Free NBA Picks: Kings at Magic Odds
by Alan Matthews - 12/20/2013
ESPN.com will be running a Tank Rank all season, listing the Top 10 NBA teams each week that are in tank mode to ensure they get into the draft lottery for the loaded 2014 class headed by super-freshmen Jabari Parker (Duke), Andrew Wiggins (Kansas) and Julius Randle (Kentucky). I think Parker goes first now, but that's a story for another day.
Two teams that are assured of being on that Top-10 list all season are the Sacramento Kings and Orlando Magic, who face off on Saturday night. Sacramento has been a lottery fixture since the 2006-07 season but usually fumbles its choice there (2012 No. 5 overall Thomas Robinson being one recent example). But the Kings have some goodwill in the community because the team isn't moving, and there's new ownership that actually appears interested in building a winner rather than lining its pockets like the former owners, the Maloof brothers.
Orlando knew it was going to be a lottery team for a few years once it traded Dwight Howard, although it's now evident the Magic actually won that deal. What makes Saturday's game rather interesting is that many expected Orlando to take Kansas star freshman Ben McLemore with the No. 2 overall pick this year, but the Magic passed him up for Indiana's Victor Oladipo. The Kings were pleasantly surprised to see McLemore, the best pure scorer in the draft, slide to No. 7.
This is the first of two meetings this season. It's the second of a back-to-back for Sacramento as it visited Miami on Friday.
Kings at Magic Betting Story Lines
Orlando enters having lost nine of 11, and both those wins were on the road (Charlotte and Chicago). The Magic lost 86-82 at home to Utah on Wednesday. The Jazz looked like the No. 1 team in the Tank Rank for a while but have improved with Trey Burke healthy -- he had 30 vs. the Magic -- so that loss actually should benefit Orlando for draft positioning down the road. Burke was another guy the Magic reportedly were looking at, so don't think that wasn't a statement from the confident former Michigan star.
The Magic played Wednesday without leading scorer Arron Afflalo due to illness. He's averaging a career-high 21.6 points per game and would be a huge acquisition for a contender needing a shooting guard. Afflalo, who is expected to play Saturday, is very available, as are point guard Jameer Nelson and forward Glen Davis. Afflalo is on the books for another two seasons after this one at $7.5 million in 2014-15 and $7.7 million in 2015-16. That's a very team-friendly deal. The Thunder would be scary if they could add Afflalo, who could essentially fill the James Harden/Kevin Martin role.
As for Oladipo, he has had typical ups and downs as a rookie. He wasn't good against Utah, just 1-for-12 from the floor for three points. The former Indiana star brings effort every night and will fill up the boxscore in other areas. He's averaging 13.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.7 steals and 3.5 turnovers.
The Kings made a curious trade recently in sending spare parts to Toronto for Rudy Gay -- curious because Gay could be on the books for $19.3 million next season if he invokes a player option. Gay is a decent player, but that's way more than he is worth. The Raptors were doing jumping jacks once they could dump his salary. Sacramento is 1-3 in the games Gay has played. He's averaging 19.0 points and shooting an excellent .529 from the field after hitting just .388 with Toronto. Maybe the change of scenery is what Gay needed.
Meanwhile, McLemore has definitely struggled as he is having issues getting his own shot; the Magic preferred Oladipo because he's better defensively by far and perhaps can play some point guard. McLemore has reached double-digit points in just one of his past six games (entering Friday) and is averaging 8.9 ppg on .355 from the field in 25.7 minutes. That's why I don't get the Gay trade as Gay is shoot-first ballhog, which is about the last thing the Kings need. The deal did open Sacramento's starting job for rising point guard Isaiah Thomas (18.9 ppg, 5.3 apg), who is going to get paid big-time this offseason.
Kings at Magic NBA Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BetOnline, the Magic are 3.5-point favorites with a total of 201. All Sacramento trends entering Friday: The Kings are 8-15-1 ATS (3-5-1 on road) and 11-13 “over/under” (4-5 on road). The Magic are 13-13 ATS (4-8 at home) and 11-15 O/U (6-6 at home). The Kings are 7-3 ATS in their past 10 road games against teams with a losing home record. The Magic are 2-5 ATS in their past seven against the Western Conference. The under is 5-1 in the Kings' past six Saturday games. The under is 6-1 in the Magic's past seven overall. The Kings are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings, and the over has hit in four of those five.
Free NBA Picks: Kings at Magic Betting Prediction
The Kings had lost four of five entering the Heat game. Their only road win in the past month was in overtime at Utah. Sacramento did sweep the season series with Orlando last year, but the Magic have won seven of the past 11 vs. the Kings at home.
Should be fun to see Oladipo and McLemore go at it. The Kings are far superior offensively but the Magic significantly so defensively. I believe defense wins this one with Sacramento having tired legs from dealing with Miami (and probably spending Thursday night out in South Beach). Take the Magic and the under.
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