What do you do when there’s nothing left to prove? When it comes to NBA teams who have already locked in their playoff seeds, you need to know the answer when you’re making your basketball picks.
Jason’s record as of Apr. 9: 69-68-5 ATS, 8-13 Totals, plus-0.15 units ML
It’s getting pretty silly out there, folks. With just one week remaining in the regular season, there are plenty of NBA teams who have no reason to give it the proverbial 110 percent anymore. We’ve already talked about the tanking teams who are losing on purpose in order to improve their chances at the draft lottery; now let’s turn our attention to the other end of the league standings, where playoff-bound teams who have clinched their seeds have little incentive to add to their win totals.
Notice we said “little.” It’s not set in stone that the top teams will be resting all their starters and honking the last few games of the regular season. But it’s definitely something to watch out for when you’re making your NBA picks. Let’s have a look at how some of these potential fade candidates are approaching the final week before the playoffs.
Well, this is interesting. The Hawks (59-19 SU, 49-28-1 ATS) clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference two weeks ago, and head coach Mike Budenholzer indicated he would start handing out maintenance days to keep his team fresh for the postseason. That policy lasted for exactly one game before Budenholzer went back with his starting five. Developing cohesion took precedence over rest.
Then Budenholzer’s hand was forced. Paul Millsap (20.2 PER, plus-4.2 BPM) sprained his shoulder in Saturday’s 131-99 romp over the Brooklyn Nets (+10 away) and hasn’t played since. And you may have heard that Thabo Sefolosha (13.8 PER, plus-1.4 BPM) suffered a broken leg during a nightclub incident early Wednesday morning in New York. He’s out for the regular season and the playoffs. Sefolosha and Pero Antic (9.5 PER, minus-2.6 BPM) were arrested and released on their own recognizance; Antic was unharmed, but he was already dealing with a stiff neck and was likely to have his minutes curtailed anyway. So much for cohesion.
Golden State Warriors
No such issues in Oakland, where the Warriors (63-15 SU, 46-31-1 ATS at press time) are healthy and happy atop the Western Conference. They’ve been using their full roster down the stretch, winning 12 in a row at 10-2 ATS before dropping back-to-back road games to the San Antonio Spurs (–4.5) and the New Orleans Pelicans (+4.5). Head coach Steve Kerr has yet to indicate any wish to rest his players, although Andrew Bogut (15.9 PER, plus-4.2 BPM) would be an obvious candidate. The big Aussie might end up skipping the last two games of the regular season after he collects his juicy $1.9-million bonus for playing 65 games this year.
These are interesting times for the Raps (46-32 SU, 36-41-1 ATS). As NBA odds makers know, they clinched the Atlantic Division eons ago, and will finish either third or fourth in the East – which spot doesn’t really matter given the potential playoff matchups. What does matter is both the health and the playing condition of Kyle Lowry (19.6 PER, plus-3.8 BPM), who’s missed the last six games with back spasms. He’s expected to return Friday against the Orlando Magic in an effort to get ready for the postseason.
The Mavericks (47-31 SU, 33-43-2 ATS) are locked in at No. 7 in the West, and they’ve been a tremendous fade candidate for a while now at 8-11 SU and 4-15 ATS in their last 19 games. Head coach Rick Carlisle says his team is “playing to play better” this week, and he hopes that Chandler Parsons (16.4 PER, plus-2.6) and his swollen right knee will be able to get in a game or two before the postseason. But that’s looking iffy at this point. Expect more Richard Jefferson (10.9 PER, minus-0.8 BPM) and more dysfunction instead when you’re making your NBA picks this week.