This is the fourth weekly installment of this column where I feature a week-to-week market update of how overs and unders are playing out across the NBA.
Last week, I featured the Miami Heat as a team that could be a good team to target for overs. They went 1-1-1 in their three games this past week. I mentioned that this angle would be especially strong if Jimmy Butler was out. The only time the total went under was the game he suited up for.
The Toronto Raptors, who I mentioned as a team to target for unders, went 1-1, in their short two-game week. Their defense was as advertised in their game against the New York Knicks and could see those low-scoring games continue.
The Charlotte Hornets and the Houston Rockets, whom I both featured in the week before last, continued their streak of overs. The Hornets went 2-0-1 to the over (with practically half their team out due to health and safety protocol) and the Rockets went 2-1 to the over.
Here is the weekly market update through Week 8 (week ending Dec. 12).
Key Totals Trends to Watch
- Unders made a small comeback, going 25-23-3 (52.1%) in Week 8. This brings the season-to-date over/under record to 183-216-4 (45.9%) as it continues to inch closer to 50%.
- Average points scored per game was 216.9 in Week 8. This brings the season-to-date average up to 215.2.
- As mentioned last week, the gap is closing between the market totals the actual points scored. The totals market has become more efficient. We are currently sitting around the 216 range, on average. While I thought overs could continue to be successful due to offense improving around the league, those metrics largely stayed stagnant from last week.
- There was a slew of injuries in Week 8. Devin Booker, C.J. McCollum, Damian Lillard, Jaylen Brown, Luka Doncic, James Harden and Kevin Durant all missed time last week. Also, the Chicago Bulls and Hornets rosters has been hard with health and safety protocols. This could be a reason for the scoring coming down a bit.
- One stat I would like to highlight is 3-point percentage. For the second week in a row, 3-point shooting has exceeded 36%. This is a good sign as shooters around the league continue to shake off the rust and adjust to new rules, ball and style of play.
Teams with highest scoring games (220 and above)
- Hornets: Avg: 115.8 | Opp Avg: 116.2 | Total: 232.0
- Kings: Avg: 111.2 | Opp Avg: 114.0 | Total: 225.2
- Lakers: Avg: 111.2 | Opp Avg: 111.5 | Total: 222.7
- Grizzlies: Avg: 110.4 | Opp Avg: 109.9 | Total: 220.3
Teams with lowest scoring games (208 and below)
- Thunder: Avg: 98.5 | Opp Avg: 108.2 | Total: 206.7
- Cavaliers: Avg: 106.0 | Opp Avg: 102.2 | Total: 208.2
- Mavericks: Avg: 103.8 | Opp Avg: 104.8 | Total: 208.6
- Raptors: Avg: 104.3 | Opp Avg: 104.6| Total: 208.9
Best Over Teams
- Hornets: 17-10-1 (63.0%)
- Heat: 16-10-1 (61.5%)
- Nuggets: 15-11 (57.7%)
- Grizzlies: 15-12 (55.6%)
Best Under Teams
Recent Over Trends
- Nuggets: 12-2 to the over in last 14 games
- Jazz: 9-2-1 to the over in last 12 games
- Hornets: 7-0-1 to the over in last eight games
- Pacers: 7-2 to the over in last nine games
- Timberwolves: 7-2 to the over in last nine games
- Rockets: 7-2 to the over in last nine games
- Wizards: 6-1-1 to the over in last eight games
Recent Under Trends
- Warriors: 11-3-1 to the under in last 15 games (9-0 to the under in last nine road games)
- Mavericks: 6-0 to the under in last six games
- Nets: 5-1 to the under in last six games
- Lakers: 6-1 to the under in last seven games
- 76ers: 5-1-1 to the under in last seven games
- Raptors: 5-1 to the under in last six games
- Suns: 5-1 to the under in last six games
Teams in the Totals Spotlight
Chicago Bulls – Unders
The Bulls’ roster is extremely thin; since Zach LaVine was entered health and safety protocols on Sunday morning, the Bulls now have nine players in league protocols. This list now includes: LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Coby White, three of the Bulls’ best scorers.
Who knows if the Bulls will even be able to play these games with so many players out, but if they do, I think they have the potential to be low-scoring games.
We’ve gotten a glimpse of what their offense looks like without LaVine and DeRozan. The Bulls have scored 92 points per game in their past two games. Granted, they were against the tough defenses of the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers, but I’m not optimistic that their offense can do much otherwise.
The three players that lead their team in Defensive Win Shares are Alex Caruso, Nikola Vucevic and Lonzo Ball. Those three are a few of the players that are still on the active roster for now. With their best scorers out and their best defenders remaining, I see low-scoring games in their future.
They have a three-game slate against the Pistons, Raptors and Lakers. The Pistons have one of the league’s worst offenses. The Raptors have re-established themselves as a strong defensive team. Finally, the Lakers have gone a streak of unders, going 6-1 in their last seven games. They’ve ramped up the defense a bit and slowed down the pace quite a bit as of late.
Washington Wizards – Overs
Washington began the season with one of the league’s best defenses, but it has fallen off a cliff over the last two weeks, dragging their overall Defensive Rating to 17th in the league. For the fifth consecutive week in a row, their Defensive Rating has gotten worse. They’ve gone 6-1-1 to the over in their last eight games.
Bradley Beal was struggling with a shooting slump for a while, but he has strung together three consecutive good games, averaging 26.7 points per game on 54.4% shooting from the field. I think he can continue this success against this week’s schedule of opponents.
Kyle Kuzma, who entered health and safety protocols, could miss some extended time. He leads the Wizards team in Defensive Win Shares, per Basketball Reference.
They start this week off against the Nuggets, who as mentioned above, have gone 12-2 to the over in their previous 14 games. The Nuggets are another team whose defense has steadily been going downhill. The Kings are a high-scoring team with a poor defense, so there’s another matchup where I think it could be high-scoring. Finally, they will face the Suns and Jazz, who both have the scorers to really pour it on against the Wizards.
Judging by their recent closing totals, the market still appears to be pricing their totals relatively low. Let’s see if we can take advantage of a few more before they adjust.
Note: Teams and totals featured in this section should not be blindly bet on. Based on a number of key factors and my perception of the market, I think that these teams will have a tendency to have low or high-scoring games for the upcoming week. However, circumstances can change with injuries, rest, lineup changes and most importantly, the market total.