For your best bets, I will recommend that you bet on the Lakers and Suns to cover and on the “under” of Klay Thompson’s point total.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets
Tuesday, October 24, 2023 – 07:30 PM EDT at Ball Arena
Denver’s Lack of Rim Protection
One continuity from last year’s version of the Nuggets is their lack of rim protection. This is an issue that they didn’t care to address during the offseason because the issue is largely generated by one of their two best players, Nikola Jokic.
One key question for this game will be whether the positives that Jokic brings with him will outweigh the negatives. Jokic’s poor defense is certainly a major negative. His reputation for being a poor defender is well-known.
Watching him, his unimposing physicality, his slowness, his slow-footedness, and his lack of athleticism contribute to his struggles as a perimeter defender and his struggles as a rim protector.
Objective evidence for his struggles as a rim protector, which will be especially important in this matchup with the Lakers, is in the high defensive field goal percentage that he concedes within six feet of the basket.
Lakers Attacking The Rim
L.A. is annually well-built to take advantage of Denver’s vulnerability in protecting the paint. In the regular season last year, the Lakers made the second-most field goals per game within five feet of the basket. This year’s Lakers squad will be even stronger inside.
During the offseason, they added important contributions to their center position. The most notable is Christian Wood, who has averaged over 16 points per game in each of his last three seasons.
While he can be effective behind the arc, he also adds a lot at the basket, making him another weapon against Denver’s interior defense. Last season, Wood converted 66.6 percent of his shot attempts within five feet of the hoop.
Obviously, Denver is going to give its star center a lot of minutes because his offensive production can generally outweigh his defensive deficiencies.
During last season’s postseason, L.A. discovered a potent solution that it can rely on again: Rui Hachimura. Out in space, Jokic proved too much for Anthony Davis. But Hachimura showed his versatility as a big man who is both strong and more comfortable guarding out in space.
While Davis still helped, Hachimura’s on-ball defending allowed Davis to defend more closely at the basket, where the elite center and annual Defensive Player of the Year candidate is comfortable operating as a rim protector. With this mix of Hachimura and Davis, the Lakers will contain Jokic’s offensive production.
This opening night game will be personal for the entire L.A. squad, which will seek revenge after bowing out to these Nuggets in last year’s playoffs. But no player will take things more personally than D’Angelo Russell, whose terrible play constitutes the main reason why the Lakers lost.
Normally, Russell is a good floor general and a good shooter who is efficient from behind the arc. Last year, he was able to showcase these abilities in his regular season matchup against Denver, and he’ll do so again.
NBA Pick: Lakers +4.5 (-110) at BetOnline
Phoenix Suns vs. Golden State Warriors
Tuesday, October 24, 2023 – 10:00 PM EDT at Chase Center
Loaded on Offense
The deciding factor in this game will be the extent to which Phoenix is loaded on offense. Already established is the dangerousness of the duo of Devin Booker and Kevin Durant. In recent years, both stars have been averaging over 25 points per game.
During last season’s postseason, however, the lack of depth created by their trade for Durant was apparent. They were not as strong as the hype made it seem because they lacked the personnel to punish defenses for centering on Durant and Booker.
This year’s Phoenix team is stronger following the acquisition of another high-caliber scorer, Bradley Beal. Beal averaged over 23 points per game in each of the last five seasons.
Last year, Golden State ranked a mediocre 14th in defensive rating. The Warriors are generally slow, unathletic, and poorly sized inside. While one can’t glean too much from preseason play, some problems surfaced that one should expect to perpetuate themselves in view of their physical deficiencies.
Specifically, they committed a lot of fouls. Fouling was and will be necessary for Golden State to do often as it gets beat off the dribble and manhandled inside the arc.
Beal, specifically, contributes to Phoenix’s already potent offense as a good ball-handler who is efficient inside the arc, where he converted 67.3 percent of his field goal attempts within five feet of the basket last season.
Last year, the Suns were the fourth-best team at limiting opposing three-pointers made.
Their ability to guard the perimeter is crucial in this matchup in view of Golden State’s well-known proclivity to attempt three-pointers at a high rate with guys like Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.
On offense, Golden State’s biggest enemy on Tuesday will be Josh Okogie. He has established himself as an absolute pest who hounds opposing scorers behind the arc.
For example, Okogie ranked in the 99th percentile in perimeter defense. He also proved to be excellent at fighting through screens and at amassing deflections and steals.
Phoenix’s perimeter defense strengthens the case for a wager on the Suns.
Klay Thompson will contribute to Golden State’s inability to win. During the preseason, he showed terrible form. His inefficiency from the floor was constant.
Ultimately, his field goal conversion rate was a miserable 28 percent in five games. His scoring will be especially low in this game as his poor form carries over into regular season action.
NBA Pick: Suns +1 (-110) at BetOnline
*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.