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Daily NBA Picks
NBA Betting Guidance
By Dan Favale
Cleveland Cavaliers (-9.5) vs. New York Knicks (+9.5)
The jig is up, and the sportsbooks have wasted little time in revealing as much: The New York Knicks, despite all their pomp and purported promise, are not going to be good this season. They look kind of, sort of, good on paper, but pull back a layer or two, and you'll see that they are held together by ebbing veterans well past their prime and Kristaps Porzingis. That's not a good place to be.
Favoring the Cleveland Cavaliers by 9.5 points, then, should be an easy bet. They are clearly much, much better than the Knicks and, on most occasions, could probably sleepwalk their way to a double-digit victory—especially at home.
But this isn't most occasions. This is the first game of the regular season. And the Cavaliers are not a regular season team. They won't go at full bore every game knowing what lies ahead, in the Eastern Conference playoffs, then ultimately the NBA Finals.
That doesn't mean there won't be games when they're on. This one is just bogged down by a ton of red flags. Their best players, including LeBron James, will be working off rust. The team will get its championship rings, which, as Knicks president Phil Jackson will attest from his time with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, is always an emotional, and therefore distraction-drowned, affair.
All of which bodes well for the Knicks. They probably won't win this game, so steer clear of the moneyline. Derrick Rose is only just working his way back into the fold, and Noah has admitted he isn't yet healthy. But the Cavaliers' opening-night warts should be enough to keep this one close for its entirety.
The Pick: New York Knicks (+9.5)
Portland Trail Blazers (-5.5) vs. Utah Jazz (+5.5)
This matchup between the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz is an interesting one.
On the one hand, the Blazers are at home, where they enjoy one of the best friendly turf advantages in the NBA, playing a Jazz squad that's missing arguably its best player in Gordon Hayward.
On the other hand...oh my god the Jazz.
Do not be one of the bettors that sleeps on the Jazz this season. They are deep, incredibly so, and more than equipped to replace Hayward in the short term. Joe Johnson is hardly the playmaker—or, at this point, defender—Hayward is, but he and Hood can shift defensive assignments, since the latter doesn't have to worry about guarding point men with George Hill in town and Dante Exum healthy.
Not even the Jazz's offense is of real concern. They need to shoot more three-pointers and, perhaps, play a little bit faster. But they have enough shot creators with Hood and Johnson, plus Alec Burks, and more than enough spot-up shooters after the acquisitions of Boris Diaw and Hill.
Expect the Blazers to run out small-ball combinations all night, forcing the Jazz to choose between one of Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert as they slot Trey Lyles, or even Johnson, at the 4 spot. But, again, the Jazz can handle it. They are built to play any style imaginable, even if they're not completely familiar with it.
The Blazers could ultimately win this game. In fact, given they are at home, they should win it. The Jazz, though, project as a 50-win team that lures opposing teams into a grinder's delight each and every night. If they lose, it won't be by much.
The Pick: Utah Jazz (+5.5)
Golden State Warriors (-9) vs. San Antonio Spurs (+9)
Part of you, along with me, wants to go with the San Antonio Spurs. They are the Spurs. It's opening night. And they're the Spurs. The Golden State Warriors are still new to each other.
Still, we have to choose with our heads, not our hearts. The smart pick, as such, is the Warriors.
Golden State's superteam learning curve will be shorter than most others throughout history, if only because all their players, right down to MVPs Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, complement each other to a T. The Warriors are also playing at Oracle Arena, where, with the exception of last year's NBA Finals, they were basically unbeatable.
We also have to consider that the Spurs' defense is kind of a question mark. We don't know how the frontcourt pairing of LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol will hold up, nor do we yet know if San Antonio has the small-ball lineup to combat Golden State's "Death Squad" of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson. That combination is, after all, video-game scary.
Worse for the Spurs, Danny Green, one of their best, most versatile defenders, is mending a quad injury, while Jonathon Simmons, his presumed backup, is a game-time decision with a calf issue. That seriously compromises San Antonio's ability to defend Golden State, and by extension, their capacity to keep this tilt close from start to finish.
The Pick: Golden State Warriors (-9)
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