Nuggets vs. Mavericks Best Bets for Sunday: Classic Lean On the Under With the Dog

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Michael Porter Jr. #1 of the Denver Nuggets drives to the basket against Dorian Finney-Smith #10 of the Dallas Mavericks during a game at American Airlines Center on November 18, 2022 om Pennington/Getty Images/AFP

The underdog and the Under will make good partners for Sunday’s NBA picks when the Dallas Mavericks host the Denver Nuggets.

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Denver Nuggets vs. Dallas Mavericks

Sunday, November 20, 2022 – 07:30 PM EST at American Airlines Center

Stack ‘em, pack ‘em and rack’ em, it’s time once again to plug the underdog and the Under into your NBA picks. The Denver Nuggets are getting 10.5 points at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review) for Sunday’s game versus the Dallas Mavericks; that’s worth a slight lean in our judgment, alongside the Under for that 217.5-point total.

You could parlay these complementary bets, of course. Still, you might prefer to keep ‘em separated and bet the Under at Heritage Sports (visit our Heritage Sports Review), so you can take advantage of their standard -108 deal on vigorish. 

It’s only a slight lean anyway, so your bet size should be suitably small – even though we’re using one of the most tried-and-true angles in NBA betting.

Which Betting Angle Are You Using?

That would be the old “follow the team with the missing superstar” angle. Nikola Jokic, the reigning and two-time MVP, has been put in the league’s health and safety protocols – remember those? Jokic won’t be let out until Monday at the earliest.

For that matter, Jamal Murray is also in protocol until at least Wednesday. But it’s Jokic that we’re mainly focused on here. The betting public usually overreacts when superstars go on the shelf; even without looking at the projections, you can guesstimate that Denver would be the sharp side here at +10.5.

Projections On the Horizon

But let’s look at those projections anyway and make sure. FiveThirtyEight like Dallas to win Sunday’s contest by 10 points, so yes, there you have it: The Nuggets are worth a slight lean at +10.5, quod erat demonstrandum. 

But Luka Doncic Is Better Than Nikola Jokic, Right?

Sometimes? The word “is” poses all sorts of problems; let’s just say that Doncic has out-performed Jokic and everyone else through the first month of the 2022-23 campaign.

Here’s how the two compare statistically, using both per-game (Boo~!) and advanced (Yay~!) stats as provided by the fine folks at Basketball Reference:

Per-Game

  • Doncic: 34.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, 8.1 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.6 blocks
  • Jokic: 20.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.6 blocks

Advanced

  • Doncic: plus-12.3 BPM, 33.5 PER, 1.9 VORP, 0.303 WS/48
  • Jokic: plus-10.7 BPM, 29.5 PER, 1.3 VORP, 0.277 WS/48

Not only does Doncic lead the league in scoring, but he’s also first in all four of those fancy metrics you see below. Jokic has fallen to third behind Stephen Curry in Box Plus/Minus and Player Efficiency Rating, and fourth behind Curry and Kevin Durant in Value Over Replacement Player – but at least he’s second to Doncic in Win Shares per 48 minutes.

What Does This Mean?

That doesn’t mean Doncic is better – just more valuable to his team, right now. The Mavericks (9-6 SU, 4-10-1 ATS) have basically gone all-in on their Slovenian Messiah, giving Doncic the highest usage rate of his career while surrounding him with role players like PG Spencer Dinwiddie and PF Christian Wood. Seriously, that’s their “Big Three” right now.

Meanwhile, back in Denver, Jokic and the Nuggets (9-6 SU, 6-9 ATS) have been reunited with Murray,  one of the more promising point guards in the NBA. That means Jokic hasn’t had to do as much heavy lifting as he did last year while Murray was recovering from that torn ACL he suffered in April 2021.

Didn’t You Say Murray Wasn’t Playing Sunday?

Yes, but that further supports putting a small wager on the Nuggets. Murray is definitely not back to where he was before he got injured, judging by that minus-2.9 BPM. The proud Canadian is putting up career-worst numbers at both ends of the court while he tries to get his sea legs back.

Murray isn’t the only addition to last year’s squad, though. Versatile swingman Bruce Brown (0.0 BPM) has played acceptably league-average basketball since joining his new team via free agency this offseason. SF Michael Porter Jr. (minus-0.4 BPM) is also doing okay after back surgery cut his 2021-22 season off at nine games.

And that’s not all: SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (plus-0.1 BPM) is now in Denver working his usual 3-and-D magic – although his 53.8% success rate on 3-pointers probably isn’t sustainable. Plus, sophomore guard Nah'Shon "Bones" Hyland (plus-0.5 BPM) has taken a positive step forward in his development.

The Pick

With all those quality players available Sunday – we still don’t know about PF Aaron Gordon (illness) as we go to press – the Nuggets have quite a lot of talent going unrecognized while Jokic and Murray hog the spotlight. Bet the NBA odds accordingly and may the sphere be with you.

NBA Pick: Nuggets +10.5 (-110) at BetOnline 

NBA Pick: Under 217.5 (-108) at Heritage Sports

*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.