The 2017-18 NBA season has been full of surprises, but none have been more unexpected than the emergence of Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma. The 27th pick in the 2017 draft has exceeded the expectations of GMs and draft nerds alike by becoming the first rookie in league history to record at least 330 points, 120 rebounds, and 30 three-pointers in the first 20 games of his career. How’s that for a painstakingly precise stat?
Kuzma’s marksmanship has been a revelation, but he isn’t the only rookie lighting it up from behind the arc. In this week’s betting tips, we’ll look at another freshman who’s been on a three-point spree, as well as some statistical firsts and analytical oddities that have caught our attention. We’ll also provide you with essential insights and context to help you make informed wagers on daily games, props, and season-long futures. Onto the numbers!
Sacramento is Allergic to Three-Pointers
Apparently Sacramento didn’t get the memo that there’s a three-point revolution going on. While every other team gleefully jacks up shots from 23 feet and beyond, the Kings have continued to stubbornly pound the ball into the post like it’s 1981. They rank dead-last in three-point frequency and three-pointers attempted. It’s as if Dave Joerger has hired a sniper to pick off any player brazen enough to launch the ball from deep.
Sacramento’s reluctance to shoot from behind the arc would be understandable if the Kings couldn’t hit the broadside of the barn, but the team has the fourth best three-point percentage in the NBA at 38.6-percent, and features six players shooting well above the league average.
Betting Advice: Joerger’s aversion to threes means the Kings are also dead-last in points per game. Prepare to take the under on Sacramento this week as they slug it out in a series of underwhelming (and barely watchable) games against the Suns, Timberwolves, and Raptors.
Get Ready to Cash in on Revenge Games
No player will ever admit he was hurt by being traded or waived, but you can always tell how personally they took it when they face their former team. It’s almost invariably their most productive game of the season and typically results in extra effort, extra scoring, and extra sneering. Just look at feisty point guard Eric Bledsoe, who had a season-high 30 points against the Suns two weeks after being shipped out of Phoenix. Or how about mild-mannered center Greg Monroe, who made a similar statement in the very same game by going off for 22 points and 15 rebounds. Surly big man DeMarcus Cousins outdid them both back in October by dropping 41 points and 23 rebounds against the Kings in his first trip back to Sacramento. These so-called “revenge games” can be a major boon for bettors, particularly when it comes to wagering on individual player props.
Betting Advice: There are two classic grudge matches this week beginning Wednesday night as Paul George returns to Indianapolis for the first time since being traded by the Pacers. George had just ten points in his first game against Indiana on October 25th, but he’ll likely bounce back with a better effort at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Also keep an eye out for Victor Oladipo, who scored a then season-high 35 points against the Thunder in his first game back in OKC, and Domantas Sabonis, who hauled in 11 rebounds.
There’s another promising game to keep an eye on the following night as Harrison Barnes returns to Golden State to face the Warriors. The North Carolina alum scored 25 points in each of his first two games against his former team last season, and is likely to extend a little extra effort against Kevin Durant and co. again this week.
Andre Drummond is Finally Hitting his Free Throws
It generally isn’t a good thing when a player is hitting 61-percent of his free throws, but Andre Drummond isn’t just any player. After all, we’re talking about a lifetime 39-percent foul shooter who used to shuffle to the line with as much zest as a five-year-old going to the dentist. Drummond’s ability to hit freebies was so dreadful last season that the Rockets sent him to the line 36 times in a single game. It sounds absurd, but it actually worked, as the Pistons’ big man established a new NBA record by bricking 23 of his shots.
Drummond got back to basics in the summer and reconnected with the coach who originally prepared him for the Association. Their hard work paid off, and has completely transformed his game both at -– and away from –- the charity stripe. Drummond’s scoring average is up from 13.6 to 14.1, he’s averaging a career-high 15.3 rebounds, and he’s no longer shying away from contact in the paint. That’s a welcome turn of events for the Pistons, who can now afford to keep their best defender on the court during crunch time, rather than hiding him at the end of the bench.
Betting Advice: Look for Drummond and the Pistons to have a big game tonight against the Nuggets. Denver ranks 26th in the NBA in points allowed in the paint and will be playing without starting center Nikola Jokic, who is still sidelined with a bum ankle. The Pistons are 6.5-point favorites at Bovada and a decent bet to cover.
It’s Good to be Home … Most of the Time
When it comes to the NBA, there really is no place like home. Home teams are winning at a 57.6-percent clips this year and continue to be a safe straight-up bet when playing in front of their own fans. However, you may want to proceed with caution when it comes to taking home teams against the spread. Home teams have won just 48.6-percent of their games ATS this season, and 48.8-percent when they’re listed as favorites.
Betting Advice: If you’re otherwise in doubt, pick the home team straight-up and the visiting team ATS. It isn’t a sexy strategy, but you’re likely to win more wagers than you lose based on current trends.
Jayson Tatum’s Three-Point Percentage is Higher than Lonzo Ball’s Free-Throw Percentage
LaVar Ball loves boasting about the accomplishments of his eldest son, but one thing you won’t hear him bragging about is Lonzo’s free-throw percentage. The Lakers rookie is connecting on just 47-percent of his freebies, and ranks 25th among all first-year players in the category. In fact, Lonzo’s free-throw percentage is so atrocious that it’s actually three-percent lower than Jayson Tatum’s three-point percentage.
The Celtics forward has been shocking opposing players and coaches with his dependable stroke, nailing 50-percent of his attempts from behind the arc. “Anybody who says they’re not surprised by his three-point shooting based on what he did in college is lying,” Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy recently told MassLive after Tatum nailed a game-winning three against his team. “I mean, if there’s somebody who said, ‘Oh, look, I knew he’d knock down 50-percent of his 3’s,’ even though he made 34-percent of them from the college line, they’re lying. And I’m sure there’s somebody saying that, that they knew. But they’re lying.”
Betting Advice: Expect Tatum to have another big game on Wednesday evening as the Celtics entertain the Nuggets at home. Denver is allowing opponents to shoot 38.1-percent from behind the arc this season, and are notoriously bad at closing out on shooters. They will also be playing their second road game in as many nights, which generally leads to more porous defense.
Kevin Durant is Having a Block Party and Everyone’s Invited
We generally don’t expect great scorers to also be great defenders. That’s why the NBA gives out an MVP award as well as a Defensive Player of the Year award. However, this year, both trophies could end up being inscribed with Kevin Durant’s name. The seven-time All-Star is seventh in the league in scoring and, surprisingly, second in the league in blocks. His 2.1 swats per game are well above his career average and are a big reason why the Warriors rank in the top five in defensive efficiency.
Betting Advice: Pencil Durant in for a couple more swats on Thursday night when the Warriors take on the Mavericks in Oakland. It will be Golden State’s first game in three days and they should have no trouble keeping Dallas out of the lane and holding them below 100 points, especially considering Dallas’ rough travel schedule of late. The Mavs return home from a three-game trip tonight to face the Spurs and then immediately hit the road again to face Golden State on Thursday.