Biggest NBA betting surprises and storylines one month into the season

ByTyler Fulghum ESPN logo
Tuesday, November 28, 2023

We're about a month into the NBA season. Time flies when you're making bets.

Some interesting and surprising storylines have already developed for bettors. Let's take a look at a handful that are worth noting.

The Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic and Brooklyn Nets are legit

Orlando, Brooklyn and Houston are the three best cover teams in the NBA this season. Who saw that coming? Orlando is covering 82.4% of games this season (14-3 ATS) and I think this is sustainable. They have a deep and talented roster headlined by last year's Rookie of the Year, Paolo Banchero. The Magic play incredible defense (3rd in the NBA in defensive rating). They finished 3-1 in group play in the in-season tournament. This was a team I thought could make a push for the playoffs in the East this year, and so far, it's delivering.

Brooklyn is covering 80% (12-3-1 ATS) and it has been dealing with injuries throughout the season. Ben Simmons is still unreliable. However, this team can really shoot the ball, and it feels like the market is going to undervalue them all season. I don't like their staying power as much as Orlando in the East, but the Nets are a tough team to bet against this season.

Houston is covering 76.9% of games this season (10-3-1 ATS). This may be the most surprising team in the league. The Rockets are 8-6 this season and have the best defense in the NBA. Ime Udoka has completely turned around the culture of this team. Alperen Sengun is a budding young star. Fred VanVleet has provided instant veteran credibility. This is a fun team that I will to continue to bet on because of its defense. It is capable of beating any team on any night, especially playing at home.

The Indiana Pacers are a nut factory

When in doubt, bet the Pacers game to go OVER. So far, 14 of 16 Pacers games have finished over the total. They are almost the "perfect storm" for offensive production. Indy is 1st in the league in pace, but 29th in defensive rating. They play fast and they play no defense. Tyrese Haliburton is an incredibly efficient point guard. He can shoot the three, hand out 15 assists in a game and rarely turns the ball over. We're going to see some Pacers game totals north of 250 this season. Don't be afraid to bet the over.

Sacramento is the ultimate underdog

The Kings were the darlings of the NBA last season, and so far this season they've been darlings to bettors willing to back them as a dog. Sacramento is 5-0 ATS and 4-1 SU in the underdog role so far this season. Light the beam when the Kings are catching points.

Golden State is struggling... again

Remember last year when the Warriors just could not win a game on the road? Well good news, Golden State already has five wins away from the Bay this season. Unfortunately, a new issue has popped up: The Warriors are 2-8 ATS as a favorite this season. Golden State is not doing well when the market expects them to. Frankly, I think this may be a problem all year long. Because of their championship pedigree, they are going to garner a lot of respect from oddsmakers. Is it still justified? I'm not so sure. This team is all of a sudden very old. I'm going to continue betting against the Warriors when they're a favorite, especially against the "surprising" teams we've seen this season, such as Orlando, Houston and Brooklyn.

Nikola Jokic is too darn good

Well, here we go again. This guy is good. Jokic has averaged 28.8/13.4/8.9 while being brilliantly efficient from the field. Not shockingly, he's the favorite to win the MVP this season at +180. Playing without Jamal Murray for much of this season has created a narrative that Jokic is even further carrying this team. As long as he stays healthy and Denver lives up to expectation, which I believe they will, he's going to be very hard to beat in this market. Sometimes we shouldn't be afraid of betting on a favorite. That might be the case right now with the two-time league MVP.