Free NBA Picks for Cavaliers vs. Kings

Jason Lake

Sunday, January 12, 2014 12:41 PM GMT

Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014 12:41 PM GMT

The Cleveland Cavaliers have traded up in the world. It didn’t work for the Sacramento Kings at first, but they’ve been crushing the NBA betting lines since the holidays ended.

Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to January 11 inclusive:

43-31-1 ATS

12-8 Totals

This whole tanking narrative has gotten out of control. The NBA has reached a point where fans of struggling teams are actively rooting for their teams to lose, in order to secure a greater chance of landing a high pick in the 2014 draft. Take the Cleveland Cavaliers (13-23 SU, 17-19 ATS), for instance. They just filled a position of great need by acquiring SF Luol Deng from the Chicago Bulls for a handful of magic beans. But are their fans happy? Are Cleveland fans ever happy?

They must have been somewhat pleased Friday night when Deng and the Cavs beat the Utah Jazz (–1 at home) 113-102 to cash in for the seventh time in nine games. Next up: the Sacramento Kings (12-22 SU, 14-19-1 ATS), who are themselves doing much better against the basketball odds since upgrading at the 3-spot with Rudy Gay. The Kings are 4-3 SU and 5-2 ATS since Christmas; Sunday’s NBA lines have Sacramento favored by three points at Sleep Train Arena with a total of 205. All aboard the Sleep Train choo choo!

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Anti-Tank Missile

However wonderful this year’s one-and-done college basketball phenoms may be, you never know for sure which ones will pan out, so why not grab a known commodity like Deng (17.2 PER) on the cheap? All it cost was the contract of noted malcontent Andrew Bynum (15.4 PER), who wasn’t being used properly in Cleveland’s perimeter-heavy offense, plus assorted protected draft picks.

This is an excellent personnel move for a team that already has more youngsters in its lineup than One Direction. Cleveland’s small forward contingent included Earl Clark (9.1 PER), Alonzo Gee (6.4 PER), and the potential No. 1 overall busto from 2013, Anthony Bennett (1.0 PER). Deng is obviously a major upgrade over those guys – we should cut Bennett some slack, since he was injured and still needs to work himself into game shape, but he needed a mentor anyway.

So does Kyrie Irving (20.8 PER). And this is where Deng’s arrival actually helps Cleveland build for the future. Deng and Irving are both former Duke Blue Devils, and as ESPN analyst Jalen Rose has pointed out, the two players have a solid relationship. Deng is a free agent at the end of the season; if he leaves, that will be a sign to the organization that Irving is on the way out the door in either 2015 (restricted FA) or 2016 (unrestricted FA). If he stays, then Irving probably stays – and maybe LeBron James comes back home to join them. How you like them apples?

Gay Apparel

The Cavaliers also play in the Eastern Conference, where they’re just 1.5 games out of a playoff spot as we go to press. The road to redemption is much longer for the Kings, who trail the No. 8 Dallas Mavericks by… let me get my abacus… 7.5 games. They could end up with a high draft pick anyway. But like the Cavs, the Kings have plenty of young talent, anchored at the premium positions by center DeMarcus Cousins (27.3 PER) and PG Isaiah Thomas (22.1 PER).

Not only that, check out what Gay (19.7 PER as a King) has been doing for Sacramento lately. He dropped 32 points on the Portland Trail Blazers (–5 away) in Tuesday’s 123-119 upset, then torched the Orlando Magic (+7 away) for 22 points and 10 rebounds in Friday’s 103-83 victory. We all had a good laugh at Gay’s expense while he was clogging up the Toronto Raptors, but now that he and similarly gifted DeMar DeRozan have been separated, both are free to do their iso-heavy thing without necessarily killing their offenses in the process.

Since both teams in Sunday’s matchup (6:00 p.m. ET) are beating the NBA spreads these days, I’ll be recommending the OVER, which is 10-4 for the Kings since Gay first suited up, and also cashed in for Cleveland in Deng’s debut after a 5-0 run for the UNDER. May the sphere be with you.

NBA Pick: Take OVER 205 (+100) at BetCRIS

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