Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to February 20 inclusive:
Tom Thibodeau should be named NBA Coach of the Year again. What he did in 2010-11 in his first year as a head coach was something special, guiding the Chicago Bulls to the top of the league standings at 62-20 SU and a glorious 49-31-2 ATS. But what Thibodeau is doing this year is even more magical. Without Derrick Rose, and now without Luol Deng, he’s got the Bulls playing harder than ever, winning four in a row SU and ATS to move into fourth place in the Eastern Conference at 28-25 SU and 26-27 ATS. Remarkable.
Shows what a Coach of the Year can do for you. The Denver Nuggets (25-28 SU, 23-30 ATS) had one of those last year in George Karl, then they tore down the front office and started anew with first-year head coach Brian Shaw. He could be a good one, but for now, Shaw’s still learning his craft, and the Nuggets are on the outside of the Western playoffs looking in. They’re also getting seven points from the Bulls on Friday’s NBA odds board with a total of 192.5, down from 194 at the open.
Everything about the Bulls screams “fade,” except for the results. They looked like they had no hope of making the playoffs after Rose suffered yet another major injury, but D.J. Augustin (16.0 PER) was plucked off the waiver wire and has scored 16.2 points per 36 minutes off the bench while hitting 43.4 percent of his threes. Then the Bulls traded Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but Jimmy Butler (13.5 PER) is providing strong defense as Chicago’s glue guy.
And all this is happening with what has basically turned into a seven-man rotation. It’s not like this is the youngest team in the league, either: Chicago’s average age is 28.6. Only four NBA teams are older. Yet here we are in late February, and the Bulls are crushing it. They just downed the red-hot Toronto Raptors 94-92 on their own court Wednesday, beating the basketball odds as 3-point puppies.
Be sure to take a look at my NBA Picks of the Day article for more free plays.
It’s Miller Time – But Not Here
Shaw hasn’t been quite as successful at getting Denver to overcome the loss of its starting point guard and best player. Ty Lawson (20.0 PER) has missed the past four games with a fractured rib, after sitting out two games at the end of January with a sore shoulder. The Nuggets are 1-5 SU and ATS during that span; they finally got off the schneid in Thursday’s 101-90 win over the woeful Milwaukee Bucks (+5 at home), but even that payday wasn’t secured until the final minutes.
This whole scenario might have been avoided if Shaw and point guard Andre Miller (13.7 PER) hadn’t exchanged words back on New Year’s Day, after Miller was made a healthy scratch for the first time in his career. With Miller sent home, Lawson out and Nate Robinson (16.0 PER) lost for the season to a torn ACL, the Nuggets have had to use Randy Foye (12.5 PER) and Evan Fournier (9.4 PER) as point guards. It hasn’t always been pretty.
Denver, we have a solution. On Thursday, the Nuggets sent SF Jordan Hamilton (13.6 PER) to the Houston Rockets in exchange for their third-string point guard, Aaron Brooks (12.3 PER). Then the Nuggets swung a three-way deal that sent Miller to the Washington Wizards, and brought Jan Vesely (11.5 PER) over from Washington. Brooks never did live up to the promise he showed when he was Houston’s starting point guard in 2009-10, but he can run the offense until Lawson makes it back. And who knows, maybe Shaw has the right system for Brooks, just like Thibodeau had the right system for Augustin. They’ll just have to prove it first before I’ll be betting on the Nuggets again.NBA Pick: Take the Bulls –7 at Bookmaker