Expert NBA Best Bets and Player Props Today – Monday, December 18th
The 2023-24 NBA season has begun and we’re excited over here at VSiN. As always, Jonathan Von Tobel will be providing you with his exceptional coverage of the greatest league in the world. Just click here for all of his content. However, all of my picks will be featured in this daily column, which will combine my best bets and player props. I’ll be doing this every single day of the week — although it’ll be a little shorter on the weekends. So, keep reading to find out how I’m playing the NBA slate on Monday, December 18. Also, check out our NBA Odds page for the latest line movement.
2023 Record: 94-80-1 (+10.09 units)
NBA Best Bets Today – December 18
The Clippers come into this game on a seven-game winning streak and they are now 12-3 straight up and 8-7 against the spread in their last 15 games. That 15-game stretch happens to coincide with the decision to move Russell Westbrook to the bench, giving Los Angeles the starting five of James Harden, Terance Mann, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Ivica Zubac. That five-man unit has a net rating of 16.2 in the 224 minutes it has played together. And it also has a defensive rating of 107.0, which is pretty remarkable. The Houston Rockets have the league’s best defensive rating (106.6) this season, but Los Angeles has offensive firepower on top of that.
I just think that this Clippers team will do a decent job of slowing down the Pacers here, as they have the option of sticking Mann on Tyrese Haliburton — if the Pacers star can shed his questionable tag. That should be a decent matchup for Los Angeles, which also happens to defend the pick and roll at a high level. That’s huge in a matchup like this, as Haliburton and Myles Turner have been the best pick-and-roll pairing in the league this season. If those two aren’t generating offense at a high level here, the Clippers will be in great shape.
Los Angeles is also going to be extremely hard for Indiana to stop. Only two teams in the league have a worse offensive rating than the Pacers this season, and this Clippers team has shot makers all over the floor. This is just a terrible matchup for Indiana in a number of different ways.
Bet: Clippers -2.5 (-115)
I’m a little surprised that the Bulls are getting double digits in this game. I’m as high on the Sixers as anyone, but this feels a little off. Over the last eight games, Chicago has been one of the best teams to bet on, and I don’t think any of it is a fluke. The Bulls have something real in the duo of DeMar DeRozan and Coby White. And the other Chicago role players have been rising to the occasion — with Patrick Williams really figuring some things out.
Since 11/30 (first game w/o Zach LaVine), the Bulls are 5-3 straight up and 7-1 against the spread. They’re also 12th in net rating (+2.9) since then, per Cleaning The Glass.
Just a completely different team than the 10-17 record and season-long net rating (-4.1) suggest.
— Zachary Cohen (@BettingOnX) December 17, 2023
Overall, the Bulls are just launching more 3s per game (34.8) than usual over the last eight games, and they’re hitting them at a very high clip (40.6%). This team is playing a completely different style than we’re used to, and a lot of that has to do with DeRozan playing a bigger role on the ball. He is making good decisions with the basketball, finding the perfect balance of scoring and distributing. And White has just been a flamethrower for Chicago, scoring at least 22 points in seven of the last eight games. With that in mind, I think the Bulls will be good enough offensively to score efficiently on a Sixers team that is fifth in the league in adjusted defensive rating (all adjusted numbers from Dunks & Threes).
The question is whether or not the Bulls can slow down a Sixers offense that is first in the league in adjusted offense. But Chicago has been a bit better defensively over this recent stretch, ranking 17th in non-garbage defense rating in that span (according to Cleaning The Glass). The Bulls were 25th in the league before this recent stretch, so it is a rather sizable improvement. And if Alex Caruso (Questionable) ends up playing, that’s somebody that the Bulls can stick on Tyrese Maxey.
I don’t think Chicago will roll into Philly and win this game outright. However, I do think the Bulls can be relied on to make this respectable.
Bet: Bulls +11.5 (-115)
The Timberwolves beat the Heat by 16 points when these teams met in Minnesota on October 28. However, Miami is 11-2 ATS when trying to avenge a road loss of 10 points or more against an opponent over the last two seasons. And the Heat have won those games by an average of 5.1 points per game. That speaks to Erik Spoelstra’s ability to make adjustments. He should have his team ready to go for this game, and the interesting thing is that he’ll have Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo back for this one.
For as good as Minnesota has been this season, the team is just 17th in the league in adjusted offensive rating. So, Miami’s ability to defend should give the team an opening here. The Heat are still a very good defensive team when Adebayo is out there, as the center is an All-Defense candidate. That said, I think the Heat will be able to slow down the Timberwolves here, and having Jimmy Butler to throw on Anthony Edwards helps.
The Heat also happen to go up from an offensive rating of 115.3 to 118.5 when playing at home, so I expect them to look a bit better when it comes to shot making here. And having Herro out there as another floor spacer should only help. Miami has gotten some great contributions from guys like Duncan Robinson and Jaime Jaquez Jr. this season, but this is a team that can occasionally be lacking in the shot creation department. Well, Herro is averaging 22.9 points per game and should be able to help quite a bit.
This is also a game that I just think Butler will want badly. He did not enjoy his time with the Timberwolves and I doubt he’ll want to lose to Karl-Anthony Towns twice in one season.
Bet: Heat +1.5 (-108 – 2 units)
I don’t really like betting against the Jazz at the Delta Center, even though this is one of the worst teams in the Western Conference. It’s just a very tricky place to play and the Jazz can occasionally be very hard to stop. However, Utah is without Keyonte George and Jordan Clarkson right now, leaving the team very thin at the guard position. Collin Sexton is still out there for the Jazz, but he’s an inconsistent shooter and can struggle to guard the perimeter. That should mean that Brooklyn will win the battle in the backcourt, with Cam Thomas being a threat to go for 30 on any given night. I also think the Nets are in good shape on the wing, where Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson will be trouble for the Jazz forwards. On top of all that, the Nets have a good rim protector in Nic Claxton.
This just feels like a good matchup for the Nets on paper. Brooklyn has a lot more talent than Utah, and the Nets are also significantly better than the Jazz when it comes to both adjusted offensive and defensive rating. Brooklyn has also been rather trustworthy on the road this season, as the team is 7-5 ATS when playing away from home. So, I think the Nets will be focused in this spot.
Brooklyn can also use a win here, with the team having lost two in a row. This is a Nets team that is firmly in the postseason mix in the Eastern Conference, so winning games like this one is important. This is also the end of a five-game road trip for Brooklyn, so the team will be looking to head back home on a positive note. I also just don’t think this is a lot of points for them to be laying. They should cover as long as they get the win.
Bet: Nets -3.5 (-115)
NBA Player Props Today – December 18
Not only do I like the Clippers to get the job done against the Pacers, but I’m also playing Harden to go Over 16.5 points here. Harden has only scored 17 or more points in seven of the 15 games he has played with Westbrook on the bench, but this matchup with the Pacers is just very friendly for guards. Indiana just doesn’t have anybody that takes pride in defending the perimeter. Bruce Brown would be the lone exception to that, but his struggles offensively could make it hard for him to reach 30 or so minutes here. He also might guard either George or Leonard in this game. With all of that in mind, I just think there will be some moments in which Harden will look to score himself. And this total is very low for an offensive talent like him.
Bet: Harden Over 16.5 Points (-123)
Tyus Jones Over 18.5 Points + Assists (-128) vs. Kings
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