Three key early NBA betting takeaways

October 26, 2021 07:59 PM

Welcome to a new feature in Point Spread Weekly in which we recap the week that was in the NBA in an attempt to use that information as a handicapping tool moving forward. The first week of action in the Association was entertaining and eye-opening. Chicago is off to an undefeated start and Denver is showing some massive issues.


This week we’ll take a detailed look at the Bulls and Nuggets and recap the week from a betting perspective as well. Keep in mind, all information in this article will be through Monday’s games. 




Favorites: 31-18 ATS 

Totals O/U: 20-29 

Home teams: 24-25 SU / 20-29 ATS


It was a chalky week to open the NBA season with favorites covering at a 63.3 percent clip through the first 49 games. What is interesting is that those favorites came through mostly on the road, with home teams posting a losing record both SU & ATS. In almost every sport we have evidence that playing at home is not the advantage it once was, and through the first week in the NBA season, that is holding true.


Unders have the lead early this season despite lower totals than last season. Adam Burke noted in the NBA Guide that the average total last season was 224.1 but through the first week the average total was 223.1 and Unders still have quite the edge to start (59.2 percent). This means nothing and is more likely a result of the schedule pitting poor offensive teams against one another early, but in a league lauded for its high scoring, it’s interesting to learn bettors have been subjected to some low scores early.



Denver’s struggling offense


As of Monday, the Denver Nuggets are 25th in offensive efficiency, according to Cleaning The Glass, which filters out garbage-time minutes. The Nuggets are averaging just 99.3 points every 100 possessions overall and 90.4 points per 100 plays in the halfcourt. Three games worth of data is nothing to write home about, but because the concerns about the Nuggets entering the season revolved around their offense and bench, those figures are cause for alarm. Their bench is averaging just 27.7 points per game on 41.8 percent shooting from the floor and 27.9 percent on perimeter shots. When Nikola Jokic leaves the floor, the Nuggets have a -38.2 net rating and their offensive rating of 89.5 is abysmal. Michael Porter Jr., who his shooting 38.2 percent from the floor, can play better, but he’s a starter. He won’t fix what ails this bench unit. Michael Malone can only get so much out of Bones Hyland, Facundo Campazzo and Austin Rivers. As I wrote in the NBA Guide, this bench is going to be an issue and so far, that has come to fruition.


Chicago’s winning ways


The preseason darling Chicago Bulls have buoyed the hopes of those who have bet this team to surpass its win total with a perfect 4-0 SU & ATS start. Chicago has been the beneficiary of a somewhat easy schedule, facing teams with a total of two wins between them. However, the Bulls get credit for winning and covering, but bettors are about to learn how real this improvement is. Chicago’s next six opponents are New York, Utah, Boston, Philadelphia (twice) and Brooklyn. It’s somewhat worrisome that the Bulls have managed just 107.8 points per 100 possessions on offense and that their offensive rating in the halfcourt is just 90.7 (18th). Their struggles stem from a lack of finishing ability around the rim, where they are shooting just 55.0 percent despite taking the eighth-most shots in that area of the floor. Their bench has also scuffled early without Coby White, averaging just 24.3 points per game. Chicago is going to be a playoff team more than likely, but it is important not to take too much from this start as there are plenty of indicators that they will come back to earth soon.


Lakers’ defensive regression


In the last two seasons, the Los Angeles Lakers have finished first and third in defensive efficiency. Since Frank Vogel was hired, a stout defense was the calling card of this franchise, and it was the key to the Lakers winning the title in 2020 in Orlando. However, the signing of Russell Westbrook and the need for offensive talent forced them to sacrifice their identity to make the pieces fit. Through three games, those sacrifices are apparent as the Lakers rank 24th in defensive efficiency, according to Cleaning The Glass, allowing 112.2 points every 100 possessions. Their halfcourt defense, a top-four unit each of the last two seasons, is allowing 105.6 points every 100 plays, the worst rate in the league. The team’s poor perimeter defenders have been getting smoked at the point of attack, and as a result, their opponents are taking 38.4 percent of their attempts within four feet of the basket. Those runs to the rim have opened the floor for shooters, and Los Angeles is 17th in frequency of opponent corner 3-point attempts and 24th in shooting on those shots (48.1 percent). This poor defense has led to an 0-3 ATS start, and this is something that will persist into the season. Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, Malik Monk and Rajon Rondo are all below-average defenders getting 17.1 minutes or more per game. As this offense improves, expect some higher-scoring games for Los Angeles, represented by a 2-1 record to the Over in the first week.


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Matt Youmans: Heat (+8.5) at Nuggets. View more picks.


The Lombardi Line: Both the Nuggets and Heat shot poorly in Game 1 of the NBA Finals - and the total is down five points in Game 2 (219.5 to 214.5). Consider betting the OVER if you expect any positive regression. View more tips.