The Empire Slate: Nets’ Odds Are Long, Even If Ben Simmons Returns

The Jets seem poised to take a pass rusher and the NY baseball teams have shown mixed signals
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“The Empire Slate” is a weekly look at betting angles and trends involving New York sports.

Has one seven-point loss finally convinced the sportsbooks that this isn’t the Nets’ year?

It kind of seems that way. After the Nets lost Game 1 at TD Garden to the Celtics, the books took a conservative approach and reset their title odds at +1000, a stunningly short price for a No. 7 seed that couldn’t stop Jayson Tatum’s game-winning layup and which, frankly, hasn’t played much defense all season.

Now, after blowing a 17-point lead to lose 114-107 in Game 2 Wednesday, the Nets’ title odds are anywhere from +1800 (at PointsBet) to +2000 (Caesars). So, one bad game doubled their odds.

And then came all the reports pouring in that Ben Simmons could return from a back injury during this series, most likely for Monday’s Game 4. It’s at least worth wondering what kind of impact Simmons could have, particularly on the defensive end. The Celtics are winning this series mostly because they are a far superior defensive team, evidenced by holding Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to 1-for-17 shooting in the second half Wednesday night.

Those who think Simmons could help the Nets get well at home and find a way to steal this series should use FanDuel, which is offering Brooklyn at +340 to come back from a 2-0 hole. Every mobile sportsbook in New York lists the Nets as 3.5-point favorites for Game 3 at Barclays Center. The best moneyline price offered on the Nets is -160 at BetMGM.

Game times could be a factor, as Irving is fasting for Ramadan, meaning he isn’t eating until the sun goes down. Tip-off Wednesday was 6 p.m., 30 minutes earlier than it will be Saturday. Sunset at 7:44 p.m. Saturday means he figures to play most of the first quarter on an empty stomach. Monday, the teams revert to the 6 p.m. tip-off, potentially giving Irving fewer well-fed minutes.

Needless to say, this is a difficult series to handicap given the array of unusual circumstances.

Jets looking to add a pass rusher, but which one?

Bettors in New York cannot legally bet on the NFL Draft April 28 and that doesn’t figure to change this year, as NY Online Gambling reported Wednesday.

But if you are willing to travel to New Jersey, one of seven states that take action on the draft, you might have a good opportunity. For months, speculation has been that the Jets will draft Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux.

The most accurate producer of mock drafts over the past five seasons, according to The Huddle Report, is Brendan Donohue at Sharp Football Analysis. Like a lot of analysts, his latest mock-up has the Jets snagging Thibodeaux with the No. 4 pick.

Thibodeaux certainly isn’t a lock, and the Jets have a history of surprising their fans, often unpleasantly, on draft day. This draft is all about edge rushers, with Donohue expecting four of them to fly off the board among the first nine picks. A New York Daily News story quoted some scouts speculating that Jermaine Johnson of Florida State might actually be a better pick than Thibodeaux.

Still, the need is clear: The Jets had just 33 sacks last year, fifth worst in the NFL. Thibodeaux could be a good bet using the “under 5.5” offered by FanDuel on how soon he’s chosen. (It’s 4.5 at DraftKings.) Using 5.5 gives a good fallback option, in that the Giants draft fifth and might be tempted to grab Thibodeaux as the top player available if the Jets pass on him.

Where is the Yankees’ pop?

The Yankees aren’t hitting much so far, which would be easier to dismiss as a small sample size if last season weren’t also a massive disappointment when it comes to scoring runs.

So far, the “Bombers” have a wRC+ of 99, just a tick below league average. Despite all that muscle, they have slugged .350, which is what you’d expect a team of utility infielders to produce. The team ranks 19th in MLB. Last season, the Yanks’ hitters were only marginally better, with a wRC+ of 101 (essentially 1% above league average). The Yankees strike out too much and haven’t been driving the ball, which renders their league-high walk rate somewhat moot.

The pitching has been as good as advertised, and if you get into a bullpen game with the Yankees, you’re probably going to lose. With all the names in the Yankees lineup, you wonder if riding the under might not be a good play at least until the rest of the world — particularly the bookmakers — catches up to how truly disappointing this offense has been.

Mets’ pitching has been spectacular

Entering the season, we looked at what Jacob deGrom’s injury would mean for the Mets’ World Series hopes as well as their World Series odds.

After learning he had a stress reaction in his right scapula, sportsbooks responded by dropping the regular season win total for the Mets by two to three games. Caesars, for one, went from 90.5 wins to 87.5. DraftKings went from 90.5 to 88.5.

Remarkably, the Mets’ pitching has hardly been dented by deGrom’s absence.

While books stopped offering bets on win totals once the season started, they certainly seem to have taken note of the Mets’ hot start. To wager on them to make the playoffs, you now have to lay -425 at DraftKings.

Photo: Winslow Townson/USA TODAY

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