The New York Knicks didn’t pull the trigger at the trade deadline. That might not matter on Friday night when they visit an Orlando Magic team that isn’t beating the NBA odds against losing teams.
Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to February 20 inclusive:
All that talk for nothing. The New York Knicks (21-33 SU, 23-31 ATS) are 3.5 games out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and they could use an upgrade at point guard. But they didn’t pick one up before Thursday’s NBA trading deadline – not Kyle Lowry, not Jeff Teague, not even Andre Miller. Unless the Knicks decide to sign a veteran off the scrap heap, this is the team they’ll go to war with for the rest of the season.
It’s probably a good enough team to beat the Orlando Magic (16-40 SU, 23-33 ATS) on Friday. The Magic also decided to stand pat, rather than make themselves worse in the race to the bottom of the Eastern standings. But they’re still pretty bad, and the NBA lines have Orlando getting 1.5 points at home with a total of 195.5. Let’s get these wagons in a circle.
The Knicks have a history of acquiring short-term gain for long-term pain. But this time around, they just weren’t willing to give up Tim Hardaway Jr. (14. PER) along with a draft pick. They weren’t all that eager to lose Iman Shumpert (9.6 PER), either, but Shumpert was reportedly on the trading block – until he sprained his left MCL in Wednesday’s 98-91 win over the New Orleans Pelicans (–3.5 at home). It’s only a mild sprain as it turns out, but Shumpert is still unavailable to face the Magic.
Amar’e Stoudemire (17.3 PER) also sat out against the Pellies, but it was the second of back-to-back games, and we can expect him to return for Friday’s matchup (7:00 p.m. ET). We’re not so sure when to expect Kenyon Martin (12.3 PER) to come back from his sore ankle. Could be on Friday, though. As for Andrea Bargnani (14.6 PER), he’s not due back from his torn elbow until sometime in March.
With all these frontcourt injuries, New York has been forced to use a smaller lineup with Carmelo Anthony (24.8 PER) starting at power forward. Anthony himself has thrived in this role, scoring 42 points against New Orleans, but this also emphasizes how weak the Knicks are at the perimeter. Either Hardaway or J.R. Smith (12.0 PER) will have to take Shumpert’s place in the starting five, leaving almost nothing in reserve – unless New York’s willing to give minutes to Beno Udrih (12.5 PER) or Toure’ Murry (11.1 PER). They’re the worst two players on the roster in terms of Simple Rating, with Udrih at minus-8.7 and Murry at minus-9.6.
Be sure to take a look at my NBA Picks of the Day article for more free plays.
Nothing up My Sleeve
Again, this might not matter all that much against Orlando. There’s some quality on this team, specifically Arron Afflalo (17.4 PER) and Nikola Vucevic (18.3 PER), along with promising rookie Victor Oladipo (13.4 PER). Earlier this month, the Magic pulled off back-to-back upsets at home over the Oklahoma City Thunder (–9.5) and the Indiana Pacers (–8), the top two seeds in either conference. Presto~!
Unfortunately for Magic supporters, their heroes vanish into thin air when playing the NBA’s lesser lights. Orlando is coming off road losses against the Milwaukee Bucks (+3) and Cleveland Cavaliers (–5.5), falling to 11-21 ATS this year against losing teams. The Knicks, by comparison, are 14-14 ATS against teams below .500, and just 8-17 ATS versus winning teams. Which makes perfect sense. New York has the talent to beat worse teams, while tanking Orlando has less incentive to roll over against elite opponents. I expect this dynamic to play out on Friday, and just for good measure, Glen Davis (13.9 PER) is questionable for the Magic with a sore Achilles tendon. Relax, big guy. Take a rest.
Special update: The Magic are reportedly working on a buy-out of Davis’ contract.NBA Pick: Take the Knicks –1.5 at The Greek