NBA Picks: Raptors vs. Suns

Jason Lake

Friday, December 6, 2013 12:32 PM GMT

Friday, Dec. 6, 2013 12:32 PM GMT

Looks like the Toronto Raptors are getting a little tanky in the Eastern Conference. They’ve dropped four straight against the NBA odds heading into Friday’s game with the Phoenix Suns.

Jason’s record on his final NBA picks for 2013, up to December 4 inclusive:

16-15 ATS

4-4 Totals

One game in an 82-game NBA betting season is a very small sample size. However, this past Tuesday’s matchup between the Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors speaks volumes about the Raptors. They were up by 27 points in the second half and 18 points going into the fourth quarter, but they lost 112-103 as 8-point road dogs when Golden State started lighting it up from 3-point range. That was the biggest fourth-quarter comeback for the Warriors in over 50 years.

Toronto had two days off to chew on that loss before facing the Phoenix Suns (10-9 SU, 13-5-1 ATS) on Friday at US Airways Center. While Toronto’s season is threatening to veer into Tankland, the Suns are fighting valiantly in the loaded Western Conference, upsetting the Houston Rockets (–9.5 at home) 97-88 on Wednesday to pad their already impressive record against the basketball spreads. Phoenix is a 4-point chalk on Friday’s NBA odds with a total of 200.5 points.

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Iceberg in Range

In theory, the plan for the Raptors and incoming GM Masai Ujiri was to give the playoffs a shot, but start piling into the tanks at the first sign of real trouble. Those signs are everywhere right now. Toronto has lost four games in a row SU and ATS after briefly holding down top spot in the Atlantic Division. Ujiri took to the airwaves on Thursday and told TSN 1050 that the Raptors would not be caught in “no man’s land” with their poorly constructed roster. Change appears to be imminent.

We’ve already seen a change in the starting lineup, where PF Tyler Hansbrough (15.1 PER) has been elevated over Amir Johnson (14.0 PER), a move that’s akin to shuffling the proverbial deck chairs on the proverbial Titanic. The real problem is on the perimeter, where the collection of SF Rudy Gay (15.6 PER), SG DeMar DeRozan (17.5 PER) and PG Kyle Lowry (16.8 PER) is simply taking too many bad shots and not moving the ball around, especially Gay. SG Terrence Ross (11.0 PER) remains more suspect than prospect coming off the bench, and there’s very little depth to speak of beyond that.

This Is How We Do It

Compare that mess to the one inherited by incoming Suns GM Ryan McDonough. The previous administration kick-started their rebuild by trading away PG Steve Nash, PF Hakim Warrick and center Robin Lopez for draft picks and assorted bits and pieces. They also signed SF P.J. Tucker (12.8 PER) on the cheap after five reasonably successful years playing internationally and developing his defensive game. Not a bad situation for McDonough to walk into.

The new administration took it to another level, shipping out a ton of veteran ballast for more draft picks and inexpensive assets with upside. They also brought in guard Eric Bledose (21.5 PER), who was stuck behind Chris Paul on the Los Angeles Clippers depth chart. The new-look Suns have the kind of balance and growth opportunity that the Raptors can only dream about at this point. They’re also willing to listen to head coach Jeff Hornacek, which doesn’t appear to be happening in Toronto with Dwayne Casey, a holdover from pre-Ujiri times who seems better suited as a defensive assistant, as he was with the NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks in 2011.

The efficiency stats for the full season suggest that these two teams aren’t very far apart; Toronto is No. 18 on offense and No. 9 on defense, while Phoenix is No. 10 in offense and No. 13 on defense. However, the Raptors are woefully imbalanced on the court, and after that loss to Golden State, they might be psychologically imbalanced, too. Laissez les bon chars rouler.

NBA Pick: Take the Suns –4 at Ladbrokes

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