NBA Picks: Home Court Gives Timberwolves the Edge Against Blazers

Jason Lake

Saturday, December 5, 2015 12:38 PM UTC

Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015 12:38 PM UTC

Their rebuilding project may be one year behind schedule, but the Minnesota Timberwolves are finally beating the NBA odds. Can they beat the Portland Trail Blazers?

Jason's 2015-16 record as of Dec. 5: 8-8 ATS, 1-0 Total


They were the worst team in the league last year, but today, the Minnesota Timberwolves can stand proud with their heads held high, secure in the knowledge that they've become an average NBA team. Not just that, at 8-10 (10-8 ATS) going into Friday's action, the Timberwolves are in eighth place in the Western Conference. You read that right. As we go to press, there are 10 winning teams in the East and just six in the West.

The Wolves continue their playoff push Saturday night (8:00 p.m. ET) when they host the Portland Trail Blazers, who are just a shade behind Minnesota at 8-12 SU and 10-10 ATS. The Blazers are 2-point road dogs on our NBA odds, so the betting market must think they're the superior team on neutral ground. We beg to differ.


New West Order
It shouldn't take too much convincing. Each team has a point differential of –0.4 thus far; Minnesota's schedule has been a bit tougher, so Basketball-Reference gives the Wolves a +0.23 on its Simple Rating System. The Blazers are about one point behind Minnesota at –0.71 SRS. It seems the market has yet to fully embrace the new reality in the Western Conference.

There's some extra value hidden behind those numbers, too. Ricky Rubio (16.8 PER, +2.6 BPM) has missed six games for Minnesota due to injury; the Wolves went 1-5 SU and 3-3 ATS without their starting point guard. Rubio was back in action Tuesday after missing a pair of games with a sore left ankle, and he looked healthy enough – although he did brick all five of his shots in a 96-93 loss to the Orlando Magic (+1.5 away).


Meyers Leonard Personality Test
We're a bit concerned that Portland's betting value is capped by the need to develop Noah Vonleh (4.6 PER, –6.2 BPM) at power forward. In theory, Vonleh could be their next LaMarcus Aldridge, but it's very much a work in progress. That didn't stop the Blazers from beating the Indiana Pacers (–2.5 away) 123-111 on Thursday. Vonleh posted a minus-6, making him the only starter in negative territory.

Otherwise, Portland is a lovely under-the-radar NBA pick with a deep bench and a solid roster of no-name talent surrounding Damian Lillard (22.0 PER, +3.6 BPM). And if we're going to throw the Wolves a bone regarding the Rubio injuries, we have to do the same for the Blazers and Meyers Leonard (12.0 PER, –1.0 BPM). He missed seven games with a dislocated shoulder; Portland was 2-5 SU and 4-3 ATS during his absence. Hmmmph. Anyway, Leonard has been back for four games now, and he performed well against the Pacers, so maybe we won't get to see so much of Vonleh on Saturday. Better make this a suitably tiny wager on Minnesota.

NBA Pick: Timberwolves -2 at Heritage

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