NBA betting market report: Daily picks, advice for Wednesday 12/22


Welcome to the daily NBA betting market report, your source for analysis on the betting lines for the day in professional hoops. For updates throughout the day follow me on Twitter, or check out The Edge daily at 4 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. PT.

All game lines via VSiN NBA Odds page.

Market Report for Wednesday, December 22nd

COVID is absolutely dominating the landscape of the NBA right now. Of the six games on the card tonight, five have multiple COVID absences for both teams playing. It is hard to find value in these numbers given the unknown impact of replacement players and potential late additions and scratches. I tried to make sense of all the absences today and give you as clear a picture of the card as possible.

*Indicates team is on the second leg of a back-to-back

**Lines are opening numbers

Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks (-8, 215.5)

Trae Young, Clint Capela and Danilo Gallinari are all likely to miss this game as they sit in COVID protocol. The good news is that Bogdan Bogdanovic, who has not played since Nov. 27 due to an ankle injury, is going to return tonight. Despite missing two starters and a key bench player Atlanta is still laying 7.5 against Orlando, which tells you all you need to know about the respect the market has for the Magic. It is also representative of the personnel issues Orlando is facing. Cole Anthony is questionable to play tonight with an ankle sprain, as is Wendell Carter Jr. who is dealing with a leg injury. There are also six Magic players in COVID protocol right now, including Terrence Ross and Mo Bamba. It is a messy situation for both rosters, so it isn’t surprising to see much movement off the opening line other than a half-point.

Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics (-4.5, 211.5)

Both of these teams have been great teams to bet on in December, but a rash of COVID absences for both teams makes this a murky situation. Cleveland comes in on a six-game cover run and is 13-1 ATS in its last 14 games. However, they have eight players in COVID protocol, including their dominant front line of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. Boston is 6-4 ATS this month, but they enter today with seven players in protocol. The difference for the Celtics is that their two best players, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, are still going to be available. Because of this the betting market has moved toward Boston by as much as two points, but do not think the Cavaliers are hopeless here. Darius Garland and Ricky Rubio are still available, and when those two share the floor without Allen and Mobley Cleveland has a + 12.8 net rating. Luckily, most of the Cavaliers in protocol are fringe role players. Ed Davis, Dylan Windler and Lamar Stevens average no more than 10.7 minutes per game. Isaac Okoro is the biggest loss, but seven of the 10 players who average more than 20 minutes per game for Cleveland will be available tonight. That makes this reaction from the betting market seem somewhat overzealous. Right now -6 dominates the board, but I would expect some buy back on the road team. Boston might have Brown and Tatum available, but those two together has translated to disjointed offense for the Celtics and they average just 105.2 points per 100 possessions as a result. Cleveland might be more live here than the market is giving it credit for. 

Toronto Raptors at Chicago Bulls (-7, 213.5)

We should honestly change this to ‘Raptors 905 at Chicago Bulls’ because that is essentially what this game is. Toronto has been ravaged by COVID and they enter this contest with seven players, including four of their starting five, in protocol. The Raptors will have nine players available today; six regular roster players and five replacement players from the G-League which are expected to meet the team in Chicago barring any positive tests. Given the dire nature of this situation for the Raptors you can see why this number has taken off to Chicago -10.5 at most shops and I would expect that does not slow down anytime soon. The Bulls are a public team that continue to deliver on a nightly basis, as they enter tonight 18-11 ATS (62.1%) on the season. I would caution anyone who wants to jump on the bandwagon late here. Chicago is also dealing with quite a few absences today. Alex Caruso and Derrick Jones Jr. are out with injury, Troy Brown is questionable and five other players, including Zach LaVine and Ayo Dosunmu are likely to miss this contest due to being in COVID protocol. That is not a team to lay 11 points with, even with the roster issues on the other side.

Houston Rockets at Milwaukee Bucks (-10, 224.5)

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but COVID issues are altering the way this contest is being handicapped! Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bobby Portis and Donte DiVincenzo are all in COVID protocol for Milwaukee, but those are the lone absences for the Bucks. Antetokounmpo has been out for three games now, and the Bucks are 1-2 SU and ATS in those contests with a -4.5 net rating. Their defense has been below average without the Greek Freak, but is their offense, which has managed just 105.3 points per 100 possessions, that has let them down. Those poor offensive numbers are the result of a bench that is struggling to find offensive production. When Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday are on the floor together the Bucks have a + 20.0 net rating and score 121.7 points per 100 possessions. Take those two off and the offensive rating plummets to just 100.3 and the team is outscored by 13.9 points per 100 possessions. If Antetokounmpo is not cleared those bench minutes are going to be the biggest opportunity for Houston to get inside of this number. The Rockets fell to the Bulls on Monday, and Chris Wood is questionable to play tonight. If he cannot go this would be a massive blow for Houston.

Denver Nuggets (-5, 213) at Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City has won its last two games and is 3-0 ATS in its last three, but the betting market still refuses to show any support for this team. For the fourth consecutive game the line is moving against the Thunder here, as it is up a full point from the overnight line posted at DraftKings. The Nuggets have won and covered three of four, and December has been much better for them with a 5-4 SU and ATS record, but there are some injury concerns to consider for them tonight, as Aaron Gordon and JaMychal Green are questionable to play tonight. Nikola Jokic has been downright dominant this season, and he enters tonight averaging 28.5 points, 13.3 rebounds and 9.3 assists per game over his last six, but while the Thunder might not have an answer for him they could have one for the lackluster support crew around him. When Jokic leaves the floor Denver is outscored by 17.6 points per 100 possessions and their offensive rating of 103.3 ranks in the 15th percentile of qualified lineups. Oklahoma City has shown an ability to stay inside a few of these inflated numbers at home, as evidenced by their 8-5 ATS record as a home ‘dog. The Thunder have been a solid bet-on team for me this season, so let’s take one more flier on them tonight in a favorable situation.

Play: Thunder (+ 6)

Los Angeles Clippers (-6, 219.5) at Sacramento Kings

Los Angeles has dropped three straight and is 1-5 ATS in its last six games. On Monday they got some reinforcements as Paul George returned from an elbow injury and Serge Ibaka was released from COVID protocol, but that did not matter as they fell to San Antonio. Yet again, it was an abysmal offensive performance that held back the Clippers, as they averaged just 0.844 points per possessions against the Spurs. Now playing in their second game back it is possible that George and Ibaka have a more impactful presence on offense, especially against a Kings team that is dealing with a few COVID problems. Alvin Gentry tested positive for COVID and has not been on the sideline for the Kings. Plus, seven players, including De’Aaron Fox, Davion Mitchell and Marvin Bagley, are in COVID protocol as well. Richaun Holmes is also dealing with an eye injury that has him questionable to play tonight. It might seem that the Clippers are the team to back in this spot, but with Marcus Morris and Isaiah Hartenstein out with injury, and an offense that has not found any consistency, it is hardly worth swallowing these many points on the road.

Best Bets Summary

Thunder (+ 6)

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