The Most Important Matchups and Best Bets for Friday’s NBA Slate

The NBA had a quiet night yesterday, but they are back in full swing on Friday. Even with two postponements, there are still 11 different games to choose from. The action gets underway with three contests starting at 7 p.m. ET and wraps up with a trio of games at 10 p.m. ET.

One of those late games features the Nuggets vs. the Suns, which should be a very entertaining contest. Both of these teams have been strong this season, so who has the edge in this matchup?

Let’s dive in.

KEY MATCHUPS

The Lakers and the Clippers are the clear top tier of the Western Conference, and the Jazz are just one notch below them. After that, the Nuggets and Suns stand out as the next best teams.

Denver has won just seven of their first 14 games, but they rank sixth in the league in Net Rating. That makes them one of the unluckier teams in basketball. They’ve outscored their opponents by an average of +3.94 points per 100 possessions, which gives them an expected record of 9-5. They are a clear candidate for some positive regression moving forward.

The Suns rank seventh in Net Rating at +3.55, and they’ve won eight of their first 13 games. They’re still trying to get their rotation dialed in after acquiring Chris Paul and Jae Crowder in the offseason, so they also have room for growth moving forward.

One change that the Suns have made recently is that they’ve started to funnel a few additional minutes to Cameron Johnson. That’s a good idea. They’ve been much better with Johnson on the court this season, increasing their Net Rating by +19.3 points per 100 possessions per Cleaning the Glass. Johnson is an excellent 3-point shooter – he’s shot 38.7% from behind the arc for his career – and he also possesses the size and length to be an asset defensively. Basically, he’s the ideal power forward for the modern NBA.

On the other side, the Nuggets are expected to get Michael Porter Jr. back this evening. He’s officially listed as questionable, but he has rejoined the team following a lengthy absence due to health and safety protocols. That means there’s a good chance he suits up, although his minutes might be limited.

MPJ has the potential to become one of the better scorers in the league. He’s shot 56.6% from the field and 42.3% from 3-point range this season, both of which are excellent marks considering his volume. He ranks third on the team in field goal attempts per game and is tied for first in 3-point shots per game.

However, all that scoring prowess has meant very little to the Nuggets this season. They already have two elite offensive players in Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, so they don’t really need Porter to be a volume scorer. Additionally, he’s so bad on the defensive end that his presence on the court is actually a major negative for the Nuggets. They’ve allowed an additional +13.8 points per 100 possessions in that situation, which puts MPJ in the fifth percentile per Cleaning the Glass.

If he’s back in the lineup tonight, I like the Suns’ chances of pulling out a victory.

LINE MOVEMENT

We’ve seen some notable line movement for tonight’s contests.

The biggest line move involves the Nets. They opened up as 10-point favorites on the road vs. the Cavaliers, but they’re down to just -6 on FanDuel Sportsbook. The Nets lost a grueling double-overtime thriller vs. the Cavs on Wednesday night, and the sharps apparently think they can cover the spread once again. The Cavs have received just 43% of the spread bets in this contest, but those bets have accounted for 70% of the dollars. Still, bet against the Brooklyn Big Three at your own risk now that the line has adjusted.

BETTING BREAKDOWNS

Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Atlanta Hawks vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

BEST BETS FROM THE SPORTSGRID BETTING MODEL

Our betting model sees a significant edge in a few contests this evening, including the Brooklyn Nets vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Atlanta Hawks vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves.