The NBA released its full schedule on Monday, and it’s full of highlights, revenge games, and playoff previews. But we know what you really crave: gambling advice. While we wait for bookies to formalize real prop bets, here are the ones we wish they’d set for a few games this season instead.
Celtics at Sixers, October 23
Ben Simmons takes a 3-pointer in Philadelphia’s opener: plus-2500
A saying pops into my head every time I consider betting on Simmons taking a 3-pointer, like divine intervention from the MIT blackjack team: “Consider how hard it is to change yourself, and you’ll understand what little chance you have trying to change others.” As desperately as Brett Brown, the Sixers organization, Greater Philadelphia, rudimentary math, and I all want Simmons to take 3s, it’s entirely up to him.
Here’s a video of Simmons training in late July. Note the first play:
Behind the arc, feet set, closest defender not in frame: Simmons sinks the 3. It’s glorious. Not so unlike when Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile: Most people assumed it was impossible until Bannister did it. That’s exactly like Simmons scoring this bucket, except for the millions of 3s made before he took it, and excusing the fact that, as a professional basketball player, it’s sort of a job requirement for him. Sir Ben Simmons: He can make 3s still!
What Simmons has done in games that count, though, doesn’t help his case—he’s 0-for-17 for his career. Plus, the Sixers’ season opener is against the Celtics, who are known for good 3-point defense, and is in Philadelphia. Simmons is less likely to attempt a deep shot at home. Of his 17 career attempts, 10 have come on the road. (And of his 17 attempts, only four have been legitimate, non-shot-clock throwaways, three of which he took on the road.)
Joel Embiid begins the first beef of the 2019-20 season: plus-650
Embiid has much to overcome if he wants to instigate the first melee of the season. (Must be at least a “heated exchange” to qualify.) Ordinarily, playing against the Celtics would be an advantage in this category. All rivalries have bad blood; Boston vs. Philly has resulted in literal blood. This season, though, the Celtics roster is depleted of big personalities, nary a Scary Terry or a Morris brother. Kemba Walker doesn’t bring the same provocation of a Kyrie Irving. (Walker’s probably just happy to be on national TV after all these years.) Crushingly, Al Horford—the Embiid stopper—is now Joel’s teammate.
This might be out of Embiid’s hands: Patrick Beverly plays the night before against the Lakers.
Lakers at Pelicans, November 27
Anthony Davis dunks on Zion Williamson: plus-1300
Part of me wonders whether AD is too grateful to Zion to wedge the rookie’s face in his armpit. If New Orleans hadn’t received the first overall pick, Davis may not have been able to leverage his way out of town as quickly as he did. (Though technically, the games the Pelicans lost as a result of Davis’s sitting out helped the team win the lottery in the first place. Good cooperation and effort by all.) Not many players recover from the wrath of Davis’s 7-foot-6 wingspan. Little-known fact: 95 percent of his victims retire two to three weeks after the posterization. Probably too little known for you to fact-check. I’ve personally always advocated for a fund for those guys.
On the other hand, current stars can resent the discourse around up-and-comers. When Karl-Anthony Towns came into the league, the older, former Kentucky bigs before him relished the opportunity to play against him. He was set up to be a punching bag for AD and DeMarcus Cousins his first two seasons. (Davis, for example, averages 30.3 points against Towns all time.)
Zion Williamson dunks on Anthony Davis: plus-1300
Yes, I’m giving the same odds to a rookie. Why?
1. Zion “My Intentions Are to Stay With the Pelicans My Whole Career” Williamson knows how to seduce a fan base.
2. Dunking on the superstar who left and broke their hearts is an objectively good seduction tactic. Ladies, this also applies to everyday romance. Wine him, dine him, dunk on his ex.
3. This picture:
Zion Williamson is not of this world. pic.twitter.com/10IlN98F3W— Anthony Riccobono (@Tony_Riccobono) November 15, 2018
Nets at Celtics, November 27
Kyrie Irving is booed during his return to Boston: minus-500
I’d argue that, despite the confrontations, aggressive mind games, and many losses, Irving’s time in Boston ended well simply because it ended. Neither side was benefiting from that union. Even with that knowledge, Kyrie will be the scapegoat for a wasted Celtics season the rest of his career. TD Garden’s booing him is the safest bet on the board, and that’s only because “WHAT DOES GOVERNMENT MEAN TO YOU?” is too many syllables to chant.
Rockets at Thunder, January 9
Russell Westbrook scores a triple-double his first time back in Oklahoma City: minus-110
Westbrook has averaged a triple-double for the past three seasons. The initial awe that it inspires is followed by a Well, Actually-natured dismissal of how he racks up rebounds and assists, which makes us forget that a triple-double is a remarkable statistical feat. (Unless a player other than Westbrook gets the triple-double—then it’s a career mile marker and cause for celebratory tweets and worthy of a SportsCenter Top 10 spot.)
The chances that Russ will notch two digits in three columns are even greater upon his return to Oklahoma City. Westbrook won’t be passing and crashing the glass and jacking 3s out of revenge, he’ll be passing and crashing the glass and jacking 3s out of love. Fans will cry; Westbrook will be emotional. It will be a walk down memory lane, except this time, with Steven Adams actually staying in the lane to rebound.
Lakers at Clippers, October 22
The general public doesn’t overreact to the outcome of this game: plus-infinity
Sure, the payout logistics for plus-infinity are, at best, literally impossible. But such is opening the season pitting two title-contending tandems against each other. If any of the four sit prematurely, his health this season is doomed. If Davis or Kawhi Leonard don’t drop 35 apiece, their trade investment was a mistake. If LeBron can’t pull this off, his prime is over. If the Lakers win, the Lakers are winning it all. If the Lakers lose, the Lakers aren’t making the playoffs. If Steve Ballmer sneezes, the Clippers’ new mascot is Kleenex.