“The Empire Slate” is a weekly look at betting angles and trends involving New York sports.
We’ve all heard the narrative by now.
Ben Simmons is a perfect addition to the Brooklyn Nets. His playmaking ability could spark a new dimension for the offense while continuing to give Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving the lion’s share of the shots. His defense would be crucial for a team that has struggled mightily on that side of the court.
Last week, WynnBET Senior Trading Analyst Alan Berg told NY Online Gambling that Simmons’ health was key in determining a championship line move on the Nets, who were listed at +600. Well, Wynn did, in fact, change the Nets’ odds (to +500), but there still is no definitive word on Simmons’ chances of returning before the playoffs.
The move probably had more to do with the Nets going 2-1 in the last week, including a 15-point win over the conference-leading Miami Heat.
The Nets continue to be coy about when or if Simmons will return from a herniated disc in his back. At this point, it seems wise to take a stance on the Nets as if they’re not going to have Simmons, who hasn’t dribbled a basketball in a game since his Philadelphia 76ers were eliminated from the playoffs by the Atlanta Hawks on June 20, 2021. It seems unlikely Simmons could go that quickly from rehabbing to playing in the most pressure-packed games possible and making a difference.
It’s a measure of the books’ stubborn faith in the Nets that they are favored going into Thursday night’s potential playoff preview against the Milwaukee Bucks. They’re listed on the moneyline from -130 (by Caesars and DraftKings) to -120 (at FanDuel).
With just six games left to make up ground, the Nets are in eighth place in the East, trailing the Cleveland Cavaliers by two games and the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls both by four. They could make the first play-in contest a home game by catching Cleveland, which looks vulnerable after losing four of its last five games. The teams meet in the second-to-last game of the season on April 8.
Kevin Durant heating up from 3
At first glance, DraftKings’ “Foot Behind the Line” odds boost for Thursday night looks like a sucker bet.
For bettors to win on it (at +310, boosted from +265), Durant has to hit at least four 3-pointers. Durant has sunk that many treys just six times in the 49 games he has played this season. Doing a little elementary math (our favorite kind), that comes out to a 12.2% chance of him doing it again based on recent history. Not great odds.
However, more recent history suggests it’s worth at least a long look. Durant has hit the number four times in the 13 games since he returned from a sprained knee. His 3-point percentage (38%) isn’t staggering over those 13 games, but he’s launching an average of 6.1 attempts from behind the line compared to 5 per game before he hurt his knee.
It appears Durant might be hesitant to drive as he gets back to trusting his healing knee, so he’s settling for jump shots. He’s probably not going to be particularly enthralled by the idea of driving on Giannis Antetokounmpo on Thursday. Perhaps it’s worth risking a few bucks that he keeps it up, especially since the Bucks rank 17th in defending threes.
Rangers add before deadline
Rangers General Manager Chris Drury rewarded his team for fighting and continuing to find itself in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff mix. Drury fortified his squad for the playoffs by acquiring three players before the March 21 trade deadline.
He landed forward Andrew Copp and a 2023 sixth-round draft pick from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for forward Morgan Barron, two conditional 2022 second-round picks, and a 2023 fifth-round pick; coaxed forward Tyler Motte from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round pick; and got defenseman Justin Braun from the Philadelphia Flyers for a 2023 third-round pick.
The moves indicate an all-in mindset by a Rangers team that has little cap space, meaning all three players figure to be short-term rentals.
Will it work? So far, so good. The Rangers are 5-1 since the March 21 trade deadline and now are within three points of the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes for the No. 1 seed in the East.
The sportsbooks have taken note of the developments. The Rangers are down to +1800 at DraftKings (from +2000 just before the deadline) to win the Stanley Cup and +900 (an intriguing price) to win the conference.
BetCasts keep coming
MSG Networks apparently is pleased with its alternate broadcasts of Knicks games that feature gambling talk. MSG aired Wednesday night’s BetCast of the Knicks-Hornets game on MSG+, the fifth BetCast of the season.
The broadcasts include a “mix of betting talent” from the network, according to a press release, including Alex Monaco, host of the The Bettor Half Hour; Jeff Johnson and Erik Coleman, who together host The Betting Exchange; and sports betting analysts Adam Ronis and Sean Little.
Keep an eye on Albany
Friday’s deadline to finalize the state budget has two gambling-related issues worth tracking.
The first is an expansion of the number of online sportsbook operators in the state, which would — according to Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow, the original sponsor — lead to lowering the 51% tax rate and diversifying the array of operators. The second would award three licenses to New York City-area casinos.
The smart money seems to suggest that the casino bill will make it, while it might take another year for mobile sports gambling to expand beyond its current nine licensed operators.
Photo: Brad Penner/USA TODAY