The general landscape of the NBA has changed since Cleveland won Game 7 to take the Championship in June after their defeated opponents made easily the biggest splash in Free Agency by signing Kevin Durant to an already loaded roster. The Golden State Warriors are unsurprisingly the favourites to win the NBA Championship this season and they do look the strongest team in the Western Conference by some margin.
The likely rivals for the Warriors have been weakened significantly with Oklahoma City losing their star to Golden State. Russell Westbrook has committed his future to the Thunder in the aftermath of Durant's decision to move on which is perhaps an even bigger surprise than KD moving to Golden State, but Oklahoma City might forever look back at their 3-1 lead over Golden State in the Western Conference Finals in 2016 as the moment when their best chance for a Championship slipped away.
Tim Duncan has finally decided to retire and I think the San Antonio Spurs might be in something of a transitional season, while the LA Clippers and Houston Rockets don't seem to have the depth to stay with Golden State over seven games. The Western Conference used to be a loaded one but I think this time Golden State might be far too strong for their rivals and we potentially will see a couple of the younger teams take a step forward with the New Orleans Pelicans, Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz perhaps beginning to fulfil their potential.
The Cleveland Cavaliers continue to look the pick of the teams in the Eastern Conference, but there might be a few more obstacles to overcome with the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls potentially able to challenge them.
Even my New York Knicks look like they have made some strong moves to get their roster turned around, but depth is going to be an issue while they have big names with injury issues in recent seasons to overcome. Derrick Rose is the player looking to rejuvenate his career after surprisingly being traded out of Chicago, but his health has been the biggest setback and Knicks fans everywhere will be hoping Rose can return to his very best and then perhaps a season exceeding expectations is possible.
The Eastern Conference looks deeper than the Western Conference this time around, but the Knicks have to be thinking of a Play Off place at the least this season and that can be achieved if they are able to get this new look roster gelled together early in the year.
The NBA Picks will be made in weekly threads as I decided to do last season. There will be times in a long season when I decide to skip picks because I might not feel any confidently and others when I am feeling good about picks. These weekly threads will be updated daily regardless and will usually run from Monday to Sunday.
The season begins on Tuesday this week and I am going to keep all the October picks in one thread so this one will go through next Monday. From then I will have the first November thread running from Tuesday through Sunday and so on.
The last couple of seasons could have been better for the picks and I hope I have made the right adjustments to put together a positive few months.
Tuesday 25th October
The opening day of the NBA League season will see the two teams that competed in the NBA Finals playing on the same night, albeit against different opponents at home.
New York Knicks @ Cleveland Cavaliers Pick: It has been a few months where the Cleveland Cavaliers could have enjoyed their time as NBA Champions, but now they have to come out and prove it all over again. Their main rivals have improved, but the Cleveland Cavaliers won't be worrying about the Play Offs just yet and instead will focus on rebuilding the chemistry for another deep push come April.
The opening day of the new season is when the Cavaliers will be given their Championship rings and it should be a celebratory mood around Cleveland who will see their Major League Baseball team, the Indians, begin the World Series against the Chicago Cubs on the same evening.
There haven't been too many roster moves made by Cleveland in the summer as they have liked the balance they have on the team. JR Smith has only recently signed a four year deal with the Cavaliers to bring back the team from last season but it does raise questions as to how many minutes he can offer in the opening weeks of the new season.
LeBron James has been told he will not have the same minutes as last season with Cleveland looking to keep the best player in the League healthy for the Play Off run they are surely going to have. The Cavaliers look the best team in the Eastern Conference and it would be a big surprise if LeBron James' run in reaching the NBA Finals was to come to an end.
It has proven difficult in the past for teams being given their rings and having banners raised to produce their best in the game they are receiving their prizes. The defending Champions have a poor 3-7 record against the spread in these games and Cleveland are giving up plenty of points to the new-look New York Knicks.
After a couple of years of questions being raised for Phil Jackson when it comes to roster construction, Knicks fans might be feeling more confident about this season. Derrick Rose, Brandon Jennings, Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee join Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis to give the Knicks a decent looking team on paper, but they will need good health and for the players to gel quickly in an Eastern Conference which is deeper than it has been in a number of years.
The likes of Rose and Anthony might be taking envious looks at the Cavaliers as they remain two of the better players of recent years who are still searching for their first Championship win. It will be a huge shock if they can change that together in New York this season, but the Knicks certainly have the feel of a stronger team although the depth of the roster remains a big concern.
The Knicks have covered in their last four visits to Cleveland and the last three have come as double digit underdogs. They are not quite getting that many points this time, but New York can make banner day a difficulty for Cleveland as it has been for many defending Champions, although it should be noted LeBron James' teams are 2-0 against the spread in that spot.
I just feel there is enough shooting in the New York team to keep this one close and I will take the points to open this season.
San Antonio Spurs @ Golden State Warriors Pick: This might feel like the start of another 'Super Team' era since Kevin Durant joined the Golden State Warriors in a similar manner to when the 'Big Three' got together at the Miami Heat. It took Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James some time to get their act together, but I am not seeing the same kind of problems for the Golden State Warriors.
The first issue is that Durant is coming into a situation where most of the roster will know one another and building a chemistry involving three top players is different to when you are bringing in a Superstar into a solid spot like there is in Golden State. Durant's role is clearly divined before he got to Golden State unlike in Miami where Wade and James had to learn who was going to be the more dominant player first.
Durant should be incredibly good in the system the Warriors will run and I am struggling to see how Defenses are going to be able to contain Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Even when they struggle, Draymond Green can step up Offensively and the Warriors are rightly set as the favourites to win the NBA Championship having come up short last season.
Andrew Bogut has been moved on, but Green can play the Center position when the Warriors want to challenge teams and I think Durant is going to be a comfortable fit into the Golden State rotation.
Immediately we will get to see how Golden State can shape up against the San Antonio Spurs who will be coming into a season without Tim Duncan in twenty years. The Spurs were hoping to bring in Durant in the off-season, but instead they have landed Pau Gasol and it will be interesting to see how an ageing roster can pick themselves up for a shot at the Championship again.
San Antonio have to find a way to compete with the speed that Golden State will play with and they can't hope for a Defensive battle with the Offensive power the Warriors have. The feeling is that this is going to be a transitional season for the Spurs and their record here has not been the best recently with their last three games seeing Golden State win and cover the number.
This could easily become a statement game for the Golden State Warriors who know they are going to be the pantomime villain for the rest of the season now they have brought in Durant. However this game is at home and they can use the love from the crowd to start pulling away with some big time shooting and I like the Warriors to cover.
Wednesday 26th October
That was not the best start to the season that I could have hoped for, but it is the first day of the season and I am not going to panic and think I had it all wrong. I was surprised by the Golden State Warriors performance as they looked a little flat, but I also think San Antonio Spurs deserve a lot of credit for the way they played in their first game without Tim Duncan in twenty years.
Most of the other teams in the League get underway on Wednesday and my picks are as follows.
Brooklyn Nets @ Boston Celtics Pick: The Brooklyn Nets might be one of the worst teams in the NBA this season as they have changed philosophy over the last couple of seasons. They are going to have a new look this time around and the best Brooklyn fans can hope for is a few big upsets and a decent position in the lottery at the end of the season.
Half of the problems for Brooklyn began when trading away Draft picks to the Boston Celtics who have taken a much more pragmatic approach to roster construction. They might have had the 'Big Three' before that became a popular way to describe the Miami Heat with LeBron, Wade and Bosh, but the Celtics have taken the slow rebuild approach which is beginning to pay dividends.
Al Horford has come in to give Boston a little more star power and he does look like a good piece to bring in, while the Celtics have enough assets to perhaps make a big trade in-season. Marcus Smart looks like he will be missing in the season opener and likely for the rest of the week, but Boston have plenty of depth here and look like a genuine contender in the Eastern Conference if Horford and Isaiah Thomas can get on the same page.
They do look significantly better than the Brooklyn Nets who are holding onto Brook Lopez like their lives depend on it. I don't think anyone would be surprised if Lopez is traded at some point this season but first he has to learn a new system as the Nets try to be competitive.
Brooklyn has some nice pieces, but depth is going to be a problem for them and Boston have the kind of Defensive shape that can make life difficult for them. However I think the Nets might be getting too many points in this one with Boston perhaps looking beyond the home opener to the trip to the Chicago Bulls which comes on Thursday.
Covering double digit spreads has been something of a mixed bag for the Celtics and I can see Brooklyn having a run in the Fourth Quarter that sees them come within this number.
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Philadelphia 76ers Pick: Kevin Durant has moved on and Russell Westbrook has told the media he is no longer going to talk about it as the Oklahoma City Thunder become his team. Westbrook has taken Durant's decision pretty personally having felt disrespected in the manner in which he was told of the plans of his former brother in arms.
This could mean trouble for the rest of the NBA as Westbrook is likely to produce a huge season after signing an extended contract with the Thunder to everyone's surprise. There is still some talent left over in Oklahoma City, but it is clear the loss of Durant might have taken away their chances of winning the NBA Championship at least for this season.
Serge Ibaka is another player who has moved on and the Thunder open their season with some questions about what to expect from them. This still looks like a Play Off team in the Western Conference, but I think most would be absolutely stunned if they were in the Western Conference Finals let alone in a 3-1 lead over the Golden State Warriors like they were in May 2015.
Oklahoma City can erase some of the concerns that this squad is going to collapse in the face of Durant's exit by winning at the awful Philadelphia 76ers in their opening game of the season. The 76ers might be loaded with top picks, but there doesn't seem to be a game plan as to how to get this roster moving forward which has also seen some of their players irritated by what they perceive as hoarding in one position and finding no balance.
Nerlens Noel has spoken about having three potential starting Centers on the roster but two of those won't be playing in the opener including Noel. The 76ers will also be missing their Number 1 Draft Pick Ben Simmons for a few weeks and I think this team will need time but are more likely to be amongst the leading lottery teams again.
This feels a chance for Westbrook to prove that the Thunder are far from done just because Durant has left the club. The Thunder have a 5-2 record against the spread in their last seven in Philadelphia and I can see Oklahoma City just pulling away in the second half to record a win by double digits.
Houston Rockets @ LA Lakers Pick: The Mike D'Antoni era in Houston will begin this week against a team is familar with as his last Head Coach role was with the LA Lakers where he struggled despite having Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash on the roster. There was a feeling D'Antoni and Howard didn't really see eye to eye and it was no surprise that Howard was moved on to Atlanta by the Rockets in the off-season.
That wasn't just to do with the Head Coach though as James Harden had seemingly gotten fed up of Howard too and a number of other players on the roster was less convinced about the big man's antics. This is now fully Harden's team and the Houston Rockets have to be excited about the kind of Offensive output they are going to see from the D'Antoni system.
Players like Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon have been signed by the Rockets to join Harden and Trevor Ariza and I do think the Houston Rockets will be contending in the Western Conference. The improvements have to come Defensively and it does have to be noted that Mike D'Antoni teams have been known for what they do with the ball in hand rather than how they shape up without it.
Houston will be expecting to make a good start against the LA Lakers who are still a team in transition having struggled the last few seasons. Luke Walton has been brought in as the Head Coach and his time with the Golden State Warriors will encourage this fanbase that their former player can get the Lakers moving back up the Western Conference standings.
They won't like being in the shadow of the LA Clippers but the Lakers have to be excited about some of the young talent on the roster. Walton has to try and get that talent progressing and the Lakers have brought in some experienced heads to help them out, most notably Luol Deng.
It won't be a quick fix for the Lakers and I do wonder if they can keep up with the Houston Rockets who will be strong Offensively. Houston have a 16-5 record against the spread in the last twenty-one games between these teams and they have covered in their last 6 games at the Staples Center while Houston won all three games last season by an average of 19 points per game.
I do think the Lakers will be an improved team this time around, but they might have to settle for an opening loss to the Rockets. Houston do visit their big rivals the Dallas Mavericks in a couple of days, but Mike D'Antoni will also want to get one over on the team he last coached and I like the Rockets here.
Thursday 27th October
It has been a frustrating couple of days for the NBA Picks with a couple of surprising performances hurting them. You have to be disappointed by the start, but it is only a start in a long season and things can quickly be turned around.
Washington Wizards @ Atlanta Hawks Pick: It will feel like a new beginning for the Atlanta Hawks and Dwight Howard when they open their new season on Thursday. Howard was the big name signing for the Hawks this off-season but he has to show that his dip in numbers in the 2015/16 season with the Houston Rockets is not the start of an irretrievable slide towards the end of his career.
Howard is a 'marmite' kind of player with many of his former teammates critical of his attitude and most NBA fans have never really forgiven him for the way he worked his way out of Orlando. He now returns to his home town team in a bid to show he is capable of being a leader and taking a team to the NBA Finals like he once did with Orlando.
Atlanta have changed too having moved for Howard when Al Horford decided he would take less money in a better situation with the Boston Celtics. There has been a transitioning from players like Jeff Teague too who have run the point for Atlanta in recent years as he was traded to the Indiana Pacers.
The Hawks still have some talent, but they could be battling with the likes of the Washington Wizards who are looking to get back to the Play Offs after missing out last year. The Wizards might need time with Bradley Beal never far away from an injury and John Wall recovering from his own knee surgeries which means his minutes will be limited at best in the opener.
Scott Brooks has come in as the new Head Coach for Washington who fired Randy Wittman unsurprisingly at the end of last season. The Wizards will hope Brooks can blend Beal and Wall in a way he did for the Oklahoma City Thunder with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, but it might take some time for both of these teams to really find the right formula at both ends of the court.
The four games last season were split two each with all four games ending in comfortable wins for the team taking home the 'W'. The Hawks were 1-1 against the spread in those games at home and I think this is going to be another tight game between them. I am giving the edge to Atlanta because they look to have a little more steadiness in the line up with players who have been here and a Head Coach whose system is in place.
I like the Hawks to find their way to a win and a cover in their opening game of the season.
LA Clippers @ Portland Trail Blazers Pick: Last May will have been a big disappointment for the LA Clippers who failed to make an impact in the Western Conference Play Offs as they were hit hard by injuries. They were beaten four straight times by the Portland Trail Blazers in the First Round Play Off series and now the Clippers get a chance to put the record straight in their first game of the 2016/17 season.
It can't be a surprise that any team that has both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are going to be seen as a contender to win the NBA Championship and that is where the Clippers find themselves going into a new season. They looked to have made significant moves to bring in more veterans and offer more depth after those injuries derailed their last season and the Clippers might be the deepest they have been in the Doc Rivers era.
They do have to deal with a Portland Trail Blazers team that already have their first regular season win under their belts and who will have positive memories of winning four in a row to beat the Clippers in the Play Offs. Damian Lilliard has said he wants to win the MVP award and began the season with a strong game and the Trail Blazers look good Offensively.
There is still work to do on the other side of the court and a team like the Clippers have enough to expose those vulnerabilities. Playing in the Rose Garden has been difficult over the years, The Clippers did lose three times here in the Play Offs, but that was without Paul and Griffin who are both set to go in this one. Before those losses the Clippers had also won 3 out of 4 visits to Portland and they covered the spread in those wins.
With revenge on their mind, the LA Clippers can get off to a positive start with a big road performance and I will look for them to cover here.
Friday 28th October
It was a much better day for the NBA Picks on Thursday with both made coming in as fairly comfortable winners even if both the Washington Wizards and Portland Trail Blazers made strong runs at points during the game. On Friday there is a fairly heavy schedule of games from the NBA and hopefully I can find the right spots for a couple more winners to get this opening week turned right around.
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Toronto Raptors Pick: The Cleveland Cavaliers needed to dig down deep to see off the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals last May, but their recent record in Canada is not great. They might have won in Game 6 on the road in Toronto, but previously had failed to win or cover in four straight visits north of the border.
Both teams opened the new season with dominating wins, but this is a big game for both to set a marker for the season. My feeling is that it means more to the Raptors to show they can compete with Cleveland this time around, but I have to say it is tough to oppose the Cavaliers when you see how loose they looked on Tuesday now the pressure of bringing a title home is no longer on them.
Even with that in mind, I can just see the Toronto Raptors wanting this one more than Cleveland and that can make all the difference in these tight games. There is no doubt in my mind that Cleveland will beat Toronto if they play again in the Play Offs, but this isn't that time of the season and the Cavaliers will head into a hostile environment and might not want to dig as deep as Toronto will.
The Raptors are 4-1 against the spread in their last five home games against Cleveland and all of those times they have covered the spread has also seen Toronto win straight up. They are playing with more desire having been humiliatingly beaten by Cleveland in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals at home and I like the Raptors to give it their all to win this one and will take the points on offer.
Indiana Pacers @ Brooklyn Nets Pick: A couple of days ago I backed the Brooklyn Nets to cover with a lot of points on the road at the Boston Celtics because I felt the latter might be looking ahead to their big game with the Chicago Bulls. The Nets play their home opener in an identical position as their opponents, the Indiana Pacers, will be visiting the Chicago Bulls on Saturday.
However this time I think the Indiana Pacers can pull away for the cover on the road against the pretty average Brooklyn Nets.
Even though the Nets did come back to cover on Wednesday, they were actually down by 23 points in the Fourth Quarter and made use of the double digit points they received from the layers. The Pacers did need Overtime a couple of days ago to see off the Dallas Mavericks, but this is a team that looks to have made the right moves in the off-season to be a genuine contender in the Eastern Conference having missed the Play Offs last season.
Brooklyn are focusing on becoming a three point shooting team and that will make them dangerous whenever they are in receipt of a lot of points. This might not be enough though and Indiana have a 10-4 record against the spread here. I think the Pacers are a team looking to build some chemistry and so should be focused to prove they can work up the standings this season with a double digit win over one of the poorer teams in the NBA.
Orlando Magic @ Detroit Pistons Pick: Both the Orlando Magic and the Detroit Pistons would have been disappointed in the effort made in opening game losses and both will be looking to bounce back effectively on Friday. The Pistons have been set as the favourite, but I think Orlando Magic can make the points count.
Reggie Jackson is out for the Pistons which means they are running their Offense through Ishe Smith and Beno Udrih who both had some issues with their shot in the blow out loss in Toronto. There also will be some concern about Andre Drummond and his health having seen him come out early in the last game and now in concussion protocol ahead of this one.
That is going to be a key for Detroit who frustrated Head Coach Stan Van Gundy by being dominated on the glass. It will be a problem again on Friday with Orlando bringing in players like Bismack Biyombo who will make his season debut here and give the Magic more of a presence in the paint. Serge Ibaka is another who can pound the glass and Nikola Vucevic is yet another big man who can give Detroit a lot of problems especially if Drummond is limited.
Orlando will be looking for improvements of their own having been upset by the Miami Heat at home but this looks a chance to match up better against the Pistons who have won and covered in the last six in the series between these teams. However the problems Detroit have had Offensively coupled with Orlando perhaps dominating the boards and earning second chance points could make the points being given to the Magic the key to the game.
Saturday 29th October
That was more than a frustrating evening for the picks with Kyrie Irving hitting a three pointer in the final minute which saw Cleveland win by three and cover by half a point, while the Indiana Pacers somehow blew a big lead heading into the Fourth Quarter against the Brooklyn Nets.
What happened to Orlando is anyone's guess as they were winning by one point and next time I looked they had been outscored 24-2 and eventually blown out.
Memphis Grizzlies @ New York Knicks Pick: There is going to be some teething problems for the New York Knicks who are blooding in new faces into a new system that they are unfamiliar with. Derrick Rose isn't panicking after one blow out loss to the NBA Champions Cleveland Cavaliers, but I am not sure the New York Knicks should be favoured to beat a competent team like the Memphis Grizzlies just yet.
The Grizzlies have dominated the recent series between the teams with six straight wins and by an average of over ten points per game. They are missing both Chandler Parsons and it looks like Tony Allen will join him which might leave Memphis shorthanded, but I still can't buy the New York Knicks as a favourite in this match up at this point of the season.
The public are buying that and the money is coming in on the home team, but I want to take the points with the Grizzlies. Zach Randolph is helping off the bench and it is in those moments when the benches face each other where Memphis can have their success.
As a Knicks fan I would love to be wrong, but taking the points here looks the right call.
Indiana Pacers @ Chicago Bulls Pick: The Indiana Pacers are a much better team than they showed in the Fourth Quarter against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, but I do wonder if they have left something out on the court before they visit the Chicago Bulls having to work harder than anticipated.
We saw the new look Bulls take advantage of the Boston Celtics in a similar situation earlier this week and I think Chicago can beat another of the Eastern Conference rivals on a back to back on Saturday. Dwyane Wade looked good in the colours of his home team and Chicago have the kind of roster that could make serious noise in the Play Offs if they can gel together in the coming months.
I also like the moves the Pacers make to improve their roster and I think they could be a surprise, but it is always tough to play the back to back like they have to deal with. I also think the Bulls might be able to win the battle on the glass which is going to be a key to the game and being at home should suit Chicago as they look to go 2-0 to open the season.
The Bull are being backed by the public, but I have to go with them here and I'll ask Chicago to cover the small spread at home. The Bulls have won their last 4 home games against Indiana Pacers and can perhaps use their freshness in the Fourth Quarter to get the job done in this one.
Portland Trail Blazers @ Denver Nuggets Pick: The Portland Trail Blazers were barely beaten by the LA Clippers in their last game and they face the Golden State Warriors next which could make the game with the Denver Nuggets look like a bad spot for them. However I think the Trail Blazers have had enough time between this game and their last to be focused while the game with the Warriors is coming on Tuesday evening.
Portland are expected to be one of the better teams in the Western Conference while Damian Lilliard is playing with a big chip on his shoulder. Lilliard feels he is overlooked when it comes to talking about the best players in the NBA and that he hasn't been recognised with an All-Star place and the Point Guard has spoken about genuinely trying to win the MVP award.
His numbers have been excellent in the first two games and this is Lilliard's team although he is backed up with some quality players around him. They do look better than Denver, but controlling the boards is going to be the task for the Trail Blazers if they are going to win this game and I think they are capable of at least matching the Nuggets.
Portland have a good record here having gone 6-2 against the spread and being rested ahead of a trip to the Mile High City is huge for the Trail Blazers. Denver have a big run under their belts already with a win over the New Orleans Pelicans on the road, but I think the Trail Blazers may win the battle from outside the arc which can see them earn a big win on the road.
Sunday 30th October
Saturday could have been a really poor day again when the Portland Trail Blazers blew a big Third Quarter lead, but Damian Lillard came up big at the end of the Fourth Quarter and moving into Overtime to help them rally and come away with a big win on the road.
That also meant avoiding a losing day as I look to recover over the last two days of the month, although I could only find one pick I like on Sunday.
Dallas Mavericks @ Houston Rockets Pick: This is the second of a home and home games between the Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks as Houston look to make it two out of two against the rivals. The Rockets won by eight on the road a couple of days ago and could face the Mavericks without Dirk Nowtizki for a second time.
That should give the Rockets the edge, but this is a team that is going to rely on the three point shot and that is going to make Houston a little inconsistent. Some days you do have bad shooting days in the office which will be tough to overcome, but Houston have a lot of star power outside the arc and James Harden remains a huge piece for them.
The Dallas Defense dealing with the three point shot has been disappointing so far this season, and that is a problem. They will likely have to lean on Harrison Barnes again who had a huge game a couple of days ago, but Houston can outscore them again and I like them to cover here.
Houston have a 11-4 record against the spread against Dallas overall and 6-1 against the spread in their last seven at home against the Mavericks. I will back them to extend that recent record against them.
Monday 31st October
Another frustrating day for the picks as Houston win their game but don't cover because they score a total of 30 points in the second half (scored 34 points in the First Quarter alone). I won't lie, that kind of stuff annoys me a lot because simply scoring at even slightly a higher rate makes it an easy day as they blow a 10 point lead going into the Fourth Quarter.
Yeah, I do want to see better luck than that going forward!!
Denver Nuggets @ Toronto Raptors Pick: It was yet another defeat for the Toronto Raptors against the Cleveland Cavaliers as they came so close to the upset, but couldn't quite get over the hump in the Fourth Quarter. A late three pointer from Kyrie Irving proved to be the difference and the Raptors are looking to bounce back in their third home game of the regular season.
They will need more from Kyle Lowry who has struggled in the opening two games and put too much pressure on DeMar DeRozan who has been doing really well. It is still early in the season and no one in this organisation needs to panic but the Raptors will have seen there is still some work to do to get closer to the Cavaliers and the importance of having their best players firing at the same time when they do play the best teams in the East.
On Monday they take on a team from the Western Conference as the Denver Nuggets come to town having won two of their last three games in Toronto. Denver had a disappointing loss on Saturday night to the Portland Trail Blazers at home but the roster might be back to full strength for this game and there were signs that a young team will be a tough out for anyone they face.
This does feel like it is a game that is coming at a tough time for Toronto between the Cleveland game and then a first road game at Washington. The Nuggets are travelling to Toronto, but have a few days off before they play again so can put their all into this one and I think they have the players that can crash the boards and make life tough for Toronto.
The concern has to be the Defensive side of the court where Denver have struggled in their opening two games, but I like the spot for the Nuggets and will take the points.
Chicago Bulls @ Brooklyn Nets Pick: A new look Chicago Bulls team have played really well with the ball being shared around amongst the top players on the roster. It was even more encouraging in the win over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday as Chicago actually opened the door for Doug McDermott to have the most shots which is remarkable considering the likes of Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade on the roster.
That bodes well for the Bulls going forward, but it will be interesting to see how they respond to the first road game of the season. It is a tough spot for the Bulls having a big game at the Boston Celtics to come next and now facing what was considered to be one of the weaker teams in the NBA, but the Brooklyn Nets have played well enough in their opening three games to be a threat here.
The Nets have a 1-2 record, but they have covered the spread in each game as the underdog as they have remained competitive throughout. It might be a little more difficult against the Bulls because Brooklyn rely on the three point shot to open up, but Chicago have actually defended the perimeter very well.
Focus should be there knowing how competitive Brooklyn have been and Chicago were also able to give their starters plenty of rest in the blow out win over the Indiana Pacers. Winning the rebound battle is going to be important for Chicago and I think the performances of the Nets to open the season will see Chicago come out and play with plenty of focus on the task at hand and not look ahead to the visit to Boston. I will take the Bulls to win this one and cover the spread.
Sacramento Kings @ Atlanta Hawks Pick: The DeMarcus Cousins versus Dwight Howard match up is going to be a huge part of this Sacramento Kings visit to the Atlanta Hawks with both teams in good form to open the season. The Hawks have moved on from Al Horford and Jeff Teague, but have not missed a beat with easy wins over Washington and Philadelphia, while the Kings have a new Head Coach who has helped them go 2-1 ahead of this five game road trip.
How the Kings do on the road may determine whether they are good enough to earn a surprising Play Off place at the end of this season. Keeping Cousins focused and happy is also important while Sacramento have a solid complement to the big man in Rudy Gay who has played well.
It will be a big challenge at the Atlanta Hawks where the Kings have lost nine in a row and the Hawks can point to their strong Defensive performances in the first two games which has helped them pull clear of opponents. They have also been strong on the glass, although that will be tested by Cousins and the Kings on Halloween.
If the Hawks can somehow still win the rebounding battle by keeping Howard out of foul trouble, I do think they can take advantage of their early schedule to move to 3-0. Atlanta have dominated the Kings at home in recent seasons as they have covered in their last four at home against them and I like the Hawks to continue that run here.
MY PICKS: 25/10 New York Knicks + 9.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
25/10 Golden State Warriors - 9 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
26/10 Brooklyn Nets + 13.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
26/10 Oklahoma City Thunder - 8.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
26/10 Houston Rockets - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
27/10 Atlanta Hawks - 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Coral (1 Unit)
27/10 LA Clippers - 1.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
28/10 Toronto Raptors + 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
28/10 Indiana Pacers - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
28/10 Orlando Magic + 4 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
29/10 Memphis Grizzlies + 2 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
29/10 Chicago Bulls - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
29/10 Portland Trail Blazers + 1 Point @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
30/10 Houston Rockets - 4.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
31/10 Denver Nuggets + 7 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
31/10 Chicago Bulls - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
31/10 Atlanta Hawks - 7 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
October 25-31 Update: 8-9, - 1.72 Units
Final Season 2016: 150-143-7, - 5.37 Units