Free NBA Picks: Thursday, October 19, 2017, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Welcome to my first NBA Opening Line Report of what should be an epic 2017-18 regular season (not so much for the Celtics after the gruesome Gordon Hayward injury) with all the offseason big-name player movement. Because Doc's is heavy on football right now - NFL and college football are still king of the betting world - I won't be starting my Tuesday-Saturday daily previews of the NBA schedule until after the NCAA regular season is over. But I'll try to address the most interesting nights on the hoops schedule when possible until then, and Thursday is certainly one. Before I begin, here are some of my futures picks with odds from Bookmaker. It's not even worth picking an NBA champion because we all know that will be the Warriors and which certain Ohio-based team they will beat come June. MVP - Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo (+718); Rookie of the Year - Philadelphia's Ben Simmons (+250 favorite); First Coach Fired - New Orleans' Alvin Gentry (+300).
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Bulls at Raptors (-11, 206.5)
On that First Coach Fired prop, Chicago's Fred Hoiberg is the +250 favorite, but he was plucked from Iowa State personally by that front office so I highly doubt they cut Hoiberg loose as it would be yet another black eye for GM Gar Forman and his boss, John Paxson. The Bulls know they are going to be terrible, so there's no reason to eat the rest of Hoiberg's contract and then pay some new guy a few million dollars per season. Hoiberg by all accounts is a nice guy and knows is X's and O's, but he simply didn't have the respect of guys like Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler last year. Those guys are gone as the Bulls have done a reboot. They might have the most nondescript starting five in the NBA until Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine, two pieces acquired in the Butler trade to Minnesota, are healthy. Dunn is expected to miss at least two more weeks and perhaps a month with a finger injury suffered early in the preseason. LaVine is still recovering for last season's torn ACL, and you likely won't see him before December at the earliest. To make matters worse, Nikola Mirotic is out 4-6 weeks after he was hospitalized following a fight with Bobby Portis at practice on Tuesday.Portis has been suspended eight games. Go under this team's NBA-low win total!!
Toronto's Dwane Casey is listed at +1300 on that coaching prop, but I'd presume he's safe as the Raptors should win in the high 40s this year and reach the playoffs yet again. They re-signed All-Star guard Kyle Lowry and forward Serge Ibaka this offseason but lost some depth on the bench in salary-dump trades (DeMarre Carroll, Cory Joseph) or free agency (P.J. Tucker, Patrick Patterson). For some reason, the Raptors have had major trouble of late with the Bulls, who have won 11 of the past 12 meetings. All those Chicago teams were way better than this one, though.
Key trends: The Bulls are 13-3 against the spread in the past 16 meetings. The "over/under" is 9-1 in the past 10.
Early lean: Forget those trends - Raptors and under.
Knicks at Thunder (-11, 214.5)
First of the TNT doubleheader. This should be fun watching Oklahoma City's version of a "superteam" with the All-Stars Paul George and Carmelo Anthony joining reigning league MVP and triple-double king Russell Westbrook in what could be a one-year experiment. While Westbrook signed a mega-extension this offseason, both George and Anthony can walk next summer. Most believe George is headed to the Lakers, and I do too unless the Thunder perhaps reach the West Finals and push the Warriors to the limit. Plus, Westbrook will have to not be quite such the ball-hog to make those two happy.
Anthony was acquired from the Knicks for the bargain-basement price of Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and Chicago's 2018 second-round draft pick. I can't believe New York couldn't get more for Melo. Yeah, he doesn't play defense but he can still put up 25 points a night if needed. I could see New York's Jeff Hornacek as the first coach fired this season - he's part of the field at +400 on that prop. The Knicks are in full tank mode as they try to fix all that Phil Jackson ruined. This is Kristaps Porzingis' team now. Anthony is playing power forward in OKC, so the Unicorn should be guarding him plenty. New York added two young pieces this offseason in Tim Hardaway Jr. (brought back from the Hawks on a big offer sheet) and rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina. Meh.
Key trends: The Knicks are 1-4 ATS in their past 10 on Thursday. The over is 5-1 in OKC's past six on the night.
Early lean: Thunder and over.
Clippers at Lakers (+3.5, 217)
Second TNT game. This hasn't been a rivalry for years as the Clippers have won 18 of the past 20 regular-season matchups, but that L.A. team appears trending downward and the Lakers on the way up - although the Purple and Gold should still be one of the West's four worst teams for one more season. All-Star point guard Chris Paul basically told the Clippers he was leaving - he was tired of Coach Doc Rivers - so they got what they could from Houston in trade. I like point guard Patrick Beverley, one of the pieces back, and this will be a deeper team now after also adding Danilo Gallinari (when he's not hurt) from Denver. In addition, 30-year-old European import point guard Milos Teodosic is a freaking wizard with the ball - think Ricky Rubio but perhaps better. Teodosic can't shoot much, but Lob City is far from over with Paul gone.
The Lakers are one of the most interesting teams in the league this year simply because of Lonzo Ball (+300 second-favorite for ROY), a pretty fair ball-handler and passer himself. He's not the only exciting rookie, as Kyle Kuzma lit up the Summer League. L.A. also added Brook Lopez (Brooklyn) via trade and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Detroit) in free agency. However, the former Piston is suspended the first two games due to a DUI incident back in March. If you hate the Lakers, enjoy this season because they are going to get some marquee free agents next summer, maybe George and LeBron James.
Early lean: Clippers and over.
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