The NBA is back! Albeit, in a slightly more condensed 72 game season, as opposed to the regulation 82. But, the bubble is gone and for some teams it’s been a whopping 9 months since they took to the court, for others just a handful of months away from bubble life. Opening day only features a two game slate, but they are two absolutely mouth watering match ups to kick it all off at very friendly Australian time slots.
Golden State Warriors v Brooklyn Nets (Brooklyn -6.5)
11:10am Wed 23 Dec AEST
What a way to kick off the season, the first “real game” sighting of the Durant/Irving combination in Brooklyn. Durant has been building his pre season minutes for the first time in almost 18 months after the catastrophic achilles injury while playing for the team he makes his NBA return against, while Irving who’s debut season with Brooklyn was cut short due to knee and shoulder injuries, has been lighting it up in the pre season and looks ready to pick up where he left off.
On the other side of the court, the Warriors who themselves had a famously injury plagued 2019/20 season after being the dominant force for so many years will welcome back Steph Curry on opening night, but sadly his splash brother in Klay Thompson will still be missing for the entire season after an ACL injury only weeks ago. Thompson, an incredible career 42% 3-point shooter (the league average is 34%) will be sorely missed in this Warriors lineup which goes from a top four lock, to now just a small favourite to actually make the playoffs.
The line here has opened up with Brooklyn as a -5 point favourite at home, however has moved a full point and a half to -6.5 as Draymond Green looks almost certain to miss. The Nets that we saw in the bubble get swept by the Raptors, must become a distant memory when assessing them this season. As when you add in two top 10 players in a starting 5 man line up, things will change drastically. Not only at the top end have the Nets added talent, but they now bat a lot deeper than previous seasons, with the addition of Landry Shamet from the Clippers to go along with already proven players in Levert and Dinwiddie, the Nets won’t have to rely on their two stars to have crazy stats to get wins.
Conversely, the Warriors without Thompson will now be heavily Curry focused, and they don’t seem to have a genuine match up for Durant. The Warriors drafted James Wiseman 2nd overall a few weeks back, a much needed pick for their big man stocks, but on debut we cannot expect he will have too much luck against old stalwarts in Allen and Jordan (DeAndre, not Michael). Curry will likely have his hands full with Kyrie and Shamet rotating through him, and the omission of Green should make this all too much for the Warriors in this spot. I’m expecting the Nets to win and win well, although the number is no spoil as a 6 point favourite
BACK: Brooklyn Nets -6.5 at $1.90 for 1.5 units
LA Clippers v LA Lakers (Lakers -2.5)
2:10pm Wed 23 Dec AEST
This is certainly the game that even the most casual NBA fans will be looking forward to on opening night. Lebron and the defending champion Lakers coming up their bitter rival in the Kawhi led Clippers. The Lakers as we know are coming off winning it all, as Lebron continues to make his case for GOAT in season 18, while his partner in crime Anthony Davis is quickly becoming an unstoppable force in the league. The Lakers have added a few new names this season in Dennis Schroder from OKC, Montrez Harrell dips across the road from the Clippers to the Lakers and Tale Horton-Tucker has been ultra impressive in the pre season so far, earning many plaudits around the league.
The Clippers fell over when least expected to last season, as the West finals between these two was being called in September last year, sadly for fans never eventuated. They return with a slightly tweaked roster this season, losing the aforementioned Harrell to the Lakers, and Shamet to the Nets. However, they’ve added two players at opposite spectrums of their careers. The young up and coming shooting guard Luke Kennard comes in from Detroit, while an old head in Serge Ibaka comes in from Toronto to bolster the defensive big man stocks. These additions going along with the emotionless superstar that is Kawhi Leonard, and the erratic Paul George, the Clippers will be back to their best quickly and be looking to make a statement against their fiercest rival of all.
Looking at these two teams, they match up incredibly similarly now, especially on the back of the roster changes. My feeling at the Lakers as a -2.5 point favourite, is there is no edge whatsoever in this spread, and with question marks over some superstars minutes this early in the season (IE: Lebron and Kawhi) this is definitely a game to sit back and enjoy as a neutral, and keep an eye on trends that could emerge from both teams going forward as they experiment early on. How will players like Harrell and Kennard be used for their respective teams? How deep does the Lakers bench go? This is definitely a learning game, and two teams we’ll likely see plenty of deep into the playoffs.
BACK: No bet