Three Western Conference NBA Teams to look out for

October 5, 2018

Some teams surprised the bookmakers last year with changing their shot selection and improved shooting performance, so bookies will be alert in this term. Let’s take a look at what teams in the Western Conference were the most drastic in these changes last season and see how it will affect totals and ATS odds during the 2018-19 NBA season.

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Last year, the Oklahoma City Thunder added a couple of All-Stars to their roster, signing Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. It didn’t help the Thunder to pass the first round of the playoffs, but it changed their offensive set-up, as Billy Donovan’s boys took far more threes than in the 2016-17 season. Last year, the Thunder took 34.5% of their field goals from beyond the arc, hitting 35.4% of those 3-pointers, while two years ago, just 29.5% of their field goal attempts were 3-pointers with 32.7 percentage of efficiency.

Paul George will continue to contribute from downtown in the upcoming 2018-19 season, but the Thunder decided to trade Carmelo Anthony to the Hawks in exchange for the talented German playmaker Dennis Schroder. Billy Donovan used Melo mostly as a spot-up shooter, while Dennis Schroder is one of the quickest point guards in the league who loves to drive the lane and find open teammates which should improve Thunder’s shot selection. More open threes should bring better efficiency, even with both Schroder and Westbrook on the floor.

In the previous season, the Oklahoma City Thunder had the 17th-fastest pace in the league (96.7) and the seventh-best offensive rating (110.7), recording 48 wins to finish fourth in the Western Conference and second in the Northwest Division. With 212.3 points per game in total, the Thunder’s games were ended in the under 46 times, while they covered the spread on 34 occasions. The Thunder will try to make it simple this year, share the basketball better and hit the same amount of 3-pointers as they did last season. If they manage to do it, the Thunder should outstrip the 49-win mark at -130 odds at Bet365 Sportsbook.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS

After missing the playoffs for five years in a row, the Lakers are ready for a new era with LeBron James in the team. The King has signed a four-year deal, but the Lakers’ fans want an instant success, so some interesting names have joined LeBron in Los Angeles such as Rajon Rondo and Michael Beasley to fortify the talented core. This season, the Lakers should slow down the tempo a bit after having the second-fastest pace last year (100.3), and they will probably shot more 3-pointers than they did in the previous two seasons.

Last year, the Lakers shot 32.9% of their field goals from beyond the arc, while in the 2016-17 season, just 29.5% of their field goal attempts were 3-pointers. The efficiency stayed the same (34.5%), so the Lakers should continue to develop their outside game under Luke Walton who will enter his third season as a head coach. The Lakers won nine games more last year (35-47) than in the 2016-17 season, although their play looked confused at some points of the campaign. In this term, LeBron James will be a go-to-guy which should open a lot of space for the others to take jump shots and improve the efficiency from beyond the arc. Last year, LeBron’s Cavaliers shot 37.9% of their field goals from downtown.

The bookmakers consider the Los Angeles Lakers as huge -450 favorites to clinch the playoff berth, while they set +1100 odds on LeBron’s new team to win the NBA Championship. Luke Walton will certainly need some time to gel the things, but his boys should grow as a team throughout the season. With more 3-pointers and improved efficiency, the Lakers should surpass the 48-win mark at +100 odds, and they will probably need to do it if they want to reach the playoffs. Last year, as a losing team, the Lakers were excellent against the spread with a 43-39-0 record, but this time they will be favorites against the majority of their rivals, so the bettors should be careful.

DENVER NUGGETS

The Nuggets missed the last season’s playoffs for just one game after losing to the Minnesota Timberwolves on the ultimate night, but Mike Malone’s boys showed some improvements with their shot selection. This trend should continue as the Nuggets shot 35.7% of their field goals from beyond the arc last season, while in the 2016-17 season, 32.9% of their field goal attempts were 3-pointers. The Nuggets kept almost the same efficiency, hitting 37.1% from downtown, but they took just 16.7% of corner threes last season.

Mike Malone can count on some great shooters, and last year, the guard Gary Harris and the center Nikola Jokic both averaged 39.6% from beyond the arc. Harris had 5.9 3-point attempts per game, while Jokic had 3.7 attempts. The playmaker Jamal Murray is another danger from beyond the arc, averaging 37.8% last season on 5.4 attempts per game. Acquiring the experienced playmaker Isaiah Thomas should improve the Nuggets’ offensive flow, so the bettors can expect more corner threes this season.
The Nuggets had the sixth-best offensive rating in the league last season (112.5) and with all talent among their roster, the Nuggets should continue to grow. On the other side, they will have to improve defensively, recording the sixth-worst defensive rating last year (111.0), but the bettors shouldn’t expect any drastic changes. The Nuggets should stay offensively oriented team with plenty of high-scoring affairs during the season. Last year, 42 of their games were finished in the over, while against the spread Denver had a 37-42-3 record. In the 2018-19 season, the bettors can expect a better job from the Nuggets who should be somewhere around the 48-win mark.

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