Thunder vs Nuggets: Bet Jokic & Co. in Denver

Action Network contributor Michael Arinze offers up his Thunder vs. Nuggets prediction after looking at the NBA odds for Saturday, Dec. 16.

Thunder vs. Nuggets Prediction

Thunder Odds +5
Nuggets Odds -5
Moneyline +172 / -200
Over/Under 237.5
Time Saturday, 9 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

Here’s everything you need to know about Thunder vs. Nuggets on Saturday, Dec. 16 — our expert prediction and betting picks for today.

The Nuggets will try to extend their unbeaten run to four games when they host the Thunder on Saturday night.

This will be the second meeting this season between the Nuggets and Thunder. Denver won the first contest on the road 128-95.

Generally, I’d look to back the Thunder in this revenge spot. However, something troubling has caught my eye, and I think it’s worth exploring a bit deeper as we handicap this matchup.

Let’s get to our Thunder vs. Nuggets prediction and pick.

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Thunder vs. Nuggets Prediction

Pick: Nuggets -5 or Better

I almost couldn’t contain my excitement when I saw this game on the card because the upstart Thunder are the most profitable NBA team in our Action Labs database, and it’s not even close. Dating back to its inception in the 2008 season, Oklahoma City is up 54.14 units against the spread.

My only explanation is that Oklahoma City has been undervalued by bookmakers who’ve been slow to adjust their power ratings. After all, the Thunder have had at least the second-youngest team in the league for the past four seasons.

But even with another young team, the Thunder are starting to come of age. Oklahoma’s City Net Rating is up from 1.0 to 7.0 this season.

The Thunder improved on both sides of the ball by at least eight spots in efficiency metrics, according to TeamRankings. The team also shoots better from the perimeter, as its Effective Field Goal Percentage (56%) ranks fifth, up three points from the previous campaign.

Given how balanced this team is, it’s clear that the future is bright in Oklahoma City.

There wasn’t much of a championship hangover for the Nuggets as they jumped out to an 8-1 start on the year. And although Denver is just 9-8 since then, the Nuggets are still within striking distance of the Timberwolves in the Western Conference.

The Nuggets haven’t done anything particularly wrong, the teams around them have just gotten better. Denver’s 4.7 Net Rating is better than last season’s mark of 3.3.

As long as the Nuggets have Nikola Jokic on the court, you can expect them to be in the mix.

Jokic has arguably been even better this year than when he won back-to-back MVP honors.

While there’s plenty to like about Jokic’s game, I like the edge he brings to the team from a rebounding perspective. Jokic uses his wide frame exceptionally well, and I think it helps the Nuggets out-muscle some of the smaller teams.

Thunder vs. Nuggets Picks, Odds

With Denver winning five of the past six matchups and covering the spread in three of the four recent contests, I dug into the box scores to try and better understand why the Thunder haven’t had better success.

My biggest takeaway is that Denver is killing Oklahoma City on the boards. The Nuggets have outrebounded the Thunder 192-158 over the past four meetings. Oklahoma’s lone victory was in a 101-99 game in which Denver shot just 17-of-33 from the free-throw line.

Those numbers are pretty damning and may suggest that the Nuggets are simply a bad matchup for the Thunder. Oklahoma City is also unlikely to surprise Denver as both teams are in the same division and play often.

This spot may favor the Thunder, but they must first show me that they can win the rebounding battle. The market is all over the Thunder as they’ve been bet down to +5 after opening at +6.

As money continues to come in on the Thunder, I’m going to wait until closer to tip-off to bet as it wouldn’t surprise me if we get an even better number than -5. I’m going to wait for that better number, but I’m backing the Nuggets.

Pick: Nuggets -5 or Better