The Most Important Matchups and Best Bets for Wednesday’s NBA Slate
We got a slightly smaller slate than usual on Tuesday, but we’re back in action with an 11-game slate on Wednesday. The action gets underway with three games starting at 7 p.m. ET and wraps up with a pair of contests at 10 p.m. ET. That should be enough hoops to satisfy even the thirstiest basketball fans.
One of the most intriguing matchups involves the Toronto Raptors and the Phoenix Suns. Toronto was one of the best teams in the league this season, but they’ve stumbled out of the gates in 2020-21. Can they right the ship tonight in Phoenix?
Let’s dive in.
What in the world is going on in Toronto? They’ve posted a record of just 1-5 through their first six games, and they’ve dropped all the way to 22nd in the league in Net Rating. They’ve been outscored by an average of -3.90 points per 100 possessions so far this season after ranking fourth with a mark of +6.18 last year. That’s nearly a 10-point difference despite bringing back a very similar roster.
Their one big change was at the center position. They lost both Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka during the offseason, and those two players combined to handle most of the center minutes last season. Neither player was considered a true difference-maker at this point in their careers, but they gave the Raptors plenty of good minutes last year.
Aaron Baynes has operated as the starting center this season, and he has not been able to fill their shoes. The Raptors’ Net Rating has decreased by -12.0 points with Baynes on the court per Cleaning the Glass, and their production has declined on both offense and defense.
Luckily, the Raptors do have a potential solution for this problem. Chris Boucher has been significantly better than Baynes to start the year, and he brings a desirable combination of perimeter shooting and rim protection to the table. He’s averaged 1.0 made 3-pointer and 2.2 blocks over an average of just 20.3 minutes per game this season. The Raptors have already started funneling minutes away from Baynes and towards Boucher, and it wouldn’t be shocking if they moved Boucher into the starting lineup soon.
That change will help the Raptors, but their biggest problem this season has been Pascal Siakam. He was a breakout star over the past two seasons, but Siakam has been a massive detriment to the team through their first six games. They’ve decreased their Net Rating by a ridiculous -32.5 points per 100 possessions with Siakam on the court, which puts him in the 1st percentile for qualified NBA players. Siakam ranks fourth on the team in minutes per game, so that’s a huge problem.
Siakam is definitely a candidate for some positive regression moving forward, but he’s also changed his shot profile pretty drastically. He went from taking 40.3% of his shots at the rim two seasons ago to just 14.8% this year. That means he’s taking more shots from the perimeter, which is not a great use of his skill set. He’s made just 30.0% of his 3-point attempts this season.
Siakam will likely improve from 3-point range as the season progresses – he shot 35.9% from 3-point range last year on a similar number of attempts per game – but he needs to rediscover his ability to get to the rim. If he doesn’t the Raptors could be in serious trouble.
We’ve seen some notable line movement for tonight’s contests.
The biggest move involves the Clippers. They were initially listed as five-point favorites on the road vs. the Warriors, but that number is down to just 1.5 points on FanDuel Sportsbook. The reason for the change is the uncertainty for both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. The team hasn’t given an update on either player, but it’s possible that one or both could be out of the lineup on the second leg of a back-to-back. George missed last night’s contest with an injury, and Leonard has a history of resting during back-to-back sets.
The Pistons are another team that has seen some line movement. They are playing in Milwaukee for the second game in a row, and they were able to keep their last contest vs. the Bucks reasonable. The sharps clearly believe they can do it again, which has caused this line to drop from Pistons +13.5 to Pistons +12.0. Detroit has received just 38% of the spread bets in this contest, but those bets have accounted for 61% of the spread dollars.
BEST BETS FROM THE SPORTSGRID BETTING MODEL