Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 2016-17 NBA season. There are about a million storylines and angles I could cover, but I will be sticking to just one throughout the season. I plan on using my time, research and knowledge to specialize on one team that I think will be able to make some noise in the Western Conference. One of the keys to making money on a long-term basis is to understand and familiarize yourself with the league and teams that you put your hard-earned dollars on. Doing so will allow you to become accustom to certain teams' strengths and weaknesses, how they might respond in certain situations, what their mindset might be heading into a specific game or road trip or how healthy or banged up they actually are. With that said, I am going to help you really get to know this year's 2016-17 Utah Jazz team. I will release picks throughout the season using Doc's Sports Unit Betting System and will keep track of the results, regularly checking in with observations about what we can learn or have learned up to date.
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You're probably thinking "out of all the teams in the league, why the Jazz?". There are a few reasons I chose to cover this team. The first reason is that I can be impartial when handicapping their games. I am a Raptors fan, so any team in the Eastern Conference would have been viewed as an enemy of the state and an unbiased opinion or breakdown would be hard to put together. The second reason for following the Jazz this closely is because I expect them to be sneaky good. They have a lineup that features a good mix of up-and-coming players and seasoned veterans. They not only had a terrific offseason by signing free-agents Boris Diaw, George Hill and Joe Johnson, but they drafted well too, picking up Joel Bolomboy (52nd), Marcus Paige (55th) and Tyrone Wallace (60th). With an already-solid foundation of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert, I expect the Jazz to play above .500 for the season and contend for home-court advantage in Round 1 off the playoffs.
Utah Jazz @ Portland Trail Blazers Betting Storylines
Since this is the opening game for both teams, the storylines are few and far between. If we read too much into the preseason results, that may give us a false sense of what each team really is. For example, the Jazz finished the preseason with a 3-3 record. Two of those losses came courtesy of the very team they open the season against. The Jazz did, however, beat the Los Angeles Clippers twice, and in my opinion the Clippers are a much better team than the Blazers.
The only real storyline we should be following this early in the season is the injury report. This is where the Jazz might have a problem. Both Diaw and Favors are nursing lower-body injuries and were limited in practice on Sunday. Diaw has been limited since suffering from a leg injury that nobody knows how or when it happened. He is listed as day-to-day, but the Jazz fully expect him to be in uniform for Game 1. Favors, however, is the question mark. He was sidelined throughout the preseason with a knee injury. And barring a major recovery, he is likely to miss his team's opening game. This will likely be to avoid any sort of aggravation, with the hope that he's back to full strength for Game 2 or 3. The Jazz are already without Gordon Hayward, who suffered a broken finger on his non-shooting hand. The team hopes he can be back in the lineup in mid-to-late November.
The Trail Blazers injury list is just as short as the Jazz's but with more definitive answers. Festus Ezili is battling a knee injury that will keep him out of the opening night tilt against the Jazz. Meyers Leonard is expected in the lineup after he made a solid return to action on Friday. He was dealing with a back injury that kept him out of action for over a week.
Utah Jazz @ Portland Trail Blazers Odds and Betting Trends
The Jazz get their season underway Tuesday night when they travel to the Moda Center to take on Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers. The line opened up at Portland -5.5, -110, and has held steady. The total is currently sits at "O/U" 192, -110.
The Jazz are 12-6 ATS in their last 18 games and 5-2 ATS in their last seven games on the road. The Blazers are 2-4 ATS in their last six games and the number has gone "over" the total in five of their last six games against the Jazz.
Utah Jazz @ Portland Trail Blazers Predictions and Picks
Game 1 of the season is tough to predict in any league, which is why we will tread lightly for this matchup. The Jazz are a team that I expect to be better than they were last year and contend for home-court advantage in the playoffs. They get a tough matchup against a Trail Blazers squad that has the "Us vs. The World" mentality thanks to their star point guard Damian Lillard. Going off of the most recent results, the Jazz were only able to beat the Blazers three times in their last 10 games. However, they split the ATS mark, going 5-5. Besides the question marks surrounding Favors' availability in this game, the Jazz are going to have to prove to me that they can win on the road, before I back them in situations like these. They had a 16-25 mark away from home, which doesn't bode well going up against a Blazers team that put up 32 home wins last season.
I understand each season is a different beast, but with so many new faces and injuries to key players, the Jazz will struggle early to gel and run a smooth offense. I expect them to fall to 0-1 SU and ATS after getting beat on opening night by a hungry Blazers squad.
Let's go with a 2-unit on the Trail Blazers -5.5, (-110).
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