NBA Odds: With LeBron James Questionable, Cavs-Lakers Worth Look?

Plus, why Nuggets are in good spot versus Mavs


October 29, 2021

Betting on the NBA can get a little overwhelming throughout the season because there are games every day, and there’s just a lot to track throughout the season and entering every night: spreads, over/under, injuries and so on.

The unders have hit at a pretty high rate to start the season based on closing lines at FanDuel Sportsbook, and while there’s a trend there, that also means that games will have to start hitting overs soon to balance things out.

One such opportunity comes from the Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors game.

The total sits at 206 after falling precipitously from 210, yet our model projects a median point outcome of 220.2, blowing the total way out of the water.

The Magic are scoring just 100.8 points per game but have outscored their implied team total by 2.9 points per game, which is meaningful toward hitting overs.

By contrast, the Raptors have underperformed their implied team total by 2.6 points per game but have gone over that mark in three of five games. Excluding their opening-night 98-83 loss, they’ve outscored their implied team total by 4.6 points on average.

So, the points per game for each team seems a little misleading, and they should be able to play to the over, which our algo sees happening at a 72.1% clip. That makes for a 37.6% return on investment and a full five-star betting opportunity.

The 2-2 Denver Nuggets are 2-point favorites over the 3-1 Dallas Mavericks, and we’re getting a five-star recommendation in this game on the home side’s Moneyline (-126).

Yes, the Mavs have a better record, but our nERD algorithm ranks the Nuggets 12th in the NBA and the Mavericks 14th.

Notably, these two sides have struggled to score; the Mavericks rank 24th in points per game (102.5), and the Nuggets are 25th (102.3). They’re both outside the top 20 in offensive rating, as well.

Despite the promising or at least not damning records, the Mavericks have a -0.8 point differential, and the Nuggets are at -1.5. But accounting for spread expectations, the Mavericks are a -5.6, and the Nuggets are a better -2.3.

Given the homecourt advantage — and rest advantage of two days to zero — the Nuggets shape up well here, especially if Nikola Jokic suits up. It’s still telling that the Nuggets are favored with his status uncertain.

Since 2016, home favorites with a two-day rest advantage have won at a 75.4% rate and covered the spread in 53.8% of games, so if they remain favored, a lot points to Denver getting to 3-2.

Our model sees good value in this game throughout.

There are four-star recommendations on the under (218) and the Los Angeles Lakers‘ Moneyline (-295). The Lakers to cover (-7) is a two-star recommendation itself.

This is all despite LeBron James’ questionable status. So far this season, with James off the court, the Lakers have a negative net rating, but it’s only a -1.3.

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ net rating of +2.2 could be a cause for concern by comparison, yet there’s a little more to it than just that when projecting things out long-term.

One thing that we should note is a discrepancy in opponent efficiency on wide-open shots. Opponents versus the Cavaliers have just a 50.0% effective field goal percentage on wide-open shots (5th-lowest in the NBA) even though they’ve allowed 24.0% of opponent shots to come uncontested (a top-10 rate in the NBA).

The Lakers also allow a lot of open looks (28.3%), and opponents have shot a red-hot 70.1% effective field goal percentage on those (both marks sitting 2nd-highest in the NBA).

The Cavaliers’ net rating is probably a bit inflated due to variance on opponent shooting splits.

Our model sees the Lakers as 83.5% likely to win, giving us an 11.8% return on investment expectation. As for the under, that’s 67.7% likely, tied to a 29.2% expected return on investment.

An astounding 24 of the 25 most similar games to this one in our database played to the under, so if you’re at all wary about the early returns from the Lakers — and if you are a little bullish on the Cavaliers themselves — we can target the under.

Thumbnail photo via Alonzo Adams/USA TODAY Sports Images

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