Doug’s NBA Picks: 9-3-1
Sunday, 7:05 p.m. ET
Free NBA Pick: Thunder ATS
Best Line Offered: BetOnline
The Washington Wizards started the season like one of those old country western songs about stumbling and falling, coming out of the gate at 2-9 SU and ATS and playing really appalling basketball. Washington has played close to .500 basketball since, but there are zero indications this team is ready to make a climb back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture. That is especially true on the road, where the Wizards are as clumsy as a failing magician at 4-17 SU and 5-16 ATS, losing by almost 11 PPG.
Oklahoma City is back home after playing their last two games on the road and seven of previous nine. The Thunder have played steady if unspectacular basketball with an 8-3 record (7-4 ATS) in their last 11 outings. As compared to last year, OKC is more of a team and the players have a greater understanding of their roles and head coach Billy Donovan has figured out what works best for his roster and is doing a better job this season.
In looking to formulate NBA odds, my various power ratings have Oklahoma City as a 10 to 11 point favorite for this Sunday night affair.
Washington’s season might be ready to get a lot worse. After just nine games, Dwight Howard needed more back surgery and was lost for up to three months. Starting point guard John Wall is out six to eight weeks after surgery on left his Achilles tendon in his heel. And just the other day the Wizards announced Markieff Morris will be sidelined for at least six weeks with something called, transient cervical neuropraxia.
In terms of quality players, that leaves Washington with Bradley Beal, a just back from injury Otto Porter Jr. and 30-something role players Jeff Green and Trevor Ariza.
Ariza was traded for in December to help the Wizards defense and just five games into playing with Washington, he stated could not be the only player willing to defend, which was an immediate indictment on the other Wizards players. It’s little wonder Washington is 26th in field goal percentage defense and three-point defense given their cavalier attitude.
Among the many newer analytics numbers followed in the NBA these days is – Player Efficiency Ratings – which was developed by former ESPN.com columnist John Hollinger and current Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Memphis Grizzlies. In John’s words, “The PER sums up all a player’s positive accomplishments, subtracts the negative accomplishments, and returns a per-minute rating of a player’s performance.”
This individual look at players is not going to assure any team they make the NBA Finals, but it is worth noting that Oklahoma City is one of only two teams, the Clippers are the other, to have four players (out of 44) with a rating of 20.0 or higher.
Paul George has really gotten comfortable in a Thunder uniform and is their leading scorer. George’s play has helped center Steven Adams determine his role and he’s at a pace for career-highs in points and rebounds.
Russell Westbrook might be in the early stages of decline at age 30, with points and shooting percentages across the board declining, but he comes to play every night. Plus, he has more help with Dennis Schroder and Jerami Grant both averaging over 12 PPG.
For NBA picks, with the spread so large, this will not be an easy choice. Yet, it is impossible to overlook how bad Washington is on the road, all their injury’s and the fact Oklahoma City is 7-2 against team’s winning less than 40 percent of their games. With the home team having five of last six meetings, it’s the Thunder to beat the number.