NBA Odds, News & Notes - In the Knick of Time (2024)

Who publishes an NBA odds column on the opening day of March Madness? Someone who realizes this tournament makes plenty of stars.

It is easy to doubt this now, given he has become a Top-10 player of all time, but what would Stephen Curry’s career look like if he had not led Davidson to the Elite Eight in 2008? That sounds like an extreme example but ponder that alternate universe. The Wildcats did not even make the NCAA Tournament in 2009. If Curry had not dazzled in that legendary 2008 run, would he have garnered enough attention to be the No. 7 overall draft pick in 2009?

Maybe he would have fallen to the Detroit Pistons at No. 15 or the New Orleans Hornets at No. 21 or who knows. Maybe those training staffs would not have found a successful remedy for his chronic ankle issues.

Steph Curry is a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer now, but you cannot be certain he would be if he had not caught fire in the 2008 NCAA Tournament.

Who to watch: Memphis Grizzlies Fits

The Memphis Grizzlies are the lottery team with the most promising immediate future. The San Antonio Spurs are not far behind, of course, but the Grizzlies should be back in the playoffs next season and will probably be a trendy preseason dark horse to win the Western Conference.

Memphis’s contention window is still open enough — Ja Morant is under contract through 2027-28 and Jaren Jackson Jr. is tethered until 2025-2026 — that it does not need to draft someone who must immediately lead, but it is narrow enough that a quick path to contributing should be a priority.

Of possible lottery picks, Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard could project as Morant’s primary backup or UConn wing Stephon Castle could fit into the mold established by Desmond Bane.

Another thing I'm really glad about from UConn is that NBA folks are really coming around on Stephon Castle.

Doesn't have as big a role as some other freshmen in the country, but he impacts winning and does exactly what the coaches ask of him. Hope he's rewarded on draft night.

— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) March 15, 2024

The latter — a wing who can shoot, defend, and handle the ball — is the rarer commodity in the NBA. Those players solve more lineup riddles in the playoffs, which needs to be the Grizzlies’ driving concern to redeem this lost season.

In other words, when four Covers.com experts pick Connecticut to win the national championship, they are also predicting the world can get a long look at a possible impactful NBA player as soon as next season.

Castle sends it back! 🚫@StephonCastle x @UConnMBB pic.twitter.com/ZbMXUDpQb8

— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) March 16, 2024

Tonight's NBA best bets

New Orleans Pelicans vs Orlando Magic

When Rory Breasail submitted a preview for the New Orleans Pelicans’ trip to face the Orlando Magic, I had exactly one hope: “Please be on New Orleans. Please let us be in agreement.”

Little more needs to be said than two of Rory’s early paragraphs:

“While they don’t get nearly the publicity of some of their peers, their statistical resume is getting hard to dispute. Their point differential suggests they’re even better than their 42-26 record, which already has them inching closer to the top of the West standings despite elite competition.

“People are beginning to take notice, but oddsmakers are still making them only slight favorites against the Orlando Magic on Thursday. While the Magic are riding a four-game winning streak of their own, I would argue that the Pelicans' recent play places them in a different tier than the scrappy, upstart Magic.”

This number has steamed up a bit since Rory filed his pick, but we’ll still take anything within a bucket.

Best bet: Pelicans -2.5 (-110 at FanDuel)

New York Knicks vs Denver Nuggets

If any Big Apple optimism strikes you as overly aggressive when OG Anunoby played only three games before needing to protect his elbow again, then know that the New York Knicks had the NBA’s No. 1 defensive rating in the five games before his return, holding four of those five opponents below their team totals and by an average of 15.9 points.

Tom Thibodeau has one mode: all brakes, no gas.

The Minnesota Timberwolves just showed how a lengthy, wing-heavy lineup can frustrate the Denver Nuggets, almost beating them despite not having any true NBA center available on Tuesday.

And the Nuggets are on a deceptively tough scheduling stretch. This does not get the headlines of back-to-backs, but Denver has played every other day since March 5. Tonight will be its ninth game in 17 days, with the last four all on the road. In terms of truly taking a day off with no game or flight, the Nuggets have not rested since March 10.

That fatigue should allow New York to junk up tonight’s game.

Best bet: Nuggets team total Under 108.5 (-104 at FanDuel)

NBA Trends:Recently Average

You have been focused on college basketball, enjoying the conference tournaments, and stressing over your bracket. Let’s keep this refresher quick:

In their last 10 games, four supposed contenders have established themselves as decidedly average. Actually, worse than average.

The Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Cleveland Cavaliers have posted the Nos. 16-19 net ratings in the NBA in their last 10 games, all negative in that regard, from -0.1 to -2.6, respectively. Unsurprisingly, only the Bucks posted a winning record in this stretch, at 6-4.

March basketball can be wonky in the NBA, the season starting to drone on as standings settle, but all four of those lulls should be red flags.

Raising the ceiling:Surging Kings

In that same stretch, the Sacramento Kings have gone 7-3 and posted the No. 3 net rating in the NBA, trailing only the Boston Celtics and the Pelicans. If nothing else, it may be time to assume theDallas Mavericks and the Suns will be doomed to a Play-In game against each other.

The Suns are more certainly resigned to that fate, looking at the second-hardest remaining schedule in the NBA. They have to face the Top 5 teams in the West a total of eight times in their remaining 13 games, and those five teams are still scrapping for seeding, so they will not be taking any games off.

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NBA futures update:New York, New York

You can be forgiven for forgetting about the Knicks over the last five weeks. While Anunoby was injured, the Knicks shuffled to an 8-10 outright record and went 6-12 against the spread.

Return your gaze. Go ahead and dream anew of Madison Square Garden springtime garden parties.

Anunoby returned to little fanfare on March 12, and in his three games back before an elbow worry again sidelined him, New York went 3-0 outright and 2-0-1 ATS. That is a small sample size, of course, but the encouraging aspect is how immediately the Knicks defense dialed back in, holding those three opponents an average of 14.8 points below their team totals.

New York can be found at +1,100 to win the Eastern Conference at bet365, and there is value in that because the market will want to see more from Anunboy’s return before correcting.

The Knicks are somewhat signaling that they are being cautious with Anunoby’s injury.

The latest on the Knicks’ OG Anunoby for NBA Countdown pic.twitter.com/kbNBTcilvI

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 18, 2024

If he can get back on the court full-go, that defense will not miss a beat, and it may be the perfect design to frustrate the Celtics.

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Moneyline underdogs picks

Odds are not yet out on these games, but a few spots to keep an eye on …

Pelicans vs. Heat (Friday, March 22): New Orleans will be doubted here simply because of its back-to-back fate, but that does not create as certain a loss for the Pelicans as you may think, going 4-6 outright on the second night of back-to-backs this season and 5-5 ATS, which includes going 2-3 outright and 3-3 ATS as an underdog.

Spurs vs Suns (Saturday, March 23):San Antonio has been half a point better per 100 possessions in net rating across the last 10 games than Phoenix, and Victor Wembanyama & Co. will be at home. That’s enough cause to take some plus-money value.

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