The NBA is no different than Major League Baseball and the NHL in that the all-star break really isn’t the true halfway point of the season. In fact, every NBA team has played at least 50 of its 82 regular-season games, with the second half set to resume on Tuesday.
While there are some nice matchups this week, including Celtics at Lakers on Wednesday in L.A.’s first game since the death of owner Jerry Buss, and Spurs at Clippers in the Thursday TNT nightcap, the real story line is the arrival of the trade deadline, which is Thursday. It appears now that Kevin Garnett will be staying put with Boston as he has said he has no intention of waiving his no-trade clause. KG is one of just four players in the NBA with such a clause. The Clippers want Garnett, and he might make them Western Conference favorites over the Spurs and Thunder. But KG keeps saying no.
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Now there’s word that L.A. could trade for Utah forward Paul Millsap, with young point guard Eric Bledsoe leading a package headed to the Jazz. Bledsoe’s value may never be higher, but he’s also under contract through next season and even then can only be a restricted free agent. But the Clips are prepared to go all-in in an effort to secure the signature of Chris Paul on a long-term extension. With Paul around, Bledsoe is essentially a luxury item.
Other big names on the trade block reportedly include Atlanta’s Josh Smith and Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings. Both are set to become free agents this summer and both are good enough to affect the NBA title chase should they land on a contender. One player who apparently won’t be dealt is Dwight Howard, although there was some scuttlebutt of a Howard for Rajon Rondo deal. The Lakers might be wise to deal Howard because he pretty clearly doesn’t want to be there and could sign with Dallas or Atlanta this offseason and leave L.A. with nothing.
The Heat open the second half, unsurprisingly, as +160 NBA title favorites at 5Dimes, followed by the Thunder (+320), Spurs (+575) and Clippers (+850). The site offers updated division futures props as well.
The Knicks lead Brooklyn by 2.5 games in the Atlantic and are the -425 favorites. Unless the Nets (+225) somehow are able to swing a trade with Atlanta for Smith, I can’t see them catching New York without Carmelo Anthony missing multiple games due to injury. In the Central, Indiana is the -160 favorite with Chicago at +110. The Pacers lead the Bulls by 1.5 games, and I lean toward chalk there as well. It’s now somewhat clear that Derrick Rose isn’t returning any time soon for Chicago if at all, and guys like Joakim Noah and Luol Deng are going to wear down – Noah already is playing through plantar fasciitis. There is also talk that Indiana is the leader in the clubhouse in a potential trade for Orlando’s J.J. Redick. Every other division race is a foregone conclusion.
Updated Wins Totals
5Dimes has re-posted several wins totals for NBA teams. Let’s take a look at few.
--Milwaukee “over/under” 40.5 wins: The Bucks enter the second half at 26-25 and holding down the final playoff spot in the East. So can they go 15-16 in the second half to make an over bet worthwhile? I happen to believe Milwaukee does trade Jennings, because he has a new agent, wants a max deal and out of Milwaukee so he can improve his national profile. This has been made clear to Bucks officials. They can match any offer Jennings would get this offseason, but who wants an unhappy max player? Take the under, which is a +115 underdog.
--Detroit over/under 32 wins: The Pistons actually have a bright future as Andre Drummond was a steal in last year’s draft and the team will have a ton of cap room this offseason. The Pistons enter the break at 21-33. I do believe they can get 12 more wins to warrant taking the over – point guard Jose Calderon is looking more and more comfortable with the team since the trade from Toronto. He’s shooting 56.6 percent from the field and averaging 15.0 points and 7.8 assists in the past five games. The Pistons beat the likes of the Spurs and Bucks in that stretch.
--Chicago over/under 46.5 wins: While I don’t think the Bulls will win the Central, they should top this number. The Bulls enter the break at 30-22, and they simply play harder than almost every opponent they see. Do I think coach Tom Thibodeau plays his stars too much and that it will catch up to the team in the playoffs? Indeed I do. But winning 17 more games shouldn’t be a problem.
--Charlotte over/under 19.5 wins: The Bobcats have the worst record in the NBA at 12-40 and by far the worst plus/minus differential at -8.9. I feel sorry for this franchise. It lost out on potential franchise player Anthony Davis in last year’s lottery despite the worst winning percentage in NBA history. And now it probably has to think twice about taking Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel at No. 1 overall in this year’s draft should the Bobcats win the lottery due to Noel’s torn ACL injury. Charlotte hasn’t won consecutive games since mid-November, and I see no reason to take the over here. The under is a -170 favorite.
--Washington over/under 28 wins: I love the over here at -120. The Wiz (15-36) started the year looking like the NBA’s worst team, but they have been vastly improved since John Wall debuted. Entering the break, the Wiz had won four of five, beating expected playoff teams in the Clippers, Knicks, Nets and Bucks in that stretch. Washington also opens the second half with six of its first seven at home, and Washington has won eight of its past nine there. I could see Washington playing .500 basketball in the second half.
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