Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to December 31 inclusive:
There is no such thing as destiny. But if there were, it would look like the Philadelphia 76ers (9-21 SU, 12-18 ATS) and the Denver Nuggets (14-16 SU, 13-17 ATS). The 76ers were expected to finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, and despite winning their first three games, that’s where the Sixers are today. The Nuggets were expected to take a step back after their star GM skipped town, and despite some promising early results, that’s where the Nugs are today.
Be that as it may, 30 games is still a fairly small sample size, and past performance does not guarantee future results. Does either team have what it takes to escape their non-destinies and kick off 2014 with a win this Wednesday (9:00 p.m. ET) at the Pepsi Center? The early NBA odds have Denver laying 9.5 points with a total of 211.
The Boy from Syracuse
Back at the start of the 2013-14 campaign, I was a little too dismissive about the Sixers and their starting lineup, including PG Michael Carter-Williams. Then they opened the regular season by dumping the defending NBA champion Miami Heat (–10 away) 114-100. Carter-Williams almost had a quadruple-double (22 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds, nine steals) in his first game as a pro. How did that crow taste? Not as good as the cheesesteak at Tony Luke’s. Or so I’m told. I don’t get to South Philly very often.
Unfortunately for the 76ers, Carter-Williams (19.3 PER) missed four games in November and another seven games in December with injuries. Philadelphia went 1-10 SU and 3-8 ATS in those 11 games; since his return, the Sixers are 2-2 SU and ATS, including Sunday’s 111-104 win over the shorthanded Los Angeles Lakers (–7 at home). Philly’s got the proverbial puncher’s chance as long as MCW is running the offense.
We also need to give props to center Spencer Hawes (18.2 PER) and PF Thaddeus Young (18.2 PER), who are finally getting the minutes they deserve. Swingman Evan Turner (14.1 PER) is also turning into a pretty good two-way player. But after that, the talent level on this team plunges faster than Jennifer Lawrence’s neckline. Or so I’m told.
As for the Nuggets, they had me going for a while when they put together seven straight wins earlier this season. But it’s all been downhill from there at 3-10 SU and ATS, including 0-7 SU and 1-6 ATS in their last seven games. This is a difficult transition period in Denver following the departures of GM Masai Ujiri (now in Toronto) and head coach George Karl (now with ESPN). Ujiri built this team to suit Karl’s style; now first-year coach Brian Shaw has to sort through the remaining players and see what works.
At the moment, the one thing that works for certain is PG Ty Lawson (20.0 PER). He’s the lynchpin of this Nuggets squad, playing far more minutes than anyone else – and Lawson has earned his spot as the team leader, although he can be a liability on defense at 5-foot-11. It’s pretty much a potluck after Lawson. Eight other players are getting at least 19 minutes per game, with big men Kenneth Faried (18.9 PER) and J.J. Hickson (17.2 PER) delivering the tastiest results thus far.
I’m leaning toward Philly here, but I’d much rather take the UNDER, which is 10-1 in Denver’s last 11 games and 10-4 at the Pepsi Center this season. That Mile High air does not do a body good.NBA Pick: Take UNDER 211 at Sports Interaction