Sharp NBA bettors know that early season NBA matchups are a good barometer for what to expect from some top-level team. Perfect your NBA picks by looking at some early season key matchups.
Right out of the box, we know that NBA MVP Kevin Durant is injured and it will take some of the luster off of the Oklahoma City Thunder's early season matchups, but there are plenty of other teams to look at. Usually the NBA starts off the season with a 3 game slate of top level teams on the first day of the season and they haven't disappointed with 3 solid matchups. Out of those matchups, one really stands out.
October 28th- Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Lakers
There's a lot of inside stories in this matchup as Dwight Howard will get to face Kobe Bryant, a player that he didn't get along with in Los Angeles, and will hear the boos of the Lakers fans. On a lesser note, Jeremy Lin will switch uniforms and be wearing a Los Angeles Lakers uniform and will be facing his former teammates. Look for Lin to be more disciplined in a Lakers uniform and be a great backup to a 40 year old Steve Nash, who really should have already retired.
Lin is a great ball distributor that will create an up-tempo game while looking for Kobe Bryant frequently. Bryant has been injured and this isn't the way that the 36 year old, 5-time champion would like to finish his career.
The Best Player In the Game?
James Harden, who was once a 6th man on the OKC Thunder's bench, has declared himself as the best player in the NBA. I don't know what Lebron James and Kevin Durant think about that, but confidence is good. With the addition of Trevor Ariza, look for the Rockets to come into the Staples Center and make a statement against L.A.
November 7th-New York Knicks vs. Brooklyn Nets
When these two teams get together you're always going to see a high level of competitiveness as only 7 miles separates their home buildings.
With the additions of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, Brooklyn thought that they were going to have an instant championship; it didn't work out that way. Brook Lopez got injured early in the season and quite frankly, Garnett and Pierce weren't as good as they were as Celtics. While KG is still a member of the Nets, Paul Pierce has moved on to the Washington Wizards. Head coach, Jason Kidd, has also moved on to the Milwaukee Bucks. Brooklyn is a solid team with Brook Lopez as the leader, but this is a slightly above average team if that.
Carmelo Anthony will have to buy into the Triangle offense , which has been so good for Phil Jackson. You can definitely expect a decrease in Anthony's points per game and if this equates to victories, expect the superstar to be content.
New York is definitely a work in progress and has a lot of young talent. Expect Tim Hardaway Jr. to make a major impact in this game and during the season. He's experienced what it's like to be a Knick and has flourished. Another key player for the Knicks is point guard Jose Calderon. Calderon can provide double figure scoring, but more importantly is the definition of a team player and that's what you need for the Triangle Offense. Calderon will also be a key player in this basketball game as he matches up against Deron Williams. Williams hasn't lived up to the money or the billing as a Net and has a lot to prove this season.
The Knicks are a very deep team with experienced players such as J.R. Smith and inexperienced players such as 2nd round draft pick Cleanthony Early. There's a lot of question marks on this team, but they're headed in the right direction. I expect the Phil Jackson- Derek Fisher regime to begin with a bang. Look for New York to overpower their neighbors on adrenaline alone in their 1st matchup of the season.
October 30th-Cleveland Cavaliers vs. New York Knicks
LBJ at MSG in Cavs Uniform
It's pretty easy to understand why this is a big matchup as Lebron James returns to his roots along with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving to form the new "Big 3". This game will be huge from a media standpoint. Look for a much trimmer Lebron to be ready for action as he faces one of his best friends in Carmelo Anthony. Another aspect of this game is how will Kevin Love intergrate with LBJ and Kyrie Irving. Love is used to being the main man when he played for Minnesota. Will that be the case in Cleveland. We'll find out on October 30th in what should be a high scoring game.
October 31st- Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Chicago Bulls
Although the Bulls lost to Cleveland in last night's preseason game, 107-98, Derek Rose has proven that he's back and ready to shoot for an NBA Title (keep this in mind when making your next NBA picks). Rose lit the Cavs up for 30 points on 12 of 18 shooting from the field in just 24 minutes of play. It certainly got Lebron James' attention and with the addition of Pau Gasol, the Bulls are a much improved ball club and a title contender. Chicago is very stingy defensively and it will be interesting to see how James, Love, and Irving fare against the Bulls in the United Center. There will be no trick or treating for basketball fans as this is a must watch game.