Free NBA Picks: Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Michael Jordan obviously is the best basketball player to ever live, but his NBA ownership skills have left a lot to be desired. There are 15 teams in the NBA this season with a total team payroll higher than $115 million. The Hornets are the only one of those 15 with a losing record, and they have more than $118 in salary committed to the 2018-19 season already. Guys like Dwight Howard, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller are on bad contracts. So, the Hornets now are reportedly open to trading their best player, point guard Kemba Walker, who is on a pretty good contract ($12 million per season through 2018-19), but only to a team that will absorb at least one of those bad deals as well. Two problems: No contender really needs a point guard (maybe the Spurs), and the Hornets want a good but cheap young player and a first-round pick. The Hornets have called the Knicks - Walker is from New York and would be a nice piece alongside Kristaps Porzingis - but they might not be willing to surrender rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina AND take on a bad Hornets salary. The NBA trade deadline is Feb. 8.
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Pelicans at Hornets ( -3, 223)
The Pelicans' DeMarcus Cousins had one of the best individual games of any player in NBA history on Monday with 44 points, 24 rebounds and 10 assists in a wild 132-128 double overtime win over Chicago as the Pelicans rallied from a late 17-point deficit in regulation. That was just the 10th 40-point, 20-rebound, 10-assist game in NBA history - there have been more perfect games thrown in MLB (23). I expect Cousins, who played a career-high 52 minutes, and the Pelicans as a whole to be completely flat here; in fact, it wouldn't shock me if Cousins sat out. The Hornets beat the visiting Kings on Monday, 112-107. Walker had 26 points. Kidd-Gilchrist did not play because of an abscess in his first arm. First meeting of the season between the current and former Hornets. New Orleans won both last year in overtime. Anthony Davis averaged 42.0 points and 18.5 rebounds - the Hornets wouldn't be in their current mess if they had won the draft lottery with the most ping-pong balls in 2012 and been able to take Davis. They had to settle for MKG at No. 2.
Key trends: The home team is 7-2-1 against the spread in the past 10 meetings. The "over/under" is 6-0 in the previous six.
Early lean: Hornets and over.
Jazz at Pistons (TBA)
Both these teams have been mentioned as potential Walker landing spots. Utah started a three-game trip with a 104-90 loss in Atlanta on Monday. The Jazz starters were held to just 40 combined points. Ricky Rubio was 1-for-8 for two points. The Pistons fell under .500 with their fifth straight loss Sunday, 101-100 at home vs. the Nets on a last-second shot by former Piston Spencer Dinwiddie. Andre Drummond battled foul trouble and was held to seven points. Utah swept Detroit last season and has won four of the past six overall in the series.
Key trends: The Jazz have dropped four straight vs. Eastern Conference teams. The under is 5-0 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: Not sure why this is TBA? For Rodney Hood, who has missed the past two?
Suns at Pacers (-7.5, 218.5)
The Suns dropped their fourth in five games Monday, 109-105 in Milwaukee. Coach Jay Triano gave Tyson Chandler the night off and Greg Monroe his first action in three games - no doubt because Monroe was traded from the Bucks earlier this season. He had 19 points and seven rebounds. The Pacers completed a five-game Western Conference trip at 3-2 with a 94-86 win in San Antonio on Sunday. Indiana became the first Eastern Conference team in three years to sweep a season series from the Spurs. Myles Turner missed his seventh straight game with an injured right elbow. Indiana won in Phoenix on Jan. 14, 120-97. The Pacers had nine different players score at least nine points with the team shooting 54.5 percent from the field. Phoenix is 9-9 all-time at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Key trends: The favorite is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under has hit in six straight Indiana games overall.
Early lean: Pacers and under.
Bulls at 76ers (-5.5, 220)
Chicago's players also could have some heavy legs following Monday's 132-128 double-overtime loss in New Orleans on Monday. The Bulls blew a 17-point lead with five minutes left in regulation. Justin Holiday was fouled on a 3-pointer at the regulation buzzer and made the first two to tie it, but the third rolled out. Rookie Lauri Markkanen had 14 points and 17 rebounds. Kris Dunn sat again with his concussion and Jerian Grant played 47 minutes in his spot and had 22 points and 13 assists. The 76ers' three-game winning streak was snapped in Memphis on Monday, 105-101. They were outscored by 13 in the fourth. Dario Saric led the Sixers with 22 points and added 10 rebounds. The Bulls beat the visiting Sixers on Dec. 18, 117-115. Three Chicago players had at least 20 points: Dunn (22), Nikola Mirotic and Holiday (20). Joel Embiid didn't play. The Bulls have taken seven straight in Philadelphia.
Key trends: The Bulls are 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 5-1 in Philly's previous five at home.
Early lean: 76ers and over.
Raptors at Hawks (+7.5, 213.5)
The Raptors' two-game winning streak ended Saturday, 115-109 in Minnesota. They blew an 11-point second-half lead. Kyle Lowry led Toronto with a season-high 40 points. Backup Fred VanVleet returned after missing two games with a bruised right knee and had eight points. The Hawks have won three of four following a 104-90 home victory over Utah on Monday. Dennis Schroder had 20 points. Toronto is 2-0 vs. Atlanta this season.
Key trends: The favorite is 7-1 ATS in the past eight meetings. The under is 6-1 in Atlanta's previous seven following a win.
Early lean: Hawks and under.
Rockets at Mavericks (+6.5, 218)
First of an ESPN doubleheader. The Rockets won their third straight Monday in a potential letdown game, 99-90 over the visiting Heat. James Harden had 28 points. Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green were eligible after serving two-game suspensions, but Green didn't play. It was Houston's first win this season when scoring less than triple digits. The Mavs stopped a three-game skid Monday with a 98-75 rout of Washington. Harrison Barnes had 20 points and 10 rebounds. Houston won the first meeting with Dallas back on Oct. 21, 107-91. The Rockets have won five straight and 11 of the last 14 regular-season meetings with the Mavericks.
Key trends: The Rockets are 5-2 ATS in their past seven in Dallas. The under is 5-1 in the previous six meetings.
Early lean: Rockets and under.
Spurs at Grizzlies (TBA)
San Antonio hosted Cleveland on Tuesday, so you know Gregg Popovich will sit a guy or two here (Pau Gasol should play, though, after getting Tuesday off). The Grizzlies upset the visiting 76ers on Monday, 105-101, for their fourth win in five games. Memphis was down 10 with under 10 minutes left. Tyreke Evans had 18 points and eight assists. These teams played a home-and-home set at the end of November/start of December and the Spurs won both by at least nine points. The Grizz had just 79 points in the home loss.
Key trends: The home team is 5-2-1 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 5-1 in the previous six.
Early lean: Wait on which Spurs play.
Timberwolves at Trail Blazers (TBA)
The Wolves played a second straight game without Jimmy Butler (sore knee) on Monday but won at the Clippers, 126-118, to end a four-game road losing streak. Andrew Wiggins scored a season-high 40 points and Jeff Teague added 30, hitting 16 of 17 from the free-throw line. The Blazers took a one-game road trip to Denver on Monday and lost 104-101. Jusuf Nurkic had 19 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks in his first game back in Denver since being traded last season. Portland has scored 100 or more points in 12 straight games. Minnesota is 2-0 vs. Portland this year, both at home. The home team has won five consecutive meetings in the series.
Key trends: The Wolves are 2-8-1 ATS in the past 11 in Portland. The under is 7-0-1 in the previous eight there.
Early lean: Wait on Butler.
Celtics at Clippers (TBA)
Second ESPN game. Boston was at the Lakers on Tuesday, so it won't have to travel to face former coach Doc Rivers. The Clippers dropped their second straight Monday, 126-118 at home vs. Minnesota. Rivers was not happy with the officiating as he was ejected and afterward ripped the refs for the Wolves attempting 39 free throws and his team 22. Blake Griffin had a triple-double of 32 points, 12 assists and 12 rebounds. It was his seventh career in a regular-season game. DeAndre Jordan missed his fifth straight game with a sprained left ankle but is close. These teams split last year, each winning at home.
Key trends: The Celtics are 4-9 ATS in their past 13 in the second of a back-to-back. The over is 6-2 in L.A.'s previous eight home games.
Early lean: Wait on Jordan.
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