Free NBA Picks for October 18, 2017 by Professor MJ



University Professor. PhD in stats. Proud dad of 2 boys.


Hello NBA fans, we got off to a nice start of the 2017-2018 season by taking the Houston Rockets +9.5 at the Warriors last night. Let’s try to keep it up tonight. Out of the 11 games on the menu, I see three value plays including our first 5 star bet of the season!

PICK #1: Sacramento Kings +8 vs Houston Rockets (rated 5 stars)

The Rockets are coming off a big upset on opening night in Golden State against the defending champions after being down by 13 points through three quarters. The bad news is Chris Paul is dealing with a bruised left knee. Officially, he is “questionable” to play, but coach D’Antoni might decide to play it safe against a weaker opponent, especially playing the second leg of back-to-back games.

Speaking of injuries, George Hill is likely to be in the lineup for the Kings, while the status of Zach Randolph is less clear. Sacramento is not super deep at the power forward position, so they may have to rely on Labissiere and Koufos to pick up the slack in case he cannot go.

The motivation level won’t be nearly as high for the Rockets after such an intense game in Golden State yesterday, so a letdown is possible.

The Kings have missed the playoffs 11 straight years, and they are highly unlikely to end the drought this year. They finished the 2016-2017 season on a good note by going 5-5 over their final 10 games. They lost their two home meetings with the Rockets by 13 and 7-point margins. As a matter of fact, Houston has beaten Sacramento in 12 of the last 13 matchups. However, the games played in Sacramento did not end by wide margins, except the 13-point loss last season.

In summary, I like the Kings mainly based on a possible letdown by the Rockets, the back-to-back games for Houston and the likelihood of Chris Paul being out or limited.

PICK #2: Milwaukee Bucks +3 at Boston Celtics (rated 3 stars)

My statistical models plus my manual adjustments have the Bucks as 1-point favorites. Why? Based on the lines for regular season wins by each team, Milwaukee has a 42.7% chance of beating Boston on a neutral court. I subtracted 8.2% to account for the home-court advantage, which reduces the Bucks’ win probability to 34.5%, or alternatively Boston’s win probability becomes 65.5%.

Let’s now account for injuries. Milwaukee is missing Jabari Parker, while the Celtics are without Marcus Morris and Gordon Hayward who suffered a horrific injury last night. You may or may not agree with my own assessment, but I penalized Boston 5% which brings their win probability down to 60.5%.


We have one final step to do. Based on a Harvard study, a team playing the second of back-to-back games has a probability of winning which is roughly 80% of what it would be if rested. I used this little piece of information throughout the 2016-2017 season and it worked out just fine. In this case: 60.5% * 80% = 48.5%. In other words, Boston becomes a slight underdog.

The Bucks have made few offseason moves and are therefore featuring a similar team. They won’t need time to gel together as they are already familiar with each other. They were a young team that acquired quite a bit of experience from last season. They finished the season with a 16-7 record before losing their first round series against the Raptors in six games.

The money is evenly split on both teams as 52% of spread bets have gone on Milwaukee thus far.

PICK #3: Denver Nuggets +2.5 at Utah Jazz (2 stars)

There are few injuries worth of note in this game. The Nuggets were plagued by many injuries last season, which probably cost them a playoff spot after finishing just one game back of the final and eighth spot. They finished the season strong with a 26-19 record. Nikola Jokic is an underrated star that can do it all on the field. The Nuggets have added Paul Millsap to complement him.

Meanwhile, the Jazz are entering this season without their two leading scorers from last year, Gordon Hayward and George Hill. Only the Grizzlies and the Mavericks scored fewer points per game in 2016-2017. Thankfully, they acquired point guard Ricky Rubio. It will be interesting to see how rookie Donovan Mitchell does coming out of Louisville.

The Jazz have won the last 5 home meetings against the Nuggets. The two teams split the season series last year, each team winning its two home games.

Good luck on your plays!

Professor MJ

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