Smart move, I think, of the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday to make the decision to shut down young superstar Anthony Davis for the rest of the season. With the playoffs a pipe dream and Davis needing surgery on his left knee and let shoulder, the Pelicans decided to do it now rather than him play the final 14 games. Davis, who now will miss the Olympics, is one of my favorite players in the NBA, but I'm starting to worry he's too brittle to go down as an all-time great. This is his fourth season in the league, and he has yet to play more than 68 games. New Orleans, which has been more injury-ravaged than any club this season, is 2-6 without Davis this year and I'm certainly planning on betting against it most of the rest of the way. This decision also could cost Davis $24 million on his new contract, which kicks in next season. It had the potential to be a five-year $145 million extension but now likely will total $121 million.
The "Derrick Rose" rule for extensions states a player with zero to six years of experience (eligible for a maximum salary worth 25 percent of the cap) such as Davis can earn the salary of a player with seven to nine years of experience (30 percent of the cap) by meeting any one of these criteria ahead of the extension: the player is designated once as NBA MVP; the player is voted twice as an All-Star starter; the player is named twice to the All-NBA first, second or third team. Davis obviously isn't going to win MVP. He was an All-Star starter last year but not this. He was All-NBA last year, but I doubt he's named even third team this season by playing in only 61 games. Sitting Davis now also helps the Pelicans' draft lottery chances. They currently have the sixth-worst record. They likely won't slide down any lower, but with no Davis teams like the Knicks and Kings should stay ahead of them.
Hornets at Nets (TBA)
Charlotte hosted the Spurs on Monday, so the Hornets seem poised for a major letdown here regardless of what happens in that game. Brooklyn lost a second in a row Saturday, 115-103 in Detroit. Center Brook Lopez was a late scratch due to an illness but is likely back here. Willie Reed presumably would start again if Lopez isn't up to it. Charlotte is 2-0 against the Nets this season, winning the most recent 104-96 in Brooklyn on Feb. 21.
Key trends: The road team is 5-0 against the spread in the past five meetings. The "over/under" is 6-2-2 in the past 10.
Early lean: If Lopez plays, I'd take whatever points the Nets will get.
Heat at Pelicans (TBA)
Miami played one of its best games of the year Saturday in crushing visiting Cleveland 122-101. Dwyane Wade had 24 points and became the 41st player in league history with at least 20,000. He did it in his 844th game, the 21st quickest to the mark. Wade's career average of 23.7 points is fifth best among active players. The Heat led by as many as 33 points, their biggest margin against anyone this season. Miami has scored at least 100 points in 10 consecutive games, its longest such streak since 1994. New Orleans won its first game Sunday without Davis, 109-105 over the visiting Clippers. Jrue Holiday had 22 points. He'll be the main man now. Ryan Anderson got the game off with groin strains. New Orleans lost in Miami 94-88 in overtime on Christmas. Davis had 29 points and 15 rebounds. Chris Bosh led the heat with 30 points; he remains out with his blood clot problem.
Key trends: The home team is 9-2 ATS in the past 11 meetings. The over is 6-2 in the previous eight.
Early lean: Heat win comfortably.
Rockets at Thunder (TBA)
First of a TNT doubleheader and will have live betting at sportsbooks. Houston lost 109-97 in Atlanta on Saturday. Michael Beasley, who was playing in China last month, had 30 points in the defeat. James Harden twisted his left ankle in the third quarter but kept playing. Still, monitor that. There's an outside chance Dwight Howard could be suspended here as he admitted after Saturday's game that he was using Stickum spray. The NBA's rule regarding something like that is: "All equipment used must be appropriate for basketball. Equipment that is unnatural and designed to increase a player's height or reach, or to gain an advantage, shall not be used." Oklahoma City won a fourth straight Saturday, 115-111 in Indiana. Russell Westbrook had his 14th triple-double of the season with 14 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds. That's the most triple-doubles by any player in a season since Magic Johnson had 17 in 1988-89. Kevin Durant added 33 points, his 55th straight game with at least 20. His personal record is 56 in a row. The Rockets and Thunder have split two meetings, each winning at home.
Key trends: The home team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven. The under is 6-2 in the previous eight in OKC.
Early lean: TBA for Harden, who didn't practice Tuesday and maybe Kevin Durant, who has a minor elbow problem but expected to go. So clearly wait on those guys.
Grizzlies at Lakers (TBA)
Second TNT game with live betting. Memphis was in Phoenix on Monday. The Lakers dropped a fourth in a row Friday, 95-90 to Phoenix. That was one of those good losses from a ping-pong ball perspective. Kobe Bryant sat out again with a sore shoulder and is 50/50 to play Tuesday. The Lakers are 4-12 when he's out of the lineup this season. Memphis is 3-0 against the Lakers in 2015-16 and has nine straight overall in the series.
Key trends: The Lakers are 0-4 ATS in their past four at home. The under is 5-1 in the past six meetings in L.A.
Early lean: Like the Lakers whether Kobe plays or not.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
Most Recent NBA Handicapping
- Free NBA Picks Wednesday 1/20/2021 and Opening Line Report
- Free NBA Picks Friday 1/15/2021 and Opening Line Report
- Free NBA Picks Wednesday 1/13/2021 and Opening Line Report
- Free NBA Picks Friday 1/8/2021 and Opening Line Report
- Free NBA Picks Wednesday 1/6/2021 and Opening Line Report
- Free NBA Picks Friday 1/1/2021 and Opening Line Report
- Free NBA Picks Wednesday 12/30/2020 and Opening Line Report
- Free NBA Picks Friday 12/25/2020 and Opening Line Report
- Free NBA Picks Wednesday 12/23/2020 and Opening Line Report
- 2021 NBA Championship Odds and Expert Predictions