Day 1 of the Las Vegas NBA summer league is in the books, and it was quite an entertaining one. These are the important notes I made in each game relative to the betting market, and how they can strengthen our betting process going forward. I also included a few of the standout performances and under-the-radar player impacts that aren’t so obvious in the box score.
Game 1: Detroit Pistons vs. Team Croatia
Open: Croatia -1.5, 167.5
Close: Pistons -6.5, 164
Final score: Pistons 96, Croatia 80
Team Croatia intrigued me entering summer league because of its continuity and familiarity running an offensive system. The majority of the teams competing are put together the week prior to summer league and lack experience playing with one another. It showed early in this matchup on Friday as the Pistons found themselves down four points at halftime despite being bet up from an underdog to seven-point favorites.
It looked to me like the familiarity with an offensive system paid off for Croatia, but they are going to struggle mightily on the defensive side of the ball getting stops. This Detroit roster is still one of the worst in Las Vegas and dropped 96 points with ease. The total in this game dropped to 164 (one of the few occurrences a game has been bet to the under), but it would surprise me if we saw a number this low again in a Croatia game the rest of the way.
Game MVP: Khyri Thomas led the way scoring 26 points on 7-for-14 from long range. He only shot 29 percent from 3 in 26 games for the Pistons as a rookie last season, but if he develops a consistent deep ball he will prove to be an asset for Detroit this year.
Game 2: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Open: Bucks -1, 169.5
Close: Bucks -2, 170
Final score: Sixers 107, Bucks 106
D.J. Wilson didn’t play for Milwaukee Friday and there was no clear reason given as to why. Wilson and Sterling Brown (4-for-17 from the field) were two Bucks players I thought would thrive in featured after each averaged roughly 18 minutes per game for Milwaukee in the regular season. They were the duo leading the charge on my Bucks 25-1 futures venture. Considering Wilson didn’t play, Brown was ice cold from the field and the Bucks only lost the game by one point, I haven’t lost hope quite yet. The Sixers look to be their toughest competition in the preliminary round anyway. Philadelphia had contributions from multiple players with six scoring in double figures. Rookie Marial Shayok led the way off of the bench with 19 points (but a game-worst minus-15).
In summer league teams play four ten-minute quarters. A total of 213 points being scored seems like an anomaly to some degree, but the teams combined to shoot just 43.8 percent from the field. The scoring wasn’t a fluke — the pace in the game was staggering, as each team had 102 possessions in a 40-minute game. The total in this matchup didn’t move much before tip-off, but it will be worthwhile keeping an eye on Sixers and Bucks totals going forward. I would be surprised if they weren’t bet up from open this time around.
Game MVP: Zhaire Smith led all players with a plus-11 in the game on 10 points, five assists and 3 rebounds. He didn’t try to do too much offensively and actually played a bigger role as a facilitator than anticipated while giving Brown fits on the other end.
Game 3: Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Open: Timberwolves -1.5, 165.5
Close: Timberwolves -3.5, 170
Final score: Timberwolves 85, Cavaliers 75
The Cavaliers dropped all three of their summer league games in Salt Lake City earlier this week so I was not surprised to see the money come in on Minnesota. It also makes sense that it took the Timberwolves some time to get into a rhythm today falling behind to a Cleveland team with three games under its belt. Minnesota’s 11-point deficit was eliminated in a hurry in the third quarter and the Wolves ultimately coasted to a double-digit win.
Cleveland draft picks Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. haven’t made appearances in any of their four summer league games at this point, and I wouldn’t anticipate them participating going forward. The only player with any professional experience for the Cavaliers is Naz Mitrou-Long, and that consists of 85 minutes in two season with the Utah Jazz. Cleveland is fade or pass for me in summer league.
Game MVP: Keita Bates-Diop led all players with a plus-12 and a 17 points scored. He only made 25 percent of his 3-pointers as a rookie last season, but his 3-for-5 shooting from distance today may be the key for him finding any regular minutes in the rotation this upcoming season.
Game 4: Miami Heat vs. Team China
Open: Heat -1, 173.5
Close: Heat -6.5, 172
Final score: Heat 103, China 62
This will likely go down as the worst line of the 2019 summer league. While 5.5-point moves in the market are uncommon in any league, this should have been a 20-point move. China was clearly outmatched. The Heat hit them with a barrage of 3-pointers from Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro from the get-go and the rest was history. This was one of the rare instances for a sports bettor that we feel sick to our stomachs after a win. On my drive home from Thomas & Mack tonight, all I thought was, “Why didn’t I bet this for more?”
So where does the market open China against the Kings for Saturday night’s game? Sacramento already played three games earlier this week in its hosted summer league event (just like the Miami Heat). Maybe the 30.8 percent shooting from China was a fluke? Whether that is the case or not, it is going to be extremely difficult for them to find stops defensively. Miami scored 103 and clearly took its foot off of the pedal in the fourth quarter. Wherever the market winds up opening the line between China and the Kings, I highly doubt people will be rushing to back China on a back-to-back after a 41-point loss. If you’re going to grab the Kings, do it early, and do it often.
Game MVP: Herro led all players with 23 points and a game-high plus-36. While he is regularly referred to as a shooter, Herro impressed me with his ability to get to the free throw line (9-for-9) and force turnovers defensively (game-high three steals).
Game 5: Dallas Mavericks vs. Brooklyn Nets
Open: Nets -1.5, 174.5
Close: Nets -3.5, 175.5
Final score: Mavericks 96, Nets 92
It was a surprise to see Nets’ center Jarrett Allen on the summer league roster. After injuring his thumb in practice on Thursday it was believed he wouldn’t be playing in their opener Friday at all. Sure enough, Allen started and scored 19 points to go along with eight rebounds and three blocks in 29 minutes. While I didn’t think Allen had anything to prove after a successful sophomore campaign, it appears Brooklyn wants to see him in action in Las Vegas for the time being.
The Nets are the better team on paper (and the move in the market on them today would agree). However, 22 turnovers and 28.6 percent 3-point shooting won’t get the job done. I’m hoping to get some value on Brooklyn in its next game off of the loss. I’ll keep an eye on Allen’s status, but if the Nets are full-strength Sunday against Croatia I anticipate a bet there for me.
Game MVP: Cameron Payne has made the rounds in the NBA since 2015. He is probably one of the most experienced players playing in the Las Vegas summer league, and it showed tonight with 18 points on just 10 attempts to go along with four rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Game 6: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Chicago Bulls
Open: Bulls -2.5, 167.5
Close: Bulls -3, 175.5
Final score: Bulls 96, Lakers 76
The Lakers’ coaching staff said after a loss in Sacramento earlier this week that they tried to run too many set plays, and that they need to let the team run and make plays happen in the open court. Their ensuing three games have all gone over the total, but Friday’s matchup against the Bulls came down to the number bettors were able to get after the market moved a whopping eight points higher. The Lakers shot 29.6 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from the free throw line on 28 attempts and this game still totaled 172 points. I don’t think Lakers’ overs are dead quite yet.
The Bulls may sneak up on some people and make a run in this summer league. All five starters scored in double figures and they have a good mix of players with pro experience and rookie standout Coby White (No. 7 overall). They just blitzed a Lakers team that had already played three games earlier this week. If they allow White to play the entirety of the tournament, they will certainly have a good shot.
Game MVP: Adam Mokoka is an undrafted rookie out of France that the Bulls picked up on a two-way contract. I thought he had the three best passes of any summer league game today. Multiple scouts were surprised that he fell out of the top-60 in the NBA draft, and I can see why. He needs to work on his outside shot, but his feel for the game and abilities defensively are no joke. He was game-high plus-18 for Chicago Friday.
Game 7: Charlotte Hornets vs. Golden State Warriors
Open: Hornets -2, 168.5
Close: Hornets -2.5, 173.5
Final score: Hornets 93, Warriors 85
Similarly to the Cavaliers and Lakers, the Warriors had the luxury of playing three games together earlier this week. Like the other two results, however, the better team prevailed and the Hornets pulled away in the fourth quarter to secure a win on Friday. Charlotte is loaded with second- and third-year players with NBA experience (Dwayne Bacon, Devonte Graham, Miles Bridges). They combined to score 59 points and look to be a trio that could spark a Hornets’ summer league playoff run.
Golden State, along with Cleveland, is a fade or pass at this point for me.
Game MVP: I mentioned the main trio dropping 59, but Isaiah Hicks may have played the most important role in securing a win Friday night. After playing for the Knicks the past two seasons, Hicks hooked up with Charlotte for summer league and led all players with a plus-19 in 25 minutes. He did a little bit of everything scoring eight points, grabbing six rebounds, dishing five assists to go along with two steals and two blocks on the defensive end. If Hicks can be the glue guy for the trio in summer league, I absolutely expect them to be around for the eight-game playoff.
Game 8: New York Knicks vs. New Orleans Pelicans
Open: Knicks -1.5, 175.5
Close: Knicks -4.5, 178.5
Final score: Pelicans 80, Knicks 74 (game cancelled early in the fourth quarter due to an earthquake)
All bets in this game were refunded at Caesars Sportsbook after officials decided to cancel the game following an earthquake that was felt in Las Vegas. New Orleans had come roaring back from an early 20-point deficit to take the lead over New York in an extremely high-scoring game, so it’s likely two winners were taken away from Pelicans and over backers.
Zion Williamson suffered a very minor knee-to-knee contact injury in the first half and didn’t return. It’s probably safe to assume that the Pelicans will proceed with caution and he won’t be making another appearance in summer league.
Game MVP: Frank Jackson had scored 30 points in three quarters before the game was called. Watch him tonight against the Wizards and thank me later.
Game 9: Orlando Magic vs. San Antonio Spurs
Open: Spurs -3, 170.5
Close: Spurs -4.5, 171.5
Final score: Magic 75, Spurs 59 (game cancelled at the end of the third quarter due to an earthquake)
All bets in this game were refunded at Caesar’s sportsbook as well.
Lonnie Walker IV played brilliantly in two summer league games in Salt Lake City earlier this week, and he followed it up with a 28-point performance in three quarters on just 17 attempts Friday night. The rest of the Spurs’ roster seemingly couldn’t make a shot, however, and they finished the game with zero made 3-pointers.
Game MVP: The Magic distributed the ball well with all ten of their players getting on the scoreboard, so they deserve credit for that. Walker IV was far and away the MVP of this game though, despite his team trailing after three quarters. Walker IV was injured for a good portion of his rookie campaign in San Antonio, but if he is able to continue to score this efficiently he will absolutely be a factor off of the bench for the Spurs this upcoming season.