Free NBA Picks: Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Look, I'm not going to feel bad for some NBA player who is making $4.1 million this season. But, wow, did Nerlens Noel make a gigantic mistake this summer when the Dallas Mavericks offered to re-sign him on a four-year, $70 million extension. Noel and his agent, Happy Walters, turned that down (they asked for the max) in hopes of landing more as a restricted free agent. Except competing teams rarely make big offers to RFAs because the original team can match - and it just ties up your salary cap potentially for a week while waiting. Almost always the original team does end up matching. Noel didn't get any offers he liked, decided to bet on himself on that one-year deal and then replaced his agent with LeBron James' guy. The former No. 6 overall pick in the 2013 draft, however, is barely playing off the Mavericks bench.
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Odd considering the Mavs are in a full-blown rebuild and liked Noel enough last season after he came over in trade from Philly to offer that big contract. The Mavs gave up 2015 first-round pick Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a pair of second-round picks to acquire Noel from Philadelphia. Apparently now we know why Noel isn't playing as he is considered a bit of a loafer, and there's no more old-school coach who won't put up with that than the Mavs' Rick Carlisle. And, hey, the Mavericks don't care about his future now so why play the guy? The team does have a glut of big men, but I find it hard to believe Noel isn't better than the likes of Dwight Powell, Maxi Kleber, Jeff Withey or Salah Mejri. Noel can't shoot a lick, but he's a jumping jack and terrific rebounder and defender.
Suns at Raptors ( -12.5, 223)
First of an NBA TV doubleheader. Phoenix was in Philadelphia on Monday on a two-game losing streak. The Suns still stink, but they have been much better since firing Coach Earl Watson and trading their best player, Eric Bledsoe, to the Bucks. Phoenix could be running on fumes here, though, in the second of a back-to-back and the conclusion of a six-game road trip. Toronto won its third in a row Friday, 120-115 over Indiana. DeMar DeRozan had 26 points and the Drakes had a season-high 70 points in the paint. Rookie big man Jakob Poeltl was 8-for-8 from the field. The Suns won both meetings last year and have taken their past two north of the border.
Key trends: The Suns are 4-0 against the spread in their past four in Toronto. The "over/under" is 16-6 in Toronto's past 22 at home.
Early lean: Raptors and over.
Jazz at Thunder (TBA)
Utah hosted Washington on Monday. Rodney Hood was out due to left ankle soreness. The good news, though, is star center Rudy Gobert was to return from a knee injury. He was originally ruled out 4-6 weeks with a knee injury but hadn't even missed four yet. There's probably not a great chance he plays both ends of a back-to-back, though. It will be very limited minutes if so. OKC won a second straight Sunday, 90-87 over the Spurs. Russell Westbrook had his seventh triple-double of the season with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. The Thunder held the Spurs to 40.8 percent shooting. The Jazz were 1-3 vs. the Thunder last year but won the first meeting this season, 96-87 at home on Oct. 21. Gobert had 16 points and 13 rebounds. Utah didn't trail after taking a 13-12 lead in the first quarter. Westbrook had just six points on 2-for-11 shooting.
Key trends: The home team is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 10-3 in the previous 13.
Early lean: Wait on Gobert, but I expect Thunder to roll.
Wizards at Blazers (-6, 201.5)
Second NBA TV game. Shame we won't get to see two of the NBA's most electric point guards, the Wizards' John Wall and Blazers' Damian Lillard, go at it. Wall remains out likely another week following some treatment on his knee. Washington was in Utah on Monday night, so the Wiz might just punt this game in terms of resting some other starters as well with three more road games up next and all those much more winnable (Suns, Clippers and Nets). Portland lost its second straight home game Saturday, 123-116 vs. New Orleans. Damian Lillard had 29 points and eight assists. These teams met in D.C. on Nov. 25 and Portland rallied from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit and closed on an 18-4 run to win 108-105. Lillard had 29 points, six rebounds and six assists. Portland has won three of its past four at home in the series as well.
Key trends: The home team is 15-7 ATS in the past 22 meetings. The over is 4-0 in the previous four.
Early lean: Blazers and over.
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