Kings vs. Suns NBA Preview

Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns and Mikal Bridges #25 talk. Harry How/Getty Images/AFP
Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns and Mikal Bridges #25 talk. Harry How/Getty Images/AFP


The Phoenix Suns are the hottest thing in the West, and they belong in your Thursday NBA picks with the Sacramento Kings coming to town.


Sacramento Kings vs. Phoenix Suns

at PHX Arena


What do sharp bettors look for in their NBA picks? Undervalued teams to follow, and overvalued teams to fade. The Phoenix Suns definitely fall into that first category; they’re a small-market franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs in over a decade, but came into the 2020-21 campaign with a host of talented young players, and a new leader in Chris Paul – himself an under-appreciated commodity. Put it all together, and presto: The Suns are the most profitable team in the league this year at 39-15 SU and 35-19 ATS.

Every good thing comes to an end, though. Now that the betting market has had time to adjust, the Suns are stuck in neutral, alternating ATS wins and losses in each of their last 13 games. If you believe this pattern will hold, the Sacramento Kings are the right choice for Thursday’s matchup at PHX Arena. That’s not really the kind of trend you should be looking for when you surf the NBA lines, though, and the Kings (22-33 SU, 23-32 ATS) have been swimming in red ink for quite some time. Phoenix might still be the right choice here after opening as 9.5-point home faves overseas; chances are we’ll have something from our list of preferred online sportsbooks by the time you read this.

Broken Holmes

The Kings may be as small-market as they come, and they do have some quality young talent in De’Aaron Fox (plus-1.6 VORP at Basketball Reference) and Tyrese Haliburton (plus-1.1 VORP). But that’s about all they have to offer. Sacramento squandered most of the high draft picks they accumulated through multiple years of failure; as a direct result, they’re dead last in defensive efficiency this season, giving up 115.7 points per 100 possessions. Even back-up center Hassan Whiteside (0.0 VORP), an All-Defensive Second Team nominee in 2016, has struggled to produce much on his second tour of duty with the Kings. If that weren’t bad enough, starting center Richaun Holmes (plus-1.0 VORP), one of the most reliable players on the roster – and a darling among the analytics crowd since his debut five years ago – strained his right hamstring during Monday’s 117-110 loss to the New Orleans Hornets (–2 at home). Then Holmes missed Wednesday’s game against the Washington Wizards, which the Sacramento broadcast crew tried very hard to make seem competitive. It wasn’t; Washington took an early lead and won 123-111 as 2-point road faves. That’s eight straight losses at 1-7 ATS for Sacto.

Now the Kings have to make the very short turnaround to face the Suns, who were idle Wednesday. There’s a chance Sacramento will have PF/C Marvin Bagley (minus-0.4 VORP) back in the lineup, after he missed the last 16 games with a broken hand, but so far this year, Holmes has outperformed Bagley by a significant margin. Whoever gets to play center – Harrison Barnes

(plus-0.8 VORP) was among those given the task on Wednesday – will have to tangle with Deandre Ayton (plus-1.1 VORP) on zero days of rest. And they’ll have to do it at an elevation of just over 1,000 feet, changing one time zone in the process. That should be worth at least a small bet.

Pick: Suns -12 (- 110) with BetMGM