Setting The Pick – Buy Low, Buy High?
Believe it or not, roughly 10 percent of the NBA regular season is in the books.
While many things remain unchanged year-over-year like the Denver Nuggets dominating, this offseason saw several blockbuster trades reshape the balance of the league.
One of the keys to betting on basketball early on (or any sport for that matter) is deciphering what changes are real and which are flashes in the pan.
Here are three situations worth shedding light on.
Pascal Siakam Finally Arrives
The bar was set rather low for the Toronto Raptors heading into this season with the FanDuel traders pegging them for 36.5 wins.
I guarantee they didn’t forecast Scottie Barnes to have as big of a breakout season as he’s having.
I’m also confident they didn’t expect such a steep drop-off from Siakam.
His numbers are down across the board – scoring, efficiency, defence, etc.
With new coach Darko Rajakovic in town, the geometry of Toronto’s offence has been completely revamped.
“Point-five basketball” is what they’re trying to achieve – a system that involves more ball movement and less isolation offence especially when a player doesn’t have a mismatch.
This change in philosophy has impacted Siakam the most.
Last season, 60 percent of his field-goals were unassisted putting him in the 98th percentile of forwards. This season, it’s dropped to 42 percent.
After an underwhelming first seven games, Siakam finally broke through leading Toronto to a victory against the Dallas Mavericks with a 31-point, 12-rebound double-double.
He found success attacking the rim against a Mavericks team with porous paint protection.
Even though this was an encouraging night for Siakam, I firmly believe his role as the primary scorer for Toronto has permanently changed.
The style of offence asks him to take more three-point attempts, one of the weaker aspects of his offence.
It also discourages dribble-heavy possessions with low ball movement; another downvote for his game.
Moving forward, I don’t envision Siakam averaging much more than 20.0 ppg but his point props have been in the teens – a line he should beat more often than not.
If you’re keen on taking his overs, his best matchups are against teams that allow a high shooting percentage at the rim such as Washington, Sacramento or Houston.
No Harden Required
Philadelphia was the third-best team in the regular season last year with a 54-28 record yet their win total on FanDuel dropped all the way down to 47.5 right before Opening Night.
Heading into this season, the core of their roster remained intact.
There was only one, albeit big question mark unresolved - James Harden’s availability.
Seven games into the season with a 6-1 record, the Sixers are emphatically proving they have the talent to succeed without Harden.
Two main observations stand out when looking at their early-season success.
Firstly, the Sixers are dialled in on the defensive end. They currently own the league’s fourth-best defensive rating - up four spots versus last season.
If you cherrypicked their game log from last year, this could’ve been predicted.
During a 14-game absence by Harden early last season, the Sixers owned the No. 1 defensive rating in the league.
With him off the floor, their offence suffered, but their defence significantly improved.
Secondly, Tyrese Maxey is quickly establishing his case as a first-time All-Star this season.
The Sixers' star duo leads Philly over the Celtics in a battle between two of the elite teams in the East!— NBA (@NBA) November 9, 2023
Embiid: 27 PTS, 10 REB, 4 AST, 4 BLK
Maxey: 25 PTS, 9 REB, 5 AST, 2 BLK pic.twitter.com/uLWbI66yEX
He has been excellent filling in for Harden as the team’s perimeter playmaker, improving in every stat category across the board.
The Sixers look formidable in their current form regardless of what their intentions are at the trade deadline.
One of my favourite ways to capitalize on their early form is to take them at +170 on FanDuel to win East Group A in the In-Season Tournament.
Cleveland has struggled early and already has a loss in the group stage.
Atlanta has gone 2-5 against Philly since upsetting them in the 2021 playoffs.
Indiana stole a win versus Cleveland but is still punching above their weight class.
The story heading into last season was the tectonic plate-shifting trade that sent Rudy Gobert from Utah to Minnesota for four first-round picks and a pick swap.
That type of haul is typically reserved for MVP-calibre players only.
Almost every analyst will tell you it was an extreme overpay, and that transaction completely stunted the trade market for all 28 other teams.
After struggling miserably last season, the Timberwolves front office became the laughingstock of the league.
This season, Minny is on the road to redemption.
Their Opening Night win total was set at a modest 44.5 which would project them for the seventh seed.
Sitting 5-2 on the year, they’re in a good position to hit the over.
Anthony Edwards was projected for a huge leap year after a strong showing for Team USA at the FIBA World Championships.
His offensive stats are up across the board, but the number that stands out the most is his jump in net rating - plus-1.2 last year versus plus-14.7 through seven games this year.
The other sustainable improvement they’ve made this season is on the defensive end.
They currently own a 100.4 defensive rating, the league-best, a full 3.3 points per 100 possessions better than the next-best team, the New York Knicks.
Even with Gobert on the roster last season, they only finished with the 10th-best defensive rating.
This season, health has been a big factor.
The big man looks to have more bounce and agility compared to last year.
Rudy Gobert has had some really good timing on the weakside when defending in space. Not overcommitting. He's on Hauser here. Brown gets two on the ball, Porzingis has a roll, Gobert recovers and gets a block. Good sign. pic.twitter.com/7HMnwIrhi1— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) November 7, 2023
All rotation players have been active with Jaden McDaniels the only exception, missing two games to start the season.
And then a sneaky boon for this defence, they get a full season of Mike Conley versus the defensively lethargic D’Angelo Russell.
The T-Wolves have come out of the gate with two statement wins against the defending champion Nuggets and the current title-favourite Celtics.
Moving forward, I’d be keeping an eye on the under for opposing team totals.
They’ve kept four out of their seven opponents under 100 points so far this year.
The other bet I’d consider on FanDuel is Gobert for Defensive Player of the Year.
Of the past 10 DPOY winners, all of them played for a top-3 defence.