Free NBA Picks: Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
What a crazy NBA week it has been already! I was flabbergasted that the Clippers traded superstar Blake Griffin on Monday to the Detroit Pistons. The Clippers also sent salary filler Brice Johnson and Willie Reed to Detroit, while the Pistons shipped Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, and a first- and second-round draft pick to L.A. Protections on Detroit's first-round pick include 1-4 in 2018, 2019 and 2020, and unprotected in 2021. That pick will almost surely convey this summer, though, because I expect Detroit to make the playoffs in the weak East now barring injury to Griffin or Andre Drummond (now the East's best 4-5 combination?). And that's what this deal is all about. Griffin is still a fabulous player but is in the first year of a five-year, $171 million deal. His game is largely predicated on his athletic ability, and that's already starting to wane - you don't see those spectacular dunks any longer. It's likely that Griffin's contract will be one of the worst in the NBA the final couple of years of that deal, and he of course has an injury history.
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I've written a few times this season that Pistons coach/president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy was hugely on the hot seat. He was likely to be fired if Detroit missed the playoffs again, and ownership needed a star to help fill seats in the new downtown Little Caesars Arena. No question the Pistons got the best player in this deal, but Van Gundy's future is tied to Griffin's now. The Clippers did well in shedding that contract and getting two starters in Bradley, who will be a free agent this summer, and the underrated Harris. At just 25, Harris should be a key piece going forward even if Bradley leaves. Then you have a likely pick in the loaded 2018 draft somewhere around 15th. I'm not sure Los Angeles is any worse for this trade, other than selling tickets, and still could sneak into the postseason. I'm sure Griffin is unhappy, though, as he expected to be a Clipper for life and was big into that L.A. lifestyle in terms of off-the court opportunities.
Grizzlies at Pistons (TBA)
It takes some time for guys to report to new teams, especially across country, and pass physicals, etc., so Griffin didn't make his Detroit debut on Tuesday vs. Cleveland to open a six-game homestand (which ends Feb. 9 vs. the Clippers). There's a good chance he will play here. The Pistons might have been energized by the trade because they ended an eight-game losing streak Tuesday with a 125-114 upset of the Cavaliers in the second of a home-and-home. Drummond had 21 points and 22 rebounds and learned he was John Wall's replacement in the All-Star Game. Stanley Johnson added a career-high 26 points. Memphis was at Indiana on Wednesday. These teams split last season. Marc Gasol averaged 25.5 points. Detroit has lost eight of the last nine games at home against Memphis.
Key trends: The underdog is 8-0 against the spread in the past eight meetings. The "over/under" is 7-1 in the Grizzlies' past eight in the second of a back-to-back.
Early lean: Wait on Griffin and a few banged-up Grizzlies.
Raptors at Wizards ( +4, 213.5)
Another piece of big news this week was the Wizards saying that All-Star point guard John Wall would miss 6-8 weeks after a clean-up procedure on his left knee Wednesday. Not to scare Wizards fans, but Wall's game is predicated on quickness, so a bad knee could obviously be a problem. He just signed a super-max contract last summer and will be paid nearly $44 million in salary in the 2021-22 season. That's not going to end well, either. Wall's injury can only help the Pistons' playoff chances, incidentally. Washington didn't miss Wall on Tuesday as it cooled off the red-hot Thunder, 102-96 in D.C. Otto Porter Jr. had 25 points. The Raptors won a second straight Tuesday, 109-104 over the visiting Timberwolves. DeMar DeRozan scored 23 points, and Jonas Valanciunas had 18 points and 11 rebounds. C.J. Miles was out with a minor knee injury. These teams have split two meetings this season, both in Toronto. The Raptors have won their past seven in D.C.
Key trends: The Raptors are 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 5-2 in the previous seven in Washington.
Early lean: Raptors and over.
Bucks at Timberwolves (TBA)
The Bucks won a fourth in a row Monday, 108-95 over Philadelphia. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 31 points and 18 rebounds. Malcolm Brogdon was back after a two-game injury absence but wasn't much of a factor. Eric Bledsoe was in question with a sore left ankle; he did play but only three minutes. The Timberwolves lost their second straight Tuesday, 109-104 in Toronto in the second of a back-to-back. They blew a 13-point lead in completing January just 1-8 on the road. Milwaukee has won six of the past seven in this series, including 102-96 on Dec. 28. Bledsoe scored 26 points and Antetokounmpo had 22 with 10 rebounds as the Bucks rallied from a 20-point third-quarter deficit.
Key trends: The Wolves are 8-0 ATS in their past eight at home. The under is 9-0 in the Bucks' past nine on Thursday.
Early lean: Wait on Bledsoe.
Rockets at Spurs (TBA)
First TNT game. Chris Paul was scratched from Houston's game Tuesday vs. Orlando due to a sore groin, but one could say that James Harden stepped up in his spot as Harden finished with a franchise-record 60 points along with 11 assists and 10 rebounds in the first 60-point triple-double in NBA history. The Rockets also were without Trevor Ariza due to a strained hamstring, and then Eric Gordon left in the second quarter with lower back stiffness. So you now you can understand why Harden took 30 of the team's 77 shots. The Spurs won a second straight Tuesday, 106-104 over Denver. LaMarcus Aldridge had 30 points. Houston beat San Antonio in the first meeting this season, 124-109 on Dec. 15. The Rockets led 31-16 after one and never looked back. Paul and Harden each had 28 points.
Key trends: The Rockets are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings in San Antonio. The over is 5-2-1 in the previous eight meetings.
Early lean: Wait on those injured Rockets.
Thunder at Nuggets (TBA)
Second TNT game. Oklahoma City's season-high eight-game winning streak was snapped on Tuesday, 102-96 in Washington. Russell Westbrook had a season-high 46 points last week in a win over the Wizards but was held to 13 this time on 5-for-18 shooting while also getting called for a technical foul and flagrant foul. The Wiz pretty clearly got into his head. OKC shot just 37.5 percent. The Nuggets dropped a second in a row Tuesday, 106-104 in San Antonio in the second of a back-to-back. Every Denver starter scored in double figures with Jamal Murray leading the way with 18 points. Mason Plumlee was out after straining his right calf against Boston on Monday and Wilson Chandler was with an illness. These teams have split two meetings this season, each winning at home.
Key trends: The road team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under has hit in four straight.
Early lean: Wait on those Nuggets.
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