NBA Picks: Magic vs. Wizards

Jason Lake

Monday, December 2, 2013 2:21 PM GMT

Monday, Dec. 2, 2013 2:21 PM GMT

The Washington Wizards aren’t in a hurry to join the tank brigade. They’re even carrying a small profit against the NBA odds into Monday’s matchup with the Orlando Magic.

Jason’s record on his final NBA picks for 2013, up to November 30 inclusive:

13-15 ATS

4-1 Totals

The line had to be drawn at some point. Not everyone in the NBA’s Eastern Conference is going to be able to draft Andrew Wiggins next summer. Or Jabari Parker, or Julius Randle. If you’re a team that’s been losing for years, and you already have a number of quality young players, why not, I don’t know, try to win some basketball games?

That appears to be the plan in D.C. The Washington Wizards (8-9 SU, 9-8 ATS) made their intentions known just before the regular season when they traded for center Marcin Gortat. Lo and behold, here are the Wizards in that soft middle of Eastern playoff contenders, sitting in the No. 5 seed as we go to press. They’ll try to keep up the pace on Monday when they host the Orlando Magic (6-10 SU, 8-8 ATS). The early NBA lines have the Wiz laying six points.

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Washington Heights

If you were a Wizards fan, how would you feel about losing on purpose? It’s been six years since Washington last made the playoffs, and six years since the team won 30 games during the regular season, let alone 40. Gilbert Arenas cannot save you now. Not that you’d want him to try; thanks to all that losing, the Wiz already have PG John Wall (20.9 PER), the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft and one of the most exciting young players in the game.

Washington’s starting backcourt also features SG Bradley Beal (13.7 PER), who’s canning 43.9 percent of his treys as a sophomore. However, Beal suffered a stress injury to his right leg last week and isn’t expected back until the holidays. Not a problem: Washington has won three of four at 2-2 ATS with both SF Martell Webster (16.8 PER) and SF Trevor Ariza (16.0 PER) in the starting five.

Middle Man

As for Gortat (17.3 PER), he’s been solid since coming over from the Phoenix Suns – along with some ballast – in exchange for injured center Emeka Okafor (15.8 PER last year) and a top-12 protected first-round pick next summer. Gortat isn’t quite as good defensively, but he’s got a bit more touch on the offensive end (57.7 TS%), and most of all, he’s healthy. Pair Gortat with Nene (17.6 PER), and you’ve got a quality starting unit for the next few seasons.

The bench isn’t too shabby, either, which is very important considering how often these guys are getting hurt. Not everyone in D.C. is enamored with President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld and the moves he’s made since taking over the program in 2003, but he did put together those good mid-aughts teams with Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler. And Grunfeld deserves credit for not subjecting Washington fans to another awful season. Thus far, at least.

Also make sure to check out our:

NBA Picks: Pacers vs. Trailblazers 

Magic Carpet Ride

This being the Eastern Conference, unless you’re the Miami Heat or the Indiana Pacers, you could easily end up missing the playoffs when all is said and done. Aside from the Chicago Bulls (plus-0.2), those are the only two teams in the East with a positive point differential as we go to press. Washington is minus-1.7, which is actually worse than the ninth-place Magic (minus-1.6).

Orlando needs a high draft pick more than Washington. There are some strong building blocks in place, anchored by center Nikola Vucevic (20.3 PER) and rookie guard Victor Oladipo (12.8 PER). But SF Tobias Harris (17.0 PER last year) is still out indefinitely with a high ankle sprain, and the Magic are 3-8 ATS since bagging the cash in their first five games. I’m on the Fade Brigade for Monday’s matchup.

NBA Pick: Take the Wizards –6 (–108) at Pinnacle

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