It’s Thursday, and we have a limited slate of sports tonight. There’s no hockey, and there are only three baseball games. While there are four WNBA games, my WNBA betting process is nowhere near where it needs to be for me to recommend any bets.
Thankfully, we have the NBA Draft. It messes with my head that the NBA Finals ended less than a week ago, and we’re already at the draft, but I’m good with it. The draft is when the NBA offseason begins in full force, and I expect we’ll see some movement tonight. The Jerami Grant trade was just the tip of the iceberg.
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Even if there are only three MLB games tonight, I’ve found two worth betting on, and I also have a few NBA Draft props. The action never stops around here, nor does our desire to learn. So let’s get smart by reading these stories.
- One last NBA mock draft before the real thing.
- Speaking of the Jerami Grant trade, Portland doesn’t seem to be done dealing.
- Bold NBA Draft predictions.
- Arch Manning finally made his college decision.
OK, let’s make some money.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
The Hot Ticket
Astros at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. | TV: MLB.TV
Latest Odds: New York Yankees -125
- Key Trend: The Yankees have won 11 of the last 16 meetings in New York.
- The Pick: Yankees (-125)
Houston starter Framber Valdez does a lot of things well. While his strikeout rate of 20.5% is below the average for a starter, opposing hitters have a barrel rate of only 3% against him — and the contact they make is overwhelmingly of the groundball variety.
He does lose the zone from time to time, though. His walk rate of 8.4% is higher than league average, and even if he avoids hard contact, the absolute last team I want to see a pitcher who walks too many hitters and doesn’t strike out enough go against is the Yankees.
The Yankees have the second-best walk rate in baseball to go along with the highest run rate, the highest home run rate, the highest wRC+, wOBA and basically every statistical category that matters. Oh, and the Yankees have a higher hard-hit rate and HR rate against lefties than they do righties. Valdez is good, but this isn’t the best matchup for him.
Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Projection Model doesn’t like much of anything, but SportsLine expert John Bollman is taking a side tonight too.
Orioles at White Sox, 8:10 p.m. | TV: MLB.TV
Latest Odds: Chicago White Sox -160
The Pick: White Sox (-160) — OK, so while I’m still firmly in the “Fire Tony La Russa” camp, the White Sox have been playing better lately. They’re still below .500, but they’ve won six of nine and three of those wins have come against good teams. Tonight they will not be facing a good team.
Baltimore has been better than in recent seasons, but the Orioles’ pitching is a weakness with a 4.21 ERA and a strikeout rate of 18.55% (only Colorado’s is lower). That doesn’t bode well against a White Sox offense that’s finally scoring runs, and the Sox will be sending out the man who might be their most reliable starter to the mound. Yes, I’m talking about Johnny Cueto. He’s been fantastic. In 42.4 innings, he’s posted a 2.95 ERA and pulled out all the tricks to confuse opponents and keep them off-balance. He gives the White Sox a better shot at winning tonight than the odds indicate.
Key Trend: The White Sox have won eight straight against Baltimore.
NBA Draft props
I have to send you into the evening with some NBA Draft props to make it more entertaining to watch. To be clear, these picks are not science. It’s strictly vibes based on what I’ve been told by people who pay much closer attention to the NBA Draft than I do. Tonight we trust what they’ve been telling us.
The Pick: Ousmane Dieng Under Pick 11.5 (-150) — Ever heard of Ousmane Dieng? Don’t worry, I hadn’t either until last week. In short, he’s a 6’10, 19-year-old who plays for the New Zealand Breakers. I’ve had multiple NBA scouting types tell me that Dieng is the kind of player a team in the late lottery will take a chance on. There are too many tools, and if he meets his potential, he can be the kind of franchise-changing talent everybody dreams about. That’s not to say he will, but he can be, and there aren’t many of those players available. In other words, he’s the kind of player worth taking a shot on if you’re in the lottery because you don’t usually get lottery picks by having superstars on your roster.
The Pick: E.J. Liddell Under Pick 21.5 (+100) — I’ve seen Liddell’s entire college career up close, and in my mind, he’s the prototypical player who won’t go early but is bound to be better than at least half the guys taken ahead of him. He’s a well-rounded player who does a lot of things well, but he’s already in his 20s and is too “tapped out” as far as his potential. But there are several teams in that post-lottery spot of the first round that I believe will view him as a solid addition to their rotation. Charlotte, Atlanta, Chicago and Minnesota all make sense.
The Pick: Jeremy Sochan Over Pick 11.5 (-150) — Sochan is another reminder that the NBA Draft isn’t about taking the best players in order. Every analyst I’ve talked to — and nearly all the ones I’ve read — like him. But nobody thinks he’s going to be a superstar, and if you’re not going to be a superstar, teams in the top 10 will typically pass you up for The Mystery Box. In that respect, Sochan has some similarities to EJ Liddell. His value as a player won’t be reflected in his draft position.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: Matt Severance has some thoughts on the odds surrounding the New York Knicks 1st-round draft pick tonight.