Thanksgiving was a dead-day for the NBA providing a rare night with no action, but it did provide a nice time to take stock of some things for which to be thankful for some of the teams across the Association. (Selfishly, I am thankful for a 19-11 ATS mark so far this year and am looking to keep it rolling).
The Sixers are thankful for The Process. Mostly. Sure, Nerlens Noel hasn’t played. Neither has Ben Simmons. Jahlil Okafor plays a little. But Joel Freakin’ Embiid, man. Runaway R.O.Y. and finally a glimmer of hope in Phily.
A few other teams are thankful for their breakout stars leading to better-than-expected results. Charlotte is getting an MVP-like performance from Kemba Walker, a no-doubt first time All Star. You could make the cogent argument he deserves to START for the East (though I doubt he’ll eclipse Kyrie in voting). Memphis is 10-5, largely because Mike Conley is actually EARNING that record-setting contract. I am not sure he can leapfrog Steph, Paul, Westbrook and Dame in the point guard rankings, but Conley needs to find SOME WAY on to the Western Conference All Stars.
And how about the effort from Dwight Howard this season? It’s been VERY quiet in terms of national attention, but the much maligned former poster-boy of the NBA has seemingly found a happy home in Atlanta. He is averaging more points, rebounds, assists and blocks than in the last two seasons, but doing it on just 28 minutes a night. His 14.8/13.3 statline might not get him back to the All Star Game, but his ZERO drama and interior toughness has been a HUGE part of keeping Atlanta in the mix for the #2 seed in the East.
The NBA as a whole can be thankful for one saving grace; every team is worth watching – even the bad ones. Sure, New Orleans, Washington, Miami and Milwaukee haven’t won much this year, but you can’t find a few hours to watch Anthony Davis, John Wall, Hassan Whiteside and Giannis? All are in the Top 20 in PER and are unique stars. Even lowly Dallas can give you a brief glimpse of the greatest foreign-born scorer in the history of the NBA who can still get you 20 on a given night. The NBA is truly as deep as it has been in decades with star power and tune-in-worthy talent.
It’s been a fun first quarter of the season, as well as a profitable one. Let’s keep it rolling!
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Today’s Free Pick:
Chicago Bulls -8 at Philadelphia 76’ers
I promise I am not obsessed with the Sixers. I am not a ‘fan’ of the team and don’t follow them on a regular basis. But the lines that keep getting floated out with them are so interesting and potentially profitable, that they are hard to walk away from. Philly has won three of four straight up at home, and their last loss was a double-overtime thriller to the 10-5 Grizzlies (in yet another game Philly HAD and gave away in the last 30 seconds – that is THREE already this season. This team could easily be .500 right now).
Philly is 8-2 ATS at home this season, yet they continue to get no respect from Vegas. Chicago has also over performed against the spread this season, entering tonight at 10-5, though they are one of my early candidates for “danger team” in that one night to the next they have some wild variations in performance. They have a blowout win at Portland and a loss to Denver in their recent resume to illustrate the mercurial nature of this squad.
Chicago has played better than most expected so far in 2016. I had them on the Vegas win total OVER in my preseason column, but admit to still being a little skeptical of their long-term viability. They seem to depend too much on jump shots from historically average to below-average shooters. It seems like a regression is inevitable. This is a team with plenty of talent, hence the nice wins, but with an older and jump-shot dependent core – hence the bad losses as well.
The biggest factors for me backing Philly tonight are twofold: one, Philly is GOOD at home, especially against the number. And two, despite a few days to rest, this is still Chicago’s SIXTH straight road game, which is typically problematic for any NBA team.
I am not willing to go moneyline tonight as I was last week against Miami at +170. But I do like getting a nice handful of points at home with a team that seems to routinely cover, and admit to finding +285 a little intriguing…