NBA: Best bets and analysis for Thursday, February 22nd

Jonathan Von Tobel (86-66-2 | Units: +15.4) gives his daily NBA best bets and analysis for Thursday, February 22nd.

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Jan 16, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Luguentz Dort (5) passes the ball against LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) in the second half at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to my daily column of NBA best bets! Here at VSiN we have a ton of NBA content daily, so make sure to keep tabs on Zach Cohen who is doing an excellent job handicapping the league on a daily basis and giving his NBA best bets of the day.

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NBA Best Bets

Record: 86-66-2 | Units: +15.4 | ROI: 9.3%

Los Angeles Clippers at Oklahoma City Thunder (-2, 240)

Kawhi Leonard suffered an adductor strain that kept him out of the final game before the break for Los Angeles, but he is not on the injury report today and expected to play. That is obviously massive for the Clippers who enter the homestretch a half-game behind the Thunder for the second seed in the Western Conference.

The play here is going to be on Los Angeles.

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are going to be problems along the wing for a team that lacks size at that position. Both can also defend Shai Gilgeous-Alexander adequately if needed on any given possession. The Clippers also have a distinct advantage along the bench. When Gilgeous-Alexander rests Oklahoma City has a barely positive net rating (+1.1) and its offensive rating plummets (112.3). Los Angeles’ depth could make the difference in this contest.

I do wonder if we’re finally at the top of the market for the Thunder as well. Oklahoma City went into the break with a 5-4 SU/3-6 ATS record in its final nine games. So not only do we get a matchup advantage here, we also get to play against a team near its peak rating.

NBA Best Bet: Clippers ML (+100) – Playable to (-105)

Charlotte Hornets at Utah Jazz (-9.5, 232)

If recent form is any indication then these two teams are heading in opposite directions. Charlotte went 3-3 SU/5-1 ATS in its final six games before the break. Utah went 2-7 SU and ATS in its final nine contests. Both are obviously minute sample sizes, but I believe they are indicators of what the final third of the season looks like for both teams.

In the case of the Jazz, I believe the market has not accounted for the production it shipped off at the trade deadline. 

Kelly Olynyk and Simone Fontecchio both averaged over 20 minutes per game for Utah. Olynyk averaged 8.1 points and shot 42.9% from beyond the arc for the Jazz, and Fontecchio improved the team’s net rating by 4.8 points every 100 possessions on the floor. Ochai Agbaji is the least impactful loss, but he still averaged 19.4 minutes per game and played well defensively. It’s no surprise that in the four games after the deadline Utah went 0-4 SU and ATS and was outscored by 15.1 points per 100 possessions.

On the other end, Charlotte added some veterans at the deadline, and we saw a slight change in their play.

With the additions of Grant Williams, Seth Curry and Tre Mann the Hornets have a different look to them. Their rate of shots both at the rim (37.6%) and from beyond the arc (38.0%) have increased, likely due to the presence of both Williams and Curry. Mann gives them some size at the guard position as well. Those who remain with Charlotte are also playing well.

Brandon Miller has averaged 22.2 points and 4.5 rebounds on 46.6% shooting from the floor on increased usage his last 12 games. Miles Bridges has averaged 23.5 points and 7.4 rebounds on 47.7% shooting in his last 16 contests. Both will be problems for a Jazz defense which has struggled.

When play resumed I had the thought of playing on Charlotte and against Utah, so there is no better time to try this experiment out than now when the two teams play one another. I think the market is too high on the Jazz, and playing against them with regularity will be part of my gameplan with the league back in action.

NBA Best Bet: Hornets (+10) – Playable to (+8)

Washington Wizards at Denver Nuggets (-14.5, 230.5)

There weren’t many players who went into the break in better form than Deni Avdija. The fourth-year forward put up 24.3 points and 9.5 rebounds on 53-of-88 shooting in the final six games. This is obviously a very small sample size, but one could argue the explosion is real to an extent and worth playing on as we move forward.

Avdija’s minutes have increased in the month of February. Through January he averaged just 27.4 minutes per game, but this month that has increased to 33.6 per contest. His shot attempts have gone from 9.2 per game in those first few months to 13.7 over the last seven games. In the last three games alone he’s taken 55 attempts!

It also makes sense that we would see this. Avdija is one the few true building blocks the Wizards have at this point. Kyle Kuzma is likely going to be traded in the offseason, and Jordan Poole is averaging less than 30 minutes per game while shooting 40.0% from the floor. Interim coach Brian Keefe clearly sees the value in letting Avdija grow his game, and that’s worth taking a shot on as a bettor.

NBA Best Bet: Deni Avdija OV 15.5 PTS (-125) – Playable to 16.5 (-115)

NBA Best Bets

Clippers ML (+100)

Hornets (+10)

Deni Avdija OV 15.5 PTS (-125)

Other Games

Brooklyn Nets at Toronto Raptors (-2, 232.5)

Brooklyn is an abject disaster right now. It is 8-23 SU/8-22-1 ATS since Dec. 14 and has failed to cover by 4.1 points per game over that span. The team fired Jacque Vaughn over the break and Kevin Ollie is now taking over as the interim head coach. Toronto is not in much better form – 4-13 SU/6-11 ATS in its last 17 games – but it at least has a steady presence at the top. The Nets will have Ben Simmons on the floor tonight which will help this team on both ends, but neither team is worth backing at this point.

Orlando Magic at Cleveland Cavaliers (-7.5, 215.5)

Donovan Mitchell is questionable to play with an illness, so until there is clarity on his status there is no need to get involved early here. Orlando closed out the “first half” of the season on a 7-3 SU/8-2 ATS run over which it allowed just 114.3 points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time. The Magic have the ability to stymie this Cavaliers offense should Mitchell miss this contest. Meanwhile, we saw the market catch up with Cleveland before the break, as it went just 6-5 ATS in its final 11 games despite a 10-1 SU record. Bettors are likely buying at the top of the market with the Cavaliers right now, but for good reason.

Detroit Pistons at Indiana Pacers (-12, 248.5)

Detroit’s power rating bottomed out during its historic 28-game losing streak, and since then it has been quietly cashing tickets. In their last 28 games the Pistons are 18-10 ATS with the fourth-best spread differential in the league (+2.8). The Pacers have been less consistent recently with a 7-8 SU/5-10 ATS record in their last 15 contests. Injuries do play a part in that slump for Indiana, so it is good to see that Tyrese Haliburton did not receive an injury designation for this game today. Still, given recent form it is not surprising that we have seen a half-point move toward Detroit here. Both Jalen Smith and Aaron Nesmith are questionable for the Pacers as well. If both play it wouldn’t be surprising to see this number go back to the opening line.

New York Knicks at Philadelphia 76ers (-1, 226.5)

Bojan Bogdanovic and Isaiah Hartenstein practiced this week, and both are listed as probable for this game. That is massive for New York which will still be without Julius Randle and OG Anunoby for the foreseeable future. Those injuries are why the Knicks went into the break on a 1-5 SU/0-6 ATS slide. This team is power rated highly by the market which did not factor in the absences enough. Philadelphia has been a mess itself. Since Jan. 20 the 76ers are 5-9 SU/4-10 ATS with a -6.8 spread differential. Since losing Embiid to injury they are 3-5 SU and ATS and allowing 123.1 points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time.

Phoenix Suns at Dallas Mavericks (-2, 244)

Bradley Beal is questionable with the hamstring injury he suffered in the penultimate game for Phoenix before the break. With Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Beal on the floor the Suns have a +12.0 net rating and average 127.2 points per 100 possessions. He is the difference between very good and elite for Phoenix and his health is paramount. Especially here against a Dallas team playing great basketball now that it is healthy. The Mavericks went 6-0 SU/5-1 ATS in the final six games before the break. The common thread in those games was that both Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic were on the floor. Neither are expected to miss this game tonight, and they get the added bonus of rookie center Dereck Lively playing in his second game since breaking his nose.

Houston Rockets at New Orleans Pelicans (-7, 226.5)

Brandon Ingram is questionable to play with an illness, so we have seen no movement on the side for this contest as a result. Over the last two months we have seen the Rockets slide down the standings, and that is due to a mix of injuries and youth. Amen Thompson has seen his minutes steadily increase, and fellow rookie Cam Whitmore has carved out a spot in this rotation. Fred VanVleet’s return from injury should cut into Thompson’s minutes, but the issues will likely remain for a team which is 11-21 SU/12-20 ATS in its last 32 games.

Boston Celtics (-7.5, 226.5) at Chicago Bulls

Boston is going to be fully healthy for this contest, so perhaps it can improve on its 10-14-2 ATS record away from home. The Celtics are a very good team, but the market has them priced as high as possible. This has led to an overall 24-27-4 ATS record on the season. Tonight they face a plucky Bulls team which went into the break on a 9-4 ATS run. Those figures do not matter to the market though, as the Celtics have been bet up to 8.5 consensus as of this morning. They have the talent to cover that number, but bettors are getting no bargains with Boston at the window.

Los Angeles Lakers at Golden State Warriors (-4.5, 241.5)

Since the return of Draymond Green from suspension the Golden State Warriors are 9-5 SU/10-4 ATS. They are averaging 121.6 points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time over that span and covering by 6.2 points per game. Steve Kerr has changed the starting lineup as well, and it would seem Klay Thompson now has a role off the bench. These are all obvious positives for Golden State which hosts Los Angeles tonight without LeBron James. The Lakers went into the break on a 6-1 SU/5-2 ATS run of their own, but in the minutes with James off the floor this season they own a -2.3 net rating. The market has factored in James’ absence, so it is on the bettor to decide if that adjustment is enough.

San Antonio Spurs at Sacramento Kings (-11.5, 242.5)

Domantas Sabonis appeared on the injury report as doubtful with an illness, so this line has dropped 2.5 points as a result. In the possessions without Sabonis the Kings have a -1.4 net rating, and when neither he or De’Aaron Fox are on they are outscored by 5.7 points per 100 possessions. The minutes with Fox on the bench are going to be an adventure, but its not like San Antonio is firing on all cylinders right now. The Spurs went 1-8 SU/2-7 ATS in their last nine games before the break. The play of Victor Wembanyama paired with an 11-3 ATS run in the previous 14 games seems to have maxed out San Antonio’s market rating.