Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to April 7 inclusive:
It’s the final week of the 2013-14 NBA regular season – and it’s crazy out there. Some teams are playing as hard as they can, trying to win a playoff spot or nail down an important seeding. Other teams are coasting into the postseason, and of course, you’ve got everyone who’s tanking for the NBA Draft lottery. It’s hard to find an honest matchup these days.
Thank goodness for Wednesday’s game (7:00 p.m. ET) between the Charlotte Bobcats and the Washington Wizards. These teams truly have something to play for: the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. Washington is in sixth place at 40-37 (39-37-1 ATS), one game ahead of Charlotte at 39-38 (45-29-3 ATS) with five games left on the schedule. Whoever finishes seventh will have to play the Miami Heat or the Indiana Pacers in the first round.
Okay, “having” to play the Pacers doesn’t seem like much of a downside right now, nor does it seem all that rewarding to win the No. 6 seed and face either the Toronto Raptors or the Chicago Bulls instead. But the possibility that Miami could slip to No. 2 should be enough to keep both the Wizards and the Bobcats interesting in winning Wednesday’s matchup. It should be a close one; Washington has opened as a 5-point home favorite on the NBA betting lines with a total of 194.5.
This is an important enough game for the Wizards that they’re thinking about breaking the emergency glass and playing Nene (16.4 PER), who’s missed the last 21 games with a sprained left MCL. Nene went through a full practice on Monday and says he expects to play, although it’s assumed his minutes will be limited. Washington was 12-9 SU and 8-12-1 ATS during his absence.
Gooden Yum Yum
It appears that Trevor Ariza (16.0 PER) will also suit up for the Wiz despite a case of the flu and a sore left groin. He’s a very important player on a Washington team with not a lot of quality depth; Ariza (plus-4.3) and Nene (plus-3.3) are two of just five regulars with a positive Simple Rating at 82games. Any minutes that Nene can take back from Trevor Booker (14.1 PER, minus-4.2) should be welcome minutes.
The other, less savory possibility, is that Nene will come off the bench in place of Drew Gooden (19.3 PER), who has been performing so well since signing as a free agent in late February. It’s a small point for now, since there should be plenty of minutes to go around while Nene’s tuning up for the playoffs. But the Wiz would still be more likely to beat the NBA lines on Wednesday with a little more Gooden and a little less Booker.
The Bobcats, meanwhile, aren’t 100 percent sure if Josh McRoberts (14.1 PER) will be able to face Washington because of his sprained left ankle. However, head coach Steve Clifford expressed confidence to reporters during Tuesday’s practice that McRoberts would be in action. Charlotte won all three games SU and ATS that McRoberts missed, although those games were against non-playoff Eastern teams.
Center Brendan Haywood (8.7 PER) is definitely out for the season with a stress fracture in his left foot, but there’s plenty of depth at center, so we’ll be getting essentially a complete Bobcats team if McRoberts plays. That’s enough incentive for me to pick Charlotte in a game where Nene could end up doing more short-term harm than good.
NBA Pick: Take the Bobcats +5 at SportsBetting