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Winners Club: NBA Returns Tuesday, Here’s What You Need to Know

The Bucks host the Nets and the Lakers host the Warriors. Get your bets in before tipoff.

(This the "Winners Club" Sports Illustrated's Fantasy and Betting newsletter, which you can get delivered to your inbox every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. Click here to subscribe.)

Welcome to opening night of the NBA’s 75th season! Tuesday begins the first “normal” season since the 2018-2019 campaign. There’s still the curious case of Kyrie Irving’s vaccine holdout and the Ben Simmons situation, but what’s basketball if not unnecessarily dramatic?

I’m excited to embark on this season with you, the NBA bettor, fantasy player and above all else, basketball fan. But don’t worry, Winners Club will still be full of NFL betting picks and fantasy football advice, in addition to MLB playoff breakdowns with the World Series looming. College basketball gets going in a few weeks as well, so be on the lookout for that too.

Before we get into what you need to know for tonight’s NBA games and the season beyond, I want to say thank you for reading and subscribing to Winners Club. Last week, we hit 1,000 subscribers and I know that number will only continue to grow.

Without further ado, let’s do that basketball!

Things to Know Before the NBA Tips Off

(All odds via SI Sportsbook)

Who’s Playing Tuesday?

Nets @ Bucks

The defending champion Bucks host the Nets at 7:30 P.M. (ET) on TNT to open the season. These two teams met in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and the Bucks prevailed in an epic seven-game series. Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo both made compelling cases for the best player in the world title during the postseason. Now, they duel head-to-head once again.

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)

Kevin Durant drives to the hoop against Giannis Antetokounmpo

Warriors @ Lakers

The Lakers host the Warriors in the late game at 10:30 P.M. (ET), which is also on TNT. Both the Lakers and Warriors fell short of expectations last season, with Golden State losing in the play-in tournament—once at the hands of LA—and the Lakers falling in the first round to the Suns. LeBron James and Stephen Curry have a storied history of head-to-head battles from facing each other in four straight Finals and it continues tonight.

Spread: Golden State Warriors +3.5 (-110) | Los Angeles Lakers -3.5 (-110)

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Moneyline: Golden State (+138) | Los Angeles (-163)

Total: Over 226.5 (-110) | Under 226.5 (-110)

Who are the Favorites?

Find and bet on NBA Futures on SI Sportsbook here.

Nets (+230)

Lakers (+333)

Bucks (+800)

Warriors (+1200)

Clippers (+1400)

What Happened Last Year?

The Bucks beat the Suns in six games thanks to an all-world performance from Antetokounmpo, who won Finals MVP. Milwaukee advanced to the championship after beating Trae Young and the upstart Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals. Phoenix bested the Clippers in the Western Conference Finals to move on to the championship. The Lakers and Heat, the previous year’s finalists, were both bounced in the first round.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook and forward LeBron James walk to the bench

Denver’s Nikola Jokic won MVP in the regular season, but the Nuggets were swept by the Suns in the Semifinals without the injured Jamaal Murray.

The NBA instituted the Play-In Tournament last season, meaning only the top six teams in each conference received automatic playoff spots while the No. 7-10 seeds battled for the two remaining openings. The 82-game schedule resumes this season following last season’s 72-game campaign due to the quick turnaround following the conclusion of the 2019-20 season.

Season-Long Bets Analysis and Picks

Not sure whether to bet the over or under on your favorite team’s win total? SI Sportsbook has the over/under for all 30 NBA teams and SI Betting has picks and analysis for the best bets.

The Mavericks’ Luka Dončić (+400) is the favorite to win MVP this season. Read what he and the rest of the favorites to win the award must do to claim it here.

Detroit’s Cade Cunningham and Houston’s Jalen Green (+250) are co-favorites to win Rookie of the Year. Find out how Cunningham, Green and the other favorites can each earn the honor.

Utah’s Rudy Gobert is the favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year for the second year in a row and the fourth time in his career. Read the case for Gobert, Anthony Davis and the other likely DPOY candidates here.

There’s a strong track record of winners of the NBA’s Most Improved Player going on to become its biggest stars. Learn about the favorites and how they can each win the award.

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Dodgers-Braves NLCS Game 3: The Braves lead the Dodgers, 2-0, in the NLCS, with the series heading to Los Angeles for the next three games. Matt Ehalt has the numbers you need to know as the Dodgers look to avoid falling into a 0-3 deficit.

Red Sox-Astros ALCS Game 4: The Red Sox have a 2-1 lead on the Astros after a dominant Game 3 victory. Read Jen Piacenti’s analysis of the series before Zack Greinke takes the mound against Nick Pivetta tonight.

Waiver Wire Additions: Injuries and bye weeks are sending fantasy managers scrambling to the waiver wire this week. Get ahead of the curve and see which players Piacenti recommends you add to your roster this week.

Beware of the Bye Week: The Chargers, Cowboys and Bills, three of the best offenses in football, are all off this week. Craig Ellenport explains what you’re missing with those teams and more idle and how to make up for the absence of your fantasy stars.

Kareem Hunt Injury Impact: Kareem Hunt, the Browns’ top pass catching back, is set to miss “several weeks” and starter Nick Chubb is already banged up. Piacenti and Michael Fabiano discuss the impact of Hunt’s injury and which Cleveland running back they want ahead of Cleveland’s Thursday Night Football matchup against the Broncos.

Standout Stats from the NFL

The Good

Dak Prescott threw for a season-high 445 yards against the Patriots in an overtime win. He broke 400 yards for the second time this season— against both Tom Brady and Bill Bellichick.

Ja’Marr Chase added another 97 yards to his Rookie of the Year case in a win against the Lions. He and college teammate Joe Burrow are lighting the NFL on fire and the Bengals are 4-2.

j. chase tweet screenshot

The Bad

Justin Herbert’s case for MVP took a hit when the Ravens shut him down Sunday. He threw for less than 200 yards for the first time this season and the Chargers lost by four scores.

Terry McLaurin followed up last week’s poor performance with an even worse game, totaling 28 yards on four catches. He now has 74 yards over the past two weeks.

The Weird

Jalen Hurts, by all accounts, played worse than Brady in the Eagles’ loss to the Buccaneers on Thursday night. But a second consecutive game with two rushing scores ensured that Hurts outscored Brady, who tossed two touchdowns and nearly broke 300 yards passing.

Greg Joseph, one of the better fantasy kickers this season, has been regularly called upon to put games away for the Vikings this season. He missed two field goals in the fourth quarter from 47 and 50 yards out that would have put away and won the game, respectively, before Minnesota won in overtime.

Enjoy the NBA and MLB playoff slate tonight. I'll be back in your inbox Thursday morning.