Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a weekly series called “Betting Nuggets” that will offer expert picks and tips when betting on Denver Nuggets lines and props. Make PlayColorado your destination for all information pertaining to the Nuggets.
Nuggets finding their groove
There is no denying that the Denver Nuggets are still a flawed team. Their bench play, while improved as of late, is still inconsistent and their three-point shooting remains dormant. But over a four-game homestead, the Nuggets have found a rhythm.
Denver is 5-1 in their last five games with victories over the Houston Rockets, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks and Portland Trail Blazers. In those games, there were a couple of common threads that clearly indicated what has allowed them to execute at a higher level.
Nikola Jokic is on a different level right now
The first is the simple fact that Nikola Jokic is destroying any and all defenders who stand between him and a Nuggets’ basket. Over his last five games, Jokic is averaging 27.6 points, 14.6 rebounds, and 7.4 assists while shooting over 60 percent on two-point shots while playing the best defense of his basketball career. It is becoming apparent that Jokic is having an even better season than last year when he won the league’s Most Valuable Player award, but more on that later.
The next trend has been clear all season long: Denver’s defense has been fantastic. The Nuggets have yet to allow their opponents to eclipse 100 points. That has helped Denver go 4-2 against the spread over their six games. During that time, the Nuggets have methodically limited their opponents’ scoring by not turning the basketball over and limiting possessions. The Nuggets are playing at the slowest pace in the league over their four-game winning streak, but it has allowed them to dictate the tempo through their defense.
When paring those two trends with Denver’s improved decision making — they have the lowest turnover percentage in the NBA over the last four games and are only turning the ball over 9.8 times per contest — Denver has found stability. That has made them a much safer play for Nuggets bettors. Denver is 2-11 this year hitting the over because of their stifling defense and slow pace and they are providing value for bettors looking to take the Nuggets moneyline on any given night — especially at home where the Nuggets are 6-1 this season.
Nuggets vs 76ers
The big question in the matchup between the Philadelphia 76ers is who will be available for each team. Will Michael Porter Jr.’s lower back pain lessen enough to allow him to come off the injury report? Who on the 76ers will be available after their bout with health and safety protocols due to COVID-19 exposure? Those questions loom large.
But one thing has been nearly certain every time the Nuggets and 76ers faced off over the last three years is Jokic is going to have a big night. Over the last three years, Denver and Philadelphia have matched up six times and in those six games, Jokic is averaging nearly a triple-double while shooting 53.5 percent from the field. He is averaging 22.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and nine assists in those six games against the 76ers and has led the Nuggets to a 4-2 record.
So whether or not Joel Embiid plays, Jokic should dominate. That should provide those betting on the NBA an edge when looking at player props for Jokic. Taking the over on Jokic’s points and assists is strong value considering his track record.
Battle of NBA MVP candidates?
If Embiid does return to the floor after contracting COVID-19, the table will be set for a battle of MVP candidates. Currently, Embiid is and Jokic is to win MVP making this individual battle potentially meaningful if voters are looking for memorable performances to justify their vote at the end of the season. Also, Jokic being +1,100 to win MVP is fantastic value. That’s jumped from +1,500 this past weekend. Not only is Jokic nearly matching his numbers from his MVP season last year, but he has taken a dramatic step forward in terms of defensive impact. The Nuggets defensive rating falls from 108.6 when Jokic is off the court to an incredible 94.9 when he is on the court. It is simply impossible to overlook his statistical impact on Denver’s defense when considering the Nuggets defensive rating is the second-best in the NBA which Jokic as their anchor.
Jokic’s case for MVP is becoming more faultless by the day.
Nuggets vs Bulls
The Chicago Bulls have been one of the surprises of the beginning of the NBA season. They are 8-4 in their first 12 games and are sixth in the league in net rating. They are defending well, attacking the paint, and getting fantastic play from DeMar Derozan who is averaging over 25 points per game.
So what advantages exist for bettors? The first is betting the under. As stated many times over the past few weeks, the Nuggets have hit the over in just 2 of their 13 games. Additionally, the Bulls are last in three-point shot attempts per game. The combination of overall lack of outside shooting and the Nuggets slow pace gives the under a high chance of hitting.
The Nuggets have been a far cry from consistent against the spread, but the combination of Denver finding a rhythm, playing in the Mile High City, and Chicago’s lack of outside shooting should give the Nuggets strong odds to cover the spread.
Lastly, taking the over on Jokic’s points and rebounds will be fantastic value against a Bulls team that will likely be without center Nikola Vucevic. Without Vucevic, Chicago has resorted to starting Tony Bradley and bringing Alize Johnson in off the bench. It is safe to say Jokic should obliterate that matchup.