ESPN’s fantasy basketball and basketball betting tips cheat sheet is your pregame destination for basketball betting predictions and our best intel and data, featuring ESPN’s proprietary Basketball Power Index (BPI) to help you make smart fantasy and wagering decisions. NBA game odds for Feb. 15 are provided by Caesars Sportsbook, and fantasy advice is based on ESPN 10-team leagues.
What you need to know for Wednesday’s games
Tanking to the top was a strategy Sam Hinkie made infamous but has since been adopted by the likes of the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, and San Antonio Spurs, to name a few. The premise has always been simpler than the actual process; lose games en route to amassing increased draft lottery odds and difference-making young talents.
The Spurs moved several veterans at the deadline, which has secured more minutes and increased fantasy impact for Zach Collins (92% available in ESPN leagues) and Devonte’ Graham (92%). Just three games ago, Collins established a new career scoring high and tallied 10 total dimes and five combined blocks and steals over the past five games. Graham, meanwhile, has lofted an incredible 31 3-pointers in three appearances with San Antonio since coming over via trade from the New Orleans Pelicans. Both stand out as values for tonight’s matchup against the Charlotte Hornets.
Even teams that are unintentionally awful, like those Hornets, are seeing surges from young talents such as P.J. Washington, who is a free agent in nearly 30% of leagues despite averaging 20.3 points with stellar defensive rates over the past week. Rookie pivot Mark Williams (90% available) is no longer stuck behind Mason Plumlee and has flashed with multiple blocks in four of his past five outings. The Rockets play the Thunder this evening in a game that should see Kenyon Martin Jr. (84% available) build on his recent run of strong fantasy production.
Fantasy managers should still invest in these rosters as they build, especially given how many minutes and touches such teams can afford to unheralded players.
Injury Report: Cavaliers: None reported 76ers: Dewayne Dedmon, (GTD – Not Injury Related); Joel Embiid, (GTD – Foot); P.J. Tucker, (GTD – Calf); Furkan Korkmaz, (OUT – Personal) Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play
Trend: The Cavaliers aren’t underdogs often, but when they are, sportsbooks have had it right. After covering two of their first three games as underdogs this season, the Cavs are just 2-6 ATS in such spots since, a tough trend to take into a game with a lower total against the Philadelphia 76ers, a team that is 12-7 ATS when the over/under is sub-220 points. Speaking of totals: in eight of those 12 covers for the 76ers, over tickets have cashed. — Kyle Soppe
Best Bet: Lakers -4. The Lakers have yet to play a game with their entire new squad, as LeBron James has sat out since breaking the all-time scoring record last week and has yet to play with his newly traded-for teammates. But James said on Monday he was eyeing a return to action tonight and with Anthony Davis also listed as probable, we may see the full squad in action tonight. The new-look Lakers, with 3-point shooters surrounding LeBron and AD, should be able to handle a Pelicans squad that is without Zion Williamson and that may be without CJ McCollum for the second game in a row. — Andre Snellings
Fantasy streamer: Malaki Branham (rostered in 2.8% of ESPN leagues) Branham had 18 points, two steals and two 3-pointers in his last game, has scored in double digits in six of his seven February games and has averaged 17.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.7 steals and 2.3 3-pointers while shooting 49 percent from the field this month. He’s returned his 10th-round fantasy value over the past couple weeks and could be a solid piece the rest of the way for the tanking Spurs. — Steve Alexander
Fantasy streamer: Zach Collins (rostered in 7.3% of ESPN leagues) Collins is now the starting center for the Spurs and while he hasn’t exactly blown up since his 29-point, 11-rebound performance in his first start on Friday, he has managed to stay relevant, especially since he racked up 10 rebounds, 10 assists, two 3-pointers and three steals over his past two games. He has averaged 16.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 3.3 steals and 1.0 3-pointers since Jakob Poeltl was shipped to the Raptors. Collins is worth adding if you need a center. — Alexander
Fantasy streamer: Mark Williams (rostered in 9.3% of ESPN leagues) Williams is the starting center for the Hornets now and had 15 points, five rebounds, two steals and two blocks in Monday’s high-scoring win over the Hawks. He has averaged 10.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks while shooting lights-out in his three starts since the trade deadline. He’s going to eventually have a breakout game and the Spurs allow opposing centers to score 25.5 PPG and nearly 16 RPG this season. — Alexander
Best bet: LaMelo Ball over 9.5 assists. Ball has leaned into his role as a distributor of late, averaging 12.3 APG with three straight points/assist double-doubles in the last week. He’s facing a Spurs squad that is particularly friendly to opposing point guards, allowing the sixth-most assists in the NBA to opposing PGs. — Snellings
Trend: Scan today’s betting board and two projected point totals will stand out: San Antonio Spurs at Charlotte Hornets and Utah Jazz at Memphis Grizzlies. Both totals well exceed 235 points and that has been a good spot for favorites lately and unders all season long. Favorites in such games have covered 12 of the past 19 while under tickets have cashed 60.5% of the time in high total games like this for the season. — Kyle Soppe
Best bet: Zach LaVine over 27.5 points. DeMar DeRozan is out tonight due to a thigh injury and LaVine’s usage rate skyrockets to 32.3 when DeRozan sits. In his four games without DeRozan this season LaVine has averaged 28.5 PPG but just 23.5 PPG when the two are on the court together. It’s chalky, but LaVine should be able to get loose for 30 points tonight. Especially when you consider that the Pacers give up the second-most points to opposing shooting guards in the entire league. LaVine had 28 against the Pacers in their first meeting but struggled in a recent loss in their second meeting. Look for him to make up for that one tonight. — Alexander
Best bet: Jalen Brunson over 26.5 points. This is a case of two worlds colliding in Atlanta. First of all, Brunson has scored 40, 38 and 30 points in each of his last three games, has scored at least 30 in five of his last seven, and is averaging 32.5 points in February. The Hawks “defense” gave up 144 points to the Hornets on Monday, who beat Atlanta for the third time this season. LaMelo Ball looked like he was playing for the Globetrotters in that one, racking up 30 points, 15 assists and six triples on 12-of-19 shooting and if Brunson somehow doesn’t go off tonight, it probably won’t be because the Hawks defense stopped him. — Alexander
Trend: The New York Knicks are not a team to push tempo (fourth slowest pace in the league), but don’t let that mislead you … they are capable. The Knicks are 14-8-1 ATS in games with a projected total north of 225 points this season and, if you want to get into the weeds a bit, they are 7-3 ATS in those spots when the spread is three points or less (with six unders). On the other side, the Atlanta Hawks have not embraced being favored: 12-18-1 ATS in those spots this season, 6-12 ATS over their past 18. — Soppe
Fantasy streamer: Sam Hauser (rostered in 4.9% of ESPN leagues) popped off for 15 points, nine rebounds and three 3-pointers in Tuesday’s loss to the Bucks and the Celtics’ injury report is full of key players. Jaylen Brown (face) is out, and Al Horford, Jayson Tatum and Derrick White are all questionable, although Marcus Smart is expected to return to action tonight. Hauser should have another solid game and guys like Mike Muscala, Blake Griffin, Grant Williams and Malcolm Brogdon might all play well again tonight if most of Boston’s best players are in street clothes again. White stayed behind in Milwaukee last night due to not being able to hear out of his left ear and if he’s out tonight, Hauser could be the best offensive player in the Celtics’ starting five. -Alexander
Best bet: Jaden Ivey over 19.5 total points + assists. Ivey has averaged 15.8 PPG and 5.9 APG in his last 17 outings, as he’s taken over as the primary lead guard that creates shots for both himself and teammates. He has totaled exactly 25 combined points and assists in each of his last two games, and on Wednesday faces an injured Celtics squad that just got torched for 40 points and 7 assists by lead guard Jrue Holiday in their loss on Tuesday. — Snellings
Trend: While the Boston Celtics have been strong in second nights of back-to-backs this season (4-1-2 ATS following an October failure to cover in their first such spot of the season), the NBA is trending away from that. Here are the league wide numbers for teams on no rest:
November – December: 55.9% cover rate, 43.9% over rate January – February: 50% cover rate, 57.8% over rate
More working thought here is that fatigue becomes more of a problem with time and that encourages lackluster defense. That doesn’t feel crazy and the Pistons are 4-1 ATS (all four wins coming outright as an underdog) against teams on the second night of a back-to-back since Christmas, averaging 117 points per game in the process.
Fantasy streamer: Gabe Vincent (rostered in 1.9% of ESPN leagues) is the starting point guard until further notice due to Kyle Lowry’s mysterious knee injury and he had 15 points, four assists, a steal and four 3-pointers on Monday against the Nuggets, and also had 20 points and four more triples against the Magic on Saturday. He’s averaging 14.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 3.0 3-pointers over his last four games. More assists would be nice but he’s played at least 34 minutes in five straight games and he’ll also get a boost with Tyler Herro (knee) and Victor Oladipo (ankle) also out again tonight. — Alexander
Fantasy streamer: Max Strus (rostered in 7.6% of ESPN leagues) started for Tyler Herro (knee) on Monday and hit 8-of-20 shots and four 3-pointers for 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists and a steal in a team-high 42 minutes against the Nuggets. Herro’s out again tonight (as are Kyle Lowry and Victor Oladipo) so Strus should have another great opportunity to score a bunch of points against the Nets. — Alexander
Best bet: Jimmy Butler under 22.5 points. Butler has scored at least 22 points in four of his last five games and the Heat will be without Kyle Lowry (knee), Victor Oladipo (ankle) and Tyler Herro (knee) again tonight. It would seem that Butler will have to score if the Heat are going to win but the Nets have completely shut down opposing small forwards in each of the last three games, thanks mostly to the strong defense of Mikal Bridges. RJ Barrett scored just four points against the Nets on Monday, Tobias Harris had three points against them on Saturday and Demar DeRozan was held to just 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting last Thursday. Butler’s going to get a lot of looks tonight and could pop off, but the Nets are a very tough matchup for opposing small forwards right now. — Alexander
Best bet: Mikal Bridges over 17.5 points. Bridges had a down game in his last outing, only scoring seven points against the Knicks. However, he had scored 20-plus in seven straight games before that, suggesting Monday’s game may have been a fluke. He has a good chance to bounce-back on Wednesday, against a Heat squad that has allowed the seventh-most points in the NBA to opposing small forwards. — Snellings
Injury Report: Jazz: Micah Potter, (OUT – Elbow); Russell Westbrook, (OUT – Not Injury Related) Grizzlies: Steven Adams, (OUT – Knee) Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play
Best bet: Walker Kessler over 20.5 points and rebounds. Kessler was quiet against the Pacers on Monday with six points and five rebounds and had just four points and 15 rebounds against the Knicks on Saturday. However, he hit the over in five of his previous six games prior to his recent struggles. Add in the fact that Memphis is starting Xavier Tillman at center with Steven Adams out with a knee injury and Kessler should have a bounce-back performance tonight. F/C Kelly Olynyk is another Jazz player who should have a solid outing on Wednesday. — Alexander
Best bet: Desmond Bane over 2.5 total 3pt field goals. Bane has averaged 3.1 3PG this season and over his last 16 games. He has gone over 2.5 3-pointers made in 11 of those 16 games. The Jazz allow the sixth-most 3-pointers to opposing shooting guards. — Snellings
Best bet: Jalen Green over 23.5 points. Green blew up for 29 points against the Sixers on Monday and scored 41 and 27 points in back-to-back games against the Kings the week prior. He’s averaging 27.0 points over his last four and this should be a high-scoring affair (over/under 234) between two of the league’s worst defensive teams. Green should also be pumped up to put on a show against Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the fact he got to the line 17 times against Philly is a positive sign. Green’s 29-point game against the Sixers occurred despite the fact he hit just 6-of-20 shots from the floor. — Alexander
Trend: The Oklahoma City are no longer a sneaky team after covering 13 of their past 18 games, but they still might be the right play tonight against a Houston Rockets team that is 8-17 ATS since Christmas. – Kyle Soppe
Best bet: Luka Doncic over 6.5 assists. Doncic has only averaged 5.0 APG in the four games he’s played since first suffering his ankle/foot injury against the Jazz on January 28th. While some believe the presence of new teammate Kyrie Irving has limited his assist output, I think it’s been the injury and circumstances more than anything else that have kept his assist numbers down this month. But, Doncic is averaging 8.1 APG for the season and 8.7 APG since the 2019-20 season. He’s getting healthier, and should return to normal soon. I think that starts tonight, against a Nuggets team that will force Luka and the Mavericks to play their best. — Snellings