NBA Picks Raptors to cover vs. Heat

Jason Lake

Sunday, January 5, 2014 12:34 PM GMT

Is the cat out of the bag yet for the Toronto Raptors? It sure will be if they beat the Miami Heat and the NBA odds this Sunday night in South Beach.

Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to January 4 inclusive:

37-31-1 ATS

10-7 Totals

“Tonight’s NBA Pick is brought to you by Hooters.”

No. No, it’s not. Welcome to the reality-based community, where it’s my job to separate fact from fiction, not to spoon-feed you a pre-approved message from our sponsors. I’ve had the privilege to do this for over a decade now, and the more I get to do it, the smarter I become. I hope it’s the same for you, too.

Now let’s go out there and take some ignorant people’s money. I’m talking in this case about people who still think the Toronto Raptors are tanking the 2013-14 season. That’s if they’re even bothering to think before they place their bets on the Miami Heat this Sunday (6:00 p.m. ET). The first NBA lines from Vegas had Miami favored by 9.5 points with a total of 195.

Blame Canada

I’ve been on a bit of a rant lately about contrarian betting – in my view, the number of not-bright people entering the marketplace these days is outstripping the tremendously useful information available on the Internet. If you haven’t been watching the Raptors (16-15 SU, 17-14 ATS) lately, well, they’re 10-3 SU and ATS since Rudy Gay was pulled out of the lineup and shipped off to the Sacramento Kings. That includes a road win at +10.5 over the Oklahoma City Thunder – where the free throws are indeed brought to you by Hooters – and a New Year’s Day upset of the visiting Indiana Pacers (–5.5).

And yet people still refuse to believe it. There are a few dusty corners of the Web where smart basketball analysts have been praising the new-look Raptors from Day One. But mostly it’s blah blah blah Toronto can’t even get tanking right blah blah Rob Ford blah blah Mounties and maple syrup. That’s their narrative, and they’re sticking to it.

Be Like Masai

Of course, we’ve been here before. Almost two years ago, Denver Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks as part of a massive three-way deal that was seen at the time as a rebuilding move. The Nuggets made the playoffs instead, then they went 57-25 SU and 49-32-1 ATS last season to earn the No. 3 seed in the West. Ujiri was named NBA Executive of the Year.

Now Ujiri has worked his magic again, trading another brand-name high-volume scorer for some cap relief and a handful of useful reserves: Greivis Vasquez (10.9 PER), Patrick Patterson (14.8 PER), John Salmons (8.2 PER) and Chuck Hayes, although Hayes isn’t getting much floor time. Now that Gay is gone, ball distribution has improved, scoring is up, and the Raptors are playing much better defense. It’s all right there for anyone to see.

The Drug of the Nation

Fortunately for us, not too many people saw the Raptors-Pacers game – unless you were north of the border watching on TSN, or maybe on NBA League Pass, or more likely on an illegal Web stream. Sunday’s matchup could end up flying under the radar, too, thanks to the NFL playoffs. But if Toronto beats the Heat (25-8 SU, 15-18 ATS), I suspect people will start waking up, and maybe then they’ll start betting on the Raptors.

There’s one problem with betting for or against the Heat, though: You never know who’s going to play anymore. Will Dwyane Wade (22.6 PER) sit this one out after playing in Saturday’s 110-94 victory over the Orlando Magic (+10 at home)? Will Shane Battier (8.6 PER) return to action after sitting out the Orlando game with a sore quad? We shall see. I’ll gladly take the points one way or the other.

NBA Pick: Take the Raptors +9.5

[gameodds]5/251996/?r-1=43-19-349/us[/gameodds]