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Tuesday, 27 October 2015

NBA Picks October 2015 (October 27-31)

The NBA off-season is finally over and tip off for the 2015/16 season will go ahead on Tuesday 27th October as the defending Conference Champions both take to the court.

The Golden State Warriors remain the team to beat even though Steve Kerr will not be with the team for the opening weeks as he recovers from a surgery in the off-season, while the Western Conference looks loaded with teams ready to have a crack at the Champions.

The San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, LA Clippers and Houston Rockets all look capable of reaching the NBA Finals and getting out of the gauntlet of the West remains as difficult as ever.

On the other hand, the Cleveland Cavaliers will be the big favourites to get back to the NBA Finals from the Eastern Conference which isn't as strong from top to bottom as the Western Conference. Cleveland have kept their key pieces together with both Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson extending their stays with the Cavaliers and LeBron James will be given more rest during the regular season to make sure he is ready for another shot at the Championship.

Teams like the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat look the most dangerous to prevent Cleveland reaching the NBA Finals and I really like how the latter have responded to losing James before last season.

Other teams are talented but I am not sure Atlanta can have a season like the last one, while the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics might not have enough experience to challenge the top teams in the East although do look good for Play Off spots.

It doesn't look so good for fans living in Gotham as both the Knicks and Nets continue a rebuild that might still see them off the pace for a top eight place in the weak Eastern Conference. The LA Lakers are another big franchise that are perhaps behind the curve in the Western Conference despite Kobe Bryant returning from injury.

All in all it looks like being another special season in the NBA which will really get going once the NFL Play Offs are concluded as teams simply jockey for position early on before turning on the afterburners with real thoughts turned to their own Play Offs.

The last two seasons have been difficult for the picks and I have to be a little more careful with them. The early season can be tough to get a read on but last season four of the first six months had a losing record which is simply not good enough and I have made a couple of adjustments to try and get this season back on track after the last couple of years.

Finally it makes sense to end this opening NBA post of the season on a more mournful note than worrying about things we can't control when it comes to picks and fretting about bad luck and the like.

Flip Saunders passed away on the eve of the new season- the Minnesota Timberwolves Head Coach was only 60 years old and it is stories like that which you remind you of the important things in life. His impact on the sport was highlighted by the outpouring of messages from those involved in the NBA and it was unexpected considering it was only two days prior to his passing that Minnesota announced he wouldn't be coaching this season, but the plan was that Saunders would be retuning.

RIP Coach.

Tuesday 27th October
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Chicago Bulls Pick: The season opens between two teams that many are tipping to compete in the Eastern Conference Finals in May. The Cleveland Cavaliers have kept all their key pieces together and they look set for another run, while the Chicago Bulls have replaced Tom Thibodeau with Fred Hoiberg.

The Bulls really like what Hoiberg is going to give them Offensively and Derrick Rose was particularly vocal on the space he is going to get in the system. There is depth in Chicago and they have one of the best back courts in the NBA with Rose and Jimmy Butler.

Rose was banged up in the pre-season, but he has always looked like he would be ready for opening day, but the same can't be said of LeBron James. James will play, but he missed the last two weeks with a back issue and Cleveland are also missing Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love remains doubtful although potentially winning his battle to play. Tristan Thompson is only recently back having signed his contract and I think the Chicago Bulls have a real chance to get off to a positive start at home.

Chicago are 6-2 against the spread in the last eight games against Cleveland and they are 3-1 against the spread in the last four at home. However, that is only 1-1 when set as the home favourite and that is my only concern, although the public remains behind Cleveland which off-sets that somewhat.

It'll be a good game to open the NBA season, but I think the Chicago Bulls can cover in a winning start to the Hoiberg era with the more settled team that is not missing key players.

New Orleans Pelicans @ Golden State Warriors Pick: Alvin Gentry will begin his time as Head Coach of the New Orleans Pelicans in a familiar environment having been an Assistant Head Coach with the Golden State Warriors last season.

That familiarity might give the New Orleans an edge in this game, but injuries are hurting them early in the season and that makes it difficult for the Pelicans to execute effectively. Anthony Davis will still get his job done, but the supporting cast might not be enough to challenge the defending Champions who have a chip on their shoulder.

Despite beating everyone in the NBA, some teams have suggested the Golden State Warriors were 'lucky' and that will give the home team motivation to prove themselves. Raising the banner should produce a raucous atmosphere in which the Warriors will thrive and even the absence of Steve Kerr might give the team a reason to rally together.

It is a lot of points for them to cover considering Anthony Davis is on the opposite bench and can take over games, but there looks to be too much talent all around in the Warriors team for a short-handed New Orleans one. Golden State beat New Orleans by double digits in three of their four home games last season and all of the excitement in the building should see them reach that margin again.

Wednesday 28th October
It was a slightly frustrating opening day of the NBA season for the picks with Cleveland hitting two big shots late to get within two and then virtually holding the ball for long enough to stay at that number rather than fouling the Chicago Bulls.

Should have been two out of two really, but at least Golden State didn't let me down by blowing out the New Orleans Pelicans.

Charlotte Hornets @ Miami Heat Pick: It was always going to be difficult for the Miami Heat to recover from the loss of LeBron James, but they weren't helped when the likes of Chris Bosh and Luol Deng went down with injuries.

Some good moves were made by Pat Riley though and Hassan Whiteside was a revelation and the Heat now look to have a starting five that can rival any in the Eastern Conference. Bosh is back healthy, Dwyane Wade continues to lead the team and Goran Dragic gives them a Point Guard that can really dominate games.

In recent seasons the Charlotte Hornets have become competitive, but they have lost Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for much of the season and new faces need to be integrated into the team. I am not as down on the Hornets as much as some of the experts as I think they have decent depth on the roster, but Kidd-Gilchrist is a big loss and I can't doubt that.

Miami struggled with Charlotte last season, but the Heat are 12-5-1 against the spread in the last eighteen against them and I look for them to make a strong start to the new season.

Indiana Pacers @ Toronto Raptors Pick: It is all change for the Indiana Pacers this season as they move from the big, strong Defensive team into a faster Offensive one. Gone are the likes of Roy Hibbert and David West but in comes Monta Ellis to join George Hill and Paul George to make the Pacers a better team with the ball in hand.

They are immediately going to be tested by the Toronto Raptors who disappointed so badly in the Play Offs last season but who have kept their key players together for one more run. The arrival of DeMarre Carroll will help improve the Raptors on the Defensive side of the court where they have struggled and Toronto look set to be a Play Off team in the Eastern Conference again.

Strengthening up Defensively is key for the Raptors as they still have plenty of Offensive power from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Carroll is a big improvement on that front and the Raptors look like they can make a solid start to the new season by winning their first game.

Toronto are 20-7 against the spread in their last twenty-seven against Indiana in Canada, while they are 38-18 against the spread in the last fifty-six overall. I like the Raptors to make some big stops in the Fourth Quarter and find themselves in a position to cover this number.

LA Clippers @ Sacramento Kings Pick: Not many in the LA Clippers organisation are going to forget their historic collapse in the Western Conference Semi Finals in 2015. They led the Houston Rockets by 3-1 and were up by nineteen points in game five before collapsing and never recovering.

That has to have eaten up at the likes of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin all summer, but they managed to pick themselves up for long enough to convince DeAndre Jordan to change his mind on leaving for the Dallas Mavericks. Keeping the team together and adding the likes of Lance Stephenson and Paul Pierce means the Clippers remain one of the favourites in the Western Conference, but they need better health later in the season to do that.

I like the Clippers getting off to a winning start to the new season in Sacramento despite the Kings looking like an improving team. However, Rudy Gay is likely to miss this game and that is a huge loss for the Kings and should take away enough Offense for the Clippers to continue their strong record here.

The Clippers are 8-1 straight up overall and 3-1 against the spread in their last four visits to Sacramento and I like them to cover in this game.

Thursday 29th October
All three picks came into the winner's enclosure on Wednesday, although I needed a bit of luck for that to happen. I guess that makes up for the fact that Chicago blew a guaranteed cover in a ridiculous manner on Tuesday and gives me a very positive beginning to the new season.

But it's two days into a long eight months of the regular season so I have to be careful to ensure getting back to the winning seasons after two disappointments.

Dallas Mavericks @ LA Clippers Pick: I was considering giving Thursday a miss with the small number of games on offer, but I was a little surprised that the Dallas Mavericks are given as many points as they are at the LA Clippers.

Now I do expect Dallas to perhaps struggle to get into the Western Conference Play Offs this season, although not quite willing to rule out Rick Carlisle inspiring his team to do so, and the Clippers are a genuine NBA Championship team.

However, the DeAndre Jordan situation in the summer would have had Mark Cuban and the rest of the Mavericks circling this game as one for 'revenge' and I think they come out hot. Dallas had an easy win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday while the LA Clippers battled in Sacramento and I think the Mavericks will be ready to go on this back to back nights play.

Deron Williams might not play and the Clippers are a deeper squad, but revenge and that kind of motivation is hard to ignore. Of course this is the Clippers opening home game and they will be plenty motivated too, but Dallas have the edge and have a solid 8-3 record against the spread in their last eleven visits to play the Clippers in the Staples Center.

The Clippers haven't been a great team to back as a big home favourite in recent years either and this looks a big number to cover against an angry opponent. The eleven point advantage is beginning to run out despite the public hammering the home team and I like Dallas to cover here.

Friday 30th October
The Dallas Mavericks played the LA Clippers pretty close up until a blow out third quarter but they never looked like covering from that point and the 16 point deficit is flattering to them.

Charlotte Hornets @ Atlanta Hawks Pick: I am going to try and steer clear of teams on back to back nights play for much of the season if that is possible, but at this stage of the year it shouldn't be too much of an issue. Of course this is the third game in four nights for the Atlanta Hawks, but they owe the home fans after being blown out in their opening home game by the Detroit Pistons.

The Hawks were much better in a big win at the New York Knicks on Thursday and now host the Charlotte Hornets in a home and home series over the weekend. Charlotte had a big lead in the opening quarter of their first game of the season, but they are still finding their feet after losing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for the year.

It was a poor defensive effort from outside the arc that prevented the Hornets keeping up with the Miami Heat on Wednesday and that is a real issue that could be exploited by Atlanta if it continues through this game.

Atlanta are 12-4 against the spread in their last sixteen against Charlotte and they are 4-1 against the spread at home against the Hornets. Both wins at home came by at least twenty-four points last season and I expect the Hawks to move above 0.500 for the first time this season while covering this number.

Minnesota Timberwolves @ Denver Nuggets Pick: It was always going to be an emotional opening day for the Minnesota Timberwolves in their first game since Flip Saunders sadly passed away. They rode that to give their Head Coach the kind of battling performance he would have been proud of and knocked off the LA Lakers on the road.

The Timberwolves are returning home after this game and it would be easy for this young and inexperienced squad to perhaps be looking ahead to that. The home opener is going to be full of emotion and this game in Colorado looks almost like a throwaway one.

It would have been a tough game regardless of all the sadness the Minnesota franchise are dealing with, especially after Denver perhaps showed they are better than expected in a blow out win in Houston. The home opener should have the team pumped up to play and they are facing a team that hasn't backed up their surprise wins that well

In fact Minnesota are 3-8 against the spread when winning a game as the road underdog, and 0-5 against the spread when winning by 3 points or fewer on the road. On the other hand, Denver have thrived as the blow out winner of a game where they were set as the underdog and have gone 11-2 against the spread in that spot.

The Timberwolves have a good record in Denver, but I think the home team has too much scoring and there is a real potential the road team are a little flat as they anticipate returning home to the sadness of Saunders' passing and the big home opening game.

Golden State Warriors @ Houston Rockets Pick: The Western Conference Finals were competed by the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets last season and this is a big game early in the season for both this time around.

Both have plenty of motivation to set down a marker for the season- neither team perhaps received the praise they might have imagined off the back of strong seasons and both have an MVP calibre player that might feel disrespected by the other.

James Harden and Stephen Curry could put on a clinic in this game, but it is hard to ignore the fact that the Golden State Warriors went 8-1 straight up against the Houston Rockets last season. Both teams have issues at the Center position with Andrew Bogut not travelling for the Warriors and Dwight Howard back from suspension, but not fully fit, for the Rockets.

The Rockets made some moves in the off-season but they still look short of the Golden State Warriors who want to show why they are Champions. It could be a high-scoring game for sure, but the Warriors are 7-3 against the spread in the last ten games between the teams and I like Golden State to find a way to get this done on the road.

MY PICKS: 27/10 Chicago Bulls - 2.5 Points @ 1.83 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
27/10 Golden State Warriors - 9.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
28/10 Miami Heat - 6 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
28/10 Toronto Raptors - 5.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
28/10 LA Clippers - 5.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
29/10 Dallas Mavericks + 11 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
30/10 Atlanta Hawks - 5.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
30/10 Denver Nuggets - 4.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
30/10 Golden State Warriors - 1.5 Points @ 1.93 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)

October Update: 5-4, + 0.57 Units

Final Season 2015109-108-5, - 6.91 Units
Final Season 201458-72-1, - 16.86 Units
Final Season 2013105-93-3, + 10.49 Units
Final Season 201279-53-1, + 27.48 Units

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