NBA Picks: Eastern Conference Contenders Take Advantage of Break to Heal

Jason Lake

Thursday, February 12, 2015 1:03 PM GMT

Good thing the All-Star break is here, because the players need all the R&R they can get. We’ll catch you up on some of the most important injuries affecting the NBA odds in the Eastern Conference.

Jason’s record as of Feb. 12: 35-29-4 ATS, 2-4 Totals
 

There are easier jobs in the world than being an NBA player. Sure, you get paid well, but you also have to put your body on the line, day in and day out, in games and in practices. You get elbowed in the face. You get kicked in the shins. You sprain your ankles so often, it sounds like you’re wearing two bowls of Rice Krispies on your feet.

Every February, they let you rest for a while. The All-Star break is a welcome reprieve, even for the players who have to participate in the skills competition and the All-Star Game itself. This year’s mini-vacation has mercifully been extended to six days. Will that be enough time for the following injured players to heal up for the unofficial second half of the 2014-15 season? If not, the NBA odds won’t be kind to their respective Eastern Conference teams.
 

Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers (33-21 SU, 25-29 ATS) are Bovada’s 1-1 favorites to win the East as we go to press, but that could change if the reports aren’t good on Love (18.8 PER). He got whacked in the face by Mario Chalmers during Wednesday’s 113-93 win over the Miami Heat (+12 away). The word in Cleveland was that Love suffered a corneal abrasion and would be re-evaluated on Thursday, before the Cavs visit the Chicago Bulls in the final game heading into the break.

It’s no secret that Love has been struggling a bit in his new home. But he’s still a valuable piece of the puzzle in Cleveland; Love is third on the team with a plus-1.5 BPM, piling up 17.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists per 36 minutes. If he misses any action, that would likely push Tristan Thompson (15.7 PER) back into the starting lineup, which would leave the Cavaliers bench just about as thin as it was before last month’s wheeling and dealing.
 

Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
Anthony (21.7 PER) didn’t suit up for the Knicks on Wednesday when they lost to the Orlando Magic 89-83 as 6-point road dogs. He’s been having trouble with his left knee for some time and might decide to undergo surgery after things got worse in Monday’s 109-95 loss to the Heat (–4.5 at home). Going under the knife isn’t something to look forward to, but neither is walking with a cane.

It might also be in the best interest of the Knicks (10-43 SU, 21-30-2 ATS). They’re clinging to last place in the NBA standings, and if they really want to tank this season, putting Anthony on the injured list should be pretty effective. Remember that thing about the Knicks going 0-11 SU and 4-7 ATS without Anthony in the lineup? You can make that 0-13 SU and 5-7-1 ATS after Wednesday’s loss to Orlando.
 

Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
Can’t anyone on the Bulls (33-20 SU, 24-29 ATS) stay healthy? Butler strained his right shoulder while drawing a charge Sunday night against the Magic, but he played through it. Then he aggravated the injury on Tuesday versus the Sacramento Kings. At press time, Butler (21.3 PER) is considered questionable for Thursday’s aforementioned game against Cleveland.

We like our glue guys here at the home office, and Butler is one of the best. He’s No. 1 on the Bulls with 8.5 Win Shares and a plus-4.7 BPM, even though he doesn’t lead the team in any one major conventional stat other than steals (1.7 per 36 minutes). Fortunately for the Bulls, Butler’s injury doesn’t appear too serious, and all signs point for now to his return after the All-Star break. Try rubbing some cayenne pepper on it.