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.

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Celtics vs. Trail Blazers NBA Preview

Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics on March 31, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts.   Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/AFP

Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics on March 31, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/AFP

 

 

Jusuf Nurkic has made the Under a solid NBA pick for the Portland Trail Blazers. Will that trend hold up Tuesday versus the Boston Celtics?

 

Boston Celtics vs. Portland Trail Blazers

 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021 – 10:00 PM ET at Moda Center

 

The Portland Trail Blazers (31-22 SU, 26-27 ATS) were one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA heading into the trade deadline. Now, not so much. Portland upgraded, at least a little, when they acquired Norman Powell from the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood. More importantly, they welcomed Jusuf Nurkic back from the injured list; they’re only 2-4 SU and ATS in April, but the Under is 5-1, and that looks like the right NBA pick for Tuesday’s home game versus the Boston Celtics (28-26 SU, 25-28-1 ATS), with online sportsbook SBK opening the total at 228 points.

 

Jusuf Endures

 

Portland (Over 28-25) had been a reliable Over pick for most of the season, riding the hot shooting of Damian Lillard (plus-3.4 VORP, according to Basketball Reference) and, when healthy, C.J. McCollum (plus-1.4 VORP). But they were compromising their title chances at the other end; the Blazers still have a minus-0.2 point differential on the season, suggesting they’re much closer to a .500 team than their record would indicate.

Powell (plus-1.2 VORP) is helping somewhat. He’s in many ways a more polished version of Trent (minus-0.1 VORP), especially on the defensive end, and the Blazers are putting Powell in a position to succeed by not relying on him to create. Nurkic (plus-0.1 VORP) is the key to this pick, though, provided he plays Tuesday as expected. He’s a significantly better defender than Enes Kanter (plus-0.7 VORP), and Nurkic’s minutes have slowly increased since his return, but he’s also sat out a couple of games for maintenance purposes.

 

Broken Wings

 

The Celtics (Under 28-26) needed some help at the deadline, too, but they needed it on offense, and they struck gold when they stole Evan Fournier (plus-0.7 VORP) from the Orlando Magic for Jeff Teague (minus-0.1 VORP). Fournier is a gifted shooter who’s also worked hard to become a viable two-way player; unfortunately for Boston fans, Fournier has landed on the COVID-19 list and won’t be available for Tuesday’s game.

Neither will Daniel Theis (plus-0.6 VORP). Boston massaged their cap situation by sending Theis to the Chicago Bulls in a three-way deal that brought in Luke Kornet (plus-0.1 VORP) from Chicago and Moritz Wagner (plus-0.1 VORP) from the Washington Wizards. With Robert Williams (plus-1.8 VORP) playing so well at both ends, the C’s decided to promote Williams to the starting lineup and set Theis free; the Under is 8-2 since that deal, with Wagner’s offensive limitations providing extra help off the bench.

These are already two of the slower teams in the league, so when you combine that with their recent performances, the Under looks even better for Tuesday’s matchup – certainly better than the spread, which SBK opened at Portland –2 on their NBA odds board. There’s little value there with both teams struggling ATS right now, so bet accordingly, and enjoy the game.

 

NBA Pick: Under 227.5 (–112) at SBK

Suns vs. Clippers NBA Preview

 

Utah Jazz v Phoenix Suns

 

With two strong teams about to collide, the Under is the smart NBA pick for Thursday’s matchup between the Phoenix Suns and L.A. Clippers.

 

Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Clippers

Thursday, April 8, 2021 – 10:00 PM ET  at Staples Center

 

There’s a lot to like about both the Phoenix Suns (36-14 SU, 33-17 ATS) and the Los Angeles Clippers (34-18 SU, 30-22 ATS). These are two of the top teams in the Western Conference, competitive at each end of the court. They’re also as close to full health as they’ve been in a while, with even more talent on board after the trade deadline. So which side should you take this Thursday now that the Clippers have opened as 5-point home favorites on the NBA odds board at Bet365?

Neither. With both these teams performing so well, there isn’t much value to be had on the NBA spreads. The total is another matter, though. This could be a good spot for the Under, with the total checking in at 224 points as we go to press – not a very big total in this day and age, but these are also two of the slowest teams in the league, and they’ve only gotten slower since the deadline.

 

Beverley Hills

 

On the surface, the Clippers haven’t been very kind to the Under at 22-29-1. But as the season has worn on, this veteran team has gotten a little bit slower, and the Under appears to have the upper hand now at 3-1 in their last four games and 7-5 in their last dozen. That should only improve now that Patrick Beverley (plus-0.5 VORP), one of the better defensive point guards in the league, has returned from a long injury layoff.

The addition of Rajon Rondo (minus-0.1 VORP) at the trade deadline should help, too. Rondo’s offense has been shaky for a few years now, playoffs notwithstanding, but he can still defend well – and the Clippers sent Lou Williams (0.0 VORP) to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Rondo, giving up offense for defense. Add the recent 10-day contract given to DeMarcus Cousins (plus-0.3 VORP), and Los Angeles have even more veteran stopping power heading into Thursday’s matchup.

 

Slow and Steady

 

The Suns got better at the trade deadline, too, stealing defensive wing Torrey Craig (plus-0.1 VORP) from the Milwaukee Bucks for cash and a trade exception. Also, Frank Kaminsky (plus-0.5 VORP) has just come off the COVID-19 list. the stretch-5 has improved his defensive game considerably this year, becoming a reliable two-way big both off the Phoenix bench and in the starting lineup.

 

Then you have the very slow pace these teams operate at. On the season, Phoenix (99.4 possessions per game) and Los Angeles (98.2) rank in the bottom fifth of the league in tempo. Over the past six games, they’ve slipped to 97.6 and 96.7 possessions per game, respectively. This season has been a long haul for everyone – the Under went 33-24 across the league the past week – and the Suns will be tired for this contest after needing overtime Wednesday night to beat the Utah Jazz 117-113 (Over 227, thanks to those extra five minutes) as 2.5-point home dogs. So even with that low total, I think the Under belongs in your NBA picks for this game as well.

 

NBA Pick: Under 224 (–110) at Bet365

76ers vs. Celtics NBA Preview

Utah Jazz v Philadelphia 76ers

 

The Boston Celtics are once again a strong NBA pick heading into Tuesday’s all-Atlantic battle with the Philadelphia 76ers.

 

Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics

Tuesday, April 6, 2021 – 7:30 PM ET at TD Garden, Boston

 

Things were bound to improve sooner or later for the Boston Celtics (25-25 SU, 24-26 ATS). They’ve had some issues this year, but mostly because they haven’t been able to put a full lineup on the court; now that they’ve got their core players back in uniform, the Celtics are 4-2 SU and ATS in their last six games – all after making some sharp moves at the trade deadline.

Boston should be the right NBA pick again this Tuesday when they host the Philadelphia 76ers (34-16 SU, 27-21-2 ATS), who could be at considerably less than full strength for this matchup. The Sixers have opened as 2-point favorites at SBK, fueled in part by the return of Joel Embiid from the injured list. However, Philadelphia’s backcourt will be without at least one key player, and that’s after depleting their bench while making their own deadline-day deals.

 

Joyeux Joel

The Sixers could have gone off the rails when Embiid (plus-2.7 VORP) missed 10 games with a bone bruise on his left knee. Instead, they went 7-3 SU and 6-4-1 ATS to remain atop the Eastern Conference standings. Embiid returned on Saturday and scored 24 points in 28 minutes to help Philadelphia beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 122-113, but it wasn’t enough to beat the NBA lines as 13.5-point road faves.

As a rule of thumb, NBA players need two games to shake off the rust from a long injury layoff. Tuesday will be Embiid’s second game back; he sat out Sunday’s 116-100 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies (+3.5 away). It was a tough loss for the Sixers, who shot just 8-of-34 (23.5 percent) from downtown, but it showed how dependent they are on both Embiid and their long-range shooting. And they’ll be weaker than usual in the latter department with George Hill (38.6 percent) yet to make his Philly debut.

 

Evan Almighty

After rumors that Kyle Lowry might return to his hometown at the trade deadline, the Sixers ended up acquiring Hill from the Oklahoma City Thunder, in a three-team deal that saw Tony Bradley move to Oklahoma City, and the trio of Terrance Ferguson, Vincent Poirier, and Emir Preldzic land with the New York Knicks. Bradley (plus-0.4 VORP) was the only one of the four getting regular minutes in Philly, but the big man was playing very well in support of Embiid, and while the Knicks did send Ignas Brazdeikis to the Sixers as part of the Hill trade, they’re still short of warm bodies while they wait for Hill to recover from his broken right thumb.

This is where Boston can take advantage. Their backcourt has been strengthened by the acquisition of Evan Fournier (plus-0.7 VORP), who came over from the Orlando Magic as part of Orlando’s clearing-house sale – the Celtics only had to give up Jeff Teague (minus-0.1 VORP), who was immediately waived by the Magic. Once an inefficient volume shooter, Fournier has turned himself into a reliable two-way player; we’ll see if he can jam up Philly’s perimeter and thus deprive Embiid of the spacing he craves, beating the NBA odds in the process.

 

NBA Pick: Celtics +2 (–108) at SBK

Warriors vs. Heat NBA Preview

Miami Heat v New York Knicks

After making some moves at the deadline, the Miami Heat should be the right NBA pick for Thursday’s game with the Golden State Warriors.

 

Golden State Warriors vs. Miami Heat

at AmericanAirlines Arena

 

The Miami Heat didn’t get Kyle Lowry. They didn’t get Lonzo Ball, Norman Powell, or even LaMarcus Aldridge. But the Heat (24-24 SU, 20-27-1 ATS) did make some judicious moves at the trade deadline, and they’ve beaten the NBA odds in back-to-back games heading into Thursday’s tilt with the Golden State Warriors. Maybe last year’s Eastern Conference champions can still make another deep run in this year’s postseason. It’s harder to tell what the short-term future is for the Warriors (23-24 SU, 22-25 ATS). The only moves they made at the deadline were to get under the cap, sending guard Brad Wanamaker to the Charlotte Hornets and injured forward Marquese Chriss to the San Antonio Spurs. Without any reinforcements, the Dubs will be in a dogfight just to make the play-in portion of the Western playoffs – and they’ll have a hard time beating the NBA lines this Thursday as 2-point road dogs at PointsBet.

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