The NBA is nearly back, finally. We get a star-studded opening night featuring the Sixers at the Celtics at 6:30pm CST, followed by the Lakers at the Warriors at 9pm CST. Both games are on TNT, which also means we get the return of Chuck, Shaq, and Kenny throughout the evening. There will be time to complain any other day about the TNT studio crew asking KAT to post-up 40 times a game. I am going to be thrilled to see them on my television again.
As for the games on the court, it should be an awesome night of hoops. Celtics-Sixers is a great rivalry with two chaotic fanbases, and following that up with a LeBron-Warriors matchup is about as good as the NBA can do in terms of drawing in the average NBA fan. It’ll also be ring night for the Warriors, which will no doubt have people firing off #takes. Let’s take a look at what the Oddsmakers think of this slate.
The Oddsmakers at DraftKings see the opener as a near coin flip, with the Celtics sitting as 2-point favorites over the Sixers at home. Philadelphia has become a trendy Finals pick from media members of late, and the books seem to agree on the strength of this team.
It’s easy to see why, at least as far as the regular season goes. Joel Embiid remains one of the most difficult players in the NBA to account for, and he’s flanked by a great backcourt of James Harden and Tyrese Maxey. Daryl Morey also added the rugged P.J. Tucker in the offseason, which will bring an immediate toughness that the team has been missing in the past.
Al Horford has traditionally done a good job with Joel Embiid, but he is another year older now, and I expect that Embiid will have his way with a Celtics front court missing Robert Williams. The Celtics are pretty deep, but I really like what the Sixers have done to improve their roster, and Maxey feels primed for another leap. I like the Sixers to win outright.
The pick: Sixers ML (+115)
The Warriors are moderate favorites over the Lakers on ring night, and all this line tells me is that maybe I’m wrong about the Lakers. I fully understand how good LeBron James and Anthony Davis are, but I do not think the rest of the roster is good enough to keep it close with the defending champs. The Warriors figure to be full-strength tomorrow, while the Lakers may be without Russell Westbrook due to a hamstring injury.
There is drama galore with these two teams right now, but as far as the on-court product goes, these two couldn’t be more different to me. The Warriors should benefit from their continuity and be able to take advantage of a Lakers team with a litany of new faces. Assuming health, I think I’d feel better about the Lakers at this number later in the season. Playing the Warriors requires near-perfect communication on defense, and incredible precision on offense. It’s just too early for me to trust the Lakers to play that way.
Add in the fact that Draymond Green is going to be available to guard Anthony Davis, and it’s hard for me to see the Lakers keeping this within two possessions. I fully realize that disagreeing with the books probably makes me the idiot, but there’s just no way I can visualize this game as anything other than a double-digit win for Golden State.
The pick: Warriors -6.5
Aside from the outcomes of the games, I think the niche/nerd thing I am most interested to see all evening is how the Warriors “kids” look. They let Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr. walk in free agency, in part because they believe Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody are ready to take those minutes (they also brought in Donte DiVincenzo). Are they, along with James Wiseman, ready to play important minutes on a contender? That is one of the more important storylines to follow in the Western Conference. I have no idea what to expect form Wiseman, but I am pretty bullish on Kuminga and Moody. If they are as good as advertised, the boost they can bring to this veteran-laden team will be massive.