Free NBA Picks: Thunder To Cover Big Number Against Struggling Lakers

Jason Lake

Friday, January 8, 2016 1:39 PM GMT

There might be some value in the Los Angeles Lakers after all. Will they still be a viable NBA pick this Friday night when the Oklahoma City Thunder come to town?

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NBA Pick: Thunder -14.5
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

 

Jason's 2015-16 record as of Jan. 7: 12-11-1 ATS, 4-1 Total

 

Wait a second – weren't the Los Angeles Lakers supposed to be hemorrhaging money right about now? Kobe Bryant's retirement tour is still in effect, but the Lakers have somehow figured out a way to cover six of their last seven games. They even took the Sacramento Kings all the way to the river Thursday night before losing 118-115 as 8.5-point road dogs. Sacramento was up 90-63 midway through the third quarter.

That's not the big story from Thursday's game. Lakers PG D'Angelo Russell turned his right ankle with less than two minutes to go, just as he was scoring the last of his 27 points on the night. As we go to press, Russell's status for Friday's matchup (10:30 p.m. ET) with the Oklahoma City Thunder is unclear. Will Oklahoma City still be a 13.5-point road fave on our NBA odds by the time you read this? Might be some value there if so.

 

Be Yours to Hold It High
There's no question that Bryant (12.9 PER, –3.3 BPM) has been playing better of late. On offense. He scored 28 points against the Kings, but when L.A. was making its big fourth-quarter push, it was Russell (12.2 PER, –1.9 BPM) leading the charge while Kobe was cheering from the bench.

There's been more of that over the past month. Bryant made headlines on December 9 when he encouraged head coach Byron Scott to “let the kids play” during the fourth quarter of their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Lakers lost 123-122 in overtime, but they beat the spread as 7.5-point road dogs. Here we are again with Bryant deferring to Russell, handing off the torch as it were. Progress is being made.

 

Limpin' Ain't Easy
Or at least it was. Are the Lakers still a viable NBA pick if Russell can't play on Friday? He's only missed one game in his rookie campaign – that was Tuesday's game against the Golden State Warriors (–13.5 away), which Russell sat out because of a sore throat. The Lakers ended up losing 109-88, but Bryant didn't play, either. He had a sore right shoulder.

This just in: Russell's X-rays have come back negative. The early diagnosis is a moderate ankle sprain, and given the way Russell was limping toward the dressing room, I'm going to interpret “moderate” as “not playing on Friday.” Seems like a good enough reason in and of itself to grab the Thunder at the same price they were at before Russell went down. He's been getting better and better with each passing day; in fact, Russell might already be the best player on the Lakers. Get well soon – but not too soon for our purposes.