NBA Picks: Nuggets vs. Wizards Friday

Jason Lake

Friday, December 5, 2014 1:27 PM GMT

Friday, Dec. 5, 2014 1:27 PM GMT

What the heck got into the Denver Nuggets? They’re steamrolling the NBA odds at 7-2 SU and 6-2-1 ATS in their last nine games. They might steamroll the Washington Wizards, too – it depends who plays.

Jason’s record as of Dec. 3: 12-11 ATS, 0-2 Totals

Well, here we go again. The Washington Wizards (12-5 SU, 8-9 ATS) are playing some pretty good basketball in the Eastern Conference, but as we go to press, the NBA odds are on hold for Friday’s game against the visiting Denver Nuggets (9-9 SU, 8-9-1 ATS). Not only does Nene remain doubtful to play with plantar fasciitis, now Paul Pierce is questionable after getting his toe stepped on during Wednesday’s 111-95 win over the Los Angeles Lakers (+8.5 away).

If that doesn’t add enough confusion to Friday’s matchup (7:00 p.m. ET, NBA-TV), how about the fact that the Nuggets are suddenly one of the hottest teams in the league? They’ve won seven of their last nine games, and they almost made it eight of nine before losing 105-103 to the Portland Trail Blazers (–3 away) on Tuesday. Apparently they didn’t get the memo about how bad they are.

So what’s changed since the Nuggets began the season at 1-6 SU and ATS? They’re playing better defense, for one. Denver has moved up from No. 26 (108.6 points allowed per 100 possessions) to No. 22 (105.3) on the defensive efficiency charts; the UNDER is 6-5 after starting the year at 2-4-1. The Nuggets are also getting better 3-point shooting from Aaron Afflalo (39.7 percent) and Wilson Chandler (38.6 percent), who jack up 11.5 trey attempts between them per 36 minutes.

But Denver’s hardly out of the woods yet. Their recent run was mainly at the expense of some shaky teams, and the Nuggets have been inconsistent when it comes to their production from day to day. Kenneth Faried (16.5 PER) has been particularly enigmatic, and Nate Robinson (9.8 PER) hasn’t provided the same spark off the bench that we’ve grown accustomed to. This Nuggets team seems destined to go up and down the standings all season long. We’re still expecting most of it will be down.

Otto Adjust
It’d be easier to fade the Nuggets if we knew whether or not Pierce (15.7 PER) was going to play. He’s no longer an All-Star at age 37, and consistency has been a problem for him as well, but Pierce is still better than average at both ends of the floor. If he doesn’t play Friday, Otto Porter Jr. (13.0 PER) is next on the depth chart. Porter has been putting in some good work on defense (plus-1.5 DBPM); otherwise, the sophomore from Georgetown is a definite downgrade from Pierce.

It’s not like Washington is starving for defense, either. This is the No. 5-ranked team in defensive efficiency (99.6), compared to No. 18 for offense (103.6). Even without Nene (plus-2.2 DBPM), the Wizards frontcourt is still well represented by Marcin Gortat (plus-2.3 DBPM), and All-Star point guard John Wall (plus-1.7 DBPM) is developing into a fine two-way player. Head coach Randy Wittman has steered this club in the right direction ever since taking the top job in 2012.

Mayor of Simpleton
Despite their offense/defense imbalance, the Wiz have the OVER at 10-7 this year, so that doesn’t give us much help with our NBA picks. As far as whatever the point spread might turn out to be, we can use the Simple Rating System at Basketball Reference to give us some guidance; they have Washington at plus-1.83 SRS and Denver at plus-1.01 SRS, so we might normally see the Wiz favored by around five points at home.

Since it’s our job, we’re going to make Washington our official basketball pick for this matchup. If Pierce doesn’t play, and the spread comes out at Wizards –5 or higher, you might want to go with the Nuggets instead. And may the sphere be with you.

Free NBA Pick: Take the Wizards

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