San Antonio Spurs (0-0) vs. New York Knicks (0-0)
SAS: -9. -420 ML, NYK: +9, 330 ML
The Spurs will have a major edge of continuity over the new look New York Knicks when they face off in their opening game of the season on October 23rd.
The Spurs bring back all of these major components of their 2018 squad that exceeded expectations. The only major change will be the return one of their better defensive players in Dejounte Murray, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL. After Murray went down last summer, the Spurs Vegas Win Total dropped from 46 to 42. I expect Murray to hound Dennis Smith Jr. in this game, reiterating his worth to the league right away. San Antonio ended up going way over their win total anyway, winning 48 games. The Spurs had one of the best home court advantages last season, going 34-10 at home over the season, with a +6.7 margin of victory.
Unlike the Spurs, the Knicks will be a whole new team. While last year’s rookies Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson will have expanded roles this season, the team will center around this year’s first round pick, RJ Barrett and free agent signing, Julius Randle. Randle was a consolation prize after the Knicks missed out on all of their other free agents target over the summer.
Randle will no doubt be eager to prove that he is worthy of marquee building in Manhattan. I expect him to have a big year and again score over 20 points a game. However, given the solidness of the Spurs frontcourt and defensive system, I wouldn’t expect him to have his best performance out of the gate against San Antonio.
Opening Game Trends
The Spurs have won 9 of their last 10 season openers. The Spurs have covered 8 of those games against the spread, and have an aggregate ATS margin in those games of +3.4. The Knicks are 5-5 straight up and against the spread in their last 10 season openers, although given how many different players, GMs, coaches and key players the Knicks have cycled through over that time frame, I’m not sure that that data is very relevant.
The Spurs strong opening game results speaks to the excellence of their Head Coach, Gregg Popovich. Popovich has his men more ready for tip off than other NBA coaches. He and the Spurs are often compared to Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, but they are starkly different in this area. The New England Patriots often perform worse in September than they do in later months – as it takes time for everyone to get up to speed to what can be a complex system of football. Popovich does not separate himself from his peers through complexity, but through instilling discipline and holding players accountable. That starts day one.
Even without accounting for this trend, I have the Spurs as 10.5 points better than the Knicks on a neutral court, which would make a fair spread closer to -14. We only have to lay 9 here on FanDuel. While the sports betting market may be adjusting for the fact that Popovich will be coaching Team USA right up until the start of NBA training camp, I don’t think this could possibly effect the line to the tune of 5 points. I think this is just a bad opening number that will be bet up significantly before tip off on opening day.
Angle: Take the Spurs -9 over the Knicks.