Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to March 26 inclusive:
The NBA playoffs may still be about three weeks into the future, but there will be a playoff-like atmosphere on Friday when the New York Knicks (30-42 SU, 31-41 ATS) visit the Phoenix Suns (43-29 SU, 47-24-1 ATS). Both teams are fighting for the No. 8 playoff seed in their respective conferences, and both teams have been playing some very good basketball of late. Phoenix is laying 5.5 points on the NBA odds board with a total of 210. Let’s get right to it.
This is the version of the Knicks we expected going into the season. The reigning Atlantic Division champions have won nine of their past 11 games at 7-4 ATS to creep ever-closer to the Atlanta Hawks for eighth place in the East, and the Hawks are vulnerable again now that Pero Antic has sprained his ankle. John Hollinger’s advanced stats only give New York a 7.8-percent chance of making it in as we go to press, but this is a special case with Atlanta wracked by injuries and the Knicks on a high since new PBO Phil Jackson stared negotiating his takeover.
Hope is a strong motivator. But before we get give Jackson credit for casting his Zen spell over the Knicks, we should point out that this hot streak also coincides with the promotion of Amar’e Stoudemire (18.3 PER) to the starting lineup. He’s played 28 minutes per game in March, enough to restore that powerful New York frontline alongside Carmelo Anthony (25.0 PER) and Tyson Chandler (17.6 PER). And on the perimeter, J.R. Smith (12.8 PER) is playing his best basketball of the year now that he’s getting a regular turn in the starting five. Consistency counts for something in the NBA.
and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!
The Suns can attest to that. They’re also at close to full health for the first time in a long time now that Eric Bledsoe (19.6 PER) is back in the rotation. Phoenix is 7-2 SU and 6-3 ATS since Bledsoe made his return from knee surgery, and the former L.A. Clipper has really stepped up his game now that he’s had some time to get his sea legs back. Bledsoe dumped 23 points and seven assists on the Washington Wizards in Wednesday’s big 99-93 win, cashing in the Suns as 1.5-point road faves and lifting them into eighth place in the West.
You may remember Bledsoe from his work earlier this season, when he and Goran Dragic (22.0 PER) wove their backcourt magic and Phoenix burst out of the gate at 19-11 SU and 22-7-1 ATS. The Suns are still the most profitable team in the NBA, but they’ve obviously done their best work with Bledsoe and Dragic paired together. Now Gerald Green (15.9 PER) gets to do his thing (39.2 percent from downtown) as a sixth man against lesser bench players.
Which brings us back to the Knicks. They might have one of the best frontcourts in the league now that STAT is more involved, but the backcourt is a bone of contention with Ray Felton (12.9 PER) running the point next to Smith, and it’s a bit early to be heaping praise upon Tim Hardaway Jr. (12.8 PER) and Iman Shumpert (9.5 PER). They’re the alleged future of the Knicks, but in the present, they’re at the bottom of the team’s Simple Rating chart (as per 82games) among regular players, at minus-2.9 for Shumpert and minus-4.5 for Hardaway. Friday’s matchup (10:00 p.m. ET) looks like a good spot for us to earn while they learn.
NBA Pick: Take the Suns –5.5 at 5Dimes