and their record breaking losing streak make them a sneaky futures bet at this time of the season. 

The Pistons' win total is currently listed at O/U 13.5 (-105). That means they need just six wins in their final 30 games in order to hit the Over.

NBA Spot Bets: Brooks returns to Memphis, Warriors-Jazz

With a limited schedule before the All-Star break, I’m focusing on just two NBA spot bets this week. First up, I’m looking to bet on Dillon Brooks’ latest revenge game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday. 

After getting hot for Team Canada during the FIBA World Cup during the offseason, Dillon Brooks has carried that shooting form into his first season as a Houston Rocket. 

Brooks has cut out a lot of fat from his game and he’s improved significantly as a shooter just through the power of better shot selection. His 39.3% 3-point rate is by far the best of his career, and he’s hit at a 51.5% clip over his last five games. 

All that sets up Brooks’ game against the Grizz on Wednesday. The last time he was in Memphis on December 15 he popped off for 26 points. He’s made no secret of the fact that he delights in beating his old team. I’ll be seeing if there’s solid value for predicting another outsized performance. 

Next, I’m highlighting the Golden State Warriors at the Utah Jazz on Thursday. The Warriors and Jazz played in Utah just last night and will be playing there again on Thursday but this time both teams will be on a back-to-back. 

The NBA season is a grind, and at this stage of the year, teams practice only sparingly and do team specific preparation in a limited fashion. However, the opportunity to play a team twice in a small span of time lets you build out a defensive gameplan that is closer to playoff level than normal. 

In addition to that defensive familiarity, my prediction is that this is going to be a sloppy, turnover-filled game defined by fatigue. Steph Curry had 10 assists to one turnover on Monday, but I’m going to be looking for value on his turnover prop for Thursday as the Jazz defenders are better locked-in and he’s on dead legs.

NBA Futures: Conference races, Coach of the Year

The All-Star break is as good a spot as any to take stock of the contending teams in both conferences and see which ones still have intriguing futures odds on the board. 

The rise of the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers in the East is worth watching. The Knicks and Cavs currently have +700 and +1000 odds to win the Conference respectively, behind the Celtics at +110 and the Bucks at +225. While that Celtics ticket is priced perfectly to my eyes, I would rather have a unit on both the Knicks and Cavaliers well before taking Milwaukee. 

The Bucks’ problems are structural and won’t be fixed by the addition of Patrick Beverley. They could get hot for a playoff series or even two, but I struggle to see any way they beat Boston in a playoff series. The Knicks and Cavs would both be underdogs, but they have the depth of talent and defensive upside to beat Boston if the shooting luck goes their way. 

Interestingly, while JB Bickerstaff has seen his odds for Coach of the Year shorten during this Cavs run to +425, Tom Thibodeau is still available at +2500. If the Knicks get healthy and go on a run after the All-Star break, he could easily be in contention to win the award. 

In the West, the Timberwolves are my favorite value to win the Conference at +800. While they have some curious losses to bad teams this season, they own the best record against plus .500 teams at 23-11. They also have signature wins against practically every team they might face in the playoffs.

Injury Update: Knicks and Heat face multiple injuries

The Knicks are banged up. 

After missing several games with “elbow inflammation” OG Anunoby underwent surgery to remove a loose bone fragment from his elbow. He’ll return to basketball activities in three weeks. 

The Knicks have also been without backup center Isaiah Hartenstein, who is dealing with recurring Achilles soreness. Donte DiVincenzo asked out of the game last night against the Rockets with an apparent hamstring issue. All of that is in addition to Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson, who may return at some point after All-Star weekend. 

Despite trading for Bojan Bogdanovic, he is being used sparingly by Tom Thibodeau so far, which makes Josh Hart still a strong bet on the glass. 

In other injury news, Dyson Daniels of the New Orleans Pelicans suffered a torn meniscus this week, and his timeline is yet to be determined. 

The Miami Heat also took twin injuries to Josh Richardson and Terry Rozier in their game against the Boston Celtics. While Rozier appears to have avoided major injury to his knee both players could still miss weeks. Richardson suffered a shoulder dislocation.

He Said It

“The other night after the Minnesota game, you know, film wasn't fun. I can tell you that. Our talk the next morning was not one of their better mornings. It wasn’t like I was Bobby Knight, I was just being honest.” -Doc Rivers on the Milwaukee Bucks embracing a culture of accountability on defense.

Odds mentioned in this article were correct at the time of writing and are subject to change.

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