Free NBA Picks: Thursday, October 26, 2017, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
I wrote my first Opening Line Report for last Thursday's games and gave a few season prop predictions from Bookmaker. I'm loving two of those right now: Philly's Ben Simmons (then +250) to win the Rookie of the Year and Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo (+718) to win the MVP. Alas, it took only three games for one of those props to be settled. Shockingly, the Phoenix Suns dumped Earl Watson that quickly - he was part of the field on that prop (I went with the Pelicans' Alvin Gentry). Assistant Jay Triano has been named the interim coach the rest of the season. The Suns have been the biggest story all week with the Watson news and veteran point guard Eric Bledsoe tweeting that "I don't wanna be here" about an hour before the news broke on Watson's firing. Oh, Bledsoe claimed he was at a hair salon at the time of the tweet and just wanted to leave there, but that was such obvious B.S. that GM Ryan McDonough (I don't know why that guy still has a job) admitted as much, sent Bledsoe home and said he wouldn't be playing for the team again. The Suns continue to have trade talks around the NBA. Bledsoe is a fine player, but Phoenix now has zero leverage in any deals. In my mind, the best fit for Bledsoe is in Denver - assuming Cleveland doesn't have enough assets left to get him; the Cavs aren't giving up that Nets' 2018 first-round pick.
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Hawks at Bulls ( -1.5, 198.5)
The Suns are the only thing keeping the Bulls from being the laughingstock of the NBA in the wake of that Bobby Portis/Nikola Mirotic confrontation. Portis remains suspended and Mirotic out with his jaw wired shut. Don't laugh, but this might be the most important game of Thursday because the Hawks in full-blown tank mode, too. Hey, one loss here could be the difference between getting the most or second-most ping-pong balls in next year's draft lottery. Atlanta is without its best player in guard Dennis Schroder. He hurt his ankle in Sunday's loss at the Nets and won't be back before this weekend. He was off to a great start in averaging 23.3 points and 6.7 assists. In addition, forward DeAndre Bembry has been ruled out 4-6 weeks for a fracture to his shooting wrist. It's possible this is the Chicago debut of point guard Kris Dunn, who came over as part of the Jimmy Butler trade to Minnesota. Dunn injured his finger early in the preseason but returned to practice on Monday.
Key trends: The Hawks are 4-0 against the spread in the past four meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in 19 of Chicago's past 26 at home.
Early lean: Bulls (they have to win occasionally) and under.
Mavericks at Grizzlies (-9, 194)
It's the second of a home-and-home between these two as they played in Dallas on Wednesday. So you are probably looking at some guys sitting out one leg of that double. Players such as the Grizzlies' Chandler Parsons (who spent two seasons in Dallas) and Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki come to mind immediately. The two teams split the 2016-17 season series, with both going 1-1 on their home floor and alternating wins overall. The Grizzlies have taken 12 of the last 18 regular-season matchups in Memphis.
Key trends: The Mavs are 7-3 ATS in their past 10 in Memphis. The over is 6-2 in the previous eight there.
Early lean: Whichever team loses Wednesday; tough to sweep one of these.
Celtics at Bucks (TBA)
First of a TNT doubleheader. Will the Celtics have guard Marcus Smart? He has missed the past two with a left ankle sprain. Will the Bucks have reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon? He missed Monday's game with a left ankle sprain. How good has Antetokounmpo been in the early going? We've just never seen a specimen like him. The Bucks could be the second-best team in the East this year if the Freak keeps playing like this, Jabari Parker gets to full health when back from his ACL injury and in the wake of the injury to Boston's Gordon Hayward. In Milwaukee's 3-1 start, Antetokounmpo is averaging an NBA-high 36.8 points to go with 10.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.3 steals while shooting 65.7 percent from the field. He has scored 147 points with 43 rebounds and 21 assists. No other player in NBA history had that many points, rebounds and assists in his first four games of a season. The Bucks opened their season last Wednesday in Boston - which was in the second of a back-to-back and deflated with the Hayward news - and won 108-100. Antetokounmpo recorded a double-double with a game-high 37 points and 13 rebounds.
Key trends: The Celtics are 0-4 ATS in their past four on Thursday. The over is 5-1-1 in the past seven meetings.
Early lean: Bucks regardless (not likely either Smart or Brogdon plays).
Clippers at Trail Blazers (-1.5, 216)
The NBA is a bit less interesting right now because the Clippers are without European import point guard Milos Teodosic, who has been diagnosed with a plantar fascia injury in left foot and will be out indefinitely. It's actually somewhat positive news he didn't have a fracture. Teodosic is an incredibly fun player to watch with the ball. Los Angeles is 3-0 and all three wins are by at least 16 points. Chris Paul who? This is clearly Blake Griffin's team now, and he's off to a great start. Portland comes off a 103-93 home win over New Orleans on Tuesday to improve to 3-1. Never bet against the Blazers in their home opener: They have now won the past 17 of them. The Clippers swept the Blazers 3-0 last year. Griffin averaged 25.0 points, 12.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.7 steals. Damian Lillard put up 20.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists for the Blazers.
Key trends: The road team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 4-1 in those five.
Early lean: Clippers and over.
Pelicans at Kings (TBA)
Second TNT game. It's the first time that DeMarcus Cousins will play in Sacramento since being traded from the Kings last February. The Kings won both meetings in this series at home last year but had Cousins for both. Sacramento's lone win in four games in 2017-18 was in Dallas last Friday, and the Kings were victims of the sorry Suns' first victory on Monday night in the desert. There were two bright spots from that game. Rookie No. 5 overall pick De'Aaron Fox showed his potential ceiling with a career-high 19 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals. European rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic made his season debut and chipped in 12 points. The Kings have some interesting pieces, it will just take a few years. New Orleans lost 103-93 in Portland on Tuesday and saw Anthony Davis leave with a left knee injury. That guy simply will never play more than about 70 games a season. The injury isn't serious.
Key trends: The Pelicans are 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 7-3 in the previous 10.
Early lean: Wait on Davis, although I don't expect him.
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