It’ll be another 1-2 weeks before Kevin Durant returns to the OKC Thunder. Better fade them while you can. Next up: the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are having some issues against the NBA odds.
Jason’s record as of Mar. 11: 48-45-4 ATS, 4-8 Totals
Timberwolves vs. Thunder
Oklahoma City Thunder fans, take heart: Kevin Durant is coming back soon. Durant is reportedly 1-2 weeks away from returning to the Thunder lineup after missing the past 10 games with a broken foot. Oklahoma City (35-29 SU, 30-32-2 ATS) has fallen back into ninth place in the Western Conference; more importantly for our purposes, the Thunder are on a four-game ATS losing streak without the league’s reigning MVP.
This would normally be where we drop the anvil and tell you how great of an opportunity this is to bet on the Minnesota Timberwolves in Friday night’s matchup (8:00 p.m. ET) with the Thunder. But the Wolves (14-49 SU, 28-34-1 ATS) are just 1-3 SU and ATS in their last four games. Center Nikola Pekovic has been hurting, and he’s uncertain to play Friday, which is important enough to keep the NBA Odds off the board as we go to press.
The logic behind fading the Thunder still holds in a vacuum. Without Durant (27.7 PER) in the lineup, Russell Westbrook (29.8 PER) has been turned into a volume shooter, and while that allows Westbrook to rack up the triple-doubles, it also reduces his efficiency. He’s at minus-11.0 during this 0-4 ATS slump despite an average of 36.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 10.3 assists per game.
This is a problem for the Thunder, but it’s great for our NBA picks. Most casual bettors are blinded by per-game stats and don’t pay much attention to vaguer concepts like efficiency. We faded the Thunder again Wednesday night and got paid when they fell 120-108 to the Los Angeles Clippers (+6.5 away). Westbrook committed 10 turnovers in that game. Maybe that’ll get people to think twice about what Durant means to this team.
Ankle Before Zod
Having said all that, how many casual fans even think once about Pekovic (16.6 PER)? He’s been having a pretty ugly season this year, missing half the games to injury and posting a minus-4.0 BPM, down from plus-0.2 last year. Things got bad enough that Pekovic was benched after playing just eight minutes in Wednesday’s 106-97 loss to the Phoenix Suns (–5 at home). His right ankle has been acting up, and he might be kept out of the lineup again Friday – if not the rest of the season.
This could turn out to be a good thing, at least for us. If Pekovic doesn’t play, that means more minutes for Gorgui Dieng (17.4 PER), who leads the Timberwolves with a plus-2.9 BPM. However, we’re also not sure whether Kevin Garnett (19.2 PER, plus-1.8 BPM for the Wolves) will play after he was given the day off Wednesday. His knee might be bothering him, and Minnesota might prefer to save him for home games anyway. That means more minutes for Adreian Payne (8.7 PER, minus-7.0 PER).
OVER the Kanter
This was supposed to be such a good year for the Wolves, too – at least against the basketball odds. At least there was that nice run when all the injured starters from earlier in the year came back: Pekovic, Ricky Rubio (15.6 PER) and Kevin Martin (17.6 PER), and even Shabazz Muhammad (19.9 PER) for a few games before he went back on the shelf. Minnesota was 5-7 SU and 8-4 ATS in the first month after Rubio’s return.
Since we’re not terribly interested in following either of these teams right now, let’s consider the OVER, which is 8-2 for Oklahoma City since the All-Star break. That coincides with Durant’s absence, but also with the arrival of Enes Kanter (21.5 PER), who has a plus-2.2 OBPM and a minus-1.2 DBPM in nine games for the Thunder. He’s the anti-Kendrick Perkins.
Free NBA Pick: OVER 211 at BetOnline