It was a big week for big games in the NBA as Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic all made statements.
A Big Week For Big Games
The NBA is a superstars league.
It changes all of the time. Sometimes by design, sometimes through the natural progression of trends and analytics. But at the end of the day, the best ballers in the league get buckets and, on any given night, can win a game for their team single-handedly.
Joel Embiid destroyed the New York Knicks as his Philadelphia 76ers claimed a simple 146-128 win. Finishing with 48 points on the night, Embiid scored 29 of those points in the third quarter alone. He didn’t miss a shot, connecting on all ten of his attempts from the floor while going 9 for 9 from the line.
Joel Embiid over his last 7 games:
33 PTS – 16 REB – 2 BLK – W
27 PTS – 10 REB – 4 BLK – W
48 PTS – 11 REB – 6 AST – W
26 PTS – 11 REB – 1 BLK – W
28 PTS – 13 REB – 7 AST – W
35 PTS – 15 REB – 6 BLK – W
34 PTS – 9 REB – 8 AST – W pic.twitter.com/PlfjiIeDS7
— NBACentral (@TheDunkCentral) November 11, 2023
It’s almost poetic in the chaos it inspires, but the 76ers are 7-1 and one of the best teams in the NBA right now. They’re thriving in the wake of James Harden’s departure to the LA Clippers. The Clippers, on the other hand, are 0-3 with Harden ahead of their bottom-of-the-barrel clash with the Memphis Grizzlies. We need to see them do it against a couple of the top teams and do it regularly, but the 76ers are closer to contention than many expected them to be on the third line of betting to win the Eastern Conference at $8.
Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Bucks are struggling by their standards early. Their issues became most clear as Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 54 points in a Bucks loss to the Indiana Pacers. Teams losing when a star player scores 50 points is always a concern. If it’s Zach LaVine at the Chicago Bulls or Damian Lillard at his former Portland Trail Blazers, it’s not a huge surprise. When an NBA championship contender can’t turn a 50-point game into a win, it requires more thought.
The issue for Milwaukee comes in defence. They finished last season 4th in the league with a 110.9 defensive rating and led the league in back-to-back seasons only three years ago. Under new coach Adrian Griffin the Bucks are 25th…
Milwaukee Bucks Defensive Rating:
2018-19: 104.9 (1st)
2019-20: 102.5 (1st)
2020-21: 110.7 (9th)
2021-22: 111.1 (14th)
2022-23: 110.9 (4th)
2023-24: 116.5 (25th)
— Jason (@SportsJO13) November 12, 2023
We can trust that the Bucks will figure it out on the defensive end. They’re learning new systems and Griffin will improve on its implementation. However, a bit like the 76ers, we need to see it to believe it. Right now, it’s hard to believe in their $5 to win the championship.
You can’t talk big individual performances without mentioning Luka Doncic. Those big games often come against the LA Clippers, too. He became the first player in NBA history to notch ten 40-point games against the Clippers when he hung 44 points on them this week. He did so at an incredible efficiency to become the first player in franchise history to score 40+ points shooting 80% or better from the field. Refreshingly, a Kyrie Irving team is somewhat flying under the radar. The Mavericks are 7-2 to start the season and all but certain ($1.26) to return to the playoffs.
Keeping An Eye On The Clippers
We knew it was going to be interesting good or bad. That’s what you get when putting four aging superstars in one spot. When two of them are somewhat unwilling to concede they aren’t among the best players in the NBA any more, the potential for chaos is at an all-time high.
It wouldn’t have been too much of a surprise to see the Clippers play out a 3-0 honeymoon period to start. Instead, they’re 0-3 and a lot of the concerns people had for the Clippers are on full display.
Clippers before/after the Harden trade:
Before — After —
5th in ORTG 25th in ORTG
4th in DRTG 28th in DRTG
3rd in NETRTG 27th in NETRTG pic.twitter.com/zFMg2EXudM
— StatMuse (@statmuse) November 11, 2023
Harden has had some nice moments throughout the three games. Still, the comments around the franchise are conflicting and concerning.
Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank spoke about Harden being added to compliment Kawhi Leonard and Paul George:
“With James, really what we looked at was it was an opportunity to maximize Kawhi and Paul and to give us the highest chance to win.”
Harden, on the other hand: “I am not a system player. I am a system.”
There is a little bit to work through there. The Clippers are expected to work things out easily enough to feature in the playoffs ($1.41). But, like previous seasons in which they dealt with injuries and load management, we’re left wondering whether or not they have long enough to iron out the kinks and be a genuine threat in the postseason. As it stands, they’re $8 to make it through the Western Conference and $16 to lift the NBA championship trophy.
Most Valuable Player Update
It’s the part of the NBA season in which you can start to find some value in the Most Valuable Player market.
Doncic appeals most of the major contenders. He’s been an MVP-in-waiting since entering the league and it’s felt like a matter of time before he’s part of the conversation late in the season. There is little doubt he will have the raw numbers. His 32.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 8.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 51.8% from the field and 41.5% from beyond the arc are more than acceptable. The advanced numbers will become more of a factor later in the season.
It’s the wins and losses that have hurt his chances in recent seasons. Now 7-2 ahead of their game against the New Orleans Pelicans as $1.64 and -3.5 favourites Doncic’s $5 is the futures play of the week.
Early NBA Season Betting Trends
We’re now three weeks into the 2023-24 NBA season and starting to establish a few early trends in the markets.
As is often the case, Underdogs are cashing in to start the year. Teams with the head start are covering the spread at 55% while favourites are covering at only 45%.
Home Underdogs are the ultimate gift, though. Teams hosting favourites are covering at an impressive 60% through the first three weeks of the season.
In terms of points totals, Overs have been the way to go so far. While you may have expected teams to start a little rusty or adjustments to new rule interpretations need time to bed in, teams are still piling up points for 55.3% of non-overtime games this year finishing Over the points total.
TOP 6 NBA CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS
|TEAM||CURRENT PRICE||LAST WEEK’S PRICE|
|Golden State Warriors||$15||$15|