Holy unpredictable NBA season, Batman.
Seriously, day one of the 2015-16 NBA season was absurd in a lot of different ways. It was only three games, yet only one game managed to live up to the expectations of Vegas. We got two of them correct against the spread, as we picked the Cavs to beat the Bulls and Golden State to wreck the Pellies at home. Cleveland at least beat the spread (lost by two), but the Hawks laid an egg at home – something they never do – against a supposedly inferior Pistons squad.
And that was just a three-game slate. On Wednesday the season really starts with a ridiculous 14 NBA games to pick. It’s going to be a beating, but it’s also going to be a ton of fun. Best of all, if we can hit a good amount of these right, we’re going to make bank. And it’s only the middle of the week! As always, check out how we’ve done to date and then join us as we break down each matchup:
ATS: 2-1 Straight Up: 1-2
(-3.5) Wizards @ Magic
I think Orlando improves this year with the defensive-minded Scott Skiles running the show. They have a ton of young talent and for the first time in years they have a competent mind to guide them. They still aren’t there defensively, though, and Washington has to be one of the more underrated teams in the entire league. John Wall should run circles around Orlando’s point guards, while I doubt Nikola Vucevic is going to keep Marcin Gortat or the Wiz’s other bigs in check.
Pick: Wiz 104, Magic 100
Jazz @ Pistons (-2)
Detroit is riding high off a huge win in Atlanta last night, but they’re on a back-to-back and even they have to be somewhat surprised they’re 1-0 right now. Utah was a very strong defensive team the last we saw of them, and if that trend continues I like them to get a good road win to start the year.
Pick: Jazz 90, Pistons 89
(-4.5) Bulls @ Nets
Chicago didn’t look amazing last night but they beat the Cavs and that counts for something. Tonight they go to Barclays where the Nets await, but I’m not overly concerned about this back-to-back. Brook Lopez tends to struggle against guys quality paint defenders and that could mean a rough day at the office vs. Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah. The Nets also just don’t appear to be that good across the board, so I like the Bulls to get off to a nice 2-0 start.
Pick: Bulls 104, Nets 96
Knicks @ Bucks (-4)
Normally I’d absolutely take the Bucks here, but the Knicks are definitely better than they were last year and Milwaukee will begin the season at less than full strength. They have two guys out tonight and while they’re the better team, I think Carmelo Anthony has a huge game (he always dominates the Bucks) and get the Knicks off to an unlikely 1-0 start.
Pick: Knicks 90, Bucks 87
(-1) Mavs @ Suns
This is basically a pick’em, as no one knows what to expect out of either of these squads. All we know is the Mavs don’t have much down low and will also be without Chandler Parsons. Wes Matthews could also be limited and who knows what Dirk Nowitzki has left. Phoenix got tougher by adding Tyson Chandler and they certainly look like the more talented team at first glance. I’ll take the Suns at home simply because they seem more athletic and Chandler should play well against his former team.
Pick: Suns 109, Mavs 106
76ers @ Celtics (-9)
This is quite a line for a Celtics team that to me is just OK. Oh, wait, they’re facing the Sixers. Okay, that makes sense. Philly added some talent this summer but they’re still quite young and inexperienced. They’ll remain one of the worst teams in the league and won’t have the likes of Kendall Marshall, Tony Wroten or Nik Stauskas in this one. That being said, Philly can be pesky and I don’t like Boston to run away with this one. I’ll take Philly to beat the spread but Boston to win, straight up.
Pick: Celtics 101, 76ers 98
Hornets @ Heat (-7.5)
This should be a tight game between two solid Eastern Conference teams. Charlotte is without top defender Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for the year but they otherwise improved with additions like Frank Kaminsky, Jeremy Lin and Nicolas Batum. Their offense should have better flow, and while they lost tonight, they should keep it close with a healthy Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson having their way.
Pick: Heat 94, Hornets 92
Pacers @ Raptors (-6)
This is another game where I think the teams are a little more even than Vegas seems to feel. Toronto has the clear edge at center, but everything else is open season with George Hill, Monta Ellis and Paul George giving the Pacers quite a trio of offensive talent. I think Indy keeps it close, but I like Toronto to win at home.
Pick: Raptors 103, Pacers 101
Nuggets @ Rockets (-9.5)
Dwight Howard is one for game one due to suspension and Donatas Motiejunas remains banged up, but there’s little reason not to love Houston at home tonight. Denver is tossing out a rookie point guard and Ty Lawson faces his former team. Lawson could have a big game, while the Nuggets won’t have an answer for James Harden all night.
Pick: Rockets 114, Nuggets 104
Spurs @ Thunder (-4.5)
This is probably the biggest game of the night, as two Western Conference giants face off in OKC. Will a Thunder squad that is actually healthy dominate on their home floor, or will LaMarcus Aldridge and David West pay off early for the new-look Spurs? San Antonio has been prone to slow starts recently, so I tend to lean in OKC’s direction. That being said, I can’t see this not being a close game until the end, so I like the Spurs to beat the spread.
Pick: Thunder 101, Spurs 99
Cavaliers @ Grizzlies (-1.5)
This is a tough game for Cleveland, as they fell to Chicago last night and have to turn right back around to battle an arguably even tougher team in the Grizzlies. This one is also on the road and Memphis rarely loses on their home floor. Marc Gasol has fared well against the Cavs and I don’t know how effective Cleveland will be at stopping either Zach Randolph or Mike Conley. They key will be the depth on both sides, as Memphis’ second unit tends to struggle to produce consistent offense. With Tony Allen hounding LeBron and Kyrie Irving out, I’m taking the Grizz in what amounts to a pick’em.
Pick: Grizz 96, Cavs 94
Pelicans @ Blazers (pick’em)
I think this one is a virtual pick’em just because no one has any idea what to make of the Blazers. They still have a stud in Damian Lillard and they do have plenty of young talent, but they could be one of the worst teams in the league when it’s all said and done. Even so, the Pellies didn’t look great last night and they are ragged with several bodies out. I can’t go against The Brow twice, though, so I’ll take the Pellies with Anthony Davis putting up massive numbers in a big road win.
Pick: Pelicans 109, Blazers 106
(-4.5) Clippers @ Kings
This could be a really fun game, as there is plenty of star talent and the Kings will want to prove that they’re a playoff contender for this season. It’s tough to doubt DeMarcus Cousins in Sac-town, while Rudy Gay is also going to be a problem for the Clips. L.A. gets to unleash it’s new-found depth, though, so this is more than just star play. Paul Pierce, Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith could all make an impact in a high-scoring affair. I can see a Kings upset, though, so I’ll take Sacramento to beat the spread, with the Clips winning straight up.
Pick: Clips 104, Kings 101
Timberwolves @ Lakers (-5.5)
While not a big game for this slate, this could easily be one of the more entertaining contests with very little defenses and lot’s of scoring. The Black Mamba should be active and it’s hard to envision him and most of the Lakers not having success against a very young Minnesota squad. The Lakers probably aren’t a playoff team, but they added some solid veteran talent in Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams and Brandon Bass, so they have a different edge this year than they did a year ago. If Kobe can be Kobe, I like the Lakers at home. Not at -5.5, though. This will be a shootout with Minny hanging close.
Pick: Lakers 107, Wolves 104