It’s just like old times for the Oklahoma City Thunder: Their roster looks just as bad as it did when the team first abandoned Seattle. But Friday’s NBA odds are moving away from their opponents, the Memphis Grizzlies.
Jason’s record as of Nov. 6: 4-0 ATS
Profit: plus-11.8 units
When kids (and adults) dream of playing pro basketball, it’s always Game 7 of the NBA Finals, and they always hit the winning shot at the buzzer. So what does it take to achieve that dream? Talent? Skill? Fighting spirit? All very important, but the main ingredient is health, and the way the NBA is played these days, health is in increasingly short supply.
Exhibit A: the remains of the Oklahoma City Thunder. First they lost Kevin Durant (foot). Then it was Russell Westbrook (hand). Wholly unsatisfied, the basketball gods demanded more sacrifices, taking Andre Roberson (foot) and Perry Jones (knee) in consecutive games earlier this week. There’s more where that came from, too. Which leaves Oklahoma City in big trouble this Friday night (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN) when the Memphis Grizzlies come to town. The Grizzlies are laying seven points on the NBA odds board as we go to press.
The Straw that Stirs the Drink
So why are people still betting on the Thunder (1-4 SU, 2-3 ATS)? They opened at +8, and while we don’t have enough data yet to produce a consensus report, that move to +7 would suggest the action has been falling on Oklahoma City’s side. We’ll try not to over-interpret things before the data comes in, though. Early action is often light and variable.
There are occasions when it makes sense to bet on a team dealing with injuries. The Thunder, for example, went through a 27-game stretch last year without Westbrook (plus-5.05 RPM in 2013-14) while he recovered from having his knee scoped. But Oklahoma City has another quality point guard in Reggie Jackson (plus-1.70 RPM), and he performed admirably as the Thunder went 20-7 SU and 16-11 ATS in Westbrook’s absence.
We love situations where an unheralded back-up point guard is filling in for an MVP candidate. But team depth can only take so many hits before the whole thing falls apart. Not having either of Durant (plus-6.42 RPM) or Westbrook on the floor is death to Oklahoma City. And Jackson himself is going to be playing hurt on Friday after injuring both his wrist and his ankle in Tuesday’s 100-88 loss to the Toronto Raptors (–11.5 at home).
Things have gotten so bad for the Thunder that they applied for a hardship exception, which they used to sign guard Ish Smith, who posted a minus-2.40 RPM last year in 70 games with the Phoenix Suns. He’d be just the third available guard on Friday behind Jackson and Sebastian Telfair, who played last year in China. However, it’s possible that Roberson, Jeremy Lamb (back) and/or Anthony Morrow (knee) could be “ready” to face Memphis, as well.
That’s still probably not going to be enough. The Grizzlies (5-0 SU, 4-1 ATS) were one of our favorite NBA picks last year, once they had Marc Gasol (plus-3.59 RPM) back in the lineup, and they’re back on the good foot to start the 2014-15 campaign. Memphis brings a lot of betting value to the table as a regional team with a solid, defensively stout lineup that’s low on starpower – unless you include newcomer Vince Carter (plus-4.48 RPM), who’s completely reinvented himself as a reliable two-way supporting actor.
Memphis has covered all three of its road games this year, including a 97-89 victory over the Indiana Pacers (+6.5), another team that’s been sideswiped by injuries. The Thunder usually play hard for head coach Scott Brooks, but we’re happy to put a small bet on Memphis anyway. Here’s to your health.
The Five Stars
Market Bias: MEM
Betting Line Value: OKC
Verdict: 1-star pick on MEM
Free NFL Pick: Bet 1.4 units on the Grizzlies –7 (–105) at Pinnacle