Most sports bettors are watching the clock as football season ticks closer every second. But basketball fans got their gambling gears grinding this week with the release of the 2013-14 NBA schedule.
We talked to oddsmaker Michael Stewart at online book CarbonSports.ag, and asked him what the spreads should be for the three Opening Night contests as well as the five games featured in the Christmas Day showcase. Opening NightChicago Bulls at Miami Heat (-5.5)
Miami’s championship celebration will be overshadowed by the return of Chicago star PG Derrick Rose, who missed all of last season recovering from knee surgery. If Rose can return to the same MVP level, the Bulls could be the Heat’s biggest challenge in the East.
“No question Rose will be in the lineup and the Bulls should have all hands on deck for the first time since spring of 2012,” Stewart told Covers. “The Heat have won their last two opening-night games by a total of 24 points.”Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers (+4.5)
Is the opening game of 2013-14 the official changing of the guard in the Staples Center? Even after a disastrous year, the Lakers remain L.A.’s team. But the Clippers can make a serious statement with a win in this hallway series. Kobe Bryant’s recovering from Achilles surgery is on a record pace but he’s still a long shot to play in this game.
“The Lakers are going to be life and death just to make the playoffs,” says Stewart. “Zero home-court advantage for the Clippers and this line might be a bit short, but we’re opening Clips as decent 4.5-point favorites and we’ll react to the early money somewhat aggressively.”Orlando Magic at Indiana Pacers (-10.5)
This Opening Night matchup is a bit lost amongst the other two high-profile games. The Pacers proved they’re a power in the East, taking Miami the distance in the Eastern Conference final. Orlando, on the other hand, could start tanking for projected No. 1 pick, Andrew Wiggins, right from the get-go.
“Quietly, the Pacers have had a great offseason,” says Stewart. “They were able to resign David West and their entire core is intact. They added Luis Scola to their roster, a very solid perimeter player and a huge bonus off the bench.”Christmas DayChicago Bulls at Brooklyn Nets (-1.5)
Brooklyn underwent a facelift this offseason, bringing in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry. The Nets and Bulls' Xmas Day encounter could serve as a playoff preview, with these two clubs expected to be among the best in the East.
“Nets are all in for the 2013-14 season by leveraging their future by trading for aging superstars,” Stewart says of Pierce and Garnett. “Those two stars will be on limited minutes throughout the regular season, but I suspect they’ll get significant minutes in the bigger, more marquee games.”
Oklahoma City Thunder at New York Knicks (+2)
Two of the best small forwards in the league go head-to-head when Kevin Durant tangles with Carmelo Anthony on Dec. 25. The Thunder should have Russell Westbrook back in action by this point in the season.
“Durant is still the best player in this matchup and all things being equal, they’re the better team,” Stewart says of OKC. “We’re opening them a small favorite and we’ll see how the money comes in.”
Miami Heat at Los Angeles Lakers (+6)
This matchup would have meant a lot more if Dwight Howard had stuck around L.A. Instead, Miami could beat up on an aging Lakers squad that may or may not have Bryant back at this point in the season. Xmas Day would serve as a proper stage for his return, though.
“Reports out of L.A. are that Kobe is making great progress and could be ready for this game. I personally doubt he’ll be ready before Xmas,” says Stewart. “If Kobe is in the starting lineup with a few games under his belt, I’d make the Heat -3.”Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs (-4.5)
The Rockets can make a case for the West’s best with a win over the Spurs on Christmas. Howard automatically makes Houston a contender but San Antonio showed there is plenty of tread left on the tires and was mere seconds from another NBA title this spring.
“If the Rockets get off to a solid start and it looks like Howard and (James) Harden have good chemistry, then I could see this game going to Spurs -3,” says Stewart. “So much is going to depend on what we see out of the Rockets in their first few months of playing together. It’s a very interesting roster, no question the most anticipated season for the Rockets organization in quite some time.”Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors (-2.5)
Sometimes you save the best Christmas present for last. There are sure to be plenty of fireworks in this game, especially with the Warriors adding Andre Iguodala this offseason. Depending on the state of the Lakers, this game could go a long way in the Pacific standings, which could be a two-horse race between these clubs.
“Warriors were one of the more surprising teams in the NBA last year. Going into 2013, I have them equal to the Clippers power ratings wise and they do have a very good homecourt advantage,” says Stewart. “We debated between Warriors -3 and -4, we settled on -3.5 and we’ll see how the money comes in."