Free NBA Picks: Thursday, November 2, 2017, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
The Philadelphia 76ers have a potentially bright future with Joel Embiid, who might be the NBA's most dominant player when healthy (seriously), and young star Ben Simmons. But, man, has that franchise made some missteps that may have ruined a potential dynasty. The Sixers have completely botched the shoulder injury of rookie point guard Markelle Fultz, whom the team traded up for to take No. 1 overall in this year's draft. He's out indefinitely, and it already looks as if his rookie season could be a total injury loss just like that of Simmons and Embiid (he had multiple lost seasons).
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Then there's big man Jahlil Okafor, the No. 3 overall pick in 2015. Fine player at Duke but can't defend a lick and is a bit of a dinosaur in the modern-day small-ball NBA. Oh, and the Knicks took Kristaps Porzingis one spot later. Philly has attempted to trade Okafor for a few years but now might simply have to give him away after the team declined Okafor's fourth-year team option Tuesday - that was the deadline for all players taken in the first round of the 2015 draft. By declining the option, the Sixers will save roughly $6.3 million next season, and Okafor - who doesn't even play these days -- will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Perhaps the Sixers can get a second-round pick for some team (Bulls?) just to eat the rest of his 2017-18 salary. Okafor also is angling for a buyout so he can sign immediately with any team.
Warriors at Spurs (+5.5, 216.5)
First of the TNT doubleheader - with no other games on the schedule. It's the first meeting between these powerhouses since last year's West Finals. While I still believe the Warriors would have won that series regardless, I sure would have liked to have seen what might have happened if Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard hadn't gone down with an ankle injury in Game 1. You may remember that San Antonio was killing the Dubs by 25 at that point but would completely fall apart without the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and lost 113-111. Leonard wouldn't play again in the series and the final three games weren't close. Leonard still has yet to play this season due to a quad injury. You know how Gregg Popovich is, so your guess is as good as mine as to when he will. I'm sure Leonard would love to here, but Pop likely doesn't want to unleash his Doberman at max speed against the team's biggest rival. That's how you get injured again. The Spurs started 4-0 without Leonard but have dropped their past three. Tony Parker also has yet to play this year due to a quad injury.
Golden State clearly doesn't give a rip about this part of the season with three losses already. But if you get the Warriors fired up, they play hard. That was the case Monday when they destroyed the Clippers 141-113 in Los Angeles. The Clips entered holding opponents to a league-low 92.4 points and 40.4 percent shooting. Golden State hit 58.4 percent and had a season-low 12 turnovers. That win assured that the Warriors extended their streak of having a winning record in 28 straight months (from November 2013). Golden State was 1-2 against San Antonio last regular season.
Key trends: These teams have split the past 10 against the spread with Golden State as a favorite. The "over/under" is 7-3 in those 10.
Early lean: Warriors and over.
Lakers at Trail Blazers (-8.5, 211.5)
Second TNT game. The NBA has ensured that teams won't be playing the second of a back-to-back in nationally-televised games this season, but that doesn't apply to the Thursday TNT doubleheader (Saturday night ABC games they do, for example; holidays, etc.). Portland will play its second game in 24 hours after visiting Utah on Wednesday night. I can't honestly tell if the Blazers are any good. Entering that one, they have beaten mediocre teams Phoenix (twice), Indiana and New Orleans but lost to quality clubs Milwaukee, the Clippers and Toronto. Portland just doesn't have much after Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic. The team was to get a bench addition on Wednesday in the season debut of Noah Vonleh off a shoulder injury. He averaged 4.4 points and 5.2 rebounds in 17 minutes a night last season.
The Lakers are super young and thus super inconsistent - which pretty much sums up rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, who gets his first crack at Lillard. Ball truly can't shoot the ball whatsoever with his weird jumper (33.3 percent from field), but he's putting up 7.0 assists and 7.3 rebounds per night.L.A. comes off a 113-93 home win over Detroit on Tuesday. Ball had 13 points, six rebounds and three assists. The L.A. bench also went nuts, led by Julius Randle's 17 points and seven rebounds.The Lakers have 12 lost straight games to Portland. Lillard averaged 21.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.8 assists in the four games last year and McCollum 22.3 points and 4.5 assists.
Key trends: Blazers have covered six of past 10 at home in series and O/U is 6-4 in those.
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