Imagine how happy I was to be able to cover such an exciting Western Conference clash between the Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Pelicans... only for the NBA to do NBA things with several stars listed on the injury report.
Even with Nikola Jokic questionable to play, NBA odds have conference-leading Denver as slight road favorites for this matchup.
Which team will be able to navigate their respective injuries better and come out with a win? I dig through the numbers and bring you my best bet in my NBA betting picks and predictions for the Nuggets vs. Pelicans.
Nuggets vs Pelicans best odds
Nuggets vs Pelicans picks and predictions
It can be really hard to make a bet when you’re not sure who is playing, and there is a lot of that going around in this game.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Michael Porter Jr. is out and Nikola Jokic is questionable with a sore hamstring. For the Pelicans? There is still no sign of Zion Williamson while Brandon Ingram is doubtful, with Naji Marshall questionable.
So, what’s an NBA bettor to do? Well, I would eliminate as many variables as possible. I’ll do that by looking at the player prop market — for someone with no injury designation of course. And for me, there’s no one better than Pels’ center Jonas Valanciunas.
JV is averaging 14.9 points and 9.9 rebounds per game this season, and with all the injuries NOLA has been dealing with, he’s picked up the scoring. Over the last eight games, he’s putting up 21.5 ppg with a great chance to keep that up against the Nuggets.
Jokic is a good, not great, defender and sometimes gives way down low to other talented bigs. As a result, Denver ranks 24th in opponent points in the paint per game. And while the Joker is a so-so defender, not having him suit up is a much worse scenario for the Nuggets as he directs so much traffic on that end of the floor.
Valanciunas has a point total of 16.5 for this matchup, a number he's eclipsed six times over the last eight games.
With the combination of the Pels leaning on JV more recently and the matchup, I like him to cash this even if Jokic does play. If he doesn’t, Valanciunas could have a huge night.
My best bet: Jonas Valanciunas Over 16.5 points (-115)
Looking to do some NBA betting? Here are two of the best bonuses* available:
A) New users at FanDuel can bet $5 and get $150 in bonus bets! Sign Up Now
B) New users at DraftKings can bet $5 and get $200 in bonus bets! Sign Up Now
*Eligible USA locations only. Also, check out our full list of best sportsbook promotions for 2023.
21+. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER
Nuggets vs Pelicans spread analysis
The spread for this Western Conference matchup opened with the Nuggets as slight 1-point road chalk and that’s where the line remains as of Tuesday afternoon. I wouldn’t expect much movement until Jokic’s status is confirmed one way or the other. And honestly, you can’t bet on the spread until it is.
That’s because Denver is totally different when the two-time reigning MVP is on the floor and when he isn’t.
Jokic is once again having an incredible season. Prior to the year, it seemed unlikely he would win a third straight MVP, whether it was being unable to keep up his uber-elite level of play, or just voter fatigue. But now more than halfway through the season, Jokic has the Nuggets at the top of the West standings at 33-14 and he’s the betting favorite to win the NBA MVP for the third straight season.
The Nuggets are 3-3 without Jokic this season, scoring 108 points per game, down from their season total of 117.2.
Denver has been playing very before this Jokic injury — winning nine straight games — including a beatdown of the Pacers without Jokic last Friday night. However, they struggled last time out against a good defensive Thunder team, and the Pelicans are another strong defensive team, ranking eighth in defensive rating.
For me, it basically comes down to this. If Jokic plays, I’d lean toward the Nuggets, if not the Pels are worth a look.
Nuggets vs Pelicans Over/Under analysis
Meanwhile, the total for this matchup hit the board at 233 and the early money has come in on the Under, moving the number down to 230. Once again, a lot of this relies on the status of Jokic, but I think I would agree with the early money here.
Obviously, the Nuggets have the best offense in basketball at the moment with Jokic on the floor, but they score almost 10 points per game fewer without him.
On the other side, injuries have hampered the Pels who are scoring just 101.8 points per game during this four-game losing streak, and the struggles could continue in this one.
While Denver can can struggle to defend the paint, it has really picked up its perimeter defense and now ranks seventh in opponent 3-point shooting percentage. So, it could be the Pels' strategy to work the ball inside more often. Hence, fewer points.
Nuggets vs Pelicans betting trend to know
The Under is 6-2 in the Nuggets' last eight games overall and is 8-1 in the Pelicans' last nine games vs. a team with a winning record. Find more NBA betting trends for Nuggets vs. Pelicans.
Nuggets vs Pelicans game info
|Location:||Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA|
|Date:||Tuesday, January 24, 2023|
|Tip-off:||8:00 p.m. ET|
|TV:||Altitude 2, Bally Sports New Orleans|