Some NBA teams, especially those expected to make the playoffs and contend for the league championship, use the exhibition season to develop young talent and depth, while resting their starters.
Some teams, especially those on the lower rungs of the league, who haven't made the playoffs in recent seasons, might use the preseason to try and develop a winning attitude heading into the regular season.
And for bettors, it's sometimes tough to discern what some teams are doing. Sometimes, it looks like the teams themselves don't know what they're doing.
We're 2-2 on preseason NBA picks so far, and for three of those games the ATS was decided by less than a basket.
And folks think the REGULAR season is bad on the heart.
Here's our take on some of Thursday's NBA betting action.
Cavaliers -4 vs. Detroit (7:05 pm ET)
As if these division rivals don't see enough of each other during the regular season, Kyrie Irving and Cleveland host the Pistons for a preseason game Thursday night.
The Cavs are 2-1 this exhibition season, after losing to Charlotte Tuesday 92-74.
Detroit is 1-2 this preseason, after losing to Chicago Wednesday night 96-81.
The Pistons won just 29 games last year, then over the off-season brought back 37-year-old Chauncey Billups and brought in PG Brandon Jennings and F Josh Smith.
Billups could still help, but he's been very limited the last couple of seasons because of injuries. Once you tweak an Achilles tendon, you're never the same.
Over the last couple of games Smith has played 30 and 29 minutes, while Billups hasn't even played. He's not hurt; Detroit is just resting him, and he could see some court time Thursday night.
And Jennings hasn't even played yet this preseason, as he deals with an impacted wisdom tooth. Ouch.
These two teams, after missing the playoffs the last few seasons, probably approach the preseason with similar agendas. They both probably take things a little more seriously than some other outfits, as they try to develop a winning atmosphere. But they're also trying to develop some young guys and some depth. If this game were being played during the regular season, the line would probably be about the same.
Most NBA sportsbooks opened the Cavs at around -4.5 point for this game, and many then dropped the hook. Thanks much. We'll go with Cleveland at the -4 offered at Pinnacle for our first free pick for Thursday.
Free NBA Picks: Cleveland Cavs -4
Miami Heat vs. Brooklyn Nets
Miami is the two-time defending league champ, but in an effort to challenge the Heat in the East Brooklyn made a big deal over the off-season, adding some serious veteran talent. These two teams could easily meet up in the playoffs in the spring.
Miami is 3-1 this exhibition season, after losing to Washington Tuesday 100-82. We found it somewhat surprising James, Wade and Bosh all played at least 24 minutes in that game.
Brooklyn is also 3-1 this preseason, after beating Boston Tuesday 82-80.
With the acquisition of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from Boston the Nets are suddenly rivals with the Heat. KG and Pierce battled with the Heat for supremacy in the Eastern Conference the last several season, and those two now bring a note of animosity for Miami to Brooklyn.
On the injury front Nets G Deron Williams hasn't played yet this year because of a sprained ankle, and he'll also miss tonight's game.
Again, it can be hard to figure out in advance how a team might approach an exhibition game, but this is suddenly a rivalry. And while this may just be a preseason game we get the feeling the Heat might try to send a little message to Brooklyn.
Free NBA Picks: We'll take Miami at the -1.5 points