Free NBA Picks: Thursday, April 5, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Villanova just finished off one of the best four-year periods in modern NCAA basketball history with its second National Championship in the three years. What makes Jay Wright's accomplishments amazing is that he is doing this without mega-touted recruits and lock future NBA lottery players like Mike Krzyzewski has at Duke annually and John Calipari at Kentucky. Donte DiVincenzo was the star of Monday's win against Michigan and the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, but do you really think he looks like a starting-caliber NBA player? Ryan Arcidiacono was the 2016 NCAA Tournament MOP but went undrafted and is now a part-time scrub on a two-way contract with the Chicago Bulls. The best player on that 2016 team, Josh Hart, barely snuck into the first round of last year's draft.
Now, it does seem as if Wright is starting to land higher-rated prospects. Junior Mikal Bridges probably declares for the 2018 draft and might sneak into the lottery. National Player of the Year Jalen Brunson, however, essentially projects as a backup point guard in the NBA and needs to return for his senior year. Maybe freshman Omari Spellman develops into a top NBA prospect; he should return to school, too. College coaches are always going to lust after five-star recruits, but what Villanova has taught us, as well as somewhat North Carolina last year, is that perhaps the best bets to win college titles will be teams filled with largely fringe NBA guys who stay multiple years in school. By the way, Duke, which has the nation's top recruiting class for next season, is the early +600 favorite at 5Dimes to cut down the nets next April in Minneapolis.
Warriors at Pacers (TBA)
The Warriors won their third straight Tuesday, 111-107 in Oklahoma City to split that season series. Kevin Durant had 35 points. Andre Iguodala missed the game with left knee soreness, and Shaun Livingston was out for personal reasons. Draymond Green rolled his ankle during the game but claims he's fine. The Pacers' five-game winning streak ended in a 107-104 loss in Denver on Tuesday. Victor Oladipo had 25 points and four steals to give him at least one in 61 straight games. It's the sixth-longest streak in NBA history. Indiana ended a four-game losing streak to Golden State with a 92-81 win on March 27. The Pacers are looking to sweep the regular season series over the Warriors for the first time since the 2011-12 season.
Key trends: The Warriors are 1-9 against the spread in their past 10 after a win. The "over/under" has gone under in seven of Indiana's past eight at home.
Early lean: I suppose this is for Green unless Steve Kerr is thinking of resting Durant.
Wizards at Cavaliers ( -5.5, 219)
First of a TNT doubleheader. This could be a first-round playoff matchup, and if so likely would be the most intriguing one in the East. The Wizards were routed for a second straight game Tuesday, 120-104 in Houston. In his second game back from knee surgery, John Wall played 33 minutes but was just 3-for-10 for nine points with 10 assists. The Cavs won for the ninth time in 10 games Tuesday, 112-106 over Toronto. LeBron James had 27 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Point guard George Hill missed his second straight game with a sprained left ankle. Cleveland leads the series 2-1 but lost the one at home on Feb. 22 even though Wall was out.
Key trends: The Wizards are 2-5 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 5-0 in the Cavs' past five overall.
Early lean: Cavs and under.
Trail Blazers at Rockets (TBA)
The Blazers started a four-game trip with a 115-109 upset loss in Dallas on Tuesday. Damian Lillard had 29 points, eight assists and five rebounds and never left the game but sprained his ankle at some point and had to be carted from the locker room to the team bus. Sounds like he could miss at least this game. The Rockets rebounded from an ugly loss in San Antonio on Sunday with a 120-104 home win over the Wizards on Tuesday. James Harden had 38 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Trevor Ariza sat out for rest, and Ryan Anderson sprained his ankle so he might just sit the rest of the regular season with nothing to play for. Houston looks for the four-game season sweep, which it hasn't done to Portland since 2007-08 (did sweep three in 2011-12). Both teams have scored at least 100 points in eight straight meetings.
Key trends: The home team has covered four straight games. The under is 9-3 in Houston's past 12 overall at home.
Early lean: Wait on Lillard.
Nets at Bucks (TBA)
The Nets dropped a second straight Tuesday, 121-95 in Philadelphia. DeMarre Carroll (left hip strain) limped to the locker room 3 1/2 minutes into the second half and didn't return. Allen Crabbe (illness) didn't play. The Bucks knocked off the visiting Celtics on Tuesday, 106-102. That clinched a second straight winning season for Milwaukee for the first time since 1999-00 and 2000-01. The Bucks are one win from clinching a playoff spot. Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with a game-high 29 points while Khris Middleton added 20. Milwaukee leads the season series 2-0 and has won 10 straight overall vs. Brooklyn.
Key trends: The road team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 4-1 in the previous five.
Early lean: Wait on the Nets.
Clippers at Jazz (-7, 208.5)
The Clippers rallied for a 113-110 home win over the Spurs on Tuesday to keep their very slim playoff hopes alive. L.A. outscored San Antonio by 14 in the fourth. Tobias Harris scored 31 points, and Lou Williams added 22. Danilo Gallinari was out with a hand injury. The Jazz are close to clinching a playoff spot following a third straight win Tuesday, 117-110 over the Lakers. Ricky Rubio had 31 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Utah leads the season series 2-1 and has won the past two in Salt Lake City.
Key trends: The Clippers are 2-5 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 4-1 in the previous five in Utah.
Early lean: Jazz and over.
Timberwolves at Nuggets (TBA)
Second TNT game. Also probably the most important one of the night as these two fight for the final 2-3 spots in the West playoffs. The Wolves' two-game winning streak ended in a 24-point home loss to Utah on Sunday. Andrew Wiggins had 23 points, but Jeff Teague was out with a sore right knee. It's possible that Jimmy Butler returns for this game. He went through a full practice on Tuesday. The Nuggets won a third in a row Tuesday, 107-104 vs. Indiana. Nikola Jokic had 30 points. Gary Harris missed a ninth straight game with a strained right knee. Minnesota has won the past four in the series but both this season by only a combined 11 points (one in OT).
Key trends: The Wolves are 1-7 ATS in their past eight road games vs. teams with a winning home record. The over has hit in eight straight Nuggets home games vs. teams with a losing road record.
Early lean: Wait on Butler, but I like Denver SU regardless.
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