Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to March 5 inclusive:
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Ladies and gentlemen, is there a doctor in the house? Zach Randolph is not feeling well. The two-time All-Star came down with flu-like symptoms and was unable to suit up for Wednesday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets. Brooklyn took advantage and won 103-94 as a 1-point home chalk. Score another one for the good guys, although it was almost like found money after Randolph was scratched.
How important is Randolph to the Grizzlies? Important enough that as we go to press, the NBA lines for Friday’s matchup against the Chicago Bulls have yet to be released. Then again, the Bulls might be down a big man, too. Joakim Noah hurt his right thumb on Wednesday while posting a triple-double on the Detroit Pistons. Noah was wearing a splint after the victory and insists it’s just “a little boo-boo.” We shall see.
Noah Means Noah
As important as both of these players are to their respective teams, Randolph (17.8 PER) figures to be less important to the Grizzlies. We saw them have some success earlier this year without Marc Gasol (17.5 PER) while he was out with a sprained MCL. That was thanks in large part to your favorite player and mine, James Johnson (19.4 PER). Unfortunately, Johnson wasn’t given the starting assignment against Brooklyn. That honor went to Ed Davis (15.6 PER), although both men ended up playing less than Jon Leuer (18.4 PER), who was the hot hand on this occasion with 19 points in 26 minutes. Point being that Memphis has lots of supporting talent at power forward.
Noah (19.7 PER), meanwhile, is virtually irreplaceable. There’s a cavernous drop-off between him and Nazr Mohammed (8.7 PER), and Chicago has already been stripped of quite enough talent as it is, with the absence of Derrick Rose and the departure of Luol Deng. Noah has played 59 of Chicago’s 61 games this year; the two he missed, the Bulls lost SU and ATS. The Milwaukee Bucks (+6 at home) beat them 78-74 without Noah. Not good.
Left Eye Miller
There’s one other injury problem in Memphis: Mike Miller (12.2 PER) received a cut over his left eye on Wednesday and needed stiches. It doesn’t look like it’ll keep him out, though, and even if it did, Memphis has plenty of talent on the perimeter. Both Courtney Lee (16.1 PER) and Tony Allen (16.9 PER) have played very well his year, and we’ve seen a few things from Nick Calathes (11.7 PER), as well.
Aside from Noah, and Rose, the Bulls are as healthy as they’ve been all season, and their lineup got some added support with the arrival of Jimmer Fredette (16.5 PER), who has only gotten to play six minutes in two games thus far. These aren’t the same Bulls who were barely able to scrape together a backcourt rotation earlier this year. Coach Tom Thibodeau has generated consistent returns from his consistent seven-man rotation, so as long as Noah is good to go, Chicago should be just fine on Friday (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN).
In which case, this should be a very interesting matchup. Chicago won their previous meeting on Dec. 30, 95-91 as a 5-point road dog, but the Grizzlies were without Gasol that day. Which gives us a pretty good benchmark if Randolph has to sit this one out. I’m going to take the chance that he does, and that the NBA lines come out favorably enough to pick the Bulls. As always, keep your eyes glued to those injury wires, and may the sphere be with you.
NBA Pick: Take the Bulls