NBA Best Bets: Wednesday, December 22

Do you remember that “South Park” episode about the recession economy when Stan finds out that the U.S. Treasury makes economic decisions by cutting the head off a chicken and going with wherever it lands on a big board with instructions? Well, that’s basically how I’m making NBA picks this week.

COVID-19 has completely changed the way the league is operating, with games postponed and players ruled out minutes before tip-off. It makes it challenging — almost impossible, even — to make any type of informed bet. Yet, here we are. So we’re just going to throw some stuff at the wall and hope it sticks. And if a big-name player on a team we bet on is ruled out before tip, let’s consider that a no-bet.

So let us consult the all-knowing big board and cut the head off this chicken.

Categories:

Layups: The bets I really like and feel the most confident in.
Two-Pointers: The bets I like a lot and feel fairly confident in.
Three-Pointers: The bets I like but don’t feel as confident in.
Half-Court Shot: A long underdog I like to win straight-up.

Record: 23-22-1 (-0.37 Units)

Layups

In these tough COVID times for the NBA, it would be disingenuous to call any pick a layup right now.

Two-Pointers

Tyrese Haliburton Over 29.5 Points/Rebounds/Assists (-120): Haliburton has been on a tear since the Kings have been hit with COVID issues. Over the last three games, he’s been averaging 24 points per game and 39.2 PRA per game. The Clippers are one of the better defensive teams in the league, so that’s why this number is a bit low. He didn’t hit it in the last two games he played against them, but the situation has changed with no De’Aaron Fox, Terence Davis, Davion Mitchell, and probably Richaun Holmes. Especially with the Kings expected to lose this one, Tyrese should have plenty of chances to score and make plays. I would play this only up to -125.

Three-Pointers

Nikola Jokic Over 1.5 Threes Made (-113): Jokic has been on fire recently, enough that he should be firmly in the MVP conversation more consistently. But I digress. Jokic’s three-point attempts per game have declined a bit recently, but looking at OKC’s defense, the team gives up the most three-pointers per game in the NBA at 14.2. Opponents also shoot 39% from three against them. The stats really favor Thunder opponents from the three-point line. If he was shooting a higher volume from three, this would be a more confident pick, but with the number at 1.5 and OKC being a terrible three-point shooting defense, it seems logical to put something on it.

Lauri Markkanen Under 16.5 Points (-104): This just seems too high. And yes, I get that Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen will be out. But Markkanen just isn’t that great of a player. He’ll struggle to hit threes and we might even see him play more of the four or five positions which, if Robert Williams is back, could be rough for him. Lauri will certainly see more action with the starting frontcourt out for the Cavs, but 17 points for him seems just a tad too high.

Bucks/Rockets Over 223.5 (-110): The Rockets’ defense straight up stinks. They give up 113 points per game and have given up a staggering 118 points per game in the last three matchups. And while the Bucks have a bunch of players out — including Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton — they’ve still been scoring relatively well. Milwaukee’s defense is already teetering on the edge of “not great,” giving up 111 points per game over its last three. There are so many players out and so much chaos for this game that the over seems like the play here. Both teams are struggling defensively and have shown they can score. Let the scoring fest commence with this one.