Jason’s record on his final NBA picks for 2013, up to November 26 inclusive:
So what side of the Tank/Don’t Tank fence are you on? I suppose it depends on how lucky you feel. Take the Orlando Magic (6-9 SU, 8-7 ATS). They’ve parlayed losing seasons into high draft picks like Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber (flipped to Golden State for Penny Hardaway and more picks), Dwight Howard, and this year’s No. 2 overall selection, Victor Oladipo. Not a bad haul.
The question for Magic fans: Should they tank again? Not if they keep shooting themselves in the foot by winning basketball games. Orlando takes back-to-back victories into Friday’s matchup with the San Antonio Spurs, who have the best record in the Western Conference at 13-2 (8-7 ATS) and have covered six of their last nine games. NBA odds for this game were pending at press time.
Life Goes On, Brah
Oladipo is a talented player, but it doesn’t look like he’s a point guard, and the Magic sure could use a point guard. Check out Oladipo’s stats from Wednesday’s 105-94 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers: 18 points, five assists, five steals… and eight turnovers. Holy moley. Oladipo has the worst assist-to-turnover ratio in the league at 0.91. That’s right, more turnovers (54) than assists (49).
So why is Oladipo playing point guard, anyway? It’s partly because Jameer Nelson (11.9 PER) is on his last legs at age 31, and it’s partly because the Magic are trying a three-guard lineup with Tobias Harris (17.0 PER last year) missing most of this season with a sprained ankle. But Orlando seems content to feed Oladipo as many minutes as he can handle. Winning basketball games is secondary at this point.
Fordist Regimes of Accumulation
If the lottery balls bounce Orlando’s way, there are quality point guards available in the 2014 Draft. As ESPN’s Chad Ford has pointed out, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart would look pretty darned good in Magic blue. Let’s get those tanks in a circle! And if Harris happens to end up on the shelf for an extended period, so be it.
That’s how the Spurs became the Spurs, after all. In their case, David Robinson missed most of the 1996-97 season with multiple injuries, San Antonio won just 20 games, and the Lottery Gods granted the Spurs the No. 1 pick: Tim Duncan. They have made the playoffs every year since with four NBA championships, never finishing below .600 during the regular season. Who cares about 1997 anyway? Stupid death of alternative music.
There Are Some Who Call Me… Old
The Spurs have been pounding the basketball lines for so long, it’s a little too easy to go on auto-pilot and pick them every time without even paying attention. I’m paying attention this year. Every good thing has to come to an end, and this looks like it could be the beginning of the end for Duncan. Here’s his stats:
2012-13: 21.3 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists per 36 minutes; 24.4 PER, 0.191 Win Shares/48
2013-14: 15.0 points, 9.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists/36; 15.8 PER, 0.115 Win Shares/48
It should be impressive enough that Duncan is playing at an above-average level in the NBA at age 37. But these numbers are still the worst of Duncan’s outstanding career, and his 27.4 minutes per game are the lowest of his career. It might be time to turn off that auto-pilot feature before you bet on the Spurs. I’d also recommend waiting to hear further news on Harris’ status for the Magic before betting against them in this matchup. But for now, who will I add to our NBA picks? I’ll lean toward the Men in Black.
NBA Pick: Take the Spurs