We moved to 3-0 ATS on the young NBA season as the Chicago Bulls took care of business, winning their home opener against the Boston Celtics who were, for some reason, already playing a road back-to-back (can we please fix this schedule for the sake of the league… oh wait… nevermind, it remains the single biggest hidden wagering advantage in all of professional sports). I had a few “did you make a typo” questions on the line – no, I didn’t. The line just moved a LOT. It opened at Chicago +3, moved to +1.5 by the time I published, and ended up with the Bulls being FAVORED by 1.5 just before tipoff. The good news is, no matter WHERE you got Chicago, we cashed a winner.
Dwyane Wade shot the ball well from the perimeter, but we shall see if that lasts well into the season. Athleticism and creativity have always been hallmarks of Wade’s future Hall of Fame game. Knocking down long range jumpers hasn’t. As he transitions into “older veteran” player, he realized that long range accuracy is paramount, and apparently spend all summer working on that skill.
Elsewhere, the Spurs moved to 2-0 with a nice road win at Sacramento, spoiling the Kings debut of their gorgeous new arena. The Atlanta Hawks won their opener easily, beating the Wizards by 15 points behind 11 and 19 from Dwight Howard, including a dominating 15 rebound first half. Somewhat troubling though is the fact that newly signed starting point guard Dennis Schroder dished out just TWO assists. Malcolm Delaney, the 27-year old NBA rookie from Virginia Tech, was a capable backup, dishing out five on his own (answering some real questions in the short-term now that former starter Jeff Teague is in Indiana and Schroder is elevated to ‘running the show’ status), but Schroder is going to have to do a better job of running the team if the Hawks are going to maintain top-four position in the East.
There are some nice matchups tonight across the league, including the Cavaliers at Toronto and the Warriors trying to bounce back against the Pelicans. Keep in mind, Golden State will be angry and focused and that the Pels LOST at HOME to the NUGGETS despite one of the greatest games in NBA regular season history delivered by The Brow… it isn’t my official pick tonight, but I wouldn’t be scared to lay the points with the Dubs tonight…
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Today’s Free Pick:
Phoenix Suns at Oklahoma City Thunder -9.5 (Total: 209)
I am already on wax praising the Thunder’s potential and tabbing them for the season win total OVER. I have already alluded to the crowded backcourt issues and complete frontcourt lack in Phoenix. But laying double-digits on the Thunder feels a little aggressive until SOMEONE on that team shows they are ready to be the supporting scorers in the massive chasm left by Durant (obviously) and Ibaka (less obviously, but a significant third option). In their opener, it took ALL of Russell Westbrook’s MVP-ness to pull one out at Philly. Phoenix has similar deficiencies to the Sixers, but they can at least score enough to keep things competitive tonight.
The Thunder got good interior production from Kanter and Adams in the opener, so perhaps that is where the focus shifts this season. That combo, along with the developing Sabonis, is one of the better frontcourts offensively in the West. I still think they need a second shooter/scorer – perhaps it will be Oladipo (it probably needs to be), perhaps they can get some floor spacing relief for Westbrook from Singler or promising late-blooming rookie Samaj Christon (three years removed from Xavier, but an NBA rookie). But for now, it remains a big question mark.
For Phoenix, the opener was a disaster. But it is wise to not overreact from any single sample in an NBA season. It is hard NOT to do, especially when the sample is just a single game. Some things we DO know about Phoenix; their backcourt will be REALLY good once Bledsoe gets comfortable returning from injury. He was a borderline All Star in a crowded Western Conference backcourt two years ago, and Brandin Knight can play as well (All Star in the far-less-crowded East two years ago). Add in Devin Booker, who has the potential to be the breakout DraftKings/Fan Duel star of this season, and you have one of the five best backcourts in the West. The PROBLEM is the frontcourt. The Morris Twins, for all their chemistry flaws, could both score. They are long gone. Tyson Chandler is an excellent leader and still a viable rim protector and rebounder, but has never been an offensive player. That leaves a HUGE burden on rookie Dragan Bender or young Alex Len to show huge development. It’s asking a little too much this season.
The Suns will struggle in the West with one of the thinnest frontcourts in the league. But they will score points on nights when the shots are falling with a trio of explosive guards and a wing who can fill it up in TJ Warren. I think tonight will be one of those nights. They will score their way into a competitive game. And Russ will close it out for the Thunder win. I’ll take the Suns getting nearly double digit points to cover, but not win straight up.