The underappreciated Toronto Raptors are the easy choice for your Thursday NBA picks when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Toronto Raptors
Thursday, March 24, 2022 – 07:30 PM EDT at Scotiabank Arena
Finishing in sixth place has never been so important. Under the NBA’s new postseason format, the Cleveland Cavaliers hold the last guaranteed playoff spot in the Eastern Conference heading into Thursday’s game against the Toronto Raptors – who are one game back in seventh. That should add some spice to this matchup.
So will the Rookie of the Year race. As we go to press, Cavs forward Evan Mobley is the heavy –455 favorite on the NBA odds board at BetMGM; Toronto swingman Scottie Barnes is way back in third at +550.
That’s ridiculous given how Barnes has outplayed Mobley thus far, but it’s just one reason the Raptors are the right pick for this contest after opening as 3-point home faves at FanDuel.
The NBA Rookie of the Year Award is purely subjective, of course. The winner is decided by sportswriters and broadcasters from across North America, and not very many of them will care that Barnes leads all qualifying rookies at Basketball Reference with a plus-0.7 Box Plus/Minus, ahead of Mobley at plus-0.5.
Barnes has also been getting it done at both ends of the court, while Mobley’s value has mostly been generated on defense.
To be fair, either player would be a fine choice for ROY honors at this point. But Mobley being such a big favorite is a microcosm of how the betting market treats the Raptors (40-32 SU, 41-31 ATS) when they make their NBA picks. Basketball fans outside of Canada don’t pay them much attention either, and even less now that the biggest names from their 2018-19 title team (Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka) have all moved on.
The Hurt Locker
The Cavaliers (41-31 SU, 39-30-2 ATS) are also missing arguably their best player for Thursday’s matchup. Jarrett Allen (finger) isn’t expected back for another three weeks or so; the Cavs are 4-4 SU and 3-4-1 ATS since Allen last played, which happened to be March 6 when they beat Toronto 104-96 as 5-point home favorites.
Also on the injured list: Rajon Rondo (ankle), who appears likely to miss his sixth straight game this Thursday. Rondo has played at a surprisingly decent level since the Cavaliers snatched him up back in early January to help paper over their injury-plagued backcourt.
Useful back-up big Dean Wade (knee) has also missed the last five games for Cleveland, and won’t be back until April.
The Raptors always seem to be hurt, and it doesn’t look like OG Anunoby (finger) or Gary Trent Jr. (toe) will be available for this contest. But on a team with so many interchangeable players, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem for Toronto.
They should have both their All-Stars in point guard Fred VanVleet and forward Pascal Siakam, alongside Barnes and a long lineup of 6-foot-9 ball hounds. Bet accordingly.
NBA Pick: Raptors -3 (-110) at FanDuel