Free NBA Picks Cavaliers-Knicks: Cavs Cover in LeBron's Debut?

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, October 29, 2014 7:33 PM UTC

Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014 7:33 PM UTC

It's the most-anticipated season opener of the NBA's 2014-15 campaign on Thursday night when the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers unveil the NBA's newest super team.

The Cleveland Cavaliers opened as 10.5-point favorites on BetOnline's NBA odds over visiting New York Knicks, and we have decided to focus on this matchup's spread when it comes to releasing our free NBA picks for this matchup.


Challenging Start for Knicks
The NBA's schedule-makers did the Knicks no favors to kick off their season as New York had to host excellent Chicago on Wednesday night as a 4-point dog at sportsbooks and then fly out to Cleveland for this one, the first game of TNT's Thursday national TV doubleheader. The Cavaliers are the +250 favorites to win the NBA title and -125 to win the Eastern Conference. The Bulls are +600 (fourth) and +225 (second), respectively.

The Knicks opened the season with a wins total of 40 on NBA odds off last season's 37-45 mark, which kept New York out of the playoffs. Coach Mike Woodson predictably wasn't brought back by new team czar Phil Jackson. He wanted to  hire former player Steve Kerr this offseason to replace Woodson but at the last minute Kerr decided to take the Golden State job instead. So Jackson went with Derek Fisher, who was still playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder last year. Fisher will run the triangle offense that he learned while playing under Jackson with the L.A. Lakers.

From a player perspective, the Knicks' big move was keeping Carmelo Anthony from signing on as a free agent with either the Lakers or Bulls. Did anyone really think he was going to turn down the fact the Knicks could offer him tens of millions of dollars more than those clubs? It will be interesting to see how Melo fares in the triangle. It sure didn't hurt Michael Jordan's scoring. Anthony is the +200 second favorite on Bovada's NBA props to lead the league in scoring this year behind Kevin Durant (+150). Anthony is given an over/under of 27 points per game (both -115). He averaged 27.4 last year and 28.7 the season before in winning his first scoring title.

To get Calderon and Dalembert, Jackson had to give up point guard Raymond Felton and center Tyson Chandler. Calderon, who is dealing with a minor calf injury but should play, is an upgrade on Felton but Dalembert isn't on Chandler. Dalembert is a solid enough defensive player and rebounder, but he has zero offensive game. Fisher has said he will adjust his starting lineup early in the season depending on matchups. So one day you could have Amare Stoudemire and J.R. Smith off the bench in one game and the next in the starting five in place of Jason Smith and Iman Shumpert, respectively.


The New Superfriends
Obviously the story of the NBA offseason was James shocking many people by deciding to return to Cleveland. And where James goes, other players tend to follow (as opposed to Kobe Bryant, who players seem to stay clear of if possible). Of course the Cavs were able to trade for Timberwolves All-Star power forward Kevin Love by giving up nothing that really would have affected this year's team (Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett). Cleveland also signed free agents like Mike Miller and Shawn Marion, two guys obviously chasing rings and realizing the Cavs are the best place to do so.

When it comes to the LeBron James prop betting odds, the 'King' is your heavy -110 favorite at sportsbooks to win yet another NBA MVP Award and +275 on NBA odds to win a second career scoring title. His totals for the season are 'over/under' 26.5 points ('under' -130 favorite), 6.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists (all -115). Most expect the Cavaliers to be a dynamic offensive team -- that's rookie head coach David Blatt's specialty -- but perhaps struggle a bit on defense. The Cavs averaged 104.9 points in going 5-2 this preseason for what that's worth.

Blatt has apparently decided to bring young forward/center Tristan Thompson off the bench and start veteran Anderson Varejao at center. Love will no doubt play a little center at times. Varejao has missed 166 games in the previous four seasons because of injuries, but he's a good rebounder and defender when healthy. Also a buddy of LeBron's. The team has no frontcourt depth behind Love, Thompson and Varejao so the Cavs need them to stay healthy. LeBron thinned down and doesn't want to play power forward if possible.

Just doing my due diligence here in telling you that the Knicks and Cavaliers split four meetings a season ago, but obviously that has little relevance.  Anthony and James have played 21 regular-season games against one another and Anthony surprisingly holds the 11-10 edge. Melo averages 24.0 points in those 21 with James at 26.7. LeBron holds a 4-1 edge in the playoffs, which happened in 2012.

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NBA free picks: Take New York at +10.5 points on NBA odds and the 'over' 199 points at sportsbooks. Needless to say, this opening line will be altered depending on what happens in the Knicks' game vs. Chicago. While the Cavs will be amped up to unveil their new star-laden team to the home fans, the Knicks players will get jacked up to ruin things even on the second of a back-to-back. The 'over' is 4-0 in the past four meetings, but that hardly matters.

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