NBA Betting: Early Season Thoughts and Opinions
With the NBA season underway, bettors need to avoid overreacting to some of the first things they see as teams settle into the grind of the NBA season. Oftentimes, early performance can be deceiving, as it’s difficult to know which players will hit the ground running, and which may take some more time after months off. However, there are some observations from the first series of NBA games that may be useful going forward. Let’s take a look at couple of teams who have jumped out in their first couple of matchups.
Minnesota Timberwolves (3-0 SU, 2-0-1 ATS)
Again, there a need to be cautious when looking at a team’s early slate. But, sometimes a shift in emphasis and style is so clear, that you may want to get in as soon as possible while the market works to correct itself. There’s no team in the NBA in this tiny sample size that has shown more in this regard. Firstly, they’ve started the year with back-to-back road wins. Last season, the Timberwolves’ dreadful road record is what led to them missing the playoffs. They had a healthy 25-16 SU record at home, but only managed 11 wins on the road. A quality road win against Brooklyn and a blowout victory against Charlotte may seem like little, but it makes a repeat performance of less than a dozen road wins exceedingly unlikely. In 2017-18, when the Wolves made the playoffs, they cobbled together a reasonable 17-24 record away from home. A similar output this year should see them easily over their win total of 35.5. In their first two games, the Wolves covered comfortably. Plus, there’s reason to think they may not regress. They’ve averaged an excellent 123.1 ppg, but have reached that height despite shooting only 30.2% from beyond the arc. While long distance shooting is not a strength, there’s little chance this team can’t improve.
The key here is the style of play and the chemistry the group seem to have already formed. Head coach Ryan Saunders promised to ramp up the tempo and launch threes, and he’s keeping his word. The Wolves have attempted 96.7 field goals per game, up from 91.3 last season. Although the shots aren’t falling, the 42.0 three-point attempts tied for fourth in the NBA and a dramatic increase from the paltry 28.7 last year. It’s not just shooting either. This is a team that has been as aggressive as any in the league to start. They have drawn 82 fouls over three games. That is an increase of almost eight fouls per game on last year’s number.
Leading the charge to the line is Karl-Anthony Towns, who may have had the best two-game start in the entire league. Second in PER at a ridiculous 40.6, Towns has averaged 9.0 free throws per game. His 63% conversion rate will certainly improve. Towns is doing it all, averaging 32.0 ppg, 13.3 rpg, 5.0 apg, 2.0 bgp, and 3.0 spg. Obviously, the numbers cannot stay where they are, but Towns has a real shot to be the most productive player in the league this season. He’s playing great, and he’s happy, which is what you want from a small-market star. When asked about the team, he was adamant that there was something great happening in Minnesota. “This is a special group,” Karl-Anthony Towns said after the team’s opener. “Very rarely this happens in the NBA where everyone in this locker room is here for one goal, and that’s to win.” In regards to a summer team trip to the Bahamas, Towns added, “This is something that was real. You wanna do great things, winning things, be a winning team, you gotta do great things. You gotta do winning team stuff. We bonded, and you saw, when the game got close, no matter how close and how rough it was getting, we stayed very unified, and we kept to each other, and we trusted in each other, and that’s how we got this W tonight.” Still a long shot to win the MVP, bettors who jumped on Towns at 70/1 should feel pretty good about the start to the season.
Los Angeles Clippers (2-1 SU, 2-1 ATS)
Paul George’s absence aside, it’s almost impossible to imagine a better way for the Los Angeles Clippers to announce themselves as the class of the Western Conference. The Clippers arrival as title contenders opened with a convincing win against the Lakers and was followed up by a demolition of the Golden State Warriors 141-122 on the road in the defending Western Champs new barn.
There’s so much to like here, beginning with the motivation. While the title is the goal, there already feels like there’s something ruthless about this Clippers team. The fourth quarter against the Lakers was a great example, when they pulled away while limiting new superstar duo LeBron James and Anthony Davis to an embarrassing 2 points combined in the fourth. Against the Warriors, they were almost rude. Ruining the Warriors arena opening was cruel enough, but jumping out to a 24-point lead through three quarters was a statement of intent. The Clippers are here and the league has already been put on notice.
There depth, while somewhat diminished by the acquisition of Paul George, remains a strength. They come at opponents in waves. They’ve been particularly great in pick-and-roll play, where they’re averaging 1.2 points per possession. They have so many options in that action, whether it be through Kawhi Leonard, Montrezl Harrell, and Lou Williams. It will be interesting to see how they perform against Phoenix tonight, as somewhat surprisingly, the Suns have had a very effective pick-and-roll defense against point guards Jamal Murray and De’Aaron Fox in their first two games against Denver and Sacramento.
Their three-point shooting will regress, as 42% on over 31 attempts per game is likely unsustainable. But the ball movement has been better than anticipated, particularly as Leonard has assumed a large playmaking role. He’s averaging 8.0 apg to start the year, and Head coach Doc Rivers notices. “It just shows the trust he has in his teammates,” Rivers said of Leonard’s passing game. “You love that. I thought he started doing it about the second round (of the playoffs) last year. In the first round he was just dominating. As each round went on, he started playmaking more and more. “What he’s doing with us is even another level. You can tell that is something he focused on over the summer.” For a team who lacks a particularly great passer at the point guard position, Leonard taking control will yield big time dividends. Leonard appears focused on reminding the rest of the league that the throne is his.