Heat Mavericks Basketball (copy)

Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, left, shoots over Miami’s Tyler Herro, right, and Bam Adebayo, obscured, as Miami’s Jimmy Butler and Dallas’ Dwight Powell watch during the first half Friday in Dallas.

We’re presented with a quiet slate of NBA games Thursday, which means that there will be a major edge in targeting early betting lines in anticipation of line movement.

Below are my four favorite early bets to lock in for the NBA slate Thursday, including lines listed at the time of writing (Wednesday night).

Philadelphia 76ers (-2) at Brooklyn Nets (-110, William Hill)

The Nets looked good in their first game sans Kevin Durant, but it may be a different tune against the 76ers. Not only do the 76ers hold the best defensive rating in the NBA this season, but Ben Simmons should be tasked with shadowing Irving. With the obvious advantage going to Simmons on defense, it’ll be up to the Nets supporting cast to shoulder more of the load, something they should have a tough time doing against this Sixers unit.

Charlotte Hornets at Atlanta Hawks (-6) (-110, William Hill)

While the Hawks still have an exploitable defense that tends to keep Vegas spreads close (17th in defensive efficiency), the Hornets rank 25th in defensive efficiency, which should mitigate some of that risk. On top of that, the Hawks rank second overall in offensive efficiency while scoring the third-most points per game in the NBA (118.3) compared to only 107.3 per game for Charlotte.

Cleveland Cavaliers (+4) at Memphis Grizzlies (-110, William Hill)

Even with the Cavs being on the second leg of a back-to-back, they aren’t getting enough respect against the Ja Morant-less Grizzlies. The Cavs have been much improved this season, ranking second overall in defensive efficiency. With no elite playmakers on the Grizzlies' side of the ball, this could cause issues in terms of scoring the basketball if the Cavs maintain their stellar defensive play. Getting them anything more than a three-point underdog feels like great value.

Dallas Mavericks (+3.5) at Denver Nuggets (-110, William Hill)

This is not a bet I would have recommended last season, especially without Kristaps Porzingis, but this is a different Nuggets’ defense. Through the first portion of the season, they rank dead-last in the league in defensive efficiency, a far cry from how good they were last season. On top of this, Luka Doncic is finally coming around for the Mavs, averaging 30 points, 15.5 rebounds, and nine assists per game over his last two. If he can keep this up, the Mavericks should have a stellar chance of covering.