Jason’s 2018-19 NBA picks record through Apr. 12: 25-28-1 ATS, 0-4 ML (minus-9.35 units), 34-21 Totals
San Antonio (48-34 SU, 43-37-2 ATS) at Denver (54-28 SU, 42-40 ATS)
Series Starts Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Free NBA Pick: Nuggets
Recommended Sportsbook: 5Dimes
Here we are once again: the NBA playoffs. This is where we take everything that we learned during the regular season and chuck it straight out the window. The playoffs are indeed a different animal; we’re going to see the value of veteran leadership, we’re going to see a whole lot of iso-ball, and in the end, we’re going to see young, vibrant teams like the Denver Nuggets struggle to cope.
But at these series prices, there’s no way we’re not recommending the Nuggets for your NBA picks. Over at Bovada, the Nuggets are pegged at –230 to defeat the San Antonio Spurs (+190) in the first round, and that’s a bargain and a half according to the projections at FiveThirtyEight. They’ve got Denver eliminating the Spurs 89 percent of the time, which suggests a “fair’ price of –809 using the glorious SBR Odds Converter.
A lot has changed with both these teams in recent years. The Nuggets are in the playoffs for the first time since the Masai Ujiri-George Karl regime came to an untimely end in 2013. The Spurs are back for the 22nd straight year under head coach Gregg Popovich (!), but this isn’t the same powerhouse it used to be. In fact, it’s the weakest of all those Popovich teams at plus-1.80 on the Simple Rating System at Basketball Reference.
It’s a testament to Popovich’s skills that the Spurs aren’t on the golf course right now. Well, maybe he could have handled that whole Kawhi Leonard thing better. Once Leonard decided he was leaving town, the die was cast; trading Leonard and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan (plus-0.9 BPM) and Jakob Poeltl (plus-4.2 BPM) was yet another coup for Ujiri, and effectively caps San Antonio’s chances of making a deep run in this year’s playoffs. Gotta love Poeltl’s development, though.
As for the Nuggets (plus-4.19 SRS), they have one of this year’s top MVP candidates in Nikola Jokic (plus-9.5 BPM), easily the best player on either team. They also have arguably the second-best player in Paul Millsap (plus-2.4 BPM). After that, it’s a collection of interesting and mostly anonymous role players. What Denver lack in star power, they make up for in depth, and that anonymity only gives them more value on the NBA odds board. The Nuggets might not get much further than the second round, but they’re clearly the superior team in this matchup – and well worth a chunky bet at these odds.