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Expert Picks NBA
Must NBA Picks
By Dan Favale
Oklahoma City Thunder (-6) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (+6)
Even with the Oklahoma City Thunder playing at home, this is a generous spread. The Thunder, after all, haven’t been great. Their record, a nice 4-1, suggests that they might be ready to contend for one of the West’s top spots, but we need to know better.
Oklahoma City has a negative net rating despite its record and hasn’t needed to play a bunch of quality teams. The one it did play, the Golden State Warriors, beat them senseless. Though the Timberwolves won’t do that, they arguable have the edge at every position except point guard. And Russell Westbrook, good as he is, cannot cover this spread on his own.
The Pick: Minnesota Timberwolves (+6)
Detroit Pistons (-4.5) vs. Denver Nuggets (+4.5)
Andre Drummond too often looks lost within the Detroit Pistons’ half-court offensive sets now that Reggie Jackson is watching from the sidelines. The team’s pick-and-roll attack, and thus their entire system, isn’t nearly as dangerous without those two carving up defenses.
Add in the Denver Nuggets’ enviable depth, their versatile frontcourt, and Drummond’s frequently spotty defense this year, and you have not only enough evidence to take the Nuggets’ spread, but to pick them as an outright winner. The Pick: Denver Nuggets (+4.5)
Philadelphia 76ers (+13.5) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (-13.5)
The reigning NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers are operating on another level this year, which is crazy, because after last season’s NBA Finals comeback, that shouldn’t be possible. Alas, it is, rendering the Cavaliers threats to blow out any team on any given night.
Except Cleveland is equally notorious for getting off to slow starts and/or allowing clearly inferior foes to hang around for most of the game. On the road, versus a Philadelphia 76ers squad that finally has the home crowd behind them, it feels like it’s going to be another one of those nights—making this spread much too large to feel good about betting on the Cavaliers.
The Pick: Philadelphia 76ers (+13.5)
Orlando Magic (-5.5) vs. Washington Wizards (+5.5)
For very short stretches this season, the Washington Wizards have looked like a good basketball team. They hung around with the Toronto Raptors for a while earlier this week, and then they pulled off an impressive win over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night.
That gives you enough ammo to bet on them here as sizable underdogs.
So, too, does the fact that, even as the home team, the Orlando Magic just aren’t very good.
The Pick: Washington Wizards (+5.5)
Indiana Pacers (-3) vs. Chicago Bulls (+3)
With the Chicago Bulls coming off a Friday night loss, on their home court, to the New York Knicks, this spread makes some semblance of sense.
But only if you assume the Indiana Pacers are a team that can take care of business.
Which you can’t.
The Pacers entered the season to lofty expectations, and we’re already finding out that such standards are undeserved. They haven’t looked especially good on either end of the floor, and the defense in particular isn’t built to stand up against a Bulls offense that has been surprisingly efficient to start the year.
The Pick: Chicago Bulls (+3)
Atlanta Hawks (-3) vs. Houston Rockets (+3)
Welcome to the toughest pick of the night, bar none.
The Atlanta Hawks’ defense should be able to disrupt the Houston Rockets’ high-octane offense even though the former is laboring through the tail end of a back-to-back. The question is whether those Hawks will be able to grind out enough points to actually win the game.
Against a defense as shoddy as the one the Rockets have shown, we’re going to say they can.
The Picks: Atlanta Hawks (-3)
Milwaukee Bucks (-2.5) vs. Sacramento Kings (+2.5)
Welcome to the second-toughest pick of the night, bar none. And it’s not tough in a good way. It’s impossible to get a read on the banged-up Milwaukee Bucks. Greg Monroe is sometimes good, Jabari Parker sometimes tries on defense and Giannis Antetokounmpo sometimes makes Milwaukee’s offense look like a fully functioning attack.
Fortunately for them, they play the Sacramento Kings, who are even more unpredictable—hence why the pick here goes to the home team.
The Pick: Milwaukee Bucks (-2.5)
San Antonio Spurs (-5) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (+5)
If the Los Angeles Clippers’ offense were more reliable at the moment—and yes, that’s a real sentence, about a team with Chris Paul, in 2016—we’d feel better about picking them to hang close with the San Antonio Spurs.
And yet, even then, we still wouldn’t feel great about it. The Clippers could play their best basketball of the season, and the Spurs, at home, would be just as likely to maintain the edge on both sides of the court. Thus, the pick has to be them.
The Pick: San Antonio Spurs (-5)
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