If you go simply on talent alone, there's really no way the Cleveland Cavaliers and Sacramento Kings should be a combined 32 games under .500, but that's where they are entering Tuesday's matchup in Cleveland. At least the Cavs play in the horrid Eastern Conference so even at 18-33 they are still in contention for the eighth playoff spot. Cleveland opened as a 1-point favorite on NBA odds with a total of 204 for sports bettors.
First Domino Falls In Cleveland
Cleveland (21-30 ATS, 24-27 O/U at sportsbooks) was the first team to fire its general manager this season as Chris Grant got the gate last week. With so many recent high picks since LeBron James left, Grant has mostly drafted poorly other than getting Kyrie Irving No. 1 overall in 2011. This year's No. 1 overall pick, Anthony Bennett, looks like one of the big busts in NBA history thus far.
Grant made what many thought was a sound trade when he acquired Luol Deng in early January from Chicago for Andrew Bynum and some draft picks. Deng is a consummate pro and filled the team's biggest hole, which was small forward. However, it hasn't helped matters much as Cleveland is 5-10 since the deal. Deng reportedly has told confidants what a toxic mess the Cavs are and it seems unlikely he will re-sign there. And good luck luring LeBron back now. Irving could be the next to following King James out of Cleveland.
Maybe the Grant firing got the players' attention as Cleveland does enter this game off wins over Washington and Memphis after dropping its previous six games. Irving had a combined 51 points and 18 assists in the two wins. The Cavs could be down two rotation players for this game. Big man Anderson Varejao is totally beaten up although an MRI on his back came back negative. He's questionable as is swingman C.J. Miles because of a foot injury. He's playing well of late, averaging 19.7 points in the past three.
Same Old Story In Sactown
Dysfunction is nothing new in Sacramento as the Kings (23-26-2 ATS, 25-24-2 O/U at sportsbooks) will have their eighth straight losing season, but at least the fans there can be thankful the team isn't in Seattle. Sacramento has lost two straight and nine of 11 to drop to last place in the Western Conference. It's rather baffling how a team with three guys averaging more than 20 points -- DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas and Rudy Gay -- can be this bad. The Kings don't play much defense and turn it over too much. Cousins is the only player ranked in the Top 15 in scoring who wasn't chosen for the All-Star Game. He has four straight double-doubles since returning from an ankle injury.
The Kings are in a tough spot with Gay after acquiring him from Toronto. They would probably like him to not exercise his player option this offseason, but Gay very well might because it's for $19.3 million and he wouldn't get that much on the open market. Gay is shooting 51.5 percent from the field with Sacramento, which would be a career best.
One of Sacramento's best efforts of the season came Jan. 12 when the Kings routed visiting Cleveland 124-80 as 3-point favorites on NBA odds. Thomas had 26 points and Cousins 16 points and 11 rebounds while taking a seat for the entire fourth quarter. It was the largest margin of victory in the NBA this season and third-biggest in Kings history. Irving didn't play well, going 3-for-14 from the field for seven points and finishing a game-worst minus-29. Cleveland shot 38.8 percent from the field. At the time it was Sacramento's third straight win, which remains a season high.
NBA free pick: Cavaliers -1 on NBA odds. If Varejao doesn't play the Cavs are really going to struggle dealing with Cousins, but the Kings aren't any good on the road. They have failed to cover their past four against teams with a losing record as well. Take the under on NBA picks, which has hit in nine of Cleveland's past 10 at home.