Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to February 6 inclusive:
So it occurred to me the other day that our polarized society is an outstanding development – if you’re betting on the NBA. Just like we’ve been divided into Red State vs. Blue State and Jock vs. Nerd, the difference between sharps and squares has never seemed wider. Technology (in the form of computing power and Big Data) allows sharps to make ever-smarter decisions, while at the same time, technology (in the form of 24-hour advertainment and 99-cent tacos) allows squares to make ever-dumber decisions. Just add money and stir.
Even the NBA itself has become polarized. You’ve got a handful of teams trying to win, and a whole bunch of teams desperate to lose. Also, you’ve got 29 American teams versus one Canadian team. Of course, you realize, this means war.
Oklahoma City vs. Orlando (7:00 p.m. ET)
Here’s the perfect meeting of the haves and have-nots. The Thunder (40-11 SU, 30-21 ATS) have been absolutely crushing it at 12-1 SU and 10-3 ATS since the middle of January. As you may have heard, Kevin Durant (31.0 PER) is well on his way to being named league MVP, scoring 29.4 points per 36 minutes. He’s become our new Michael Jordan, just like people said would happen back when Durant was playing for the Texas Longhorns.
And on the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got the Magic (14-37 SU, 21-30 ATS). They’re 4-17 SU and 6-15 ATS since New Year’s Eve. Now, it’s important to be careful when cherry-picking these ATS stats: I could also say that OKC is 3-3 ATS in its last six, and Orlando is 4-5 ATS in its last nine. But the Magic are what they are – two decent players in Aaron Afflalo (17.6 PER) and Nikola Vucevic (17.9 PER), plus a bunch of kids and washouts. They’re also paying Hedo Turkoglu $12 million this year to play spot duty for the Los Angeles Clippers.
NBA Pick: Take the Thunder –9 (–108) at Pinnacle
Cleveland vs. Washington (7:00 p.m. ET)
So the Cavaliers (16-33 SU, 19-30 ATS) have fired Chris Grant. Who is Chris Grant? That’s part of the problem. He was the GM who took over for Danny Ferry in 2010 after both Ferry and LeBron James left town. For some reason, Ferry was criticized for only getting the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals, and never quite putting enough good talent around LBJ to win the title. Now Ferry’s rebuilding the Atlanta Hawks (25-23 SU, 26-22 ATS) and doing a fine job of it.
As for Grant, he was responsible for the re-hiring of Mike Brown as head coach, and the selection of Anthony Bennett (3.8 PER) with the first overall pick in the 2013 Draft. But unless you’re a hardcore NBA fan, you haven’t heard Grant’s name until now, because of Dan Gilbert. The Wizards (24-24 SU, 26-22 ATS) and GM Ernie Grunfeld are showing the Cavs how a middle-tier Eastern Conference playoff contender gets the job done. They’re 3-2 SU and 4-1 ATS in their last five games.
NBA Pick: Take the Wizards –8.5 at Ladbrokes
Toronto vs. L.A. Clippers (10:30 p.m. ET)
So Toronto (26-23 SU, 30-19 ATS) lost 109-101 to the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday. There are two much more important takeaways from that game. One, and most importantly, the Raptors were actually pegged as 1-point road dogs by the NBA betting market. The Raptors, who were 15-8 SU and 18-5 ATS since Christmas. Against the Kings. Two, the refs absolutely hosed Kyle Lowry (20.0 PER) at the end of the game with a critical foul, plus a technical when Lowry ran to the other end of the court to avoid getting a technical.
The NBA has been treating the Raptors like second-class citizens since Day One in 1995, when they and the Vancouver Grizzlies weren’t allowed to use the full salary cap for two years, and weren’t allowed a Top-5 draft pick in their first draft or a No. 1 pick for four years. New GM Masai Ujiri has done a great job of circling the wagons and making underappreciated guys like Lowry and all the ex-Kings from the Rudy Gay trade feel wanted. The Clippers (34-18 SU, 29-23 ATS) won’t have Chris Paul (27.4 PER) back until Sunday, so this is one more chance for Toronto to take advantage of an inelastic market.
NBA Pick: Take the Raptors +6.5 at BetDSI