Free Basketball Picks
NBA Wagers Worth Making
By Dan Favale
Oklahoma City Thunder (-6) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (+6)
News flash: The Oklahoma City Thunder have become overrated. Their record is good thus far. They are one of only three teams in the Western Conference to be at least 4-1, joining the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers.
But the Thunder have a negative net rating overall, and only one of their games has come against a truly challenging team. It was a matchup with the Golden State Warriors, and they lost by a mile.
We shouldn’t expect anything similar against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Thunder are at home and could easily pull off a victory. But even with the Timberwolves missing Ricky Rubio, who remains sidelined with a sprained right elbow, this game should be closer than advertised.
The Pick: Minnesota Timberwolves (+6)
Detroit Pistons (-4.5) vs. Denver Nuggets (+4.5)
It’s low-key amazing here that the Detroit Pistons are still favored when facing quality teams, such as the Denver Nuggets, when starting point guard Reggie Jackson is on the shelf. It’s a testament to the squad head coach and president Stan Van Gundy has assembled. The Pistons are deep and have a few supplemental on-ball playmakers in Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris to weather Jackson’s absence.
At the same, Andre Drummond hasn’t been great, and he’ll be forced to defend more twitchy bigs when the Nuggets roll out Nikola Jokic or Kenneth Faried at the 5. The entire Pistons defense will have its hands full with Denver’s uptempo attack that’s brimming with versatile scorers, who can either put the ball on the floor or score off the catch.
Expecting Detroit to win, even at home, feels like a stretch.
The Pick: Denver Nuggets (+4.5)
Philadelphia 76ers (+13.5) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (-13.5)
Talent alone suggests that the Cleveland Cavaliers should absolutely destroy the Philadelphia 76ers, and perhaps they will. Even with Joel Embiid, the Sixers are far from great. They look okay with him on the floor, because he’s a one-man wrecking ball, but he’s on a minutes cap, and the moment he steps off, they get wholly torched, without fail.
On the other hand, the Cavaliers tend to play down to the level of their opponent. They either get up big then fade away early enough to squander large leads, or they let inferior squads hang around for much too long.
Betting on the Sixers is a risk, but this spread is big enough that it feels even more risky to invest in the Cavaliers.
The Pick: Philadelphia 76ers (+13.5)
Orlando Magic (-5.5) vs. Washington Wizards (+5.5)
Um, did we miss something?
The Washington Wizards have been crap, but the Orlando Magic struggle to carve out points on a consistent basis, and their defense hasn’t been nearly as good as advertised.
Are they suddenly good, or even close to good? And if so, are they suddenly worth a 5.5-point spread?
The answer, on both fronts, is a resounding no.
The Pick: Washington Wizards (+5.5)
Indiana Pacers (-3) vs. Chicago Bulls (+3)
The Indiana Pacers are another team that is being constantly overrated to start this season. And judging from this spread, that hasn’t changed.
Yes, the Chicago Bulls are on a tail end of a back-to-back. And yes, their key players weren’t pulled until the end of the fourth quarter in Friday night’s loss to the New York Knicks. But it’s not that much of a hike from Chicago to Indiana, and both teams feature individual talent that doesn’t perfectly complement one another.
Chicago’s talent is just better overall.
The Pick: Chicago Bulls (+3)
Atlanta Hawks (-3) vs. Houston Rockets (+3)
This is by far the toughest spread of the night.
The Houston Rockets’ offense is potent enough to destroy any opponent, even ones that deploy stingy defenses, such as these Atlanta Hawks. But the Hawks’ defense is exceptionally good—the league’s best thus far, in fact. They are disruptive and will make things harder on James Harden than any of his previous opponents.
Then again, the Hawks are working off a recent loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, having shown what a faster-paced attack can do to its fortified defense if it’s persistent enough. Nevertheless, the Rockets’ defense is bad enough that even if the Hawks aren’t on point defensively, they should eke out a victory based on their ability to play average basketball on both ends.
The Pick: Atlanta Hawks (-3)
Milwaukee Bucks (-2.5) vs. Sacramento Kings (+2.5)
This is also a tough spread, but for different reasons.
Neither the Milwaukee Bucks nor Sacramento Kings look particularly good to start the season. The Bucks are more banged up than the Kings, but the Kings are also the Kings—often disjointed and ineffective when on the court.
Push coming to shove, the Bucks have shown flashes of being a scrappy team, especially at home. Give the slight edge today.
The Pick: Milwaukee Bucks (-2.5)
San Antonio Spurs (-5) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (+5)
Sportsbooks are showing a ton of respect for the Los Angeles Clippers here, who are still, for some reason, trying to figure out things on the offensive end. Their most recent victory might be a breakthrough, and the defense has been stingy enough to grind out wins on its own.
But the Spurs are a different animal. And at this point, they’re arguably better than the Clippers on both ends of the floor. And they’re deeper. And they’re playing at home.
This decision, unlike those in the previous two games, isn’t the least bit hard.
The Pick: San Antonio Spurs (-5)
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