The Most Important Matchups and Best Bets for Thursday’s NBA Slate
Thursday’s NBA slate isn’t the largest, but it still features plenty of appealing contests. There are five games to choose from, starting with the Heat vs. the 76ers at 7 p.m. ET and wrapping up with a pair of contests at 10 p.m. ET.
The Rockets will be in action tonight, and they will be the most interesting team to monitor. They made headlines yesterday by sending James Harden to the Nets as part of a massive four-team trade, and they got back Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs, four first-round draft picks, and four draft pick swaps in return. We won’t get to see the full version of the revamped Rockets on Thursday – none of the newly acquired players are expected to make their debut – but a new era is officially underway in Houston. Can they stay competitive vs. the Spurs tonight without Harden?
Let’s dive in.
The Rockets had no choice to move on from the disgruntled Harden, but it obviously sucks to lose a player of that caliber. He had blossomed into one of the best offensive players in NBA history, and he led the league in scoring in each of the past three seasons. The Rockets relied heavily on Harden’s scoring ability last season, posting a record of 18-3 in games where he scored at least 40 points.
That said, Harden was clearly not the same player this season. He showed up out of shape, and he was clearly disinterested in playing basketball given the team’s current construction. The Rockets actually struggled with Harden on the court this season, decreasing their Net Rating by -10.8 points per 100 possessions. That puts Harden in just the 20th percentile among qualified players per Cleaning the Glass.
Believe it or not, the Rockets have posted a Net Rating of +7.0 points per 100 possessions with Harden off the court this season, so this could be addition by subtraction in the short term.
Unfortunately, the Rockets aren’t going to have many other options to fill the void offensively on Thursday. John Wall and Eric Gordon would typically be the top two candidates, but both players have already been ruled out. That leaves guys like Christian Wood and DeMarcus Cousins to pick up the slack.
Still, I think this line might be an overreaction. The Spurs have moved all the way to 7.5-point favorites in this contest, even though the Rockets could be better without Harden. I would have preferred if Wall or Gordon was available to serve as the offensive focal point, but this spread still feels a touch high.
We’ve seen some notable line movement for tonight’s contests.
The largest line move involves the Raptors. They’ve moved from -7 to -8.5 on FanDuel Sportsbook even though there are no real injury concerns on either side. Gordon Hayward left last night’s game for the Hornets, but he’s currently listed as probable to suit up vs. the Raptors.
This could be a nice buy-low opportunity for the Raptors. They have gotten off to a disastrous start this season – they’ve won just two of their first 10 games – but their Net Rating suggests they’re due for some positive regression. They’ve also played a bit better recently, posting a Net Rating of +6.4 over their past three contests.
BEST BETS FROM THE SPORTSGRID BETTING MODEL