The Atlanta Hawks knew they were going to have a hole in their rotation entering 2015-16 because small forward DeMarre Carroll was going to be too expensive to re-sign as a free agent -- and he left for $60 million or so in Toronto. So the Hawks made what I thought was a pretty good trade on draft night, sending their first-round pick, guard Jerian Grant (No. 19 overall), to the New York Knicks for swingman Tim Hardaway Jr. You never know what rookies will be, especially picked that low in the first round. Hardaway, meanwhile, is just 23 years old and had averaged 11.5 points last season with the Knicks in only 24.0 minutes a night. Yeah, he wasn't a great shooter but was athletic. Thus far, that trade has flopped for the Hawks. Hardaway has played 44 minutes all season and was shipped to the D-League on Thursday. He was eligible to be assigned there because Hardaway has three years or under of NBA experience. Grant, meanwhile, is playing about 18 minutes a night and averaging 6.1 points,, 2.8 assists and 2.0 rebounds. Phil Jackson wins that trade right now.
Nuggets at 76ers (+4, 193)
Denver ended an eight-game losing streak with a 106-105 upset in Toronto in the second of a back-to-back on Thursday. The Nuggets made all 18 free throws in avoiding their first nine-game losing streak since the 2002-03 season when they dropped 14 straight. Denver never trailed. Philly followed up its first win of the season on Tuesday with a 12-point loss at the Knicks on Wednesday. The 76ers didn't have Rookie of the Year candidate Jahlil Okafor for that defeat due to a two-game suspension for all his off-field stupidity, and he won't play here, either. He and Denver guard Emmanuel Mudiay were the preseason favorites for ROY.
Key trends: The underdog is 6-1 against the spread in the past seven meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in six of Philly's past seven overall.
Early lean: Can I just pass on this ugly game? Since no Okafor, go Denver and under.
Warriors at Raptors (+7.5, 206.5)
I like to say the Warriors are going for Blackjack here -- 21 (straight wins to open the season). How good is Steph Curry? In Wednesday's 116-99 win in Charlotte, Curry's hometown, he had 40 points and it easily could have been 50 if Curry didn't sit the fourth quarter. Curry's dad was honored at halftime of that game as Dell Curry is the Hornets' all-time leading scorer. Steph came out of the locker room for that and was inspired, scoring 28 points in the third quarter, including some ridiculous 3-pointers. Guy is amazing. Toronto was clearly caught looking ahead to this game on Thursday as it lost 106-105 at home to Denver, which entered on an eight-game skid. This will be the first time the Raptors play a second straight home game this season. They played Golden State tough in Oakland on Nov. 17 but lost 115-110. The Warriors have won 11 of the past 13 meetings.
Key trends: The Raptors are 6-0 ATS in their past six vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 5-2 in the past seven meetings.
Early lean: Raptors and over.
Cavaliers at Heat (pick'em, 192)
This game is on NBA TV. Cleveland was in New Orleans on Friday. I think LeBron James will take the occasional second of a back-to-back off this season but highly doubt that it's Saturday night in his return to Miami to face old pals Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Miami warmed up for this one with a 97-95 home win over the Thunder on Thursday. Wade provided the winning points with two free throws with 1.5 seconds left. He finished with 28 points. That game featured a crazy 38 lead changes. No other NBA game entering Thursday had more than 25 lead changes this season. It was the most ever in a game in Wade's Hall of Fame career. Miami's Luol Deng missed a fourth straight game (hamstring) and is questionable at best here.
Key trends: The home team is 6-0 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 9-2 in Miami's past 11 at home.
Early lean: Heat and under.
Hornets at Bulls (-7, 198)
Charlotte is still licking its wounds after being Curry-ied on Wednesday night against the Warriors. Hornets point guard Kemba Walker was slightly outplayed by Curry as Walker was 2-for-16 from the field for 4 points. Hornets rookie Frank Kaminsky III had a career-high 16 points as he saw more action with center Al Jefferson out a few weeks. Chicago beat Denver 99-90 on Wednesday in a possible trap game following a big win over the Spurs on Monday. Derrick Rose was just 3-for-17 against the Nuggets. Backup guard Aaron Brooks played after missing the past few. The Bulls and Hornets have split two meetings this season, each winning at home. Chicago could be without Nikola Mirotic (concussion).
Key trends: Charlotte is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 6-2 in the past eight meetings in Chicago.
Early lean: Hornets and over.
Kings at Rockets (-5.5, 216)
Houston was in Dallas on Friday. Dwight Howard wasn't going to play in that game so he can in this home one. Must be nice to earn $20 million a year or whatever and not have to work back-to-back nights. Sacramento lost 114-97 to Boston on Thursday in Mexico City. And the team got bad news as rookie first-round pick Willie Cauley-Stein will miss 4-6 weeks with a dislocation of his right index finger. That will hurt the Kings on the defensive end. The Rockets won in Sacramento 116-100 on Nov. 6 behind 43 points from James Harden. Howard was out as was DeMarcus Cousins.
Key trends: Houston is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 5-1-1 in the past seven overall.
Early lean: Rockets and over.
Trail Blazers at Timberwolves (-2, 205)
Portland ended a two-game slide with a 123-111 home win over Indiana on Thursday, a season high in points for the Blazers. Damian Lillard had 26 points. Minnesota dropped a second straight Tuesday, 96-93 to Orlando. Andrew Wiggins scored 27 points for the Timberwolves but missed a free throw with 5.6 seconds to play that would have tied the game. Minnesota is only 2-7 at home. For some reason, Coach Sam Mitchell kept No. 1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns on the bench the entire fourth quarter for a third game in a row. Portland beat the visiting Wolves 106-101 on Nov. 2. Lillard had 34 points and seven assists.
Key trends: The home team has covered four of the past six meetings. The over is 7-1 in the past eight in Minnesota.
Early lean: Wolves and over.
Knicks at Bucks (-2.5, 192)
Milwaukee was on Detroit on Friday, while New York was home to Brooklyn. This will be the third meeting of the season between these teams already. The Knicks won in Milwaukee 122-97 on opening night despite Carmelo Anthony shooting just 4-for-16. Greg Monroe led the Bucks with 22 points and 14 rebounds. A little over a week later at the Garden, the Bucks won 99-92. John Henson had a season-high 22 points for Milwaukee. New York is 1-2 on the back end of back-to-backs this season.
Key trends: The Bucks have covered five straight in the second of a back-to-back. The over is 4-1 in the past five meetings in Milwaukee.
Early lean: Bucks and under.
Celtics at Spurs (-9, 194)
Boston won in Sacramento 114-97 on Thursday in Mexico for its second straight away victory. Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 21 points against his former teammates and outplayed former Celtic Rajon Rondo. San Antonio won impressively in Memphis on Thursday, 103-83 in the second of a back-to-back. The Spurs actually played everybody, which was noteworthy. It was the 16th time this season San Antonio held an opponent under 100 points. San Antonio won in Boston 95-87 on Nov. 1 and Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili surpassed the Celtics' Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish for the most all-time regular season wins by a trio in NBA history, earning their 541st.
Key trends: The Spurs have covered four straight meetings. The under is 4-1 in Boston's past five overall.
Early lean: Celtics and under.
Pacers at Jazz (+1.5, 194)
Indiana closes a four-game West Coast trip here and is 2-1 on it after losing by 12 in Portland on Thursday to end a six-game winning streak. Paul George, the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for October, was just 4-for-17 shooting for 11 points. Guard Monta Ellis left in the third quarter with a back injury, so monitor his status here. Utah got awful news Wednesday when center Rudy Gobert, a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, was lost for 4-6 weeks with a sprained MCL. Gobert averages 9.2 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks. Utah's defense will not be the same without him (start betting over). The Jazz, who enter on a two-game losing streak, won in Indiana 97-76 on Halloween. The Jazz outscored the Pacers by 28 after intermission. Gobert had nine points, 17 rebounds and three blocks.
Key trends: The road team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 4-1 in those five.
Early lean: Pacers and over.
Magic at Clippers (-3.5, 198)
Orlando brings a five-game winning streak into this one and comes off a 103-94 win in Utah on Thursday. Six different Magic players reached double figures in their longest winning streak in three years. The Clippers lost 103-91 at home to Indiana on Wednesday. Los Angeles was without All-Star guard Chris Paul due to a strained muscle, and he's not likely to play here. Neither is backcourt mate J.J. Redick, who sprained his ankle in the first quarter against the Pacers. L.A.'s Paul Pierce is 15 points shy of 26,000 career.
Key trend: The Magic are 1-4 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 5-0 in the past five.
Early lean: If Paul and Redick are out, I'll take the points. Go under.
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