The NBA is back, for real. The opening night marquee double-header is fun for reintroducing the season and generating headlines, but the real sickos love the Wednesday night slates. A ton of teams in action, lots of different angles, NBA League-Pass flipping, live-bet firing; it’s the NBA you want to put in your veins.
With that said, it’s always important to be cautious early in the season. Before we get to know these teams, you don’t want to go wild.
So, of course, I have a full card of best bets.
Let’s break it down, but let’s start with an important spot to bet as the season kicks off the home opener.
The basic trends: Teams win their home opener 62% of the time and cover 51% of the time overall.
But the real value is on home underdogs in their opener. Dogs in their home opener are 73-50-1 ATS since 2003. Home dogs of +2.5 or longer are a startling 58-29-1 (67%) ATS since 2003.
This makes a lot of sense intuitively as well, which is why the trend matters. Teams in their home opener are playing in front of the crowd for the first time, mostly healthy, early in the season where execution for all teams isn’t as sharp (which acts as an equalizer).
It’s a rest, motivation, and market inefficiency spot. It goes beyond the spread, though. Teams at home for their first game of the season who are dogs of +110 or more are 29-34 straight up since 2003, that’s 46% with a 35.5% ROI.
You should not be betting road favorites as a general rule when it comes to one team’s home opener. Here are the matchups I’m betting tonight.
Magic vs. Pistons
This opened 218 and has seen 78% of the tickets and 89% of the money come in on the under at the time of writing.
The Pistons are a popular trendy team in preseason, with their win total taking steam up to 29.5. But one look in preseason gave us a pretty strong indication that this team will again struggle to score the basketball.
These are two teams that should be better on defense than offense, even with how young they are. I like a lot of the pieces on both teams: Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Jaden Ivey, Isaiah Stewart, Paolo Banchero, Wendell Carter Jr., Franz Wagner, etc.
But those players’ upsides and their ability to immediately generate clean offense are two different concepts.
The Pistons’ team total here is an implied 110. It’s hard to see either team getting to 110 with his matchup in the first night of the season.
By the way, I don’t mind a play on the Pistons here, Dwane Casey’s teams are 8-0 as a favorite in their home opener.
Knicks vs. Grizzlies
Teams in their home openers win, but favorites don’t cover at a very high rate. Memphis is a top regression candidate for me this season, and while I don’t expect big things from the Knicks, I think hanging within this number is good value. Don’t be surprised if Jalen Brunson feasts vs. the drop coverage of Steven Adams, who has to play more with Jaren Jackson Jr. out.
I got it at +7.5 before it moved two points this week to Knicks +4.5. At that number, I regret to say, most of the value has been steamed out of this, but if the late money comes in on Memphis to push this back above 6, I would like it again. I also have a small play on the Knicks +245 ML because I put this closer to +170.
Pelicans vs. Nets
I’m taking the moneyline straight up on a road dog in the Nets’ home opener here. With home court, this roughly projects to somewhere between Nets -2 and Nets -1.5 on neutral court. I don’t mind that conceptually. It was worse when the number was 4.5 earlier when I bet this.
There’s a key injury component here; the Nets are without both Joe Harris and Seth Curry for this game. That’s enough shooting missing with TJ Warren already out to give the Pelicans an edge against the spread, and if we’re inside three points on that projection, the moneyline is the best way to play this.
Nic Claxton is going to have to guard Zion Williamson and that sounds terrifying. The Pelicans have a deeper bench. Herb Jones is a tough defender to throw at Kevin Durant (though he may get hit with foul trouble), and the Pelican bench is much deeper with Curry and Harris out.
There’s enough value with the spot to ride the trendy dog. You’re getting plus money, and I think this should be closer to +120. Anything above that is bettable.
Hornets vs. Spurs
“Wrong team favored” is such a cliche and assumes all sorts of faulty things about the marketplace.
But … I think the wrong team is favored here. Gregg Popovich is lights out in home openers, the Hornets are without LaMelo Ball, by far their best player, and the rest of their roster is deeply flawed. Even second-year man James Bouknight who had a good preseason is likely out due to a DUI charge.
The Spurs are expected to be one of the worst teams in the league and trust me, they will be. But they have actual NBA guys. There’s just no reason to believe the Hornets are good enough to be favored against literally anyone in the league without LaMelo Ball, given the rest of the roster.
I got this at Spurs +2.5 and +115 on the moneyline, but BetMGM has the best odds at the time of writing.
Nuggets vs. Jazz
I want to be clear that this is a much smaller play because the Nuggets are way better than the Jazz. But there are a few things to note.
On top of the trend about home dogs, the Nuggets’ defense, particularly with its starters, had some ups and downs in the preseason. There’s still work to be done there. Utah’s definitely a team in transition, and trades will likely come.
However, with Mike Conley, Collin Sexton, and Lauri Markkanen, they have some weapons. This is a lot of points for the Nuggets to lay in a team’s home opener.
This isn’t about the difference in the quality of the team, as it is a reflection of the number. And at +7.5, I’m willing to take a (very) small shot on the moneyline because the variance in basketball is increased in these early few games.
Suns vs. Mavericks
This has seen a little bit of a bump to the over with the money following the tickets that way. Dallas was great defensively last season, and I’m not anticipating a major fall-off, but even a little could spit this low total over.
Teams in their home opener outperform their projected team total over/under by about five points, and the Mavericks’ added offensive weapons in JaVale McGee and Christian Wood to put pressure on the rim, along with a fully healthy and in-shape Luka Doncic, probably should boost their offensive projection.
This number is going to be anchored, at least to some degree, by the offensive performance of the Mavericks last season, which was pretty middling. That’s not who they’ve been the last four years, and it isn’t who I expect them to be this season.
The Suns are clockwork. The execution should be good enough to put up a 105-110 number, and since I project both teams with a total over 108, it’s an over play.