The Cleveland Cavaliers have upgraded their roster, but they still won’t have LeBron James on Friday when they face the Golden State Warriors, who have beaten the NBA odds in four straight games.
Jason’s record as of Jan. 7: 22-22-1 ATS, 2-4 Totals
Well, looky here. It’s the Cleveland Cavaliers versus the Golden State Warriors, two teams we just featured in our Eastern Conference and Western Conference updates. Excellent timing. But the timing isn’t so good for the Cavaliers; while they’ve made some savvy upgrades for the playoff drive, the Cavs are still going to be without LeBron James for another week. In his absence, Cleveland has been a lousy NBA pick at 1-5 SU and ATS.
Stephen Curry and the Warriors, on the other hand, are 4-0 SU and ATS in their last four games, and they welcomed Andrew Bogut back into the fold in Wednesday’s 117-102 win over the Indiana Pacers (+11.5 away). The spread will be a bit bigger on Friday, with Golden State opening at –13 on the NBA odds boards. Who’s up for a tasty glass of chalk juice?
Before we completely bury the Cavaliers (19-17 SU, 13-23 ATS), we do have to mention that they played a pretty good game Wednesday night against the Houston Rockets – up until the fourth quarter, at least. The Rockets went on a 15-5 run and eventually prevailed 105-93, beating the 6-point spread at home in the process. Dwight Howard (17 points, 19 rebounds) did most of the heavy lifting against Cleveland’s overmatched frontcourt.
This is where Timofey Mozgov (plus-0.8 career DBPM, revised from our previous article) could have helped the Cavaliers. He wasn’t available for Wednesday’s game, having just been traded from the Denver Nuggets. But Mozgov will reportedly start for Cleveland on Friday (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). The things that he’s best at are exactly the things the Cavs needed against Howard: defense and rebounding.
As for that 3-way trade from Monday, J.R. Smith (11.7 PER) made his Cleveland debut against the Rockets, and it wasn’t pretty. Smith missed all five of his shots – four of them from long range – in 18 minutes off the bench. He’s only shooting 34 percent from downtown this year, but Smith did shoot 39.4 percent for the New York Knicks last year, and he’s not going to stop shooting, so there’s always a chance he could get hot. Variance is good for underdogs.
That’s about all the positives we have for Cleveland at this point. The Warriors (28-5 SU, 22-11 ATS) are the best team in the league right now, and getting Bogut (plus-6.4 DBPM) back on the floor should keep them that way. Bogut came off the bench on Wednesday and played 15 minutes against Indiana, scoring four points and grabbing eight rebounds. It remains to be seen how soon Bogut will return to the starting lineup, but as long as Marreese Speights (22.7 PER) is leading the team with 25.0 points per 36 minutes, there’s no rush.
We should also point out that David Lee (19.6 PER) is back in action for Golden State. Lee has also been relegated to a bench role with Draymond Green (plus-4.3 DBPM) excelling at power forward, but what a bench that is with Lee, Bogut, Andre Iguodala (plus-1.7 DBPM) and Shaun Livingston (plus-0.6 DBPM), among others. The Warriors are 6-2 SU and 5-3 ATS since Lee’s return.
Cleveland’s bench is a desert wasteland by comparison. Things will improve with Mozgov’s arrival pushing Tristan Thompson (16.2 PER) back into a reserve role, but until James and Iman Shumpert are healthy, the Cavs are going to have a hell of a time preventing opponents from running up the score. We also expect it will take at least a game or two before Mozgov meshes with his new teammates. Put Golden State in our NBA picks, and may the sphere be with you.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Warriors