The Western Conference race hasn’t revealed all that much as of yet, aside from the fact that the Los Angeles Clippers stink and the Minnesota Timberwolves might be great. In the midst of that, there are many other factors affecting NBA expert picks today. Read on for a few more nuggets (not a pun!) that might help with a wager or two.
Denver Nuggets (+225 to win Western Conference)
The Nuggets just endured their first slump of the season, dropping four of five games to fall out of the top spot in the Western standings. We’re giving them a break on that and keeping them atop the heap for a few reasons. For one, they’re very banged up. But Jamal Murray returns later this week, while Aaron Gordon and Nikola Jokic were both questionable going into Monday’s game vs. the Clippers, so they shouldn’t be out much longer.
Oh, and there’s the rather large fact that even without those three, the Nuggets just went into LA and knocked off those woeful Clippers, with two former LA stars doing most of the damage.
— theScore (@theScore) November 28, 2023
As we mentioned in writing about the Celtics in yesterday’s East Top 5 Report, these are the best wins for a team with long-term goals. They build so much character, confidence and depth that when the team is whole again, its base is very strong.
Denver’s recent slump came entirely on the road against some pretty good competition. The Nuggets have a dramatic home/road thing going on now, as they own the top home mark in the NBA (8-0) but are just 4-6 on the road. They had a similar breakdown last season, going 34-7 in Denver and 19-22 away from the Mile High City en route to the No. 1 seed and eventual NBA title.
Be patient with the injuries. Any long-term bet you made at our sportsbook in favor of the Nuggets can still come to fruition.
Phoenix Suns (+300)
The longest winning streak (seven games) in the West belongs to this crew, which has won four on the road. The latest, a dramatic triumph at Madison Square Garden, came via a clutch shot by Devin Booker, who is rocketing up the NBA betting odds for MVP amid a hot stretch.
Booker is averaging 28.9 PPG and 8.4 assists in seven games since his return from a calf injury. His latest feat against the Knicks helped Phoenix survive without Kevin Durant (foot) and Grayson Allen (illness). Bradley Beal remains sidelined as well.
Health will be more of a determining factor with this team than most, as the depth is a question mark. Getting Beal back from his back issue – perhaps in December – and keeping Durant off the status report as much as possible will help them roll into the spring.
Minnesota Timberwolves (+1400)
They didn’t do anything to get knocked down a peg, although their first home loss of the season came on Friday against Sacramento. It’s merely an acknowledgment of the Suns’ surge that the Timberwolves fell to third this week.
Minnesota rebounded from that loss to the Kings with a 22-point win at Memphis. Sure, the Grizzlies are struggling, but that was the most lopsided road victory for the Timberwolves since March 2022.
This is among the most healthy teams in the league right now, as its “Big Four” – Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley – has started every game together. That consistency has helped them thrive on both ends of the floor. The Timberwolves are one of the best shooting squads and continue to lock down opponents on defense, allowing just 106.4 points per game.
A huge matchup with Oklahoma City on Tuesday at home is another benchmark for the early leader in the West standings.
Oklahoma City Thunder (+2200)
They had a six-game winning streak put to an end in a shootout with the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday, but have a great chance to make another statement with the aforementioned visit to Minneapolis tonight.
This must be a nightmare of a team to coach against. Nobody can stop Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and there’s a bevy of supporting options. Chet Holmgren is the real deal, Jalen Williams is a rising star and there are 3-point shooters everywhere.
The Thunder bench, led by Isaiah Joe and Casen Wallace, averages 6.6 3-pointers a game at a 42% clip, both of which are far and away the best figures among West teams. You get Shai and Co. out of the game, but you still can’t figure out who to target on the defensive end.
As a whole, Oklahoma City is the only team in the NBA that ranks in the top three in field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free-throw percentage. Each night it’s among the best NBA predictions that this team will fill it up.
Sacramento Kings (+2200)
The Lakers were a consideration here if they did something at Philadelphia on Monday (they didn’t do anything, losing by 44!). Dallas is also lurking, but we’ve discussed our uncertainty with them in the past. It’s time Sacramento gets a nod. The Kings have played the fewest home games in the West (five) and already have wins over Minnesota, Oklahoma City, Dallas and the Lakers (twice).
It’s not easy to pinpoint exactly what the Kings do well. They’re somewhat average, or just above, in a lot of categories. But they have a superstar in the making in De’Aaron Fox, a steady big man in Domantas Sabonis and some nice pieces around them.
Oh, Sacramento is one of the top defensive-rebounding teams in the league. That limits opponents’ second chances, which helps to offset some deficiencies elsewhere. There’s still a piece or two missing, but after leaping from 30 wins to 48 wins the last two seasons and putting in an early pace for around 50 this season, the trend is a pretty good one.
Questions Of The Day
Which three young players in the Western Conference have the most star potential?
We love what Holmgren is showing in his rookie season after being sidelined for a year. His teammate, the aforementioned Williams, will be a household name at some point, and Jordan Hawkins is emerging as a standout in New Orleans.
What is the impact of having so many young and talented teams in the Western Conference?
Between Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Sacramento and Houston there are some exciting squads that can go toe-to-toe with the many old guards (LeBron, Steph, anyone on the Clippers) on any given night.