For the 2020-2021 NBA season, I’ll be publishing my projections for every NBA game on the Wednesday and Friday slate. Here’s what you’ll find in my model: projected team totals, projected combined totals, projected spreads for the matchup and the implied odds for the moneyline.
I’ll also be highlighting some of the slate’s most intriguing matchups with in-depth, game-level analysis that goes beyond the numbers.
Note: My projections won’t be updated in real-time throughout the day, but Action’s PRO Projections tool is dynamic and will reflect the latest injury and lineup news.
NBA Projections Model
NBA Odds & Picks
Although projections give us a solid baseline for what a number should be, it’s also important to handicap each matchup for things that the numbers can’t tell us.
Atlanta Hawks vs. Philadelphia 76ers
These two teams met on Wednesday night, and the Philadelphia 76ers made easy work of the shorthanded Atlanta Hawks, who were missing Trae Young, Bogdan Bogdanovic, De’Andre Hunter, Kevin Huerter, Cam Reddish and Tony Snell. Philadelphia won by 44 points in a game in which none of their starters played more than 25 minutes.
Unfortunately for Atlanta, the team does not appear to be in substantially better health for Friday night’s tilt, either. Hunter, Reddish and Huerter have been ruled out while Young, Bogdanovic and Capela are questionable.
Although Snell is probable for tonight, the prospect of the Hawks playing another game shorthanded against a healthy 76ers team with no one on the injury report is unfavorable.
Onyeka Okongwu, John Collins, and Nathan Knight would see minutes at center if Capela does not play. So, you have to wonder if the Hawks are content to punt this game with a back-to-back at home against the Chicago Bulls tomorrow.
The 76ers shot a whopping 84.2% at the rim in Wednesday’s game, which ranked in the 95th percentile for all NBA games played this season. Joel Embiid scored just 17 points on 7-of-16 shooting, and Ben Simmons only had 8 points on 4-of-5 shooting.
I expect bigger performances from Embiid and Simmons tonight.
The 76ers thrive offensively in areas that the Hawks struggle to defend — particularly in the midrange. Philadelphia shoots the third-highest field goal percentage (45.5%) from the midrange while the Hawks rank 23rd in opponent field goal percentage in the midrange (43.2%).
With a full strength Hawks team, my model makes this game around 76ers -6.5. Defending smaller and quicker guards like Trae Young has been a persistent issue for Philadelphia. But, if Young does not play, then the 76ers should run away with this game given the Hawks’ calamitous list of injuries.
Portland Trailblazers vs. Brooklyn Nets
If both of these teams were playing at full strength, then the Brooklyn Nets would be laying at least 6 points to the Portland Trailblazers tonight.
Instead, the Blazers are laying 2 points on the road with Kevin Durant unlikely to play on a back-to-back. Portland seeks its third straight victory and hopes to keep pace in the Western Conference Playoff race.
These teams last met on March 23, and Brooklyn was without the services of both Kevin Durant and Kyire Irving. Still, James Harden powered the Nets to a 116-112 victory via 25 points, 17 assists and 7 rebounds.
The Trail Blazers were 2.5-point favorites at home in the teams’ first meeting, which makes this current line intriguing. Sharp money pushed the line up from Nets -1 through the zero, making the Blazers favorites in this spot.
Kyrie Irving is questionable; but if he plays, then I’m not sure this line move is warranted. Furthermore, we could see it get pushed even further out of wack when Durant is officially announced out.
Granted, I believe that Harden is more valuable than Irving in terms of the point spread. However, Harden’s or Irving’s value notwithstanding, if you’re betting on the Blazers after the line moved through the zero, then you’re effectively paying a premium to back a team chasing the NBA Playoffs. As I always say, if a team finds itself in must-win games, then that team isn’t very good.
As much as we love Damian Lillard, we must admit that this Blazers team is far from a contender. Portland has made its living beating bad teams: It boasts a 22-7 record vs. teams below .500. Contrast that with the team’s 12-21 record vs. teams with a winning percentage of .500 or higher.
If you’ve been following the Blazers in the Lillard era, then you’re already aware that this team features a top-notch offense but struggles to defend. The Blazers are fifth in Offensive Rating (117.9) and 29th in Defensive Rating (117.1) in non-garbage time minutes. So, winning vs. losing is largely dependent on how well the team scores on any given night.
The majority of Portland’s scoring comes from the perimeter: 42.3% of the team’s total field goal attempts come from behind the arc, which is the second-highest rate in the NBA. Although the Blazers rank seventh in 3-point shooting percentage (38.5%), the Nets are are solid at defending the perimeter. Brooklyn’s opponents shoot a modest 36.9% from behind the arc.
For all the talk about the Nets defense, it is substantially better than the Blazers defense. Moreover, the Nets are adept at defending the two most efficient areas of the floor: The 3-point line and the rim, where they’re holding opposing teams to a field goal percentage of 63.2% (eighth in the NBA).
If Irving plays, this is a very winnable game for a Nets team that scores 121.4 points per 100 possessions with Irving on the floor. Even without Durant and Harden, the cupboard is far from bare. Brooklyn has more than enough scoring to remain competitive against nearly any team in the league.
The Blazers are 18th in opponent field goal percentage at the rim (64.7%), 26th opponent field goal percentage in the midrange (43.5%) and 20th in opponent 3-point percentage (37.7%).
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Sacramento Kings
Both of these teams are coming off embarrassing losses. The Sacramento Kings conceded 154 points to the Utah Jazz and lost by a whopping 49-point margin. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Lakers are rebounding from a 107-116 loss to the Washington Wizards. Unlike the Kings, the Lakers are actually a legitimate championship contender.
The Kings are missing both De’Aaron Fox and Harrison Barnes for this game which really puts them at a disadvantage. Los Angeles still ranks second in Defensive Rating, conceding only 107.7 points per 100 possessions to its opponents during non-garbage time minutes (per Cleaning the Glass).
Sacramento scores 116.6 points per 100 possessions with Barnes on the floor vs. 109.6 points per 100 possessions with Barnes off the floor (+7.0). Similarly, the Kings scored 115.4 points per 100 possessions with Fox on the floor vs. 112.7 with him off (+2.7).
Although the Kings might be able to remain competitive with one of those two players missing, they are really going to struggle without both. It’s asking a lot for Sacramento to replace two of its top-three scorers, its best playmaker in Fox and its best wing in Barnes.
The loss of Barnes in particularly really hurts the Kings defense, which is already dead last in Defensive Rating (119.4) in non-garbage time minutes. With Barnes on the floor the Kings are giving up an Offensive Rating of 117.7, whereas without Barnes, they concede an Offensive Rating of 123.5 (-5.8).
So, I have trouble believing that Sacramento has any chance of stopping LA — a team that already beat a full-strength version of the Kings 115-94 without LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Lakers put up an Offensive Rating of 115 in that game without either of their superstars, and I think we could see a similar or even better result tonight.
The Kings come off a game in which they gave up 154 points and allowed a whopping Offensive Rating of 153.5. To further pour salt in the wound, Utah didn’t even have Donovan Mitchell or Mike Conley available to play.
So, the Lakers can name their score here. Giving up a 1.53 points per possession is almost like the opposing team scored two points every trip up the floor.
Los Angeles is back home for a three-game home stand against Sacramento, Toronto and Denver as it attempts to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race.
Look for LA to kick off the home stand with a big win. I’ll lay the 8 points here.
Are you looking for a safe, reliable, trustworthy sportsbook? Check out our ratings of the best sportsbooks and their current sign-up offers for new customers.