The squeaks on the gym floor, the pounding of the balls on the hardwood at training camps, and the influx of cash into my betting account tell me one thing: the NBA season is almost here and it’s time to put in my best bets for the 2018-19 season.
I’ve done a deep dive on each NBA franchise for the upcoming season and taken a look at each one of their props available at Sportsbook such as divisional Sportsbooks, O/U win totals, individual awards and chances to make the playoffs to give you my best bet for each team.
Here we go!
NOTE: All odds and props for the Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves are off the board until a potential Jimmy Butler trade is finalized. Check back if/when the trade happens for the Heat’s and T-Wolves’ best bets.
Trae Young to win Rookie of the Year – Odds at +1100
When betting on NBA award props like MVP or ROY, I like to have a couple of dogs in the race and one of those ballers is Trae Young with the Hawks. Look, the Hawks aren’t going anywhere this season and oddsmakers think so too considering their O/U win total is 23.5 and they’re +1500 to make the playoffs. So, why not take a player who will be given the full green light to launch from deep all season? Young’s best assets are his playmaking and three-point range, which is made for today’s NBA. He can average close to 20 points per game while shooting 35 percent from deep so his odds are great at +1100.
OVER 58.5 Wins – Odds at -150
The figure of 58.5 seems low for a team that has the second-best odds to win the title. The Celtics have arguably the best roster in the NBA with depth that would make most teams peanut butter and jealous. Boston won 55 games last year and Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, two of their best players, missed a combined 103 games. While it’s no sure thing that Irving won’t miss some time this season, the development of Terry Rozier and Jayson Tatum should push this team comfortably to 60 wins.
UNDER 32 wins – Odds at -125
You gotta give GM Sean Marks credit for the slow-burn rebuild of the Nets. They’ve been a dumpster fire for the last five seasons with nearly no draft picks but he has put them in a great position to take advantage of inept GMs who give out bad contracts and look to dump salary (looking at you, DeMarre Carroll and Allen Crabbe). They still haven’t added the game-breaker who can take over and close out fourth quarters so to me, they still are a bottom-three team in a weakened Eastern Conference. Couple that with the fact that they play in arguably the toughest division in the NBA and 32 wins seems generous from oddsmakers.
OVER 35.5 wins – Odds at -135
There isn’t much that moves the needle in the NBA when it comes to the Charlotte Hornets but I think 36 wins in the East is definitely doable. This roster isn’t a world-beater by any means but they do have pieces and a system that wins games in the NBA. Kemba Walker is in a contract year so he’ll ball out and draft pick Miles Bridges has turned heads so far in preseason action. This squad won 36 games last season and has met or topped that figure for the last three seasons. I think they break 40 wins but just miss the playoffs. Bettors may also want to consider Bridges for rookie of the year as his value is prime for the picking at +4000.
UNDER 29.5 Wins – Odds at +125
I really like this starting five of the Bulls. Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Jabari Parker, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter should make some noise in the East as they offer an almost perfect blend of outside shooting and playmaking. That being said, Parker and LaVine may as well be made of glass as they’re very injury-prone and where this team gets in trouble is their lack of depth. After Bobby Portis on the bench, it’s a lot of lower-end talent that will get run over by opposing teams. Chicago ranked in the bottom five in both points per game and points allowed and I can’t see the Bulls winning 30 games this season.
OVER 30.5 wins – Odds at -125
Look, I’m not going to make a case that the Cavaliers are still in a position of strength in the East but they do have some pieces that can be matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. Kevin Love will be free of the shackles of playing with LeBron and if he can stay healthy, he could resume the type of play that made him a decent player in Minnesota. I also think the addition of rookie Collin Sexton and third-year SF Sam Dekker should provide a nice scoring alternative for a team that will be desperate to prove it can win without King James. Do I think it will be enough to push the Cavs to make the playoffs? Absolutely not but 31 wins seems doable.
To Make the Playoffs - Odds at +500
The Mavericks O/U win total coming into the season is at 34.5 wins but this is the best bets article and the value at -125 isn’t worth it when +500 odds are staring me in the face for Dallas to make the playoffs. The Mavs pulled out all the stops by acquiring super-rookie Luka Doncic in the draft and are clearly in win-now mode by also grabbing center DeAndre Jordan from the Clippers. Because they don’t have a first-round pick in 2019 due to the Doncic trade, I expect Mark Cuban to try to improve the roster during the season via trade and go for broke in what could potentially be Dirk Nowitzki’s final season in Big D.
Not to make the Playoffs – Odds at +240
Offensively, this is one of the best NBA League Pass teams to watch as center Nikola Jokic is a wizard from the elbow but the trade-off with having him as your offensive savant is they can’t stop anyone. The Nuggets missed the playoffs by one game last year and the reason why they fell short was their poor defense which gave up 108 points per game (ranked 22nd) while allowing a league-worst 37 percent shooting from deep by opposing offenses. The West is even stronger now with LeBron so I don’t like their chances to crack the top eight.
Not to Make the Playoffs – Odds at +150
I borrowed a snippet from my Odds for Every Team to Make the NBA Playoffs article as I don’t think I could’ve put it any better: One hundred and fifty-two games. That’s how many man-games the Pistons lost last season due to injury from their whole roster with franchise anchors Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson combining for just over 60 of them. On paper, this team has talent but when your stars can’t stay on the floor, you have no chance to win, even in the Eastern Conference. Bettors are essentially banking on Griffin to stay healthy and he hasn’t topped 60 games since the 2013-14 season. No thanks.
Golden State Warriors
To Win the NBA Championship – Odds at -195
Probably the safest bet in pro sports, the Golden State Warriors have become a dynasty in front of our eyes and are gunning to be the fourth team in NBA history to win three consecutive titles. For anyone who has watched the NBA over the last four seasons, we can all agree that no team (even the Celtics) is touching Golden State when it’s firing on all cylinders. Adding DeMarcus Cousins is icing on the proverbial cake and for bettors looking at value outside of title odds, there’s not much around except for Kevin Durant at +1200 to lead the NBA in scoring.
James Harden to Lead NBA in scoring – Odds at +300
Does Houston still have Chris Paul running with Harden using Mike D’Antoni’s offensive scheme? OK, just checking. This should be a lock mainly because no other player can touch Harden on his ability to draw fouls and launch three-point attempts. Harden led the NBA in attempts from three-point range and free throws last season and has finished first or second in scoring for the last four years. Do I think he’ll win MVP again? No, but Houston will stick to the “three or layup” strategy as long as D’Antoni is coaching there.
To Win the Central Division – Odds at +130
The Central Division is a two-team race between the Pacers and Bucks and I’m siding with Indiana as I think it has the more complete team. Victor Oladipo had his coming-out party last season by finishing All-NBA Third Team and the development of Myles Turner and Donatas Sabonis provides intriguing frontcourt options for Nate McMillan. I love the signing of Tyreke Evans to provide secondary scoring and have been impressed with rookie point guard Aaron Holiday. I think it will be a close finish between the Bucks and Pacers with Indy taking it by topping 50 wins this season.
Los Angeles Clippers
UNDER 36.5 wins – Odds at +110
I love certain pieces of this Clippers squad so it pains me to think they won’t be able to surpass 36 wins. The West is so deep and without a true superstar who can shift the balance of talent on the floor, it’s a lot to ask of them to overachieve and get to 37 wins. Their division got way better with the infusion of LeBron to the Lakers and Deandre Ayton to the Suns and the loss of center DeAndre Jordan will hurt a lot more than Clippers backers realize. Los Angeles already ranked 24th in points allowed per game last year and now will be relying on Marcin Gortat, who has averaged less than a block per game over the last two seasons, to protect the rim.
Los Angeles Lakers
OVER 48.5 wins – Odds at -105
LeBron on any team in the NBA pushes them to 50 wins or more. This is a team that won 35 games without LeBron James on the floor so I’m buying into the hype. In James’ 15-year career, his teams have won 50 or more games in 11 of them (2010 was a shortened season from the lockout). They get to play 12 games against the Clippers, Suns and Kings so this seems like a lock.
OVER 33.5 Wins – Odds at -145
A forgotten team in the Western Conference, the Grizz have a nice inside-out combo between Mike Conley and Marc Gasol that have given teams fits. The 33.5 line seems low considering this squad has won 40 or more games every year since the 2007-08 season. The main issue with this team is health as Conley hasn’t played more than 70 games for three straight seasons and is the engine of this offense. He only played 12 games last year but I expect his heel injury to be fully healed (no pun intended). The addition of Jaren Jackson Jr. should help Gasol with some of the defensive responsibilities so I expect this team to surpass 40 wins and fall short of the playoffs.
Giannis Antetokounmpo to lead NBA in scoring – Odds at +700
I know I have James Harden as one of my picks to lead the league in scoring but I like to have a couple of options when picking these types of props and the Greek Freak is in a prime position to take another leap in the hierarchy of NBA superstars. The 23-year-old finished fifth in scoring last year despite only averaging 1.9 three-point attempts per game and I expect Milwaukee’s offensive system to focus more on the perimeter, which should allow Giannis to open up his game and start draining threes. Each year in his career, Giannis has upped his scoring average, so 30 points per game is well within his capabilities.
New Orleans Pelicans
Not to Make the Playoffs – Odds at +155
The Pelicans were one of the feel-good stories of last year’s playoffs after they swept the Blazers in the Sportsbook round and Anthony Davis showed that one player can still dominate a series in this “Big Three” NBA world we live in. And while I have the utmost respect for his talents, he is still only one man and the rest of the Pellies roster leaves a lot to be desired. I think the additions of Julius Randle and Jahlil Okafor will not improve this roster enough to contend with other up-and-coming teams in the West like the Mavericks and the Lakers. And if Davis misses any games due to injury, it could reignite the narrative of “Where is Anthony Davis going?” which is a drama that could be heavy on the Pelicans roster.
New York Knicks
UNDER 29.5 wins – Odds at -180
In contention for one of the worst rosters in the NBA from a talent perspective, this season could be a long slog for the Knickerbockers. As soon as it was announced that F/C Kristaps Porzingis will be out for the majority of the season, I had them pegged at 25 wins or less. This team is still paying for the sins of its ownership in poor trades and absurd free-agent signings (looking at you, Tim Hardaway Jr.). They play in a tough division and even in the East last season barely mustered 29 wins. Until Porzing-God gets back and the Knicks add some higher-end talent from next year’s free-agent class, this is a team that will be an NBA doormat.
Oklahoma City Thunder
OVER 48.5 wins – Odds at -125
In a case of addition by subtraction, the Thunder should be better than they were last season (48 wins) as they dumped Carmelo Anthony for Dennis Schroeder and now can focus on team ball. I like Melo but his ball-stopping offense made the Thunder too predictable in the halfcourt. I know Russell Westbrook is expected to miss a couple of games as he recovers from knee surgery but that’s why they acquired Schroeder. This team led the league in forced turnovers last season and I expect it to win at least 50 games and finish fourth in the West.
UNDER 31 Wins – Odds at -125
I still can’t take this team seriously because they don’t have a point guard. In what is likely the worst backcourt in the NBA of Jerian Grant and Evan Fournier, the Magic have instead doubled down on improving their depth down low by adding center Mo Bamba in the 2018 draft. He along with Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac could be scary for opposing defenses in the coming years but if you can’t make threes in today’s NBA, you’re sunk. The Magic shot 35 percent from three-point range last season, which ranked 28th, and didn’t add any shooters so this is a recipe for disaster. Considering they only won 25 games last season, the Magic will need some hocus-pocus if they want to surpass 30.
Ben Simmons to lead NBA in assists – Odds at +600
The Sixers’ second-year superstar was averaging double-digit assists in March and April, which coincidentally was the time that the Sixers hit their stride and became a top-four team in the Eastern Conference. Players with Simmons’ level of talent make huge strides in their second and third NBA seasons so, at +600, this is the best value as I don’t think the Sixers can win their division and it’s too close to call if they can surpass 53.5 wins.
OVER 29.5 wins – Odds at +125
You can only bottom out for so long before the regression turns to progression and with the Suns, this should be the year they top 30 wins. The Suns picking Deandre Ayton will make a huge difference for a team that ranked dead last in points allowed per game (113.9) while ranking 20th in blocks per game. The Suns only won 21 games last season so a nine-game increase doesn’t seem unfathomable. If bettors aren’t thrilled with those odds, backing Ayton to win Rookie of the Year could be a decent wager at +375 considering the No. 1 overall pick has claimed the award in three of the last four seasons.
Portland Trail Blazers
To make the playoffs – Odds at -105
Did I miss something or do oddsmakers forget the Blazers won 49 games last year? Portland didn’t really lose anyone in the offseason and still boasts a top-three backcourt in the NBA. I still think they are a playoff contender and can give teams fits with their ability to fill up the scoresheet from the perimeter. The stench of that first-round sweep at the hands of the Pelicans will obviously be on everyone’s minds when placing this bet but they don’t play Anthony Davis 82 times a year and there will be plenty of games where they will feast on inferior competition. I expect them to sneak into the playoffs as a seventh or eighth seed.
UNDER 26 Wins – Odds at -110
In contention for possibly the worst record in the NBA, it should be another slog for the Sacramento Queens. It’s too bad because they have pieces I like at every position on the court but they don’t have the overall team talent to be able to contend with the big boys in the NBA. The Kings won 27 games last season and I think they’ll hover around the 22- to 25-win mark. It’s worth noting that this prediction could be moot by Christmas as there are reports of ownership looking to have GM Vlade Divac make more roster moves during the season to gun for a playoff spot.
San Antonio Spurs
To miss the playoffs – Odds at +105
I was very bullish on the Spurs making the playoffs and showing the NBA community that losing Kawhi Leonard wouldn’t be enough to impact their chances of making the postseason for the 23rd straight season. Well, streaks were meant to be broken and so were Spurs point guards. Dejounte Murray will be out for the season with a torn ACL while Tony Parker is now in Charlotte. I think Gregg Popovich is an amazing coach but he can’t expect Patty Mills and DeMar DeRozan to be the lead ball-handlers and still expect to win in an NBA filled with world-class point guards. Unless they make a roster move, count the Spurs out.
OVER 55.5 wins – Odds at -125
Fifty-nine wins. That’s how many the Raptors finished with last season and they swapped their biggest defensive liability in DeMar DeRozan for arguably the best defensive player in the NBA in Kawhi Leonard. Toronto was ranked fifth in points per game last season and sixth in points allowed and has the look of a championship contender. The Raptors were 24-6 SU vs their division last year. This one feels like free money.
To Win the Northwest Division – Odds at +220
The Jazz are just behind the Thunder in odds to win their division but I think they should be the favorite, especially with how they handled OKC in last year’s playoffs. This squad has all the pieces to contend with the Warriors and may have the best home-court advantage in the NBA. The Jazz only allowed 99.8 points per game at home last year which tied them with the Spurs for the best mark in the league. Guard Donovan Mitchell may be the best up-and-coming player in the NBA so, at +220, this feels like a Sportsbook.
To Win Southeast Division – Odds at -140
The Wizards finished 43-39 last season despite point guard John Wall missing nearly 40 games due to knee surgery. They missed the division title by one game last season and I think they should win the Southeast easily considering how awful the rest of the division is. The Hawks and Magic will be two of the bottom five teams in the NBA this season and Charlotte just isn’t good enough to match up with the Wiz. This bet could blow up in my face if Wall misses any time this season with an injury but I like him to play 70 games, which should be more than enough to get Washington its divisional crown back.