NBA Basketball Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 1/7/2014
I'm officially on the Golden State Warriors' bandwagon and believe they not only are legitimate Western Conference contenders but now will win the Pacific Division title.
The Warriors enter Tuesday's game at Milwaukee, which should be a lock win unless Golden State overlooks the wretched Bucks, on a NBA-high nine-game winning streak. It's their first same-season nine-game run since a 10-game streak in December 1975. What makes it even more impressive is that five of the wins have come on the road, with the signature win on Jan .2 at Miami in which Stephen Curry showed why he's the most pure shooter in the NBA with 36 points and eight 3-pointers. The Warriors nearly got caught in a letdown the next night but edged the Hawks on Andre Iguodala's buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
The Warriors are nearly unbeatable when their starting five of Curry, Klay Thompson, Iguodala, David Lee and Andrew Bogut are all healthy. Lee has been a monster of late. He was the Western Conference Player of the Week last week in averaging 24.5 points (sixth in the conference), 10.5 rebounds (sixth) and 3.5 assists while shooting 67.2 percent from the field. Lee is the only player this season to have at least 20 points and eight rebounds while shooting 55 percent in four consecutive games.
I see no reason why this streak doesn't reach 13. The Warriors are 8.5-point favorites Tuesday against Milwaukee, which will be missing an injured John Henson. They certainly will be favored Wednesday at Brooklyn, which could be without point guard Deron Williams again. He missed Monday's game with Atlanta due to an ankle that will clearly bother him all year. Then the Warriors return home for what should be wins over Boston and Denver before visiting Oklahoma City on Jan. 17. I'm presuming any streak ends there. Those two have split very exciting one-point games so far this year. That will be the final regular-season meeting, so it could potential have tiebreaker ramifications in the postseason.
The Warriors are now 12/1 to win the NBA title and 6/1 to win the West at Bovada. They have passed the Clippers on both. Yet oddly Golden State remains the second-favorite to win the Pacific at +150 behind L.A.'s -150.
Obviously any bet on Golden State makes you nervous because Curry and Bogut are health risks, but I'd jump on that Pacific prop now. That's because the Clippers lost their heart and soul, point guard Chris Paul, for likely six weeks to a separated shoulder. Last season they were 6-6 without Paul, and they had a way better backup in Eric Bledsoe. Now it's Darren Collison's team to lead; ironically he also filled in for Paul in 2009-10 with New Orleans and was pretty good then, but he's not the same player. L.A. got routed in San Antonio on Saturday -- down an embarrassing 70-35 at halftime -- in its first game without Paul. Collison was a team-worst minus-23 in that game.
I could easily see the Clippers being no better than .500 the next 20 games or so that Paul is likely to miss. So if the Warriors can keep rolling they might lead the division by 5-6 games by the all-star break. Perhaps the Clippers should call Denver about Andre Miller. The Nuggets are actively shopping him. The Warriors also might have interest in the veteran point guard.
Cavs Make Their Move
Well, I had a whole long note ready to go here about how Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET was going to be an important point of the slumping Cleveland Cavaliers' season. That's because the second half of Andrew Bynum's $12.3 million contract became fully guaranteed at that exact minute. The Cavs clearly didn't want Bynum and were hoping to get a rotation player for him as the team acquiring Bynum could simply cut him and save millions of dollars. Any team that had Bynum on its roster could immediately wipe $6 million of its books this season by waiving him Tuesday by 5 p.m.
I thought it would be a much-rumored deal with the Lakers for Pau Gasol, but instead the Cavs did even better: they got all-star small forward Luol Deng from Chicago on Monday night for Bynum and some future draft picks. It's a great deal for the Cavs. Small forward is the worst position on the team -- thank you Anthony Bennett -- and Deng is the ultimate professional. He's a great defender, can score, pass and rebound. Cleveland enters play on Tuesday at 11-23 and 13th in the East, but I fully expect it to make the playoffs now as long as Kyrie Irving is healthy.
Cleveland is hoping to get back Irving for Tuesday's home game against the Sixers. He's missed the past three with a knee bruise. I doubt Deng makes it to Cleveland and plays, but it's possible. The Cavs start a five-game West Coast trip Friday in Utah when I think we are assured of seeing Cleveland at full strength for the first time.
As for Chicago, the Bulls should start sinking in the East now. Deng was the glue holding the club together after Derrick Rose was hurt again and Coach Tom Thibodeau's favorite player (he can't be happy). Chicago had been playing better of late, but the front office is now looking to next year. By dealing Deng and immediately cutting Bynum, the club will be under the luxury tax, saving around $15 million overall. It also likely will amnesty Carlos Boozer this summer to get about $10 million in cap room. Maybe the Bulls can get lucky like the Spurs did when David Robinson got hurt in the 1996-97 season and San Antonio lucked into the No. 1 overall pick and Tim Duncan. How would Chicago native Jabari Parker look next to Rose and Jimmy Butler? Expect a mini-swoon right away for the Bulls as the players aren't ignorant as to the message this sends.
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