Spurs Laying Points to Timberwolves in Opener Even with Leonard Out

kawhi leonard

Jay Pryce

Wednesday, October 18, 2017 12:46 PM UTC

Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017 12:46 PM UTC

The San Antonio Spurs, without stars Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker, are small favorites to top the new-look Minnesota Timberwolves in the season operner for each Wednesday night (9:30 ET). Prediction and preview here.

Minnesota Timberwolves at San Antonio Spurs (-1.5)

The Spurs are fourth choice among sportsbooks to win the 2017-18 NBA championship at +1600 odds. The last time they missed the postseason was in 1996. The overwhelming expectations are they reach the playoffs with ease, but not to start the season scorching hot. Why? Stars Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker are out for the near future. Leonard, the 2014 NBA Finals MVP and two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, is ruled out indefinitely with a right quad injury. Parker, meanwhile, is about a month away from returning to the lineup after tearing his quadriceps tendon late last season. This will be the first season opener since 2001 he will not run the Spurs offense. Third-year pro Kyle Anderson will likely start at forward in Leonard’s spot, while 21-year-old Dejounte Murray operates the point.

By default, LaMarcus Aldridge becomes the go-to man offensively. The five-time All-Star struggled to fit into the Spurs’ unit last season. Aldridge’s 17.3 points per game were his lowest since his rookie year. A three-year contract extension, a healthy knee and a fresh direction in the exhibition period may boost production. Head coach Gregg Popovich worked on creating more space for Aldridge in the preseason. The 6-foot-11 center recorded a team-leading 18 points and 5 rebounds on 54.7 shooting.

Including the playoffs, the Spurs are 15-7 SU and 10-12 ATS with Leonard out of the lineup the last two seasons. The team is winning by 5.8 points per game, slightly outperforming the market while tipping off at a -3.2 average line. San Antonio finds ways to compensate for Leonard’s absence in regards to scoring. The squad has surpassed its team total in 18 of the 22 contests, posting 105.2 points per game.  Parker has missed more than half of these contests. With both stars on the bench, the Spurs are 7-5 SU and ATS, playing 5.9 points better than the number.

Expectations for the Timberwolves are through the roof. A flurry of offseason signings to complement budding superstars Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns has the team pointing to its first playoff birth since the 2003-04 season. It’s the longest drought among all NBA franchises. Three-time All-Star Jimmy Butler, 2015 All-Star Jeff Teague and three-time NBA Sixth Man of the Year winner Jamal Crawford are the newest pieces for head coach Tom Thibodeau. The team is currently eighth choice to claim the title at +5000 odds with a 48.5 over/under wins total.

For bettors, it’s tough to forecast how the Timberwolves will play tonight. Thibodeau has a good mix of veterans and young talent, is looking to improve the defense and is working on establishing a greater 3-point presence. But the fact of the matter is, this is a bunch that went 11-30 SU and 16-22-3 ATS on the road last season, tipping off as 3.6-point underdogs on average. Their inexperience cost them late in games, as third and fourth quarter leads vanished routinely. The new-look squad will likely salvage some of these this year, but not in San Antonio. Popovich and the Spurs do not beat themselves at home. They make other teams do that -- and have for 20 years. San Antonio is a system team with arguably stronger bench then last season. Look for Pop to have all the answers even with Leonard and Parker missing.

Free NBA Pick: Spurs -1.5Best Line Offered: BetOnline

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