It’ll be hard not to put the Milwaukee Bucks in your NBA picks as small underdogs for Tuesday’s season-opener with the Brooklyn Nets.
Brooklyn Nets vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Tuesday, October 19, 2021 – 07:30 PM EDT at Fiserv Forum
Maybe someday we’ll get to see the Brooklyn Nets in their final form. They start the 2021-22 NBA regular season as the title favorites at every sportsbook on the planet – including BetMGM, where Brooklyn check in at +240 as we go to press. But the Nets won’t have Kyrie Irving in uniform when they visit the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks this Tuesday. That makes the Bucks a pretty easy NBA pick as 1.5-point road dogs at Caesars.
Irving is one of the most polarizing players in the league. He’s also coming off a rare 50-40-90 season (50.6 FG%, 40.2 3P%, 92.2 FT&) for Brooklyn, albeit in just 54 games. For all the talk of Irving not making his teammates better – and it’s a real phenomenon, just ask the Boston Celtics – the Nets were plus-1.4 points with Kyrie on the court compared to off, as per the advanced stats at Basketball Reference.
It would be one thing if Irving were still recovering from offseason surgery or something like that. Instead, his apparent refusal to get vaccinated has left Brooklyn in flux; they only announced last week that Irving won’t be with the team until he’s fully eligible to play. The more we learn about Irving and the Nets, the clearer it becomes that James Harden was brought over from Houston last year to replace him at point guard, not to support him in the backcourt. But their chances of beating the NBA odds would improve with their entire Big Three of Harden, Irving and Kevin Durant working together.
In theory, the Nets will get some more help from their bench this year with the additions of Patty Mills, Paul Millsap and James Johnson, plus a full season from the returning LaMarcus Aldridge. They’ll need to lean on these veteran players even more with Irving out, especially Mills, who’s coming off arguably his worst season as a pro with the San Antonio Spurs. Does he have anything left to offer at age 33?
The Bucks don’t have any of these concerns. Their Big Three of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday is back for another title run, and this time, they’ll have George Hill with them, making his second tour of duty in Milwaukee. They’ve also acquired Grayson Allen from Memphis to act as a 3-and-D pest; he should be an upgrade over P.J. Tucker, who signed with the Miami Heat in the offseason.
Milwaukee do have some injury problems heading into the new campaign. Donte DiVincenzo is still recovering from torn ligaments in his right ankle, and both Bobby Portis (hamstring) and Semi Ojeleye (calf) have been ruled out for Tuesday’s contest. But these are small potatoes compared to what the Nets are dealing with. Plus, this is Milwaukee’s home opener. They’ll be fresh, they’ll be focussed, and with the consensus reports at press time showing 74 percent of early bettors on the Bucks, they’ll be in our NBA picks, too.
NBA Pick: Bucks +1.5 (–110) at BetMGM