Playing shorthanded didn’t seem to bother the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday. Now they’ll have all their new players on board when they try to beat the NBA odds Saturday against the Charlotte Hornets.
Jason’s record as of Feb. 19: 35-31-4 ATS, 2-4 Totals
There are no deadbolt NBA picks, but we figured we had a good one on our hands Thursday when we picked the Dallas Mavericks (+5 away) to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder. Dallas had just signed Amar’e Stoudemire, and the Thunder were about to pull the trigger on the Reggie Jackson trade, which would have left them shorthanded against the Mavs. We were half right; Stoudemire didn’t play, but neither did Jackson, or Kendrick Perkins – or any of the players they were traded for.
It didn’t seem to faze the Thunder. They came out with energy and thumped the Mavs 104-89, out-rebounding Dallas 62-39 (!) in the process. Even the thinned-out OKC bench was able to hold its own, particularly Anthony Morrow, who shot 7-of-13 for 16 points. So do the Charlotte Hornets have any hope of beating the basketball odds this Saturday (7:00 p.m. ET) when the Thunder bring all their new arrivals to the Squishee King Center?
Well, as it turns out, the NBA betting odds for this game are on hold after Kevin Durant (27.8 PER) didn’t participate in Friday’s workout. Durant did look a little off against the Mavericks, shooting just 4-of-14 for 12 points, and it appears he’s dealing with a sore foot. Consider him questionable for now. It’s always something, isn’t it?
We’d normally be happy to recommend fading the Thunder (29-25 SU, 26-27-2 ATS) if Durant doesn’t play. They’re 6-7 SU and 4-9 ATS this year when Durant is out and Russell Westbrook (28.8 PER) is in. But this isn’t the same Thunder team anymore. This should be a significantly better version with the additions of Enes Kanter (17.5 PER), D.J. Augustin (15.8 PER), Steve Novak (14.4 PER) and Kyle Singler (9.4 PER).
Should be. There’s been some debate whether Kanter really represents an upgrade over Perkins (7.4 PER). While Kanter has some offensive gifts, he posted an ugly minus-4.5 BPM this year with the Utah Jazz, while Perkins had enough defensive jam (plus-2.1 DBPM) to put up a less unsightly minus-3.4 BPM for the Thunder. We like these newfangled plus-minus stats here at the ranch. However, Kanter’s big-man offense should be a better overall fit for Oklahoma City, especially with Nick Collision (plus-1.5 DBPM) and currently injured Steven Adams (plus-2.3 DBPM) already on the roster.
A Spoonful of MKG
Looks like we’ve got some personnel issues muddying up the waters in Charlotte, too. Kemba Walker (18.6 PER) and Bismack Biyombo (15.9 PER) definitely won’t play Saturday; as we go to press, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (15.3 PER) and his bad right hamstring should be a go after he practiced on Thursday – although his status isn’t official yet. The Hornets (22-30 SU, 25-25-2 ATS) are hanging in there just fine at 4-4 SU and 6-3 ATS since Walker’s latest injury, but they’re also 0-3 SU and 1-2 ATS since Kidd-Gilchrist got hurt two weeks ago in Philadelphia.
This has been a pretty good third season in the NBA for Kidd-Gilchrist. His value still comes primarily from his defense (plus-1.4 DBPM), but the former No. 2 overall pick has also upped his rebounding to 9.9 boards per 36 minutes, a very impressive total for a 6-foot-7 small forward. It’s just a shame Kidd-Gilchrist doesn’t have a 3-point shot. He’d be an ideal glue guy otherwise.
Given the circumstances surround this matchup, we’re going to punt on the point spread and recommend the UNDER, which is 7-2 for Charlotte since Walker went down. Having MKG’s defense in the mix can only help. And it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the incoming Thunder players needing some time to adapt to their new surroundings. Brick city, baby.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Under at 5Dimes