NBA Basketball Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 2/18/2014
It's one of the biggest weeks of the NBA season but also probably the most overrated at the same time, at least these days. Of course I'm talking about the trade deadline, which is Thursday at 3 p.m. Eastern.
Remember when we used to see actual stars traded in season? That simply doesn't happen any longer. The new collective bargaining agreement makes young players on their rookie contracts the second-most valuable players in the NBA after those true superstars. And you simply don't see true superstars dealt in season really since Carmelo Anthony was shipped from Denver to New York. The best player who might be moved by Thursday is the Lakers' Pau Gasol, and now that he's hurt his value has dropped. He could still end up in Phoenix. The Suns could have as many as four first-round picks next year, so they can afford to deal one (and Emeka Okafor's expiring contract).
Thus, I don't believe you will see any major futures odds shifts after Thursday. At Sportsbook.ag, the Thunder are +130 Western Conference favorites followed by the Clippers (+500), Spurs (+550), Rockets (+800) and Warriors (+800). The Thunder and Clippers don't seem likely to do anything. The Spurs have been mentioned for guys like Philly's Thaddeus Young or Milwaukee's Ersan Ilyasova. They could both help but wouldn't be game-changers. The Sixers want at least one first-round pick in the 2014 draft for Young or Evan Turner, and teams are hoarding those picks like they are gold. The Spurs are one club that probably would give it up since it will be so late in the round. Boston wants two unprotected first-rounders for Rajon Rondo.
The Clippers made their big trade this offseason in getting J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, so they are probably done other than maybe adding a backup big man. Houston would love to find a taker for Omer Asik, and maybe Jeremy Lin, but his $15 million contract for next season is making that impossible.
In the East, it's Indiana (-120) and Miami (even money) and then not much else. The Heat are already in luxury tax territory and thus unlikely to do anything. Ditto Indiana, which made its move in adding Andrew Bynum. The Nets (+3000) and Knicks (+7000) both have been active looking for guard help, with Brooklyn rumored for Cleveland's Jarrett Jack and New York eyeing Atlanta's Jeff Teague. The Raptors (+3000) have a guy many teams want in point guard Kyle Lowry, but now it appears the team is more likely to keep Lowry because Toronto is in position to win the division and make the playoffs for the first time in six years. The Pistons (+5000) might make a smaller move but say they will hang on to Greg Monroe. Charlotte (+20000) figures to do something in an attempt to boost its playoff chances and build some playoff momentum heading into next season with the Hornets re-branding.
Welcome Back Dwight!
Certainly the game of the week in the NBA is Thursday night's TNT opener between the Heat and Thunder in their final meeting before potentially the Finals and the reported return of Russell Westbrook from injury. However, I'll be previewing that game here at Doc's so don't want to go deep into that here.
The other interesting game is Wednesday's Rockets at Lakers matchup. It's not because the Rockets enter the second half with the NBA's longest winning streak at seven games. It's also not because Los Angeles has lost a franchise-record seven straight home games entering this matchup. It's intriguing the reaction the normally docile L.A. crowd will give Dwight Howard in his first game back since changing the course of the Lakers franchise by taking $30 million less to sign in Houston.
The game definitely loses some luster because Kobe Bryant won't be playing, and you know the "Mamba" holds a grudge over Howard bolting. However, you'd have to agree that Howard made the right choice because L.A. is a mess and still wouldn't be anywhere close to a title contender if Howard had stayed. Dwight is playing his best basketball of the season, averaging 25.8 points (on 65.7 percent shooting) and 12.8 rebounds this month. If the Rockets could land the stretch four they badly need by Thursday, look out.
Next Coach Out?
Bovada released next coach fired odds during the all-star break, and to no surprise the Knicks' Mike Woodson was the 2/3 overwhelming favorite. Unless Woodson gets the gate Tuesday afternoon before New York visits Memphis, I don't see what the point of firing him now would be considering there are only 30 games left. Of course, if the Knicks go 0-4 this week on their road trip (Memphis, New Orleans, Orlando and Atlanta), then I reserve the right to change my mind.
Cleveland's Mike Brown is the 7/2 second-favorite, but with a new general manager in place I'm sure the GM would like to take the rest of the season to evaluate the team. Plus, the Cavs actually have a four-game winning streak entering Tuesday's action and some positive karma from Kyrie Irving winning All-Star Game MVP honors.
Washington's Randy Wittman was 5/1 followed by Minnesota's Rick Adelman (11/2), and Golden State's Mark Jackson and Milwaukee's Larry Drew (both 13/2). The bloom is really off the rose for Jackson as the Warriors have really disappointed of late, and now center Andrew Bogut is hurting again. Adelman and Drew are all but locks to be goners after the season. Wittman should survive because the East is so bad the Wizards should sneak into the playoffs.
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