Warriors +7.5 at Nets: The value is on the Warriors because while the Nets are top-heavy with talent, they are far from being a finished product. Coach Steve Nash is in a new role with much to figure out, and Kyrie Irving hasn’t made life easy for coaching staffs in his previous two stops. Steph Curry is undervalued here as well. The Warriors might have enough parts to keep this thing close.
Clippers +2.5 at Lakers: The Lakers are the better team, but how excited will LeBron James be to start a season so quickly after winning the NBA Finals in October? It’s hard to say. What we do know is that the big picture is what matters to him, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him pace himself in this rushed-together regular season. That said, there is still the excitement of opening another NBA season and the always appealing opportunity of keeping the second-tier Clippers in their place. Perhaps the smarter move is to fade the Lakers on Dec. 28 against Portland.
Bucks -2 at Celtics: The Celtics are without point guard Kemba Walker for a bit, and the Bucks improved their backcourt with the versatile Jrue Holiday. The Celtics are going to play a lot more Jeff Teague with Walker out, giving the Bucks a clear advantage. The Celtics added size and a solid defensive presence with Tristan Thompson, but he isn’t the ideal style of player to use against Giannis Antetokounmpo. We like the Bucks here to show off their new look with Donte DiVincenzo inserted into the starting lineup and free-agent sharpshooter Bryn Forbes added to the bench.
Food for thought
Lakers to not qualify for the playoffs — +2000: Hear us out. LeBron will be 36 years old on Dec. 30, he has played 59,362 total minutes (including the postseason) in the NBA, and he is coming off a condensed offseason. (For comparison, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played 66,297 total minutes in his career.) The human body can take only so much basketball at this high level. Kobe Bryant ruptured his Achilles in his age-34 season. If LeBron suffers a season-ending injury early, the Lakers aren’t making the playoffs. We’ve all seen how Anthony Davis fares as the lone star. This wager may not be likely — hence the odds — but there is value here.
Nets regular-season wins under 45.5: This is a wager on Kyrie Irving’s mindset. He sank the Cavs’ title contender, and the Celtics improved when he left. How good the Nets are depends on Kyrie’s mood. If things get gloomy, he can single-handedly sink the Nets’ season. Will he be happy? Maybe. And then the Nets will thrive. But with an inexperienced coach and a history of drama, betting on Kyrie, who also is injury-prone, is a tough proposition.
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