Pistons vs. Knicks Free NBA Picks for December 21

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Cade Cunningham #2 of the Detroit Pistons reacts. Steph Chambers/Getty Images/AFP

Detroit and New York meet in the Madison Square Garden. Here is betting advice for the game. Top sportsbooks have released their NBA odds for tonight’s battle between the Pistons and Knicks. After suffering a long losing streak, Detroit figured things out in a 10-point win over strongly favored Miami.

The Pistons will look to beat another team with a much better record when they face a reeling Knicks squad that continues to sink below the .500 mark. For reasons that I will explain, you should play the spread for this game.

Detroit Pistons vs. New York Knicks

Tuesday, December 21, 2021- 7:30 PM EST at Madison Square Garden

Knicks' Struggles 

The Knicks are in bad form right now. Currently, they are suffering 1-5 SU and ATS losing streaks. Observe these trends for your sports betting. I hear a lot of bettors say that you should never bet on bad teams.

While the Pistons are obviously a bad team this season, the Knicks are also a bad team right now.
I don't like this vague advice, to not bet on bad teams, because I think that one always has to measure a team's quality relative to what the odds imply. Besides struggling right now, the Knicks are a bad team in the additional sense that they are repeatedly failing to cover the spread.

Knicks and COVID-19

NBA Oddsmakers are struggling to account for how bad the Knicks are because there are a lot of unique circumstances in play. A lot of Knick players are unable to participate in games or practices right now, leaving a vacuum for other players to assume larger roles. 

Because these players have less NBA experience, which yields less data for oddsmakers to make use of, it is harder for oddsmakers to create accurate odds. Let me break down what I mean: currently, six Knicks are in COVID protocols.

These six players are point guard Miles McBride, shooting guard Immanuel Quickley, small forward Kevin Knox, shooting guard Quentin Grimes, and small forward RJ Barrett. Badly in need of sparks, the Knick offense received a surprising one from Grimes.

Grimes, the team's first-round selection, amassed 27 points on December 12 in a game when his entire team managed 97. Barrett is also a noteworthy absence given his defensive quality, which is something that has been lacking generally on this year's Knick team.

As was well-known about him in his time at Duke, Barrett's length at 6-6 and his other physical tools make him a stout perimeter defender and a solid on-ball defender in general. There is also the simple fact that the Knicks are bereft of NBA-quality players, which is why, during that 27-point performance, a young and normally unrealized-upon guy like Grimes had to put in 40 minutes.

Given these absences, the Knicks are having to sign G-leaguers. Say all you want about Detroit, but the Pistons are at least able to field NBA players.

Having to Rely on Julius Randle 

During New York's ongoing 1-5 SU and ATS losing streaks, the team ranks 25th in offensive rating.
A big reason for this poor ranking is Julius Randle. Recall that, during the offseason, the Knicks tried to acquire other players -- Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier, specifically -- so that they didn't have to rely so heavily on Randle.

New York's point guard struggles have, however, crystallized in Walker's benching and removal from the rotation. Randle thus has to take on a stronger load than the team wanted him to take.
Know for your NBA picks that he is really struggling this year. His offense, for starters, is down.
Last year, Randle averaged 24.1 points per game. This year, he's averaging 19.6.

One reason for his struggles is a regression in shot-making. A career 34.1-percent shooter from deep, Randle is not normally known as a good shooter. But last year, he achieved what was for him an incredible 41.1-percent conversion rate from behind the arc.

This year, he is suffering regression in this respect. Contributing to this overall regression is the strong decrease in the rate at which he's converting wide-open three-point attempts. Despite not shooting as well, he is relying more heavily on his shot.

Characteristically, he is known as a physical drive to the basket who imposes his strength on defenders. However, he is driving two fewer times per game. His shot profile is only hurting him.
His investment in offense, futile as it is, is still managing to hurt his defense.

Piston Defense 

In December, this young Piston squad ranks in the upper half in defensive rating. Keep this stat in mind for your best bets. Isaiah Stewart is touted for his motor, his strong effort, which is something that Knick players like Randle are often lacking.

Stewart is strong for his supposed lack of size in the paint, standing his ground in front of the basket and making opposing bigs inside uncomfortable. He also gets a lot of isolation opportunities where he flexes his developing comfort in open space when switched onto a smaller opposing ball-handler. 

Another young and improving stud, Killian Hayes also brings active hands and physical play.
Cade Cunningham uses his length at 6-6 to contribute at the guard position. His team-leading steals-per-game average helps Detroit ranks fourth in the NBA at forcing turnovers, which is an important ranking to consider against a team like New York struggling at the point guard position.

The length, motor, and comfort in space of these perimeter defenders -- Saddiq Bey is another noteworthy defender in this context -- are important to consider in view of New York's newfound proclivity to attempt threes. This year, the Knicks attempt the 11th most threes per game and thus match up poorly against a Piston defense that ranks ninth-best at limiting opposing open three-point attempts.

The Verdict

I assume that the Knicks will be favored at the online sports betting sites. I think that they are a must-fade as the favored team because I see them suffering massive struggles on offense given their dearth of available NBA talent and Detroit's defensive advantages. If they somehow aren't favored, then take the "under" for the above reasons.

NBA Pick: Pistons +9 (-110) with BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Pistons +9 (-110)
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*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.