Eastern Conference NBA Picks: Hawks To Cover vs. Heat Tonight

Jason Lake

Sunday, January 31, 2016 3:23 PM UTC

Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016 3:23 PM UTC

Injuries have thrown a wrench into Sunday's game between the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat. Will either of these teams be healthy enough to go into our NBA picks?

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Free NBA Pick: Atlanta -1
Best Line Offered: at YouWager


Jason's 2015-16 record as of Jan. 29: 16-18-1 ATS, 5-1-1 Total

These are interesting times for the Miami Heat. They're in a much better place than they were last year, holding down sixth place in the Eastern Conference (26-21 SU, 23-23-1 ATS) as we go to press. But this plane has been through some extreme turbulence. Miami has won three straight SU and ATS after going 1-7 SU and 2-6 ATS in its previous eight contests. Fasten your safety belts, and put your folding trays in the upright and locked position.

The Atlanta Hawks (27-21 SU, 23-24-1 ATS) are a half-game up on Miami, with many of the same issues – although in this case, the Hawks have dropped down a level or two after winning the East last year. They're also 1-4 SU and ATS over their past five games. And Paul Millsap sprained his left ankle on Friday. That could make life difficult for the Hawks when they visit the Heat for this Sunday's matchup (6:00 p.m. ET).


Oblique Angles
It's also going to make our NBA pick a bit more complicated. Millsap (23.5 PER, +5.9 BPM) has been Atlanta's best player this year, a bonafide All-Star big who just cashed in last summer for the long green after giving the Hawks two years at a bargain price. Will he play on Sunday? This just in: Millsap has been upgraded to probable after taking part in Saturday's walkthrough.

There are still some missing pieces to this puzzle. Miami could be without center Hassan Whiteside (23.4 PER, +1.5 BPM) and back-up guard Tyler Johnson (14.2 PER, +0.4 BPM); the tea leaves say Whiteside is leaning toward doubtful with an oblique injury, and Johnson is questionable at best with a shoulder issue that's hampered his performance of late. We still don't have any NBA odds as we go to press, but Miami's health meter is making us lean toward the Hawks here at the ranch.


Strength In Numbers
We can give you a kayfabe spread if you like. There's almost a two-point gap between Atlanta (+1.63 SRS) and Miami (-0.26 SRS) on the Simple Rating System at Basketball-Reference, so how about Atlanta -2? If the odds come out that way, without adjusting for Whiteside and Johnson, there's your profit margin.

More or less. We can't just leave it at that without looking at Miami's bench. Amar'e Stoudemire (16.0 PER, -1.2 BPM) is next in line after Whiteside, and while he's playing the best defense of his career, Stoudemire's offensive game has taken a step back. But hey, at least the Heat have Goran Dragic (13.6 PER, -0.6 BPM) and Beno Udrih (9.6 PER, -4.3 BPM) off the injured list to cover for Johnson. And look, Josh McRoberts (9.3 PER, -1.2 BPM) is back. Whee?

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