Welcome to another edition of the NBA Notebook!
This week we’ll be taking a quick look at the historic losing streaks by the Spurs and Pistons, a few NBA spot bets including one featuring the Warriors' turnover woes, and a significant injury update for the New York Knicks.
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Let’s dive in!
With their loss to the Houston Rockets last night, the Spurs’ losing streak extended to 17 games, the biggest in franchise history. But there’s reason for hope.
While the Spurs are still minimizing Tre Jones, they have changed their starting lineup to move Victor Wembanyama to center - with promising results. San Antonio now has a good defense with Wemby on the court and with enough shooting to reasonably space the floor. Baby steps but important ones.
In terms of betting angles, Wembanyama has been a monster on the glass since the change, with 38 rebounds over his last two games. He’s also much better positioned to challenge shots, which has seen his blocks tick up as well. While prop prices are still tied to his early season production there’s value in taking either bet.
There’s no such progress on the horizon in the Motor City as the Pistons dropped their 20th in a row Monday night to the Indiana Pacers.
Nothing appears settled with their rotation. Jaden Ivey was yanked from the starting lineup to open the season and since then he’s been relegated not even to sixth man status, but often a complete afterthought. Ausar Thompson has been in and out of the starting lineup. Marcus Sasser has gone from starting to DNPs.
The changes right now reek of desperation rather than consideration. I would hesitate to bet any player props at all on the Pistons outside of Cade Cunningham because the game-to-game play time is so inconsistent.
The Celtics, meanwhile, are the best team in basketball, so the spreads can sometimes be daunting to bet. But a solid choice for going with Boston is to take the first quarter spread which will not be as big a number. That’s because Boston is the king of good starts this season, with a staggering +23.7 net rating in first quarters.
The Warriors have been sloppy with the ball since before Steve Kerr took over for Mark Jackson way back in 2014. That much hasn’t changed, although it has become more costly. Chris Paul has mitigated some of the damage, but Steph Curry and Draymond Green have both been abysmal coughing the ball up this season.
The Warriors are also prone to playing down to the competition, so I’m eyeing player props for their matchup on Sunday, December 17 against Portland.
The Blazers have quietly been a stout defensive team this season, and much of their success comes from the defensive playmaking of Matisse Thybulle, Toumani Camara, and Jerami Grant. I’ll be looking at potential steals props by Blazers players for Sunday’s action, or alternatively Curry or Draymond’s turnover prop.
While the Spurs have shown some promise recently, they own the dubious honor of having the worst third quarter net rating in the NBA — a ghastly -27. That makes taking the spread or moneyline against San Antonio in the third quarter a good bet against anyone, but I particularly like it in their two games this week on Wednesday and Friday against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers are prone to slow starts but turn things on over the course of the game, and it’s easy to see them turning up the intensity level against the Spurs if they’re hanging around at halftime.
Speaking again of the Blazers, they’ve shown quiet improvement this season as they get healthier. They host the Utah Jazz on the second night of a back-to-back on Thursday, and while the Jazz have more wins than Portland, they’re an inferior team. The Blazers have a legitimately solid defense and multiple dynamic scorers and have outperformed the spread by an average of 6.4 points per game over the last two weeks. If that line comes in around -3 for Portland, I’ll be taking it.
Is it time to back Wemby to win ? As I detailed in the NBA trends section for this week, the Spurs have finally moved Victor to his natural position as starting center. He’s responded by drastically increasing his productivity on the glass as well as contesting a ridiculous number of shots.
With his odds holding steady this week at +110 to Chet Holmgren’s shifting from -140 to -130, this might be the last time you can get plus money value to bet on the preseason favorite to win the award.
And it’s a tale of two Tyrese’s in this week's Most Improved Player race update. While Tyrese Maxey remains at the head of the pack at -120, it’s Haliburton who has made the biggest gains after his scintillating play in the In-Season Tournament.
Tyrese Haliburton’s superstar turn has seen him rocket up the boards for Most Improved Player. Haliburton started the week at +1700 but is now sitting in third at +550.
Haliburton has already been an All-Star, so an MIP win would be unusual. In my opinion, the leap from low-level All-Star to legitimate MVP candidate is no less deserving of consideration than that of solid starter to All-Star.
But voters have seen the issue differently. So, while I think Haliburton may warrant some votes as a way to reward the Pacers for their season, I would be shocked to see him beat Maxey for the award.
Tough news for the New York Knicks this week, as it was announced that center Mitchell Robinson will undergo ankle surgery and be re-evaluated in eight to 10 weeks. The Knicks have been one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, in large part due to Robinson, but he was also a cornerstone of their offense with his ability to dominate the glass.
Isaiah Hartenstein will see a serious jump in minutes, and the Knicks’ overall rebounding will take a hit. Keep an eye on Julius Randle’s rebounding props, as he’s the best rebounder on the Knicks with Robinson out.
Anfernee Simons has returned for the Trail Blazers after missing most of the season with a UCL injury. With him in the fold, Portland’s offense is slowly lifting from worst in the league level to respectable. Simons is a crafty scorer and strong pull-up jump shooter, and the spacing and on ball juice he provides make the Blazers much more competitive.
After some concern he had sustained a serious injury, Kyrie Irving is dealing with a bruised heel. Still, he has no timetable to return, and that means an even higher usage rate for Luka Doncic as well as more shots to go around for the likes of Tim Hardaway Jr.
“It was a masterpiece of dog****” - Jazz coach Will Hardy evaluating his team’s performance following a 50-point loss to the Mavericks
Odds displayed within this article were correct at the time of writing and are subject to change.