The Most Important Matchups and Best Bets for Wednesday’s NBA Slate
After a small, two-game slate on Tuesday, the NBA is back in full swing on Wednesday. There are 10 games to choose from, starting with three contests at 7 p.m. ET and wrapping up with a trio of games at 10 p.m. ET.
One of the most intriguing matchups features the Memphis Grizzlies vs. the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland is dealing with two huge injuries at the moment, while the Grizzlies just got their best player back in the lineup. Can Memphis take care of business on the road tonight?
Let’s dive in.
Ja Morant is just 21 years old, but he’s already become a special player offensively. He averaged 17.8 points and 7.3 assists per game last season, culminating in the NBA Rookie of the Year award, and he’s on pace to put together a better season this year.
Morant has increased his scoring average to 22.6 points through his first five games, even though he’s shot just 28.6% from 3-point range. Morant isn’t a dead-eye shooter yet – he made just 33.5% of his 3-point attempt last season – but he’s bound to improve in that department moving forward.
He has done most of his damage attacking the rim. He’s attempt 45.6% of his total shots from within three feet this season, which is up from his average of 39.6% as a rookie. He’s also been more efficient on those shots than he was last season, making 66.7% of his attempts. If he can combine his driving ferociousness with some better perimeter shooting, he’s going to be a serious problem for NBA defenses.
He’s already had a massive effect on the Grizzlies’ offense this season. They’ve increased their Offensive Rating by +12.0 points per 100 possessions with Morant on the floor, which puts him in the 92nd percentile for qualified players per Cleaning the Glass. The Grizzlies managed to survive in their eight games without Morant – they went 4-4 during that stretch – but they have a chance to really get rolling now that he’s back.
On the other side, the Blazers are in survival mode at the moment. They lost Jusuf Nurkic for at least the next six weeks after undergoing surgery on his fractured wrist, while C.J. McCollum is expected to miss at least four weeks with a foot injury.
Unsurprisingly, they have been two of the Blazers’ most important players this season. Portland has increased their Net Rating by +22.1 points with McCollum on the court and +5.3 points with Nurkic on the court this season. With both players off the floor, they’ve been outscored by an average of -12.9 points per 100 possessions over 211 minutes.
Damian Lillard will have to carry the offense in their stead, which is something that he’s definitely capable of doing. That said, Lillard’s eFG has dropped to just 49.4% in that situation, so he has been less efficient. That makes sense: It’s a lot easier to guard Lillard when he’s the only real threat on the floor.
Add it all up, and the Grizzlies look like an appealing target on Wednesday.
We’ve seen some notable line movement for tonight’s contests.
One of the largest moves involves the Mavericks. They opened up as one-point underdogs on the road vs. the Pacers, but they’ve moved to 1.5-point favorites on FanDuel Sportsbook. Myles Turner has been listed as questionable for that contest, which is one possible reason for the change. He’s been one of the league’s best defenders to start the season given his average of 4.2 blocks per game.
The Mavericks also appear to be garnering plenty of sharp support. They’ve received 64% of the spread bets, but those bets have accounted for 93% of the spread dollars. That means that most of the significant bets are landing on Dallas. The Mavericks have lost each of their past two games by at least 16 points, but the sharps seem to think they can turn things around this evening.
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