If Jaylen Brown plays for the Boston Celtics this Friday, the Phoenix Suns should go in your NBA picks – even without Devin Booker.
Boston Celtics vs. Phoenix Suns
Friday, December 10, 2021 – 10:00 PM EST at Footprint Center
Who needs Devin Booker, anyway? The Phoenix Suns (20-4 SU, 12-12 ATS) have won two of their three games since Booker went down with a left hamstring injury, so they’ll probably be fine this Friday night when they host the Boston Celtics (13-13 SU, 14-12 ATS).
There is one problem, though: Phoenix dropped all three of those games ATS. Compare and contrast to the Celtics, who are missing one of their own stars to a hamstring injury (the right leg this time) in Jaylen Brown.
He’s questionable for this matchup, which partly explains why it took so long for the NBA odds to come out, with BetMGM and other sportsbooks opening Phoenix at –5.5. But the Celtics are 7-6 SU and 9-4 ATS when Brown doesn’t play. This could be a decent spot to put Boston in our basketball picks if both men sit out.
Once again, the morning shoot-around will reveal (almost) all. Booker’s status for Friday night is uncertain as well as Brown’s, although Booker is listed as week-to-week, while Brown is considered day-to-day. On the surface, losing Booker shouldn’t be that much of a downgrade for Phoenix; they still have Landry Shamet, who provides many of the same things that Booker does.
However, the On/Off plus-minus stats at Basketball Reference show an ugly minus-4.4 for Shamet, with Booker at plus-3.2. Booker’s absence is felt even further down the bench. Now that Shamet is in the starting lineup, Cameron Payne (minus-7.9) is getting more minutes off the bench, and those minutes are way down in productivity from last year.
Elfrid Payton has also been a disappointment in his first season with Phoenix, and Abdel Nader (knee) has been ruled out for Friday’s game, so there aren’t many options left for the Suns’ backcourt.
Any Color You Like
The Celtics, on the other hand, have plenty of people who can do what Brown does. Their current rotation has both Dennis Schröder and Marcus Smart in the starting five, with a healthy dose of Josh Richardson and Romeo Langford off the bench.
All four represent downgrades from Brown, but not to the same extreme as what’s happening in Phoenix; the worst plus-minus of the bunch is Langford at minus-1.3. Given this dynamic, I’m happy to recommend Boston for your NBA picks if both Brown and Booker are out of commission.
If Booker plays and Brown doesn’t, the C’s might still be worth a look, as Booker has been out since November 30 and could be a bit rusty upon his return. Any scenario with Brown playing is much dicier from a handicapping perspective, but we’d obviously lean more towards Phoenix if Booker is part of the picture. Bet accordingly.
NBA Pick: Celtics +5.5 (–110) at BetMGM