While there were just three games on Tuesday for the NBA's opening night, it's a hugely busy second night on Wednesday with 14 games -- the only two teams not playing are Atlanta and Golden State. They both opened at home Tuesday night and both happened to be top seeds in their respective conferences last season. Clearly the matchup of the night Wednesday is San Antonio at Oklahoma City, two top Western Conference contenders. That will have live betting at the sportsbooks with it televised by ESPN. So will Timberwolves at Lakers, the ESPN nightcap.
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Wizards at Magic (+4, 205)
I'm very interested to see Orlando this season as the club has plenty of young talent -- my sleeper pick for Rookie of the Year is Croatian swingman Mario Hezonja. That guy has skills. Just type his name in YouTube and see for yourself. Orlando also has a new coach in Scott Skiles, who usually is very successful right away in his coaching career but then tends to wear on people after a few years. How much will the Wiz miss Paul Pierce? Not too much if Otto Porter plays like he did in last year's playoffs. I think Washington wins the Southeast Division.
Key trends: Wizards are 10-4-1 ATS in the past 15 meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in four of the past five meetings.
Early lean: Wizards and under.
76ers at Celtics (-11.5, 198)
Philly is really going to be bad again, but the Sixers have the makings of an excellent frontcourt in a season or two in second-year player Nerlens Noel, a defensive dynamo, and rookie No. 3 overall pick Jahlil Okafor, who is the co-favorite with Denver's Emmanuel Mudiay for Rookie of the Year. Outside of those two, however, the Sixers are still a mess. Joel Embiid will miss his second consecutive season after a second surgery to repair the navicular bone in his right foot. Boston is a team on the rise. Coach Brad Stevens is leaning towards starting Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, David Lee and Tyler Zeller to open the season. Lee was an offseason acquisition from Golden State.
Key trends: Favorite is 4-0 ATS in past four meetings. Over is 5-2 in past seven.
Early lean: 76ers and under.
Pacers at Raptors (-5.5, 198)
You might not recognize Indiana this season. It's no longer a plodding, defensive-oriented team with Roy Hibbert taking up space in the paint. The Pacers are going up tempo this season and are going to use Paul George as an undersized power forward in order to play smaller and faster. He was limited to only six late-season games last year after breaking his leg with USA Basketball last summer. Hibbert was traded to the Lakers. The Raptors are largely the same team but did add Hawks free-agent forward DeMarre Carroll. They should win the Atlantic Division again.
Key trends: Road team is 9-3 ATS in past 12 meetings. Over is 4-0 in past four.
Early lean: Raptors and over.
Bulls at Nets (+4.5, 195)
Chicago hosted Cleveland on Tuesday night. So, you know, there's a chance that Derrick Rose got hurt. I don't expect the Nets to be any good this season off a 38-44 mark that was still good for the East's final playoff spot in 2014-15. At least Brooklyn is out of salary-cap hell now and doesn't have to worry about overpaying Deron Williams any longer as he was bought out this offseason. The new starter at the point is Jarrett Jack, but he's questionable for Wednesday after missing practice on Monday with a sore left hamstring.
Key trends: Favorite is 5-1 ATS in past six meetings. Under is 6-1 in past seven.
Early lean: Bulls and over.
Hornets at Heat (-6.5, 193)
I fully expected Charlotte to be a playoff team this season -- until the Hornets were dealt the crushing blow that small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a fantastic defensive player, will likely miss the season following shoulder surgery. Coach Steve Clifford has said that new addition Nicolas Batum (from Portland) is now expected to see more action than first expected at small forward. Batum was going to start at shooting guard. The Heat might have the second-best starting five in the East in Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside. They didn't play at all together last season as Dragic was a trade deadline acquisition and Bosh and Wade dealt with injuries. Bosh didn't play after mid-February because of blood clots in his lung. Good to see one of the NBA's good guys at full health after that major scare.
Key trends: Hornets are 5-12-1 ATS in past 18 meetings. Over is 6-0 in past six in Miami.
Early lean: Heat and under.
Jazz at Pistons (+2, 188.5)
Detroit opened the season in Atlanta on Tuesday. Should be a fantastic individual matchup here between two betting favorites for Defensive Player of the Year (and to lead the NBA in rebounds per game): Jazz Frenchman center Rudy Gobert against Pistons counterpart Andre Drummond. Utah is on the rise and could sneak into the West playoffs. Shame the Jazz lost point guard Dante Exum to a season-ending torn ACL early this summer.
Key trends: Jazz are 9-1 ATS in past 10 at Detroit. Under is 6-2 in Pistons' past eight vs. the West.
Early lean: Jazz and under.
Spurs at Thunder (-5, 208)
Two big-name debuts in this one. It's the first game as a Spur for former Blazers All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge. And of course it's the regular-season debut of Oklahoma City's Billy Donovan. I think the former Florida coach is going to win NBA Coach of the Year this season. In my NBA previews last week, I had the Thunder winning the West as long as Kevin Durant's foot problems don't resurface. San Antonio won two of three meetings last season. These teams will see each other at some point in this season's playoffs.
Key trends: Spurs are 2-9 ATS in past 11 in OKC. Under is 7-1 in past eight meetings there.
Early lean: Thunder and over.
Knicks at Bucks (-5.5, 192.5)
Milwaukee is definitely headed in the right direction. The Knicks? Not so much. Derek Fisher might be the first NBA coach fired this season. It's not likely that the Bucks' Jabari Parker will play at least in the first few games as he comes off major knee surgery that cut his promising rookie campaign way too short. He surely will be on a minutes restriction at first when he does debut. This will also be the Bucks debut of forward Greg Monroe, the team's big free-agent signing from Detroit. Monroe picked the Bucks over.... the Knicks. Tells you all you need to know.
Key trends: Home team is 5-1 ATS in past six meetings. Under is 4-1 in Bucks' past five vs. East.
Early lean: Bucks and under.
Nuggets at Rockets (-10, 212)
Houston's big offseason move was acquiring very good point guard Ty Lawson from Denver for a bunch of scrubs and a couple of draft picks. It was a heist because the Nuggets wanted Lawson gone as he had become a problem child and had two recent DUI arrests. Fitting that Lawson makes his Rockets debut against his former club, which is likely to be one of the NBA's worst but does have one of the co-Rookie of the Year betting favorites in Mudiay, the No. 7 overall pick in the draft. No Dwight Howard in this one for Houston. He is suspended for accumulating four flagrant fouls in last year's playoffs. Houston swept Denver last regular season for the first time since 2003-03.
Key trends: Favorite is 4-0 ATS in past four meetings. Over is 7-2 in past nine.
Early lean: Rockets and over.
Cavaliers at Grizzlies (-5, 188.5)
Cleveland was in Chicago on Tuesday night. I don't think we have to worry about LeBron James sitting out the second of a back-to-back this early in the season (barring him tweaking his back problem vs. the Bulls), but it's going to happen at least a few times this season. Memphis is essentially the same team as last year, which means the Grizz will win at least 50 games thanks to stifling defense but won't be good enough to beat the West's best teams in the playoffs.
Key trends: Favorite is 4-1 ATS in past five meetings. Under is 24-3 in Memphis' past 27 at home.
Early lean: Grizzlies and under.
Pelicans at Trail Blazers (-2.5, 205.5)
Portland might be the West's worst team this year after losing 80 percent of its starting lineup this offseason, including the All-Star Aldridge. It's now Damian Lillard and a bunch of question marks. Injury-ravaged New Orleans was in Golden State on Tuesday night without swingman Tyreke Evans and center Omer Asik; Evans will miss several more weeks, while there's an outside chance Asik can play here. The Trail Blazers have defeated the Pelicans in five consecutive regular-season games and 11 of their past 14 contests dating back to the start of the 2011-12 season. The Pelicans are averaging only 91.3 points in the past four meetings.
Key trends: Blazers are 4-1 ATS in past five meetings. Under is 4-0 in past four.
Early lean: Pelicans and under.
Mavericks at Suns (-3.5, 204)
Dallas might have been a championship contender had DeAndre Jordan kept his word and signed with the Mavericks, but of course he had a last-minute change of heart and returned to the Clippers. Now the Mavericks are going to be a lottery team, and they might want to tank. If their 2016 first-round pick is in the Top 7, they keep it. Otherwise, it goes to Boston due to the Rajon Rondo trade, which was a terrible deal for Dallas. The Suns might have been interesting if they were able to lure Aldridge in free agency but came up second. They did add Tyson Chandler. Phoenix has dropped 14 of the last 20 meetings in the series with Dallas.
Key trends: Mavs are 0-5 ATS in past five meetings. Over is 5-2 in past seven.
Early lean: Suns and over.
Clippers at Kings (+5, 211)
Sacramento is going to be incredibly interesting to watch. DeMarcus Cousins is an absolute monster when he cares. But he and Coach George Karl have definitely not been on the same page too often. First-round pick Willie Cauley-Stein is going to make a big impact on the defensive end immediately. Karl is going to start the 7-footer at power forward next to Cousins in an all-Kentucky front court. This will be the Sacramento debut of Rondo, who had his best seasons in Boston under current Clippers coach Doc Rivers. Rondo will also go up against a former teammate in Pierce, an offseason-signing by the Clips. Pierce is going to come off the bench as fellow new addition Lance Stephenson is likely to start. L.A. was 3-1 vs. the Kings last season.
Key trends: Over is 5-1 in Kings' past six meetings in Sacramento. Clips are 15-5-1 ATS in their past 21 on the road.
Early lean: Clippers and over.
Timberwolves at Lakers (-3, 202.5)
Three big story lines here. The first is the return of Kobe Bryant after he was limited to only 35 games last season due to injury. The second is that it's Minnesota's first game since president of basketball operations and coach Flip Saunders died Sunday of cancer at age 60. He was hospitalized following a setback with his Hodgkin lymphoma in September, and it was announced Friday that Saunders would miss the entire 2015-16 season. His death was quite surprising. And finally, it's the matchup between the top two picks in this year's draft. No. 1 Karl-Anthony Towns of the Wolves and No. 2 D'Angelo Russell of the Lakers.
Key trends: Lakers are 2-5 ATS in past seven meetings. Over is 5-2 in Wolves' past seven on road.
Early lean: Wolves and over.
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