The NBA is not waiting for the NFL season to end. They are taking over Sunday now. The main slate features nine games with two games tipping off before the 6 p.m. ET lock for a total of 11 games on Sunday. Let’s survey the slate and pick the best bets for Sunday night.
Hornets -3 (-110)
On Saturday evening, the DraftKings Sportsbook was confident enough to list the Hawks as three-point dogs, but the Sportsbook was not confident enough to list any player props for the Hawks. If the Sportsbook doesn’t know who will score for Atlanta, then how do they know that Atlanta will lose? The Hornets are on fire, that’s how. Charlotte has won and covered in seven of their last eight games. Going back further, they have covered in 17 of 23 games. At home, they’re 15-4 against the spread.
The Hawks have won three in a row and covered in all three. Atlanta is second in offensive efficiency this season (113.2) and have a 122.9 offensive efficiency rating on their modest three-game win streak. The Hornets rank 25th in defensive efficiency this season (112.0), so it would seem that the Hawks are in a favorable spot on the road. However, over the last 15 games, Charlotte ranks sixth in defensive efficiency (107.2), and Charlotte has the No. 3 offense this season (112.4). Making matters worse for the Hawks, is that their defense is the third worst in the league (114.0), and it hasn’t gotten any better lately.
The Hawks have played well without several key contributors on their latest run, but the Charlotte Hornets are starting to look like a contender in the Eastern Conference. If that’s the case, then they should beat a team that is under .500 at home by close to double digits.
James Harden Triple-Double (+225)
The obvious point is that Kevin Durant is out, and the Nets’ other stars will have to pick up the slack in the mean time. Steve Nash has spoken publicly about not wanting to run his stars into the ground, but words are not actions. James Harden is second in the NBA with 37 minutes per game. In the last three games without Durant, Harden has played 40, 39 and 37 minutes. He just missed a triple-double in the first two contests: seven rebounds and 10 assists and eight rebounds and nine assists. It is understandable that he was unable to get to 10 rebounds against Cleveland’s big lineup (Harden had a -18 Plus/Minus in that game), and he didn’t play well against Washington (-8 Plus/Minus), who are above average at preventing point guards from filling statistical categories.
Harden did reach a triple-double in his last game against the Spurs. Minnesota is similar to the Spurs in that they are an up-tempo team, but they rank one spot higher on the pace chart (fourth). With Durant off of the court, Harden’s usage rate increases from 28.9% to 34.1% — that’s the difference between an almost triple-double and a triple-double. As the odds indicate, this isn’t a slam dunk pick, but this is a favorable return for a player getting close to 40 minutes with a 34.1% usage rate facing one of the fastest teams in the NBA.
Kyrie Irving Over 30 points (+230)
Patrick Beverley (ankle) exited after six minutes on Wednesday. Minnesota won’t know if he is able to suit up until warmups. Even if he is able to play, facing a hobbled Beverley is a huge boost to Brooklyn’s backcourt. Minnesota has a +4.4 Net Rating with Beverley on the court and a -1.8 Net Rating without him. Beverley is one of the best defensive guards in the last decade, and without him on the court, Trae Young scored 37 points against a backcourt of D’Angelo Russell (103.9 defensive rating; not bad compared to his -1.6 Defensive Real Plus/Minus in 2020-21 that ranked 57th among point guards), Malik Beasley (109.4) and Jaden McDaniels (107.3).
It’s tempting to play it safe and go with Kyrie Irving to score over 24.5 points, but my near misses are mounting, so I’m going to push the issue and look to the DraftKings Sportsbook Specials. There are several tempting plays on the board, but this is the only one that could conceivably correlate with a Harden triple-double. However, if we table the concept of likely outcomes, there are several long shot bets for Harden and Irving worth looking over. Irving’s juiced-up prop bet is not unrealistic. He has averaged 27 points over the last three games, and Sunday’s matchup will be the best game environment sans Durant to date.
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