Free NBA Picks: Thursday, April 4, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Hard to believe it's the final Thursday of the 2018-19 regular season. With the Sacramento Kings in action, let's take a look at what's potentially in store for that rising team next year. The Kings don't have their first-round draft pick because of a terrible salary dump trade of Nik Stauskas a few years ago (they could have up to three second-round picks), but the future is clearly bright. After a slow start, Marvin Bagley III became a double-double machine. He's a foundation piece. So is fellow rookie Harry Giles (drafted in 2017 but missed first season) if the former mega-recruit can ever stay healthy. De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield were two of the most improved players in the NBA this season and are one of the league's most exciting backcourts. All those guys are on cheap contracts, meaning the Kings have money to spend this offseason if anyone is willing to go play in Sacramento. How much money depends on whether Harrison Barnes exercises his player option for 2019-20 at more than $25 million. I would imagine he would. Willie Cauley-Stein is a restricted free agent. What this team could use is one veteran to provide leadership and defense. Someone like, perhaps, Boston's Al Horford or Toronto's Marc Gasol. I do expect the Kings to end the NBA's longest playoff drought in 2019-20. We have our first all-N/A Opening Line Report for Thursday of this season (but perhaps not the last) due to injury/lack of motivation.
Bucks at 76ers (TBA)
First of a TNT doubleheader. Philadelphia was in Atlanta on Wednesday. If these teams play again after Thursday, it would be in the Eastern Conference Finals because they will be on opposite sides of the bracket. Milwaukee will be the top seed and Philadelphia the No. 3. There's really no reason for the Sixers to play Joel Embiid or Jimmy Butler here - and they haven't of late. The Bucks could be vulnerable in Round 1 with former Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon (right foot plantar fascia tear) out until at least the second round of the playoffs, and Tony Snell (left foot sprain) and Nikola Mirotic (fractured and sprained left thumb) in question for Round 1. Rookie Donte DiVincenzo (bursitis) has been shut down for the year. Giannis Antetokounmpo has been dealing with a nagging right ankle sprain, so he probably sits once the Bucks officially clinch the East's top seed. That could have happened Wednesday depending on Toronto's result in Brooklyn.
Milwaukee is off a 131-121 win in Brooklyn on Monday. The Freak returned from a one-game ankle injury absence with 28 points and 11 rebounds. Eric Bledsoe added 29 points, while Khris Middleton sat a second in a row with a sore groin. Doubt you see him again in the regular season. These teams have split two meetings in Milwaukee. Antetokounmpo scored a career-high 52 points in the loss on March 17. Embiid had 40 points and 15 rebounds.
Key trends: The home team is 5-1 against the spread in the past six meetings. The "over/under" is 4-0 in the previous four.
Early lean: TBA for Embiid/Butler and whether Bucks need to care at all.
Cavaliers at Kings (TBA)
Cleveland needs to not win this game because it's only two "wins" ahead of Chicago for the NBA's third-worst record - and the three worst now have the same/best chance of winning the NBA Draft lottery. Sacramento still has a chance to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2005-06, which was the club's last playoff appearance. The Cavs dropped their sixth in a row Monday, 122-113 in Phoenix. Collin Sexton scored 21 points. Kevin Love was out with shoulder soreness. The Kings were swept in the season series on Tuesday by Houston, 130-105. Hield had 20 points.
The Kings have won the past two in this series, including 129-110 on Dec. 7. The Cavs led 70-69 early in the third quarter until the Kings went on a 12-2 run to lead the rest of the way. Fox had game highs of 30 points and 12 assists and Hield 25 points. Jordan Clarkson had 26 and Sexton 23 for the Cavs.
Key trends: The Kings are 20-7 ATS in their past 27 following a double-digit loss. The over has hit in seven straight Cavs games following a loss.
Early lean: TBA for Love - Kings should win by 20 with Cavs at end of long trip.
Warriors at Lakers (TBA)
Second TNT game. Obviously looked like a potentially huge game when the schedule was released, but now it means squat for the Lakers. Could be a trap for the Warriors off their big 116-102 win over Denver on Tuesday night that essentially clinched the top seed in the Western Conference. DeMarcus Cousins had easily his best game as a Warrior with 28 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals. Kevin Durant was ejected in the third but nothing suspension-worthy. The Lakers were 16-point losers in OKC on Tuesday. Kyle Kuzma missed his second consecutive game with left foot tendinitis
Golden State lost the first meeting with the Lakers at home on Christmas - which changed L.A.'s season due to LeBron James suffering a groin injury - but has taken the past two fairly easily and won four straight in Los Angeles. Probably the last time that the Lakers' Luke Walton coaches against his former Warriors team; he was an assistant for two seasons under Steve Kerr and helped guide Golden State to a 39-4 record in Kerr's absence at the start of the 2015-16 campaign.
Key trends: The Warriors are 2-5 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 6-2 in the Lakers' past eight.
Early lean: TBA presumably for Kuzma and the chance the Dubs could rest a guy or two.
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