Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to April 3 inclusive:
You didn’t need a crystal ball to see that the Denver Nuggets were going to struggle this season. But how bad a team are they really? Probably not as bad as their 33-42 record (35-40 ATS) would suggest. They got caught in a pickle earlier this year when all three of their point guards were unavailable at the same time; otherwise, this is still a team with some talent. The Nuggets are definitely outperforming the market right now at 6-6 SU and 9-3 ATS over their past dozen games.
The Memphis Grizzlies (44-31 SU, 33-40-2 ATS) might end up joining Denver on the outside of the playoffs looking in. They’re one of three teams tied for the last two playoff spots in the Western Conference. But here’s what matters to basketball betting fans: 0-5 ATS. That’s how the Grizz fared in their recent five-game Western road swing. They return home Friday night (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN) to face the Nuggets as 9-point favorites on the NBA lines with a total of 200.
It’s not too often that a team loses its Executive of the Year and its Coach of the Year in the same week. But that’s what happened in Denver this summer. GM Masai Ujiri left to take over the Toronto Raptors, where he’s drawing rave reviews, not to mention a much larger paycheck. Then the Nuggets fired head coach George Karl with one year left on his contract. This was right after Denver’s best-ever regular season at 57-25 (49-32-1 ATS).
Downgrades happen. This is Brian Shaw’s first year as a head coach in the NBA, and it hasn’t gone entirely smoothly – recall the way veteran PG Andre Miller berated Shaw back on New Year’s Day after being given the first DNP-CD of his 15-year career. But you can’t blame Shaw for the injuries that have sidetracked the Nuggets this season. Most notably, Ty Lawson (19.1 PER) has missed 14 games in total; Denver went 4-10 SU and ATS without its best player.
Shaw was a point guard too, so it must have been painful for him to watch the Nuggets when both Lawson and Nate Robinson (15.7 PER) were injured and Miller was unavailable, having been sent home after making all that ruckus. However, point guard isn’t such a problem anymore. Lawson is back, and Aaron Brooks (15.2 PER) has been a capable back-up since arriving from the Houston Rockets at the trade deadline.
Now all the Nuggets have to do is find some more healthy forwards. J.J. Hickson (16.3 PER) is out for the rest of the year after tearing his right ACL, and Wilson Chandler (12.7 PER) could be shut down with a strained groin. Does this actually benefit Denver in the short term? Jan Vesely (15.1 PER) is definitely playing like someone who’s NBA life depends on making the most out of this audition.
Vitamin Lee Deficiency
Memphis goes into Friday’s matchup with almost a complete roster, but only one win in the past four games. That was Monday’s 94-92 squeaker over the Nuggets, who cashed in as 5-point home dogs despite having only 10 players available to dress. What’s going on with the Grizz? Part of it is Courtney Lee (14.7 PER), whose level of play has settled down after making such a hot start following his arrival from the Boston Celtics.
Or perhaps we can blame Memphis’ recent troubles on having to fly so much, so quickly during that eight-day, five-game road trip. I’d expect a better effort from the Grizzlies Friday night at The Grindhouse. But I’m taking Denver and all those points anyway.
NBA Pick: Take the Nuggets +9 (–105) at Pinnacle