Free NBA Picks: Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
The Minnesota Timberwolves are thrilled with the Jimmy Butler trade they made with the Bulls during last summer's NBA Draft. Butler is playing like an MVP candidate, and the Timberwolves are a lock to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004. They wouldn't change that deal. The Bulls are quite happy, too, as Kris Dunn has taken a huge step forward in Chicago and Finnish rookie Lauri Markkanen could be a future All-Star. However, the key piece of that deal coming back to the Bulls - at least it was thought at the time - was high-flying former Slam Dunk champion Zach LaVine. Last season, he was averaging a career-high 18.9 points when he tore his ACL on Feb. 3, 2017, against the Detroit Pistons. If LaVine doesn't suffer such a major injury, I don't believe the Wolves consider including him in that Butler package. Chicago gets to finally see what it has in the 22-year-old LaVine as he will make his Bulls debut on Saturday night. There are no national TV games on the Saturday schedule.
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Lakers at Mavericks ( -4.5, 215.5)
A rare 2 p.m. ET start from Big D and a terrific matchup of rookie point guards in the Lakers' Lonzo Ball and Mavs' Dennis Smith Jr. - I'd rather have Smith, who is crazy explosive and a much better scorer than Ball. L.A. has played much better since Ball returned from injury as it won a third straight game Thursday, 93-81 over the short-handed Spurs. Brandon Ingram scored 26 points, and Ball added 18 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. The Mavs won their second in a row Wednesday, 115-111 in Charlotte. Harrison Barnes had 13 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, and Yogi Ferrell made seven 3-pointers and scored 22 points. Smith had 15 points and six assists. First meeting of the season between the teams. Dallas somehow has won 14 straight in the series and none were close last year.
Key trends: The Lakers are 0-4 against the spread in the past four meetings. The "over/under" is 5-2 in the Mavericks' past seven.
Early lean: Mavericks and over.
Kings at Clippers (TBA)
A 3:30 p.m. ET matinee at Staples Center. It's the second of a home-and-home between these two. On Thursday, the Clippers won their third straight and the Kings dropped their third in a row in a 121-115 decision. L.A. blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead but was able to pull it out for an 11th consecutive win in Sacramento. Blake Griffin returned from a concussion and had 18 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. But, these being the Clippers they lost DeAndre Jordan to a sprained left ankle in the third quarter so he's questionable here. Lou Williams finished with 30 points one night after dropping 50. George Hill returned from a three-game absence and had 21 points for the Kings but missed two free throws in the final 70 seconds. The Clippers go for the season sweep Saturday.
Key trends: The Clippers are 9-1-1 ATS in their past 11 after a win. The over is 10-4 in the past 14 meetings.
Early lean: Wait on Jordan (although as I've said previously, this early local start is a huge benefit to the host Clippers).
Thunder at Hornets (+2, 212)
A 5 p.m. ET tipoff for Charlotte, which will really be on short rest after hosting the Jazz on Friday. If that game goes double overtime or something, put all your money on the Thunder here. Oklahoma City is the most schizophrenic team in the NBA as it comes in on a three-game skid (all by double digits) after losing by 16 in Minnesota on Wednesday. Russell Westbrook had 38 points and 10 rebounds and was 15 of 23 shooting, but Carmelo Anthony and Paul George were a combined 10-for-33. The Hornets have won three straight in the series, including 116-103 in OKC on Dec. 11. It was only Charlotte's second all-time win there.
Key trends: The Thunder are 2-10 ATS in their past 12 vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 4-1 in the Hornets' past five in the second of a back-to-back.
Early lean: Thunder and under.
Nets at Wizards (-9.5, 215)
Brooklyn was in Atlanta on Friday, while Washington hosted Orlando. The Nets can thank the Wizards for rookie center Jarrett Allen, who was the No. 22 overall pick in this year's draft out of Texas. Allen is a project but has huge upside and is averaging 6.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in a little more than 16 minutes per night. Brooklyn got that pick from Washington last season in trading Bojan Bogdanovic to the Wizards. The Nets go for the surprising three-game season sweep of the Wizards, although the first two were in Brooklyn. The Nets have dropped their past four in D.C.
Key trends: The Nets are 2-12 ATS in their past 14 in D.C. The over is 5-1-1 in Washington's previous seven at home.
Early lean: Wizards and over.
Warriors at Raptors (TBA)
I'd call this a potential NBA Finals preview, and maybe it is, but both teams could be without their All-Star starting point guards in Steph Curry (ankle) and Kyle Lowry (tailbone). Plus, the Dubs played Friday in Milwaukee (Curry sat) so they could rest a guy or two here. The Raptors were without Lowry and Serge Ibaka (one-game suspension) on Thursday yet embarrassed the visiting Cavaliers anyway, 133-99. That was the most points allowed by Cleveland this season. Fred VanVleet scored a career-high 22 points, and Jonas Valanciunas had 15 points and a season-high 18 rebounds the for the Dinos. Toronto lost in Oakland on Oct. 25, 117-112. Curry hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 31.9 seconds left on the way to 30 points. DeMar DeRozan had 24 points. The Raptors have lost three straight at home in the series as well.
Key trends: The Raptors are 7-0 ATS in their past seven playing on one day of rest. The over is 4-1 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: Wait on Curry/Lowry.
Pistons at Bulls (-1, 207)
It's not clear if the Bulls will bring LaVine off the bench at first or not, but he's clearly the team's starting shooting guard of the future. LaVine can be a restricted free agent this summer, but both he and the Bulls say they will work out a long-term deal. Obviously, his minutes will be limited for a while and you won't see him in both ends of a back-to-back maybe all season. Remember, the Bulls still want to stink as much as possible. Chicago is off a 122-119 double-overtime win at the Knicks on Wednesday behind a career-high 33 points from Markkanen. Nikola Mirotic missed his second straight game with an illness. I doubt he plays here since he could be traded Monday. Detroit smashed the Nets in Brooklyn on Wednesday, 114-80. Andre Drummond scored 22 points and grabbed 20 rebounds. It's the first meeting of the season between these teams. They split four last year.
Key trends: The home team is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings. The under is 4-1 in the previous five.
Early lean: Bulls and under.
Nuggets at Spurs (TBA)
Denver hosted Memphis on Friday. San Antonio completed a three-game road trip at 1-2 with a 12-point loss at the Lakers on Thursday. The Spurs had won seven in a row at L.A. but were without Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, Danny Green and Rudy Gay, who all have actual injuries. Dejounte Murray had 14 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and three steals in place of Parker and probably should be starting regardless. I have no clue which of those Spurs will play here, although Parker said he should be ready Saturday. San Antonio was 3-0 vs. Denver last year and has won nine straight at home in the series.
Key trends: The Nuggets are 1-5 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 7-3 in the previous 10.
Early lean: Wait on those Spurs.
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