ESPN's fantasy basketball and basketball betting tips cheat sheet is your pregame destination for basketball betting predictions and our best intel and data to help you make smart fantasy and wagering decisions. NBA game odds for October 18 are provided by Caesars Sportsbook, and fantasy advice is based on ESPN 10-team leagues.
What is spread betting in basketball?
If you're new to betting basketball, here's how it works: sportsbooks set a "spread," which is essentially an estimated margin of victory to factor into your decision. You can bet on the favorite minus the points or the underdog plus the number.
To win the bet, the side you choose has to cover the spread. For example: If the Warriors are -5.5 vs the Lakers, you would need the Warriors to win by 6 or more if you bet on them or need the Lakers to not lose by 6 or more if you took the underdog Lakers.
What you need to know for Tuesday's NBA slate
by Jim McCormick and Kyle Soppe
Through three games of the preseason, Philadelphia's Tyrese Maxey averaged 40.2 points per 36 minutes in roughly 18 minutes per game for the 76ers, which sits second in scoring rate (only behind Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2019) for players who played at least three games and averaged 15 minutes in the preseason since 2010. Seems good. DFS markets haven't quite adjusted for Maxey's potential leap, as he's priced at $5,000 on DraftKings.
For those eyeing Philly's roster for redraft value, look for De'Anthony Melton to potentially provide atypically strong 3-and-D rates. Melton (6.7% rostered), for his part, ranked in the 96th percentile in steals and 97th percentile in blocks among guards last season.
Possibly lost in the shuffle of the Celtics' offseason was the savvy acquisition of guard Malcolm Brogdon. As dominant as Boston was down the stretch last season, some offensive woes in the half court resurfaced during a long playoff run. Brogdon (rostered in 81% of ESPN leagues) could play a large role running the Boston offense in his debut with the Celtics and serves as a worthy pivot from Maxey in daily fantasy competition at nearly the same price.
Replacing Time Lord
It's impossible for Boston to truly replace the impact Robert Williams III provides on both sides of the ball, especially his game-changing rim protection. Yet with Williams sidelined for several months due to a knee injury, is it possible the fantasy market is undervaluing Grant Williams (2%)? Facing a Philly roster flush with size in Joel Embiid and depth at the forward spots, the versatile Williams could play a big role for the Celtics on Tuesday.
It's not often a reigning champion gets the luxury of seeing if a former top lottery pick can integrate into the rotation, but such is the case with James Wiseman (38%). Impressive preseason tape signals some potential for Wiseman (38%) to finally surface in the Golden State rotation this season, but we can still expect a limited role for the young pivot against the Lakers on Tuesday. It will be interesting to see if any of Jonathan Kuminga (15.5%), Moses Moody (0.5%), or Wiseman can help fantasy managers this season.
Tuesday affords us our first real look at head coach Darvin Ham's scheme and this new-look Lakers roster. With Russell Westbrook facing a shift to the bench while dealing with a hamstring injury, it will be riveting to see how this patchworked Los Angeles backcourt plays out.
Game of the night
Line: Warriors (-6.5)
Money line: Lakers (+210), Warriors (-260)
Total: 227 points
BPI Projected Total: 216.1 points
BPI Win%: Warriors (67.0%)
Note: BPI numbers factored in players who are ruled out but assumes questionable players will play
Notable: The Warriors came out of the gates cashing tickets last season: 8-3-1 ATS in their first 12 a year ago.
Best bet: Lakers +6.5. The Lakers are another team coming off a disappointing season and an offseason of reckoning, while the Warriors have a lot of external events that could be drawing their attention. They'll be doing their championship ceremony and getting their rings on Tuesday, they just came off a weekend where several major contract extensions (but not all!) took place, and of course we're not far removed from the Draymond/Poole fight that marred the end of the offseason ahead of the extensions. Back to the Lakers, part of their disappointment last season was because their best players were so rarely healthy. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are healthy and good to go, and stylistically the Lakers have enough size to challenge the Warriors in the paint. According to BPI, the Warriors should be favored by 4.9 points, so there is a bit of value in the 6.5 points that the Lakers are getting. -- Snellings
Best bet: Warriors -6.5. Golden State ranked in the top three in both effective field goal percentage and opponent effective field goal percentage last season, and most of the Warriors' key players are returning this year. Golden State was 39-19-2 against the spread at home last season and should cover the spread against a Lakers team with questions about their rotation under new head coach Darvin Ham. -- Moody
Breaking down the rest of the slate
Line: Celtics (-2)
Money line: 76ers (+115, Celtics -135)
Total: 214.5 points
BPI Projected Total: 203.9 points
BPI Win%: Celtics (50.6%)
Notable: Unders went 7-2 in Philadelphia's first nine games last season, but by the end of the season, over tickets were cashing regularly (9-3 to round out the regular season).
Best bet: 76ers +2.5. I believe the 76ers enter the season on a mission. They are much better than the way their season ended, with both Joel Embiid and James Harden slowed physically, and there was enough criticism over the offseason that they should come to this game supremely motivated. It's shown up in how they played in the preseason as well, as the only team in the Eastern Conference to go undefeated. While the games are ultimately meaningless, to me it speaks to the level of focus and energy that the 76ers bring to the season. According to BPI, it's a toss-up game where both teams are expected to win about half the time; the Celtics are a 0.1 point favorite according to BPI. When it's that close, I'll take the points. -- Snellings
Under 214.5. It can be hard to predict how many minutes stars will play or how newcomers will perform in the first few NBA games, but early in the season defense is usually ahead of offense. Five of the last six 76ers-Celtics games went under and last season the Celtics had the third-best defensive rating. Look for those trends to continue in the season-opener. -- Moody
BPI's highest projected totals
Golden State Warriors: 110.5 points
Los Angeles Lakers: 105.6
BPI's lowest projected totals
Boston Celtics: 102 points
Philadelphia 76ers: 101.9
BPI top probability to win (straight up)
Golden State Warriors: 67%
Boston Celtics: 50.6%