NBA Picks for 76ers vs. Clippers

Jason Lake

Sunday, February 9, 2014 12:59 PM GMT

Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014 12:59 PM GMT

Chris Paul is about to make his return for the Los Angeles Clippers. But does that mean they should be 16-point favorites on the NBA odds board for Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers?

Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to February 7 inclusive:

60-49-1 ATS

14-13 Totals

Superstar athletes don’t tend to fall in the “underrated” category. Then again, there aren’t many superstars like Chris Paul. Here’s a guy who played JV ball at high school before playing varsity, then decided to play close to his hometown at Wake Forest, then was chosen No. 4 overall in the 2005 NBA Draft (Marvin Williams went No. 2). It gets better: In 2007-08, Paul (28.4 PER) lost out in the MVP voting to Kobe Bryant (24.1 PER). A snubbery!

I could go on. And yet here we are in 2014, and Paul (27.4 PER) is about to make his return to the Los Angeles Clippers after missing over a month with a separated shoulder – and I’m thinking about fading the Clippers (35-18 SU, 30-23 ATS) against one of the tankiest teams from the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers (15-36 SU, 20-31 ATS). Why? Primarily because L.A. is a 16-point favorite on the early NBA lines for Sunday’s contest. That’s up from 15 points at the open.

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New Orleans is Sinking

Even though Paul has been fighting from underneath all his life, and even though he’s one of the Top 5 players in the world, I not so sure his return improves the Clippers enough to warrant that kind of point spread. I expect casual bettors to overvalue L.A. in this situation because they’re not taking Darren Collision (16.8 PER) into consideration. Paul is obviously an upgrade at point guard, but it’s not like the Clippers were getting replacement-level production from Collison.

Fortunately, we’ve got something better than my hunches: actual data. This isn’t the first time Collision has backed up Paul during an extended injury layoff. In 2009-10, Paul (23.7 PER) suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee while playing for the New Orleans Hornets and ended up missing 25 games. Collison (16.5 PER) was in his rookie year, fresh out of UCLA, and he led the Hornets to an 8-17 SU and 10-14-1 ATS record while Paul was out. New Orleans was 29-28 SU and 27-30 ATS otherwise. Hmm.

Epistles

And how about this year? The Clippers are 13-6 SU and 10-9 ATS with Paul out of the lineup, compared to 22-12 SU and 20-14 ATS with him starting at the 1-spot over Collison. Interesting. The SU records have hardly charged in this case, but L.A. was outperforming the NBA betting lines by a wide margin with Paul in the mix.

This actually makes plenty of sense. The 2009-10 Hornets weren’t that good of a team, and they needed everything they could get from Paul (who was having a down year for him) just to play at a .500 level. The 2013-14 Clippers are much better than that. They can still win games with Collison. But to really crush the NBA odds, they need an elite point guard like Paul – and they need Collison to keep outplaying the second units he sees when he comes in off the bench.

All well and good, but 16 points? It can happen. In fact, the Clippers have been favored by at least 16 points on three occasions since Paul joined the team, and they’re 3-0 SU and 2-0-1 ATS in those three games. Extend the parameters to 10 points or higher, and L.A. is 27-3 SU and 17-11-2 ATS in 30 games since November 2012. And let’s not forget that the 76ers are really, really bad – especially their bench players. Looks like I’ll be with the chalkeaters on Sunday (9:30 p.m. ET) after all.

NBA Pick: Take the Clippers –15 (–105) at Pinnacle

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