Thunder vs. Rockets Odds
|Time||8 p.m. ET|
|Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.|
There’s a scene with Tracy Jordan and the writing room in 30 Rock that, to be perfectly honest, does not hold up to a 2022 lens in its entirety. However, at it’s core, it has a good message (albeit not perfectly phrased — but that’s the point). It ends with Tracy, in a very loving manner, saying, “Freaky deakies need love too; freaky deakies need love too.”
That’s what we’re doing today.
Often times these previews highlight a matchup between two teams clustered near the top of the standings, with stars aplenty on both sides and maybe even a future Hall of Fame coach or two sprinkled in the mix.
This preview doesn’t quite have that.
But if you’re only going to bet on the best teams in the NBA, you’re cutting off a massive chunk of your potential earnings, as the teams at the bottom of the standings can win you money as well as–if not better than in some cases–the teams at the top.
SGA to the Moon
This version of the Oklahoma City Thunder starts and ends with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The fifth-year guard has launched himself into pole position for the Most Improved Player award through the first quarter of the season.
His production for OKC is truly remarkable. He is averaging 31.0 points per game, which is more than twice as many as any of his teammates. Add in the fact that he also leads the team in assists per game, and it becomes clear just how much he drives this offense.
And drive is the right word.
The 6-foot-6 combo guard averages a mind-melting 25.3 drives per game — easily leading the NBA. In fact, it’s really SGA, then a tier down, then Ja Morant (22.2) and Luka Doncic (21.6), and then a tier down to the rest of the league (Jalen Brunson is in fourth at 17.8 per game).
Those drives come in the halfcourt, as well as in transition. He drives to create offense for himself, but also to warp the defense and create space and baskets for his teammates.
Those teammates don’t include a lot of big names, but collectively the Thunder rank first in the Association in terms of points in the paint this season, while maintaining a middle of the pack shooting percentage from beyond the arc — a great combination.
They also allow the fewest points off of turnovers, giving them a massive edge when it comes to that aspect of the game (they rank fifth in terms of their own ability to score off of turnovers).
The Thunder sport an 8-11 record overall, having lost three in a row before their most recent win over the Chicago Bulls in overtime, but their Pythagorean record (9-10) suggests they are a legitimate play-in contender should they keep the whole gang around for the entirety of the season.
Rockets in a Race to the Bottom
The Houston Rockets, similar to the Thunder, were a young team that was expected to be playing with an eye towards Victor Wembanyama before the season started. And they have followed that script a little closer than the Thunder. With a record of 4-14 coming into Saturday, they would get the most ping pong balls in the lottery, alongside the Detroit Pistons (5-16) and Orlando Magic (5-14).
Despite a lower winning percentage than either of those two teams, their Net Rating (-6.6) suggests they’ve been a touch unlucky so far, but with a young team like the Rockets, that tends to make sense. Young teams often struggle to win close games, and teams that appear to be due for positive regression, when they are a young and inexperienced (especially in the backcourt), can sometimes just underperform their Net Rating for an entire season.
In terms of how they’ve struggled, it overlaps nicely with the Thunder — at least if you live in Oklahoma City. They turn the ball over more than any team in the league, and allow the most points off those turnovers of any team this season. They also allow the second-most fastbreak points in the league, and aren’t as good of a defensive rebounding team as they should be.
For a team going against SGA, none of those are good things to hear.
The Rockets have, however, shown some potential bright spots. Interestingly enough, they’ve been great on the offensive glass, and they turn those offensive rebounds into points as well, ranking in the top two in the Association in both categories. They also get to the line at a good clip and have done all this against a tough schedule so far this season.
They have a pair of fun, young bench players in Tari Eason and Usman Garuba, and the duo of Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun have both shown flashes at times this season. Rookie Jabari Smith Jr., has looked quite the disappointment especially when compared to some of the other rookies in this class, but this was always going to be a long-term pick for them. They aren’t trying to win it all this season.
One of the great abilities of the Action Network app is to see where the money is coming in on a game (you can find the public betting and money percentages here). This was a spot where I quite liked how the Thunder matched up, as well as both teams being able to score, but I do like to take a look at where the overall money is coming in on both the side and the total.
As of Saturday morning, the Thunder were taking nearly 80% of the bets, but the Rockets were taking more than 90% of the money. That gap is about as big as I’ve seen all season. While it will likely even out a bit as we get closer to tipoff, that’s a classic sharps vs. squares line that I have to admit scares me quite a bit.
In terms of the total, the under was getting both slightly more bets (51%) but also a bit more money (59%) and had already taken a sharp move towards the under (the opening line came out at 233.5 and is down two points already).
As the late Kenny Rogers sang, “You got to know when to hold em; when to fold em; when to walk away; when to run.” For me, this is a run away. I liked the Thunder and the over, but the sharps have scared me off.
I still like to track these games in which I am scared off to see if I can find patterns in why I might differ from the sharps this time, and to see if there are teams, or spots etc., where I don’t have to be scared off, but for today, I’ll just be eating Day Three leftovers and seeing if the sharps were on to seeing with the Rockets today.
Pick: Stay away