As is often the case, there are eight very good teams in the Western Conference playoffs. But have no fear – we’ve got our basketball picks for each of the four first-round series, plus some handy ATS advice.
Jason’s record as of Apr. 16: 72-72-5 ATS, 10-15 Totals, plus-0.15 units ML
Things didn’t unfold quite the way we envisioned them, but in the end, the New Orleans Pelicans did indeed grab that No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. The Phoenix Suns fizzled after trading both Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas, and the Oklahoma City Thunder came up a game short despite trading for Enes Kanter – losing Kevin Durant for the season might have had something to do with it.
Good health will obviously play a role for all eight teams who made the Western playoffs. So will the arrival of all the casual fans who’ll be making their NBA picks now that the games “mean something.” As we did with the East, we’re providing our basketball picks for each first-round matchup, based on the series price at The Greek as we go to press. We’ll also give some ATS pointers for good measure.
No. 1 Golden State Warriors vs. No. 8 New Orleans Pelicans (+2250)
Once more with feeling, folks: No. 1 conference seeds are 197-122 SU and 148-166-5 ATS over the past decade. We feel better about the Warriors (67-15 SU, 47-34-1 ATS) then we do about the Atlanta Hawks in the East, but then again, we also feel way better about the Pelicans (45-37 SU and ATS) than we do about the other No. 8 seed, the Brooklyn Nets.
There’s no way we’re going to eat that –5000 series price on the Warriors. Yes, we expect them to win the series, but it’s not a deadbolt lock against Anthony Davis (30.8 PER) and the replenished Pels lineup. Fly, Pelican, fly.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Pelicans
No. 2 Houston Rockets (–280) vs. No. 7 Dallas Mavericks
This is where we see if the Mavericks (50-32 SU, 36-44-2 ATS) are able to execute their master plan with Rajon Rondo (12.4 PER) at point guard. It wasn’t working during the regular season, and we’re not going to assume it’ll work now just because it’s the playoffs, but we’re prepared to hop on the Dallas bandwagon at any sign of success.
Meanwhile, the Rockets (56-26 SU, 48-34 ATS) have the best player in this series in James Harden (26.7 PER), they’ve gotten good results out of Josh Smith (15.2 PER) since adding him for practically nothing, plus they’ve got Dwight Howard (19.2 PER). Dial us up.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Rockets
No. 3 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 6 San Antonio Spurs (–160)
This would make a great NBA Finals matchup – stupid conference format. NBA odds makers know that the defending champion Spurs (55-27 SU, 41-39-2 ATS) won’t have home-court advantage, and they might be a bit chalky here, but we like their depth and their head coach, Gregg Popovich.
The Clippers (56-26 SU, 37-44-1 ATS) have the talent to pull this off. They’ve got Chris Paul (26.0 PER), once again the best player in the series. And they’ve got sixth-man Jamal Crawford (16.6 PER) back in time for the playoffs. But their bench is still suspect, and the Clips don’t have nearly the same playoff experience as San Antonio.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Spurs
No. 4 Portland Trail Blazers vs. No. 5 Memphis Grizzlies (–180)
We’re just about ready to stick a fork in the Trail Blazers (51-31 SU, 40-41-1 ATS). They’ve got injuries aplenty, and they went 0-4 SU and ATS to end the regular season. However, they did beat Houston in the first round last year, even if Portland did go 2-4 ATS along the way.
Memphis (55-27 SU, 40-40-2 ATS) “should” win this series, but it all depends on the health of Mike Conley (18.6 PER) and Tony Allen (14.6 PER, plus-3.7 DBPM), who are both questionable for Game 1 on Sunday. Be prepared to bail on the Grizz ATS if things go pear-shaped.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Grizzlies