Weekly NBA Betting Tips: Raptors Rise as Scoring Slumps

We’ve always believed that everything that can be counted, counts. It’s the reason we spend hours poring over box scores each and every day, and why we have a shrine to Daryl Morey in our garage. (It’s a lot less creepy than it sounds, promise.)

We recognize that you may not have as much time to crunch numbers as we do, so we’re happy to introduce NBA Stat Attack, our weekly compendium of the most eye-popping stats and analytical trends from around the Association. We’ll bring you the numbers that matter most along with essential insights and context to help you make informed wagers on daily games, props, and season-long futures.

Houston’s Shooters Have the Greenest of Lights

Imagine being able to shoot every time the ball touches your hands, regardless of where you are on the court. It’s every chucker’s dream come true, and it’s precisely what’s happening this season in Houston: the Rockets are launching an NBA-record 43.6 threes per game. That’s up from 40.2 three-point attempts in 2016-17, and it’s 10.2 more than the Brooklyn Nets, who rank second. In fact, the Rockets take — and make -– more three-pointers than the Knicks and Kings combined.

Those numbers are extraordinary on their own, but what’s truly amazing is that the Rockets’ three-point attempts account for 54.9-percent of their shots. That makes the Rockets the only team in the NBA to take more threes than twos. The Miami Heat are the next closest at 41.8-percent, and 12 teams are beneath 35-percent. Given their ability to get hot from deep, it’s no wonder that Houston has already won seven games by 20 or more points.

Betting Advice: Sportsbooks are savvy to the Rockets’ fire power and have saddled the team with big spreads and projected game totals all season long. As a result, Houston is just 13-9 against the spread and 9-13 over/under. Take a moment to consult the opposition’s three-point defense and pace before betting big on the Rockets. Their first game this week comes Thursday against the Utah Jazz, who sport the fourth-best scoring defense in the league (100.0 points against per game) and sit sixth in defensive efficiency. That might make you lean toward the under, but note the Jazz defense struggles a bit defending the three, allowing opponents to connect at 37.5-percent (23rd overall). If the game total is set at 211 or lower, the over will be the obvious play.

Three-Point Attempts are Up, But Scoring is Down

NBA teams are averaging 28.8 three-point attempts per game this season, compared to 27.0 in 2016-17. You may think that would result in higher scores, but scoring is actually down a notch from 106.5 to 105.5 points per game. One reason for the slight dip is sloppiness. Offensive rating is down from a season ago (from 108.8 to 107.3), and turnover percentage is up from 12.7-percent to 13.8-percent. Another reason is that players are taking fewer trips to the free-throw line. Players get fouled less on three-point attempts than twos, and are therefore getting fewer freebies.

Betting Advice: Avoid taking the over on game totals simply because teams are letting it fly from all over the court. Take each team’s offensive and defensive ratings into account, consult injury reports, and look at key matchups before laying down any of your heard-earned cash. Also note how recently each team has played. Fatigue tends to show up more on the defensive end and, somewhat counter-intuitively, when two tired teams face each other, they tend to score more than their averages.

Ben Simmons: ROY Favorite Even Though He Can’t Shoot

Ben Simmons is leading all rookies in minutes, points, rebounds, assists, and steals, but one category where he’s fallen far behind his peers is three-point shooting. The 6’10” Aussie has missed all eight of his three-point attempts and is averaging just 0.4 shots from behind the arc per game. His refusal to launch threes is a little surprising in today’s NBA, but it’s hardly hurt the Sixers. The team is currently 13-9 and fifth in the East.

Betting Advice: Simmons could go 0-for-1,000 from deep this season and still win Rookie of the Year honors. Sportsbooks won’t give you much bang for your buck when it comes to his odds — he’s currently at 1/20 (-2000) on Bovada — but betting on anyone else is foolish. Exercise caution when betting on Simmons, as well, though. His teammate Joel Embiid was head-and-shoulders above every other rookie last year until he suffered a season-ending injury after playing just 31 games. Simmons didn’t play a minute in 2016-17 thanks to a foot injury; wait until he’s dominated for at least half the season before putting too much money on him.

Raptors are a Great Bet

You may not find the Raptors in the top three of many power rankings, but you will find them third overall in Basketball Reference’s Simple Rating System, a metric that takes into account a team’s average point differential and strength of schedule. The site has assigned Toronto a 7.97 rating, which places them behind Golden State and Houston, and comfortably ahead of Boston, San Antonio, and Cleveland.

One of the reasons for Toronto’s high rating is notable victories over playoff-caliber teams like Portland, Houston, and Washington, as well as near misses against top-five clubs like Boston and Golden State. Toronto has also had several blow-out victories including a 32-point win over Philadelphia on October 21st, and a 34-point shellacking of Atlanta on November 25th. The Raptors’ rating may dip a bit as the season progresses, but for now, they remain one of the safest bets in the league.

Betting Advice: The Raptors’ deep bench and decidedly more modern offence make them an excellent choice for bettors, sitting at 14-7 straight-up and 12-9 ATS (eighth overall). When the playoffs come, they’ll likely fade like a pair of $10 jeans, but for now, they’re a solid straight up bet. With games against lowly Phoenix (Tuesday, Dec. 5) and Memphis (Friday, Dec. 8) on tap this week, the Raps’ moneyline won’t be paying out big dividends, but should be netting positive returns.

DeMar DeRozan tries to break down Otto Porter Jr. off the dribble. Photo by Keith Allison (Flickr) CC License

Toronto is Cooking at Home

Yup, these guys again. No team has done a better job defending its home court this season than the Raptors, who are an NBA-best 8-1 at the Air Canada Center. Maybe it’s the poutine or the presence of Drake sitting courtside, but Toronto scores 7.2 more points, grabs four more rebounds, and turns the ball over 3.5 fewer times per game while playing at home.

Betting Advice: The Raptors are an excellent straight-up bet at home, but they’re less of a sure thing against the spread. Toronto has gone just 5-4 ATS at home, covering 55.6-percent of the time. Play it safe, and stick with the SU bet for now.

Portland and OKC Aren’t Sharing the Rock

Iso ball is alive and well in Oklahoma City and Portland, where both teams have stubbornly refused to join the NBA’s pace-and-space era. The Thunder currently rank dead-last in passes per game at 261.5 and are seventh-last in assists per game at 21.1. The Blazers, meanwhile, rank dead-last in assists at 18.2, and are sixth-last in passes at 281.1. One thing both teams have in common is a ball-dominant point guard who freezes out his teammates and holds onto the rock like it’s the Hope Diamond. So much for December being the season for sharing…

Betting Advice: Portland and OKC remain two of the riskiest bets in the NBA this season. The Blazers are 8-12-3 ATS, while the Thunder are 8-14. Stick with more consistent teams and definitely avoid adding them to your parlays.

Lakers Have Been D-elightful

Lonzo Ball’s struggles and LaVar Ball’s rants get all the headlines, but the real story in Los Angeles is that the Lakers’ suddenly have a staunch defense. L.A. owns the NBA’s eighth-best defensive rating at 102.9, one year after ranking 30th in the 30-team league.

One of the key reasons for the team’s defensive renaissance has been the acquisition of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who is averaging 1.6 steals per game and has been a huge upgrade over Nick Young. Granted, a traffic pylon would be a huge upgrade over Nick Young, but KCP does far more than just inconvenience opposing wings. The Georgia alum routinely shuts down the other team’s top perimeter player, and does an outstanding job of funnelling players into the long, outstretched arms of Brook Lopez and Andrew Bogut.

L.A.’s offense is still too dependent on Ball’s erratic jump shot, but so long as they continue to contest shots and play disciplined D, they have a legitimate chance to win more games than they lose.

Betting Advice: The Lakers have zero shot of winning the Pacific Division, but they’re becoming a less risky ATS bet thanks to their ability to limit second-chance opportunities and keep opposing offenses honest. You can also cautiously bet L.A. as a moneyline underdog at home while the team is still at full health. The Lakers are 6-7 SU at STAPLES and already own wins over the Wizards (102-99 as 5.5-point dogs), Pistons (113-93 as three-point dogs), and Nuggets (127-109 as five-point dogs). Unfortunately, their next home game isn’t until Dec. 18 against the Warriors. This is where the “cautious” part should win the day.

Darren Myers

Darren Myers can list all 35 members of the Miracle Mets, knows every word to Casey at the Bat, and remembers exactly where he was when Michael Jordan scored 63 points against the Celtics in the Boston Garden. Unfortunately, he has no idea where he left his house keys. If you happen to find them please contact him immediately as it's starting to get dark and he's pretty sure he just heard something howl.