The Big Dog’s NBA 2017-18 Season Preview

Our NBA Analyst ‘The Big Dog’ has provided us with his season preview including some markets he has highlighted as good value. Our Members receive daily NBA tips & predictions including, h2h, match line and player markets. If you want to become a member and receive our daily sport & racing tips sign up here.

REGULAR SEASON MVP

KAWHI LEONARD @ $5.20 (Sportsbet)

In an era of “super teams”, the San Antonio Spurs appear to be moving toward a period of reliance on a single genuine All-Star in Kawhi Leonard. This is the perfect situation for “The Klaw” to take out the NBA’s highest individual honour, coming off a season where he set career-highs in points per game (25.5) and assists (3.5) while maintaining his standing as one of the best defensive players in the game. The Spurs are in the unique position of having plenty of above-average pieces around Leonard but with the regression of LaMarcus Aldridge, no second superstar. They will win enough games to remain a threat in the West and Kawhi will be responsible for the majority of those.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

BEN SIMMONS @ $4.00 (bet365/CrownBet)

With all the focus on Lonzo Ball and his arrival at the Lakers as the 2017 #2 pick, there hasn’t been enough talk about the 2016 #1 pick, Philly’s Ben Simmons. He was considered a short favourite to win ROY last year, before a foot injury put an end to his season before it started. Now physically healthy and with a year of experience in terms of being in and around the NBA system, Simmons looks like a great candidate to do what Blake Griffin did in 2011 and win the ROY award in the season after he was drafted. Especially as the 76ers seem to be a better overall team than Lonzo’s Lakers. If Big Ben plays 65 or more games, he wins this award by a handy margin.

Team Analysis

BOSTON CELTICS STRENGTHS: Scoring and coaching. The acquisitions of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward have been much talked about but there’s little argument that they have successfully upgraded their point guard and small forward position. Brad Stevens is regarded as one of the best coaches in the league, especially at coming up with effective plays coming out of a timeout and he represents the only real coach that Irving has had in his NBA career.

WEAKNESSES: The loss of Avery Bradley (Pistons) could be a lot more painful than anyone in Boston is hoping. Bradley’s defensive ability helped to offset the lack of defence from Isaiah Thomas and with Kyrie also not regarded as a good defender, that could put a lot of pressure on the likes of Jalen Brown. The signing of Aron Baynes helps a team that had real trouble on the boards last season but that still appears to be an area in need of reinforcement.

BETS: Over 54.5 Regular Season Wins @ $2.10 (bet365)

BROOKLYN NETS STRENGTHS: Technically they don’t have an incentive to lose, given they are still dealing with the effects of giving away all their future trade assets in the ill-fated deal to bring Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Nets.

WEAKNESSES: This team won just 20 games last season and their best player looks to be unwanted Laker, D’Angelo Russell. How you improve by 7 wins when that’s your situation is beyond me.

BETS: Under 26.5 Regular Season Wins @ $2.00 (bet365)

NEW YORK KNICKS STRENGTHS: Finally entered an overdue full rebuild by trading Carmelo Anthony to the Rockets and ridding themselves of the problem that was Phil Jackson. They are building around Kristaps Porzingis, so the success of the season will be measured by his development. Willy Hernangomez is another handy young piece that showed promise last season.

WEAKNESSES: Managed to undo a bit of their good work in trading away Melo by signing perpetual dumpster-fire Michael Beasley. Won’t be good at either end of the floor and won’t get close to 31 wins.

BETS: Under 30.5 Regular Season Wins @ $1.71 (bet365)

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS STRENGTHS: Signed some really good pieces, lead by JJ Redick, to go with their developing core of young prospects. Joel Embiid has the potential to be one of the best big men in the entire NBA. Could genuinely challenge for a playoff seed, if they have a good season in terms of health.

WEAKNESSES: That last point is an enormous “if”. Embiid and Ben Simmons are almost certainly the two most talented players on the roster but have already accumulated a worrying injury history. Even assuming an even break with form and fitness, it’s an incredibly big ask for such a young team to improve by 13 wins in 1 season.

BETS: Under 40.5 Regular Season Wins @ $1.79 (Sportsbet)

TORONTO RAPTORS STRENGTHS:

The most settled roster in the Atlantic division. The back-court of DeRozan and Lowry will again put up good numbers through the regular season. CJ Miles could prove to be a very smart signing.

WEAKNESSES: They’re basically the same team they’ve been for the last few seasons, which means they will find their way to a second round playoff exit, after a typically solid regular season.

BETS: Over 48.5 Regular Season Wins @ $2.05 (William Hill)

CHICAGO BULLS STRENGTHS: Will be in with a seriously good chance of ending up with the number 1 pick in the 2018 draft.

WEAKNESSES: Their starting 5 could be Robin Lopez, Bobby Portis, Zach LaVine, Justin Holiday and Kris Dunn… Yikes. This roster might lose 30 games in a row.

BETS: Under 22.5 Regular Season Wins @ $1.80 (bet365)

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS STRENGTHS: Evidently, having LeBron James on your team basically assures you of an appearance in the NBA Finals, even if it only results in a title 37.5 percent of the time. Jae Crowder gives them far more small-ball flexibility than they have had in the last 3 seasons, which will be crucial to trying to compete with the Warriors juggernaut.

WEAKNESSES: Isaiah Thomas won’t be recovered from his hip injury until January and it will be crippling if he isn’t the same player we saw last season, for the Celtics. Even with him fit, the Cavs have a major issue with playing defence in their back-court. It shouldn’t hurt them in the regular season but it doesn’t look like this team can win a title without finding a guard who can defend his position for 25+ minutes.

BETS: Over 54.5 Regular Season Wins @ $1.90 (William Hill) Eastern Conference Winner @ $1.67 (Sportsbet)

DETROIT PISTONS STRENGTHS: Avery Bradley is a very good two-way player and definitely improves this team’s guard rotation. Andre Drummond is a beast on the glass and as a team they should again be an above-average team on their home court.

WEAKNESSES: Reggie Jackson is a chemistry issue and this team is perpetually putrid on the road. They look like a team that’s not sure which way to go and appear likely to be fighting for the 8th seed again. They don’t look 3 wins better than last season, where they went 37-45.

BETS: Under 39.5 Regular Season Wins @ $1.88 (CrownBet)

 

INDIANA PACERS STRENGTHS: Having lost Paul George via trade, the Pacers are a team without a genuine star on their roster and while that may seem to be a bad thing, the absence of a single offensive focal point should promote a team-first attitude that could lead to more wins than many expect.

WEAKNESSES: No longer have that player who can take over a game down the stretch. Their second unit might not be much worse than their starting 5. Unfortunately for Indiana, that’s not a good thing. Really appear to be hoping they can unlock the best of Victor Oladipo.

BETS: Over 31.5 Regular Season Wins @ $1.95 (bet365)

MILWAUKEE BUCKS STRENGTHS: Giannis Antetokounmpo is a genuine superstar and Khris Middleton will be out to re-capture his standing as one of the best wing scorers in the NBA, before he tore his hamstring off the bone. One of the few teams capable of giving both the Warriors and Cavaliers fits, on any given night.

WEAKNESSES: Seems as though they have been “a year away” for the last 3 seasons and you have to wonder if this team has found its current ceiling as being slightly above .500. That’s how it looks to The Big Dog and asking for 6 more wins looks tough.

BETS: Under 47.5 Regular Season Wins @ $1.80 (CrownBet)

ATLANTA HAWKS STRENGTHS: Coaching. Mike Budenholzer is from the Spurs coaching tree and should be crafty enough to propel his very mediocre roster to at least 26 wins. Kent Bazemore and Dennis Schroder isn’t the worst starting guard combination in the league.

WEAKNESSES: The Hawks front-court is about as barren as it gets. Dedmon, Ilyasova and Prince are reasonable bench players but given they are all likely to start for this Atlanta side, this could be a very long season.

BETS: Over 25.5 Regular Season Wins @ $1.85 (William Hill)

CHARLOTTE HORNETS STRENGTHS: The Hornets could be a beneficiary of playing in a division with two teams that could be truly terrible, in the Hawks and Magic. Might not have improved significantly themselves

but they look better than 4 teams that finished with better records than them, last season. That potentially elevates Charlotte to the 7th seed, which was the 42-40 Indiana Pacers. The Big Dog thinks that 43rd win might come in the last week before the playoffs… but it will come.

WEAKNESSES: The elbow injury to Nicolas Batum is a blow to the first 4-6 weeks of their season and the presence of Dwight Howard hasn’t worked out well for his last few teams. The second unit looks a bit light-on, especially at point guard but if they can stay healthy for the most part, Steve Clifford has a decent 9-man rotation to work with.

BETS: Over 42.5 Regular Season Wins @ $1.81 (Sportsbet)

MIAMI HEAT STRENGTHS: Miami didn’t really lose anyone of note from the squad that went 30-11 in the second half of last season, to fall just short of the 8th seed. They’ve added depth in Justise Winslow (injury) and Kelly Olynyk (Celtics), which should be enough to make them a lock for the playoffs in a weak conference.

WEAKNESSES: When your success in the last season was due largely to the performance of Dion Waiters, you know that things could turn catastrophic at any moment. Committed a lot of money to James Johnson this off-season, which is also a considerable risk.

BETS: Over 42.5 Regular Season Wins @ $1.88 (CrownBet)

ORLANDO MAGIC STRENGTHS: A team with some nice individual pieces and a healthy dose of athleticism. Fans will be hoping this is Aaron Gordon’s break-out season.

WEAKNESSES: Not enough shooting, not enough size and next to zero defence. Orlando won’t improve on their 29 wins from last season.

BETS: Under 33.5 Regular Season Wins @ $1.80 (William Hill)

WASHINGTON WIZARDS STRENGTHS: Shouldn’t have a huge amount of trouble winning this division and finishing as one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. Look very similar to the team that won 49 games in the last campaign and getting to 50 wins this season wouldn’t shock anyone.

WEAKNESSES: Need more from Marcin Gortat than they got from him at the end of last season, especially in terms of rebounding. Lack of depth up front could be a problem, unless they plan to play very small for the majority of games.

BETS: Over 47.5 Regular Season Wins @ $1.80 (CrownBet) Southeast Division Winner @ $1.71 (bet365)

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS STRENGTHS: The team that won the last NBA Finals series in 5 games managed to get better, by adding even more shooting in the form of veterans Nick Young and Omri Casspi. Should win their 3rd title in 4 seasons.

WEAKNESSES: Complacency becoming a factor at the wrong time. Won 67 games last season and might be a little more tempted to coast during the regular season.

BETS: Under 67.5 Regular Season Wins @ $2.00 (William Hill) NBA Championship Winner @ $1.63 (Ladbrokes)

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS STRENGTHS: Danilo Gallinari is the best small forward the Clippers have signed in several seasons. Despite being on a downswing, they are still the better side in LA. Still have two All-Stars (when fit) in their front-court.

WEAKNESSES: Losing Chris Paul (Rockets) and JJ Redick (76ers) is massive and places a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of Blake Griffin, who can always be penciled in to miss a chunk of games through injury.

BETS: Over 42.5 Regular Season Wins @ $1.80 (CrownBet)

LOS ANGELES LAKERS STRENGTHS: Lonzo Ball has the makings of a very good NBA player and his court-vision makes the Lakers a more attractive visual proposition, at the very least. Brook Lopez at centre is an enormous upgrade from Timofey Mozgov.

WEAKNESSES: The weight of expectation on the shoulders of their #2 draft pick looks borderline unfair and when you strip back the hype, improving from 26 wins to 34 looks like too big a task, given how stacked the West is.

BETS: Under 33.5 Regular Season Wins @ $1.90 (William Hill)

PHOENIX SUNS STRENGTHS: Devin Booker… and not a whole lot else. Josh Jackson will get his chance to contribute from the get-go.

WEAKNESSES: This is basically the same team that won 24 games and finished last in the West, last season. It’s hard to see where the bookmakers think the extra 5 wins are coming from, unless the assumption is they will all come against the East.

BETS: Under 28.5 Regular Season Wins @ $1.88 (CrownBet)

SACRAMENTO KINGS STRENGTHS: Won 32 games last year and didn’t seem to get a whole lot worse after trading DeMarcus Cousins at the All-Star break. Made some pretty handy signings in the form of Zach Randolph, George Hill and the ageless Vince Carter, all of whom are used to winning more than 27 games in any given season.

WEAKNESSES: No real stars on their roster and a lot of players who are best described as “questionable” on the defensive end.

BETS: Over 27.5 Regular Season Wins @ $1.90 (William Hill)

DALLAS MAVERICKS STRENGTHS: The Mavs roster is surprisingly deep in terms of guard rotation and Dennis Smith Jr is already showing enough promise to be firmly in early ROY conversations. Rick Carlisle will get everything out of the players at his disposal, as he always does and as a result, The Big Dog thinks they will improve by the required 2 wins.

WEAKNESSES: The front-court could be found wanting, especially defensively, if Nerlens Noel doesn’t step up. Dirk is in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career and in an ideal world, Harrison Barnes isn’t your primary scoring option.

BETS: Over 34.5 Regular Season Wins @ $1.80 (CrownBet)

HOUSTON ROCKETS STRENGTHS: The addition of Chris Paul to a back-court that already contained James Harden makes the Rockets one of the biggest threats to the Golden State Warriors and possibly the second best team in the NBA. Will absolutely torch sides on a regular basis, through the regular season. Hard to imagine they’re not at least 2 wins better than last season.

WEAKNESSES: Lost a bit of depth in the trade for CP3 and could be seen running an 8-man rotation for much of the season. Injuries could really play a huge role in 2018, for Houston.

BETS: Over 56.5 Regular Season Wins @ $1.90 (William Hill) Southwest Division Winner @ $2.00 (Ladbrokes)

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES STRENGTHS: Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are a genuine star tandem who will do the job of ensuring the Grizzlies are never considered an easy out. Chandler Parsons is a max-contract player who was missing for virtually all of last season.

WEAKNESSES: Zach Randolph and Tony Allen were instrumental in setting the foundations for “The Grindhouse” and their departure will be felt at various times. Parsons can’t be relied on to be available on a consistent basis and that’s a huge issue on a roster that looks shallow to begin with. If the Grizzlies make the playoffs, Marc Gasol will be in the thick of MVP speculation.

BETS: Under 38.5 Regular Season Wins @ $1.87 (Sportsbet)

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS STRENGTHS: Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins enter this season after their first off-season as teammates, so this will be the first real opportunity to determine of the two multi-skilled bigs can coexist. On paper, theirs is a very solid 4-man guard rotation.

WEAKNESSES: Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins being on the same team has the potential to be a ticking time-bomb and recent history suggests that Rondo will start well in New Orleans, before eventually becoming a destabilising presence around the playing group. Not much in the way of talent at small forward.

BETS: Over 39.5 Regular Season Wins @ $1.95 (William Hill)

SAN ANTONIO SPURS STRENGTHS: Excellent coaching, a culture build around sustained success and a leading MVP candidate in Kawhi Leonard, is a recipe for another typically impressive Spurs season. They also won 61 games in 2016-17.

WEAKNESSES: This might finally be the year we see San Antonio come back to the pack. Tony Parker is still months away from returning from injury, LaMarcus Aldridge hasn’t lived up to his reputation since leaving Portland in free agency, while Rudy Gay is an unknown quantity in his comeback from a torn achilles. 55 is a whole lot of wins to expect, with all those variables in play.

BETS: Under 54.5 Regular Season Wins @ $2.05 (William Hill)

DENVER NUGGETS STRENGTHS: Look like a really solid playoff team, if they get an even break with injuries. 4 starters

have genuine scoring ability, which goes a long way to offset a few queries on the other side of the ball. Could be a very enjoyable team to watch.

WEAKNESSES: Point guard is the big problem area. Emmanuel Mudiay hasn’t really justified his selection at pick 7 of the 2015 draft and if he’s needed, veteran Jameer Nelson doesn’t exactly have the speed to play big minutes in a fast-paced offence. Defensively they haven’t appeared to address their obvious shortcomings. Would be surprised if they improved by more than 3 or 4 wins, compared to last season.

BETS: Under 46.5 Regular Season Wins @ $1.80 (bet365)

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES STRENGTHS: One of the most discussed teams in this off-season, after trading for Jimmy Butler but their subsequent signing of Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague could be just as important. The Timberwolves have one of the best starting 5’s on paper but there are a few depth concerns, which will be countered by Tom Thibodeau’s habit of playing his starters for heavy minutes.

WEAKNESSES: Despite having a defensive mastermind at Head Coach, Minnesota were terrible in that area. Butler will help, as will Gibson but it’s not a realistic expectation for any team to improve by 18 total wins. They should improve significantly but 49 wins would be astonishing.

BETS: Under 48.5 Regular Season Wins @ $1.83 (bet365)

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER STRENGTHS: Pulled off two of the biggest coups of the off-season, adding Paul George and Carmelo Anthony for comparatively little in the short term, effectively moving from 1 elite scoring option to 3.

WEAKNESSES: Westbrook, Anthony and George are all prodigiously talented isolation scorers, which begs the question of how exactly they will be able to co-exist for long stretches of games. Billy Donovan may need to do a bit of experimenting with different lineups, to combat a lack of scoring punch from his bench and this teething period might be the main factor that keeps the OKC win total under the line.

BETS: Under 53.5 Regular Season Wins @ $1.97 (Sportsbet) Northwest Division Winner @ $2.00 (Ladbrokes)

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS STRENGTHS: The most stable roster in the Northwest division, which could really help the Trail

Blazers pick up some unexpected divisional wins in the early part of the season. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are still one of the best starting back-court duos in the NBA.

WEAKNESSES: An injury to Al-Farouq Aminu really hurt Portland defensively, last season and they will need to improve in all positions if they are to retain their position in the playoffs. While their roster stability does inspire confidence that they will stay around the low-40’s in terms of wins, the downside to that is they probably have a ceiling around the 7th seed.

BETS: Over 41.5 Regular Season Wins @ $1.80 (CrownBet)

UTAH JAZZ STRENGTHS: The Jazz should remain defensively one of the better teams in the league, lead by French centre Rudy Gobert and the savvy coaching of Quin Snyder.

WEAKNESSES: Losing Gordon Hayward and George Hill is a massive blow for a team that was already close to the lowest-scoring in the NBA. The addition of Ricky Rubio could also have the potential to backfire, with the clever Spaniard more suited to a transition offence. Rodney Hood (12.4 points per game) will have to assume the role of primary scorer, which suggests they might not be able to score enough points to beat enough teams and might be in for the biggest slide in the Western Conference.

BETS: Under 40.5 Regular Season Wins @ $1.87 (Sportsbet)

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