The NBA season is here and resumes a regular, 82-game schedule. It all begins Tuesday night with two rematches from last year’s playoffs featuring some of the biggest stars in the game.
When: 7:30 p.m. ET on TNT
Spread: Brooklyn Nets +1.5 (-110) | Milwaukee Bucks -1.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Brooklyn (+100) | Milwaukee (-118)
Total: Over 237.5 (-110) | Under 237.5 (-110)
Recent series history: The Bucks beat the Nets 4-3 in Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Bucks won the regular-season series 2-1.
Brooklyn’s Big 3 becomes a Big 2—for now
The Nets’ All-Star trio was hardly on the court at the same time last season due to injuries to Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving. Now, it’s Irving’s resistance to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and Brooklyn’s unwillingness to allow him to be a part-time player keeping them apart.
Harden will step in to play point guard, a position he mastered in his later years in Houston. He averaged double-digit assists for the second time in his career last season across his time with the Rockets and Nets.
The Nets scored 118.6 PPG in the 2020-2021 season, the second-best mark in the league behind the Bucks. Their defense was below average, allowing opponents 114.1 PPG, but their elite offense still allowed for the seventh-best point differential.
In the offseason, Brooklyn signed Patty Mills and Paul Milsap, and brought back LaMarcus Alrdridge, Blake Griffin and Bruce Brown. Even without Irving, the Nets are the favorites to win the East and the NBA Finals.
Bucks run it back with championship roster largely intact
Milwaukee’s franchise player, Giannis Antetokounmpo, returns after making a legacy run in the postseason. He pretty much has the same running mates in the starting lineup as he did in the Finals last year: Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez all return.
P.J. Tucker left for Miami in the offseason and the Bucks will be without folk hero Bobby Portis and Donte DiVincenzo, who are recovering from injuries. Grayson Allen, whom Milwaukee traded for in August, will start in DiVincenzo’s place.
The Bucks were the best offense in the NBA last season and the only team to average more than 120 PPG. They accomplished that with seven players averaging 10 or more PPG, including Antetokounmpo’s 28 leading the way.
Milwaukee, similar to Brooklyn, allowed opponents to score over 114 PPG while their offense granted them a top-three point differential. Injuries may hamper the Bucks to start the season, but their Big 3 showed that they’re all capable of playing championship basketball on both sides of the ball.
THE PICK: Nets ML, Under 237.5
When: 10 p.m. ET on TNT
Spread: Golden State Warriors +3.5 (-110) | Los Angeles Lakers -3.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Golden State (+138) | Los Angeles (-163)
Total: Over 226.5 (-110) | Under 226.5 (-110)
Recent series history: The Lakers beat the Warriors in the Play-In Tournament last season to advance to the playoffs. The Lakers also won the regular-season series 2-1.
Golden State looks to snap two-year playoff drought
Last season was the Stephen Curry show, and he almost single handedly dragged the Warriors to the playoffs. This season, the pending return of Klay Thompson, who hasn’t played since the 2019 Finals, gives Golden State something to look forward to—and the rest of the league cause for concern.
Steve Kerr replaced shooting guard Kelly Oubre with Jordan Poole, who showed flashes as a scorer last season in limited playing time off the bench. Sophomore center James Wiseman is sidelined with injury to begin the year, which puts Kevin Looney in the starting five. The Warriors brought Andre Iguodola back into the fold this offseason and will have top-10 pick Jonathan Kuminga at their disposal when he returns from injury.
Golden State was not an especially good team last season and their lineup to begin the season is good, but it’s nothing compared to the team that went to five consecutive NBA Finals.
The Warriors’ lineup at the end of the season, with a hopefully healthy Thompson and recent lottery picks Kuminga and Wiseman, could return Golden State to the top of the Western Conference standings.
The new-look Lakers are already banged up
The biggest move Los Angeles made in the offseason was shipping out a sizable chunk of its roster to acquire Russell Westbrook.
Only three players remain from the Lakers’ championship just two seasons ago: LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Talen Horton-Tucker. To fill out the rest of the squad, L.A. went out and signed aging stars like Carmelo Anthony and DeAndre Jordan, as well as Rajon Rondo and Dwight Howard, who were with the Lakers for the 2020 title.
The additions weren’t all on the wrong side of 30, though. Los Angeles signed Kendrick Nunn and Malik Monk, too. Clearly, there’s a lot of new names and it will likely take a few weeks or longer for this team to jell, evidenced by a winless preseason. Not everyone is available to begin the season: Wayne Ellington, Horton-Tucker, Trevor Ariza are all out, while Nunn and Monk are day-to-day.
The three names that matter the most are James, Davis and Westbrook. If they’re all healthy when the calendar turns to the postseason, there’s not much standing in the way of a second title in three years.
Injuries hampered their hopes last season—Davis went down in the first round against Phoenix and the Lakers lost in six. James, too, has battled injuries since arriving in L.A., the only real sign he’s aging.
The addition of Westbrook takes some of the regular-season load off James in hopes that he’s at peak health for the playoffs—where teams would be hard-pressed to put out a better Big 3 than L.A.
THE PICK: Lakers -3.5, Under 226.5