NBA Picks: Go 'Over' 212 Between Up-Tempo Nuggets & Rockets

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, October 27, 2015 10:29 PM GMT

The Houston Rockets are one of the legitimate contenders for the 2015-16 NBA title and they open the news season Wednesday night at home against a rebuilding Denver Nuggets squad. Houston is -10 on YouWager's NBA odds with a total of 212.

Nuggets Are Lottery-Bound
It wouldn't surprise me if Denver finishes with the worst record in the Western Conference this season. The Nuggets' big offseason  move was trading their best player, point guard Ty Lawson, to Houston. Lawson had recently been arrested twice for DUI and had really fallen out of favor in the organization with his attitude. Thus the Nuggets got only about 20 cents on the dollar in the trade. Denver got a bunch of reserves and a 2016 lottery-protected first-round pick. The Rockets get a borderline All-Star talent who vastly upgrades their point-guard position. Lawson averaged 15.2 points and 9.6 assists – third-most in the league – in 2014-15.

The Nuggets already have Lawson's replacement on hand in Emmanuel Mudiay, who was taken with the No. 7 overall pick in this year's draft. On LadbrokesNBA odds, Mudiay is the +350 favorite to win NBA Rookie of the Year. He had been dealing with a minor hamstring injury but will play here. Mudiay showed signs of stardom in the Summer League and preseason but he also had some rough patches. He's only 19 and didn't play a second of NCAA basketball, instead opting to play in China last year when he wasn't eligible to play at SMU.

Denver also has a new head coach in Mike Malone, who was fired by the Kings early last season. He replaced Melvin Hunt, who took over on an interim basis last season for Brian Shaw, who was fired in early March.

The Nuggets will start the season without two injured regulars in forward Wilson Chandler, who is a likely trade candidate this season, and center Jusuf Nurkic. Chandler is dealing with a right hip strain, while Nurkic underwent knee surgery in May to repair a torn patella tendon. He could return sometime next month. Nurkic is definitely a part of the team's future as the Bosnian was part of the All-Rookie Second Team last year.

Denver's starting five on Wednesday should be Mudiay, Gary Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and Joffrey Lauvergne.

 

Rockets Won't Have Howard
Houston is the defending Southwest Division champion and was the No. 2 seed in last year's Western Conference playoffs. The Rockets easily handled the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs and then surprised the Los Angeles Clippers in the next round, thanks to an amazing Game 6 comeback. However, the Golden State Warriors outclassed the Rockets in the West Finals. The Rockets are +1000 on Ladbrokes' NBA picks to win the West this season.

One reason Houston couldn't keep up with Golden State was that the Rockets were so weak at point guard with starter Patrick Beverley out injured. He was re-signed this offseason and now will come off the bench with the second unit. Lawson is a vastly superior offensive player and ball-handler. The Rockets want to play even faster this season with Lawson running the offense. He should take a lot of ball-handling pressure off James Harden, last year's NBA MVP runner-up. Harden also should get more catch-and-shoot opportunities.

The Rockets won't be at full strength for this one. Center Dwight Howard, no longer a superstar but still a very good player when he can stay healthy, is suspended for the opener because he received four flagrant fouls in last year's playoffs. Also out is forward Donatas Motiejunas due to lower back pain. So your starting five will be Lawson, Harden, Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones and Clint Capela in Howard's spot. Capela averaged 8.3 points and 8.8 rebounds this preseason and recorded three double-doubles.

 

Last Season
Houston was 4-0 vs. Denver, sweeping the regular-season series for the first time since 2002-03. The Houston Rockets averaged 113.8 points on 44.2 percent shooting while Nuggets averaged 103.8 ppg on 41.1 percent from the field. Harden averaged 35.8 points, 7.8 assists and 7.0 rebounds and shot 58-of-66 from the line in the four games. Howard averaged 25.0 points and 14.5 rebounds. Lawson averaged 14.0 ppg and 12.0 apg for Denver. Both teams have scored at least 100 points in eight of the past nine meetings with Houston reaching triple digits all nine times.

NBA Picks: Love the 'over' at YouWager as both teams are going to run. Take Houston even without Howard. The Rockets are 9-3 ATS in their past 12 at home. The 'over' is 4-1 in Denver's past five vs. the West. The 'over' is 7-2 in the past nine meetings. 

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