NBA Betting Dime: Bet The Cavaliers To Miss The Playoffs?

Caris LeVert #3 of the Cleveland Cavaliers pauses between plays during the first half against the San Antonio Spurs at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on February 09, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Image Credit: Jason Miller/Getty Images

Welcome back to the NBA Betting Dime. If you’re new here, welcome! This is a safe space that combines some of the things that make basketball and NBA betting so special. You can expect to find some analytical deep dives into NBA betting, social media clips, gambling information, and maybe some pop culture references sprinkled in.

This week’s edition will touch on a potentially historic race for the scoring title, some of the best bets to make or miss the playoffs, and who should make the All-NBA teams.

However, we have to start with the trainwreck that is the Los Angeles Lakers.

1. What Comes Next For The Lakers?

Los Angeles Lakers stars Russell Westbrook, left, and LeBron James during an October 2021 game.
Image Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

I get it if you’re tired of reading about the Lakers. They’ve gotten more ink than any other team this season, and 538 now gives them just a 0.3% chance of making the postseason in NBA betting news. Calling them a disappointment is not fair to disappointments.

There will be plenty of postmortems written about the Lakers over the coming months, but the more interesting question is where do they go from here? LeBron James has just one year left on his deal, so they’re going to need to do enough to convince him to re-sign.

Lakers Hardships This Season

For starters, it is worth noting that this team had some rough injury luck. That’s to be expected with an older squad, but Anthony Davis has played just 39 games. LeBron – who has been an iron man throughout his career – played 56. Kendrick Nunn didn’t suit up at all.

When the Lakers had both James and Davis available this season, the team wasn’t awful. They posted a Net Rating of +1.5 with both players off the court, and they were 17-13 through their first 30 games. Neither of those marks is elite, but they suggest the Lakers would have been good enough to make the play-in tournament in a down Western Conference. They have the potential to be better just with better health next season.

Unfortunately, they’re going to have to rely on the same old, injury-riddled core that they utilized this season. Some of the minor pieces can be upgraded, but James, Davis, and Russell Westbrook are on the cap for a combined $129.5M. Add in Talen Horton-Tucker’s $10.25M, and those four players will account for just under 80% of the team’s salary cap dollars. Nunn also has a player option for $5.25M, which he seems likely to pick up after missing a full season.

Lakers Possible Solutions

That just doesn’t leave the team with a ton of outs. They do have the mid-level exception available, as well as a few small trade exceptions. That will allow them to add a couple of pieces, but it’s tough to see a scenario where this team makes a meaningful upgrade.

They will likely do everything possible to try and move Westbrook’s contract, but who wants him at this point? The one positive is that Westbrook will be on an expiring deal, so they could get creative if they’re willing to take on some bad contracts in exchange. One idea I’ve floated before involves shipping Westbrook to the Knicks for a combination of Julius Randle, Kemba Walker, and Evan Fournier. Just typing that sentence made me throw up in my mouth a little, but those three players should provide the Lakers more value than Westbrook would. Randle was an All-Star just two years ago, while Fournier can provide some much-needed perimeter shooting.

I think a move like that would make much more sense than flipping Westbrook for someone like John Wall. That’s just trading one problem for another.

The only other hope would be a superstar like Zion Williamson trying to force a trade to Los Angeles. Still, I’m not sure the Lakers could make that work even if they wanted to. The Lakers are already without their first-round pick in 2022 and 2024, and the Pelicans have the right to swap picks in 2023 as well.

Ultimately, the team is going to have to try to put some band-aids on bullet holes. If they can’t improve – and LeBron leaves in free agency – this could turn into a disastrous situation for one of the league’s most storied franchises.

2. All-NBA Team Selections

Image Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Making one of the All-NBA teams is one of the biggest possible honors for NBA players. It’s more competitive than the All-Star selection process, and it also isn’t impacted by fan voting.

Additionally, it can have major significance. There’s the historical element – All-NBA teams are one of the first things voters look at when it comes to the Hall of Fame – and there’s a financial element as well. Guys like Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell lost out on upwards of $35M after failing to make the All-NBA teams last year. I’m not saying they necessarily deserved it, but it puts major pressure on the voters to get things right.

With that in mind, expect to hear a bunch about All-NBA selections this week. I don’t have a vote, but if I did, this is how I’d have things:

First Team: Luka Doncic, Devin Booker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid

Right off the bat, I highly doubt these players make up the actual First Team. For starters, the odds that both Jokic and Embiid make it are slim. It is possible that one player makes it at center and another makes it at forward, but the voters would essentially have to collude thanks to the NBA’s archaic system.

Additionally, Ja Morant will almost assuredly be a First-Team selection for most writers. The Grizzlies have been a phenomenal story this season, and Morant has been their best player.

However, I think Doncic clearly had the superior season. The Mavericks are in fourth place in the West, so it’s not like the Grizzlies have been that much better than them. Statistically, there’s no comparison between the two players:

Doncic: 28.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, 8.7 assists, 56.9 True Shooting Percentage, 7.1 Win Shares, 5.7 Value Over Replacement Player
Morant: 27.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 57.5 True Shooting Percentage, 6.8 Win Shares, 3.8 Value Over Replacement Player

The Mavericks are also far more dependent on Doncic than the Grizzlies are on Morant. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, the Grizzlies’ Net Rating increases by +5.3 with Morant off the floor. They’ve gone a ridiculous 20-2 with Morant out of the lineup.

Meanwhile, Dallas has gone just 8-9 without Doncic, compared to 41-21 with him. He is the engine that drives their ship, and he has only gotten better as the season has progressed. He gets the nod in my eyes.

The other spot will almost certainly go to Booker, who has been the mainstay on the best team in the league.

If the voters don’t put both Jokic and Embiid on the First Team, the final forward spot will come down to LeBron James, Jayson Tatum, and DeMar DeRozan.

Second Team: Ja Morant, Steph Curry, Jayson Tatum, DeMar DeRozan, Karl-Anthony Towns

I don’t think there’s a ton of controversy with any of these picks. Kevin Durant has an argument for one of the forward spots, but I can’t give him the nod over Tatum or DeRozan. Both players have been mainstays for teams that have been better than the Nets this season.

Jokic and Embiid both making the First Team does elevate Towns to the Second Team, but I’m ok with that. The Timberwolves have made some excellent strides this season, and Towns has had another excellent statistical season. He continues to cement his legacy as one of the greatest shooting big men ever, and he’s on pace to shoot at least 40.0% from 3-point range for the fourth time in five years.

Third Team: Chris Paul, Trae Young, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Rudy Gobert

This has to be one of the best Third Teams in recent memory. Paul is clearly deserving of a backcourt spot for the Suns, who are on pace to win close to 65 games. Young also gets the edge given his phenomenal recent play for the Hawks.

LeBron and KD will arguably both go down as top five all-time players, but they’ll have to settle for the Third Team this season. The combination of poor team success and a lack of games drags down their otherwise excellent statistical seasons.

Gobert gets the final spot at center, and while it doesn’t feel like he’s had a spectacular year, he leads the league in field goal percentage, effective field goal percentage, and rebounds per game. He’s also on pace to finish with at least two blocks per game for the eighth straight year.

Overall, I feel very good about these teams. My biggest stance is Doncic over Morant, and I hope the real voters get that right.

3. Best “To Make The Playoffs” Wagers

Lauri Markkanen #24 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots a jump shot during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum on December 18, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Cavaliers defeated the Bucks 119-90.
Image Credit: John Fisher/Getty Images

Now that I’ve spent way too much time talking about something that I have zero say in, let’s focus on something we can take advantage of in the NBA betting market. Most sportsbooks have posted odds on the bubble teams to make or miss the postseason, and there is some value to be had when it comes to NBA betting.

My favorite NBA betting wager of this group is the Cavaliers to miss the postseason, which is available at +172 on FanDuel. Those NBA betting odds translate to an implied probability of just 36.8%, and I think there’s a legit 50/50 shot the Cavs miss the postseason.

They are in a good position to hang on to the No. 7 seed in the play-in tournament, which will give them two cracks to make the postseason. However, it’s possible they’re underdogs in both games. They will likely have to meet either the Nets or Hawks in the first matchup, and both teams can beat the Cavs. The Hawks have quietly been very impressive of late – they’re 15-7 over their past 22 games – while the Nets still employ Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The Cavaliers wouldn’t have the best player on the floor in either of those matchups, which is always problematic during the postseason.

If they do lose the first play-in game, their second chance matchup could also be daunting. The best-case scenario is they face the Hornets, but the more likely opponent is whoever finishes with the worst record between the Hawks and Nets.

Hawks And Nets Breakdown

Additionally, I’m also very interested in the Hawks making the playoffs at +110 in NBA betting. I think there’s tons of value with that number if the Hawks hold on to the No. 8 seed, and they currently hold a one-game lead over the Nets and Hornets in that department. Their remaining schedule is a bit harder than the Nets, and the Nets do have the advantage of owning the head-to-head tiebreaker. Still, 538 gives the Hawks a 61% chance of making the postseason, so getting this NBA betting pick is advantageous.

Clippers Breakdown

In the West, my favorite wager is the Clippers to miss the postseason at +390. The Clippers are definitely favorites to make the postseason, but I think they’re overvalued when it comes to NBA betting. The current odds give the Clippers just a 20% chance of missing the postseason, which feels thin.

The Clippers will be road underdogs in their first play-in game, and if they lose, you’ll have excellent hedge equity in their second contest. You’ll essentially have a +390 ticket on either the Pelicans or Spurs moneyline in that scenario. That should leave plenty of room to buy back on the Clippers (if you’re so inclined).

4. Dunk Of The Week

The 2021 NBA draft class has some serious bounce. We’ve highlighted multiple big dunks from Jalen Green in recent weeks, but Davion Mitchell got in on the fun last Wednesday vs. the Rockets:

In case you weren’t aware, Mitchell stands at just 6’0”. That might be normal for the real world – tall even – but it makes him one of the shortest players in the NBA. There are only 11 players listed at shorter than 6’0” currently on NBA rosters, and none of them are real contributors.

Mitchell hasn’t just been contributing for the Kings of late, he’s been dominating. He’s averaged 20.0 points and 8.7 assists over his past seven games over 41.0 minutes. His shooting numbers leave a bit to be desired, but that’s to be expected when serving as the top option for a bad team.

Mitchell has also been providing lockdown defense:

Kings fans were understandably mad after the team traded away Tyrese Haliburton, but it appears as though they’ve found another steal with Mitchell. Pairing Mitchell with De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis gives the Kings a legit chance at improvement next season, especially with another potential top pick coming to town. I know it’s hard for Kings fans to get excited about anything at this point – as a Mets fan, I 100% get it – but there could be a light at the end of the tunnel.

5. Tyrese Haliburton Joins Exclusive Club

Tyrese Haliburton #0 of the Indiana Pacers dribbles the ball in the first quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on March 30, 2022
Image Credit: Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Now that I’ve propped up Kings fans, let’s rub a little salt in the wounds. Haliburton put on a show Sunday vs. the Pistons, finishing with 17 assists and zero turnovers. The list of players to hand out at least 17 dimes with zero dimes is small and littered with Hall of Famers. Only 28 players have done it, including LeBron, CP3, Jason Kidd, Isiah Thomas, John Stockton, and Steve Nash. That is basically a list of the greatest point guards of all time.

Overall, there have been 42 games with 17+ assists and zero turnovers since 1975-76. Only one player managed more than Haliburton’s nine rebounds in those contests, and only 10 scored more than his 19 points.

At this point, it’s pretty clear that Haliburton is a baller. It remains to be seen just how high his ceiling is, but the Pacers did a solid job rebuilding their roster on the fly. They now have two first-round picks in the upcoming draft to go along with a core of Haliburton, Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner, and Chris Duarte. That’s not too shabby.

6. Ben Simmons To Miss The Play-In Tournament

Ben Simmons #10 of the Brooklyn Nets warms up before the game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center on March 10, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Image Credit: Elsa/Getty Images

This is news in the same way that the Kardashians getting another TV show is news; we always expected it, but it’s noteworthy nonetheless.

In all honestly, the Nets should probably just shut him down at this point. Even if the Nets do make it out of the play-in tournament, do they want to try in integrate him into their offense during the playoffs? That seems like a horrible idea.

Simmons isn’t necessarily a bad offensive player, but he’s not exactly someone you can just plug and play. He’s a career 14.7% 3-point shooter, and unless he’s made significant strides over the past year, that makes him a major liability during the postseason. I’m confident the Nets can build an offense around Simmons’ unique skillset during the offseason, but doing it on the fly is borderline impossible.

Still, I get why the Nets would be tempted to try it. They’re coming off a loss in their last game where Durant and Irving combined for 84 points. You read that correctly. The Nets got 88 points from two players and couldn’t manage to win. The rest of their roster racked up just 29 points on 11-40 shooting, and they surrendered 122 points on the defensive end. If the team thinks they can survive a zero from Simmons offensively and vastly improve their defense, it is possible they try to make it work. I remain skeptical, but I will admit that I’m at least a little intrigued when it comes to NBA betting.

7. The Race For The Scoring Title

The MVP race has gotten most of the attention this season, but the race for the scoring crown is equally interesting. Durant unfortunately is not eligible given the number of games he’s missed, but Embiid, LeBron, and Giannis are separated by a razor-thin margin:

Let’s hope that these three can deliver a finish similar to what David Thompson and George Gervin delivered in 1978.

Those two players were locked in a tight battle heading into the final game of the year. Thompson would take the floor first, and with his team’s playoff spot already secure, head coach Larry Brown allowed Thompson to go after the scoring title. Thompson was lights out, scoring a whopping 73 points while shooting 73.7% from the field and 17-20 from the free-throw line. Remember, the NBA didn’t even have the 3-point line back then, so this was a truly spectacular performance.

That meant that when Gervin took the floor later that evening, he needed to get 59 points to win the scoring title. His team was in a similar position – they had already guaranteed a playoff spot – so Gervin absolutely went after it. He finished with 49 field goal attempts and 20 free throw attempts, resulting in 63 points.

Ultimately, Gervin finished with 27.22 points per game compared to Thompson’s 27.15, which was the closest scoring race in history. It’s very possible the record falls this season. So hopefully, Giannis, LeBron, and Embiid are just as committed to it as Thompson and Gervin.

8. Why Darius Garland Should Be The Most Improved Player

Darius Garland #10 of the Cleveland Cavaliers dribbles the ball in the first quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on March 08, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Image Credit: Dylan Buell/Getty Images

I promise I have nothing against Morant. He’s going to win this award – he’s at least a -550 favorite across the industry – and he has undoubtedly had a great year. He’s averaging career-highs in points and rebounds per game while shooting 49.3% from the field.

Still, I can’t get over the fact that the Grizzlies have been better without him. He’s also going to get plenty of flowers for the All-NBA voting, so he doesn’t necessarily need this award to be recognized for his success this season.

Overall, Morant has jumped from 3.2 Win Shares last year to 6.8 this season, and he’s increased his VORP from 0.8 to 3.8.

Those are nice increases, but they pale in comparison to what Garland has done. He increased from -1.3 Win Shares as a rookie to 1.2 last year, and he took another jump to 6.0 this season. He also went from a negative VORP to a 2.7.

It’s also impossible to imagine the Cavaliers succeeding without him. They’ve increased their Net Rating by +12.4 points per 100 possessions with Garland on the floor this season, and he does virtually everything for them on offense. He’s among the league leaders in touches, time of possession, and dribbles, and the Cavaliers are basically hopeless offensively without him. They’ve averaged just 104.6 points per 100 possessions when he’s been off the court, which would put them ahead of just the Thunder and Magic in that department.

For my money, no player in the league has made a bigger jump than Garland. Unfortunately, there’s just not any NBA betting value.

9. Kyle Lowry Day

Lowry is likely headed to the Hall of Fame someday – Basketball Reference gives him a greater than 85% chance – but that underestimates his importance to the city of Toronto.

Lowry headed back to Toronto for the first time as a member of the Heat on Sunday. They rolled out the red carpet for him and broke out an awesome tribute video:

But that was just the beginning. The mayor of Toronto went as far as to declare April 3, 2022, as “Kyle Lowry Day:”

Can you imagine just how cool that must feel? I’d personally settle for a minute or so. Congrats to Lowry and congrats to the city of Toronto for doing such a phenomenal job with this.

10. Sue Bird & Diana Taurasi

I’ve made my feelings about the college game known, but even a curmudgeon like myself couldn’t help but enjoy “The Bird & Taurasi Show” during the women’s final four.

If you missed it, ESPN essentially ran a Manningcast-style production featuring Bird and Taurasi. The two former college teammates cracked jokes, drank out of solo cups, and told stories about their time together. Their chemistry was better than Eli and Payton during football season, at least in my humble opinion.

The only people who probably didn’t enjoy it were their producers. These two were straight wilding at times:

I want more. Let’s get this duo calling NBA games during the playoffs. Get them a show on HBO. At the very least, replace Skip and Shannon with them. They took an uninteresting contest and made it must-watch television. This is more than I can say about pretty much every other sports-talk program.