Justin Savaso, who is a regular contributor at Low Post Gazette and my new partner for an exciting new weekly podcast (details coming soon), returns with his second annual gambling preview. You don’t have to trust him—in fact you shouldn’t—but for what it’s worth, he did end last season up $128.46. Will his luck (or knowledge) continue to produce results in 2017-18?
(Justin): After enjoying some modest success last year, I’m back with the second annual NBA Best Bets Preview. While I can’t guarantee a profit for the upcoming year, I can confidently say this has been one of the most compelling offseasons in league history.
In late June, it seemed like a forgone conclusion that the Warriors would at the very least repeat as finalists in the 2017-2018 season. Since then, we’ve seen Sam Presti work miracles in Oklahoma City in adding Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. The Clippers looked likely to resign Chris Paul for the max, only to see him force his way to Houston via trade. Perhaps the most shocking move of the offseason was the drama that unfolded in Cleveland, with Kyrie Irving being traded to Boston.
Vegas says the Warriors have a 61.4% chance of winning the title this year. That very well might be true. All I know is I have never been more excited for October to roll around and watch a sport that’s being played at a higher level than ever before. Whether you gamble on the upcoming season or not, sit back and enjoy the next nine months. I know I will.
As per usual, the following bets are real money I have wagered on Bovada. With a few small exceptions, these bets and lines are up to date as of Opening Night. I’ll be revisiting my bets at the end of the season to see whether I came up as a winner or loser for the upcoming season. Enjoy!
Bets 1-3: Oklahoma City
Bet: Oklahoma City Thunder OVER 50.5 Wins
Wager: $60 to win $52.17 (bet placed 9/23)
Oklahoma City Thunder to WIN Northwest Division
Wager: $50 to win $33.33
Bet: Oklahoma City Thunder to WIN Western Conference
Wager: $7 to win $52.50
I’m high on Oklahoma City coming into this season. What they desperately lacked last year was a multidimensional wing who could hit an open 3 and play defense; they had to sacrifice one side of the ball by putting out players such as Roberson or McDermott. So what did they do? Acquire Paul Freaking George. It’s hard to think of a player that is better fit for this team.
At the time, I thought the Thunder had a ceiling of a No. 4 seed in the West and a floor of a No. 7-8 seed. But now that they acquired Melo? They are legitimate contenders for the title.
There’s a 50% chance by the end of the season we see ball-stopping, lazy-defense, I-can-still-be-the-best-player-on-a-championship-team Melo. I get the risk, even if it’s a trade you make 10 out of 10 times if you’re Sam Presti. It’s not just about adding Carmelo, though. An underrated part of this trade is that they were able to unload Kanter, who is fine if it’s the 30th game of the regular and you’re playing the Lakers. Let him get his 14 and 7 and bolster bench units. When Kanter is not fine is when you’re playing the Warriors or Rockets in the second round of the playoffs. As Donovan infamously said in last years playoffs, “we can’t play him.” A big who can’t move his feet in the pick-and-roll, protect the rim or space the floor just doesn’t make sense in the modern NBA. Add in his ill-timed criticism of Kevin Durant, and him and the Knicks seem like a match made in heaven.
For full disclosure, I placed my largest bet of the season about an hour after the Melo trade broke on September 23, 2017. It’s crazy to me how a site as big as Bovada didn’t move the line or at the very least take it down immediately. Melo isn’t close to what he use to be, but he should help Oklahoma City win an additional 3-4 games with the added lineup versatility and offensive firepower he brings.
For people still interested in wagering on OKC before the season starts, Bovada has kept their over/under at 50.5 but has moved the payout to -200. The idea is to deter people from betting on the over because they have seen such heavy action on it. I say it’s still a good bet. In regards to the Northwest, I’m skeptical of the Wolves taking a massive leap to get them to that 50 win range which would be needed to take the division (they won 29 games last year). Add in low upside teams like the Blazers and Jazz, and I love the Thunder as division champs.
Bets 4-6: Miami Heat
Bet: Miami Heat MAKES Playoffs
Wager: $30 to win $14.29
Bet: Miami Heat OVER 43.5 Wins
Wager: $15 to win $12
Bet: Miami Heat to WIN Southeast Division
Wager: $10 to win $35
It’s tough to project the Heat for 2017-18 given their roller coaster of a season last year. What do we make of the 11-30 record this team started with last season? Is the 30-11 record they finished with more indicative of the team they really are? I’m betting the latter to be true.
After missing out on Gordon Hayward in free agency, they decided to run it back by re-singing Dion Waiters and James Johnson to arguably above market deals. With their remaining cap space, they inked Kelly Olynyk to a four-year, $50 million contract. I like Olynk to bolster what was a No. 17 ranked offense led by the perpetually underrated Goran Dragic. If Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson stay healthy, last year’s top-five defense is certainly replicable.
Miami looks to cap out as a 48-49 win team max. That means if it is to win the division, the Wizards are going to have to disappoint. I certainly see that as a possibility. Washington went 49-33 last season, in no small part due to remarkable health: Its big three of Wall, Beal, and Porter combined to miss a total of 11 games. While I would never root for an injury and thoroughly enjoyed watching Beal breakout, I don’t see this team finishing with a clean bill of health again.
Bet 7: New York Knicks
Bet: New York Knicks UNDER 30.5 Wins
Wager: $35 to win $30.43 (bet placed 9/23)
As happened with Oklahoma City, Bovada left this line up following the Melo trade. Fast forward three weeks later, and it still hasn’t changed.
I fully acknowledge there is some real Ewing theory potential (shoutout to our editor Simon Cherin-Gordon, who has already shouted out Bill Simmons) with Melo’s departure. However, there are too many holes on the roster for this theory to materialize.
After finishing with the No. 18 ranked offense last year, I think there is a real chance this team finishes this year in the bottom three. Their lack of perimeter creation, along with atrocious point guard depth, will make points tough to come by. While I think Frank Ntilikina can certainly develop into a solid player, he’s a 19-year-old rookie point guard who has only played in Europe up and until this point. This year could be ugly.
Bet 8: Golden State Warriors
Bet: Golden State Warriors OVER 67.5 Wins
Wager: $30 to win $24
I might have gone a little high when I guessed the Warriors over/under at 69.5, but I’m fine with that as it lets me put a sizeable bet that they win over 67 games this year.
The Warriors hit the 67 win mark last year, and I would argue their ceiling coming into 2017-18 is north of 70. While they didn’t suffer any catastrophic injuries last year, Durant did miss 20 games. Stephen Curry also struggled during the first half of last season as he searched for balance playing next to KD. After witnessing the firework display put on by Golden State in the playoffs, it’s safe to say balance is not a concern coming into this year.
In last years column I picked the Warriors over at 66.5 wins, and I like them to continue to pay off for me at a slightly higher win total.
Bet 9: Phoenix Suns
Bet: Phoenix Suns UNDER 29 Wins
Wager: $15 to win $12
This summer, the Suns drafted Josh Jackson with the 4th overall pick and…essentially did nothing else (besides extending TJ Warren). While I’m fine with them standing pat as they look to land another top pick in next year’s draft, it doesn’t bode well for their win total next season. Yet, after winning only 24 games and finishing dead last in the West last year, they saw one of the league’s larger increases in their over/under.
While I like their young core and expect to see development from key players such as Devin Booker, I don’t see this translating to a jump of five-plus wins. They’re not particularly well coached by Earl Watson, and could find themselves on the wrong side of close games with such a young team. Add in their incentive to tank and everlasting Eric Bledsoe trade rumors, and I see Phoenix improving by two or three wins maximum.
Bet 10: Los Angeles Clippers
Bet: LA Clippers MISS Playoffs
Wager: $10 to win $14.50
In making many of these bets, I’m looking at a team’s upside versus downside heading into the season. The Clippers jump off the page as a team where things could go catastrophically wrong. That’s the unfortunate truth for any team that considers Blake Griffin and Danilo Gallinari its two offensive fulcrums. There are real expectations from Doc Rivers as he enters his fifth season, after recently being stripped of GM powers. Getting anything back in Paul’s departure is a net positive and Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley are real assets come February. Mix all that together and what do you get? A team that looks ripe to blow it up and rebuild. If that happens, they will certainly be sitting on their couch come playoff time.
Bet 11: Denver Nuggets
Bet: Denver Nuggets OVER 45.5 Wins
Wager: $10 to win $8.70
Alright, this bet might be less about me thinking this team will win close to 50 games and more of an excuse for me to watch and root for this Nuggets team on League Pass every night. You’re hard pressed to find anything more entertaining, inside or outside of basketball, than watching Nikola Jokic throw dimes from the elbow of the paint. Paul Millsap will bolster last year’s No. 29 ranked defense and help hide Jokic’s shortcomings on that side of the floor. Gary Harris is a perfect fit for the modern NBA and while Jamal Murray is more of a wild card, he certainly showed the potential last year to be an above average offensive guard.
This team needs to maintain an elite offense (they finished No. 4 last year) while making significant improvements on defense if they are to win upwards of 45 games. While they might fall short in one of those areas, I still consider it a net win if I get to watch this Nuggets team on a nightly basis.
Bets 12-13: MVP
Bet: Kevin Durant WINS MVP
Wager: $10 to win $55.00
James Harden WINS MVP
Wager: $5 to win $50
A Kevin Durant MVP bid rests on several things transpiring: the Dubs being clear and away the best team in the league, the backlash of him leaving OKC having been forgotten, and KD separating himself from Steph as the Warriors best statistical player. The biggest contingency out of those three is the last one. In last years playoffs, Kevin Durant put up 28.5 points, 7.9 boards and 4.3 assists ridiculous percentages of 55.6 from the field, 44.2 from three and 89.3 from the line. While it is not realistic that he repeats those exact numbers, I’m betting he can come pretty close. If Curry takes a small step back at age 29, a second MVP is certainly well within range for the Slim Reaper.
Bets 14-15: Rookie of the Year
Bet: Dennis Smith, Jr. WINS ROY
Wager: $10 to win $50
Bet: De’Aaron Fox WINS ROY
Wager: $5 to win $80
I liked Dennis Smith, Jr. coming out of college, taking him 5th in our mock draft, and he has done nothing in summer league or the preseason to make me think differently. He’s the most NBA-ready player in his draft class with an elite combination of athleticism, ball handling, and shooting. If Carlisle is willing to stick with him through the uneven play nearly all rookie point guards experience at some point in their first season, he should put up a well-rounded statline that will propel him to the front of the rookie of the year race.
Justin’s Final 2017-2018 NBA Bets
|Team||Bet Type||Odds||Money Wagered||Payout|
|Thunder||OVER 50.5 wins||-115||$60||$52.17|
|Thunder||WINS Northwest Division||-150||$50||$33.33|
|Thunder||WINS Western Conference||+750||$7||$52.50|
|Heat||OVER 43.5 wins||-125||$15||$12|
|Heat||WINS Southeast Division||+350||$10||$35|
|Knicks||UNDER 30.5 wins||-115||$35||$30.43|
|Warriors||OVER 67.5 wins||-125||$30||$24|
|Suns||UNDER 29 wins||-125||$15||$12|
|Nuggets||OVER 45.5 wins||-115||$10||$8.70|
|Kevin Durant||WINS MVP||+550||$10||$55|
|James Harden||WINS MVP||+1000||$5||$50|
|Dennis Smith||WINS ROY||+500||$10||$50|
|De’Aaron Fox||WINS ROY||+1600||$5||$80|
Total Amount Bet: $297