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Tuesday, 17 October 2017

NBA Picks October 2017 (October 17-22)

Things seem to move at a rapid rate in life and you can start seeing that when you notice a new NBA season is just about to get underway. It feels like only yesterday we were watching the Golden State Warriors earn revenge over the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the NBA Championship, yet here we are ready to go again.

The season is actually starting a little earlier than usual as the League does its best to avoid the kind of schedules that have been criticised over the years. It should be reducing back to back games for teams over the course of the next nine months and that has been done in an effort to help player welfare which should be a concern of any sporting association.

Vegas is expecting more of the same this season with the favourite for the NBA Finals being another match up between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Not many would go against that, but other teams have started to make moves to try and get closer with the likes of the Boston Celtics, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets making big moves to close the gap to the two teams who have dominated the NBA landscape.

The biggest news had to be Kyrie Irving demanding a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers and then receiving his wish by being moved to the Boston Celtics. Isaiah Thomas went the other way although he won't be available for a couple of months at least, but it was the move that raised the most eyebrows in the off-season.

Thomas himself wasn't impressed with the Celtics, although he might have moved into a better situation being teamed up with the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Love. The Cavs have made some other moves designed to try and get closer to the Golden State Warriors, although I am convinced the biggest threat to Golden State winning another title is going to come from within the Western Conference.

Houston have brought in Chris Paul to join James Harden, while the Thunder have held onto Russell Westbrook and brought in Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to try and match the 'super team' the Warriors have put together.

You can never rule out the likes of the San Antonio Spurs while the LA Lakers will be fun to watch if only to see what kind of crazy talk LaVar Ball can produce.

There are some fun teams in the NBA that will provide entertainment, but picking against there being another NBA Final involving the Cavaliers and Warriors is brave with the current rosters.

One team that may not be so much fun to watch are my New York Knicks who are in a complete rebuild mode. There are some young talented players on the roster, but the NBA is a harsh learning ground and the Knicks look like one of the weaker teams in the NBA this season, especially on the Defensive side of the court.


As I did last season, I will break up the NBA Picks into smaller threads than the full month threads I did previously. I think it makes it easier to read and I will use the Featured Post to have them at the top of the pile whenever possible.

The first couple of months the NBA is really behind the NFL and College Football games that are played as well as the Major League Baseball Play Offs which are concluded over the next couple of weeks. That does mean the NBA may struggle for the same headlines, while this is also a learning curve for teams that have been put together and beginning to play competitive basketball together for the first time.

It can make for some weird results, but that is just the nature of the beast and always the pressure of trying to find the right angles when making your picks.

Anyway let's hope for a really good 2017/18 season.


Tuesday 17th October
Boston Celtics @ Cleveland Cavaliers Pick: The NBA schedule came out before the major trade between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers had been put through, but the season could not have asked for a better start than Kyrie Irving returning to Cleveland with his new team.

Irving surprised everyone by asking for his trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers weeks after losing the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors, although there was a suggestion that loss had nothing to do with his decision. Instead Irving had made it clear he no longer wanted to play with LeBron James and instead wanted to join a team that would make him the focal point of any success they were going to have.

The Celtics gave up plenty to upgrade the Point Guard position and that included seeing Isaiah Thomas moving in the other direction. Thomas won't be ready to play against his former team, but Jae Crowder will be available for the Cavaliers having been another player used to sweeten the deal and bring Irving to Boston.

The Celtics have also signed Gordon Hayward this off-season as they try and edge closer to the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference. Irving, Hayward and Al Horford might not have the same star power as other 'Big Three' teams around the NBA, but the Celtics do look stronger than they did a few months ago when losing in the Conference Finals to Cleveland and will be looking to make a point on Tuesday in the opener.

Like many teams in the NBA, Cleveland have also made some roster moves with veterans Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade and Jose Calderon joining the team which is dominated by the presence of LeBron James. That may not be the case on Tuesday as James has been banged up and his decision to play in this one will come down to the final hours ahead of the tip off.

Limited action in the pre-season means James is likely to be rusty anyway and the Boston Celtics have to see this as a chance to make a statement. The starting five for the Cavaliers has a new look compared with last season and missing their leader in James could be the kind of blow it is tough to recover from when trying to build chemistry.


You simply can't ignore that Cleveland are 4-23 when James does not play since he returned to the Cavaliers and they have lost their last 11 in a row in that situation. It feels like a game that means more to Boston regardless to show their trade for Irving is going to put them over the hump in the Eastern Conference and I like the fact that the Celtics are 3-0-1 against the spread in the last four at Cleveland.

The road team is 12-3-1 against the spread in the last sixteen in the series and I think the Celtics can play enough strong Defense to help them with the points they are receiving.


Houston Rockets @ Golden State Warriors Pick: Like many teams in the Western Conference, the Houston Rockets were very much focused on what they could do to get closer to the Golden State Warriors who have dominated over the last three years. The decision to bring in Chris Paul from the LA Clippers was taken, but the Rockets couldn't add Carmelo Anthony as they tried to and they still look like they will be a little short.

Any team with Paul and James Harden won't believe that to be the case, and the Rockets do look stronger than last year. They are a dangerous team running the systems Mike D'Antoni insists and I do expect Houston to do a lot of scoring, while they have added some less heralded players to try and do the dirty work on the Defensive side of the court to slow down the Golden State Warriors.

It will take time for Paul and Harden to get on the same page though, especially when it comes to the ball-handling on key possessions, and Houston may have some teething problems to overcome. Paul has also suffered some key injuries during Play Off runs for the LA Clippers which may have some questioning the status of his health and whether he can get through a long and arduous regular season slog in the NBA.

An immediate test against the Golden State Warriors, the defending NBA Champions, will show Houston how far they have got to go. Opening games can be tough for teams in a position the Golden State Warriors are in too as they may not be completely focused for a regular season game when the plaudits from last season are still going to be ringing in their ears, but they look much more settled than most of their rivals.

Golden State just haven't made any moves to the starting rotation which means the consistency should see them get off the ground immediately. Adding the likes of Nick Young are a bid to improve the rotation of the team which was already at a high level and the Warriors are clearly enjoying their time together.

This time around they don't have to try and fit in a new piece like they did twelve months ago with Kevin Durant arriving. Now Durant will feel like one of the team and he showed in the NBA Finals that he may be the best player in a loaded Warriors team that can look to Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to give them a spark.

It is a lot of points to ask the Warriors to cover when you think of the Offensive power the Houston Rockets have. However I think the Warriors are more settled with their team all knowing what to expect from each other compared with the Houston Rockets who will be working Chris Paul into the system and who might be learning what him and Harden want to do in clutch moments.

Golden State have dominated the Houston Rockets in recent years and they are 5-1 against the spread in the last six in the series while also being 4-1 against the spread in the last five at the Oracle Arena against the Rockets. I will be looking for the Golden State Warriors to cover a big number in this one too.


Wednesday 18th October
I actually have no idea where to start with Gordon Hayward's devastating injury suffered just five minutes into his debut for the Boston Celtics. It's an injury that is a huge setback for the player and the Celtics in general and I think the most gruesome sports injury I have seen in a long time if not ever.

I just hope recovery can see Hayward come back to something like his best form, but it is a long road back for the All-Star and you can only wish the best for him.

Brooklyn Nets @ Indiana Pacers Pick: It looks to be a rebuilding year for the Brooklyn Nets and the Indiana Pacers who have lost their top players in the off-season. The Nets have seemingly been in a rebuild forever and that has seen their owner put them up for sale although he does want two billion dollars for the franchise and their lovely home.

Losing Brook Lopez in a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers has at least given the Nets something to build around as they were given D'Angelo Russell, a former Number 2 overall pick in the Draft. The Lakers have a new young core to build around, but Russell is a talented player that at least gives the Nets some hope for the future and the direction this franchise is trying to head.

The Nets are likely to be starting three new starters out of their five and that is going to mean a learning curve for the team. They have signed a couple of veterans to help out, but the Nets have a lot of ground to make up for after finishing with the worst record in the NBA last season.

The expectation is that Brooklyn are going to have a difficult season and the same can be said for the Indiana Pacers despite the Eastern Conference being an open one outside of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics. Paul George made it clear that he was not going to be extending his contract with the Pacers so the decision was made to trade him to the Oklahoma City Thunder and that means Indiana have a big hole to fill in.

Victor Oladipo came over in the trade that took George to Oklahoma City, while Jeff Teague was allowed to move on which means a new back court will begin for the Pacers this season. Oladipo is a player with potential to grow despite not reaching the heights some many have had for him, while Darren Collison has shown he is a solid veteran.

Myles Turner figures to be the key player for Indiana who are trying to speed up the Offense and I am not sure the Pacers are going to better despite the players feeling the movement is superior to last season. They are a young team that will likely make some mistakes, but this is a game the Pacers have to feel they can win and I do think they will do that and cover the spread.

The favourite and the home team have strong numbers against the spread in recent games between these teams and I think the Indiana Pacers may have the superior back court which can help them win this one.


Milwaukee Bucks @ Boston Celtics Pick: You could see it in the eyes of the players on the court and the Cleveland Cavaliers bench, who could not turn away quick enough, that Gordon Hayward had suffered a devastating injury on the opening night of the season. The loud crash saw Hayward break his ankle and his lower leg which has left his season in tatters and also put the Boston Celtics behind the eight ball having invested so much in bringing Hayward in this off-season.

The players and fans won't be concerned about the financial outlay, but they are worried about where Hayward's absence will leave the team. They will begin to find out as Boston don't have time to sit and feel sorry for themselves but instead are straight back on the horse in a back to back to open the 2017/18 season.

After rallying to take the lead against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Boston Celtics ended up barely on the wrong side of the loss on the opening night. Now they have to take on one of those teams in the Eastern Conference who have big things expected of them, even if they are not quite up to the standard of the Cavaliers.

The Milwaukee Bucks have stayed pat with the team that overachieved last season and that may be the best decision they could make. This was a team with a young core who would have learned from the experiences from making the Play Offs last season and I think the Bucks can certainly take another step in their development.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon are a stellar set of young players with Antetokounmpo ready to take the next step towards being a superstar in this League. Brogdon was the Rookie of the Year last year and the Bucks are feeling confident despite not having Jabari Parker who is recovering from an ACL injury.

Being back at home has to give Boston plenty of motivation, but I have to worry about this spot. They will have realised the full extent of the Hayward injury with the players likely to be worrying about their team mate rather than focusing on this game, while the Celtics also put in a huge effort to come up short in their loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday.

Boston do have a solid record playing the second of a back to back, but Milwaukee are 11-5 against the spread in the last sixteen games played in Boston. The road team is 8-3 against the spread in the last eleven in the series and the underdog is 11-4 against the spread in the last fifteen in this series.

I hate opposing Boston after the devastating injury they saw to one of their team-mates on Tuesday, but this is not a good spot for them and that can't be ignored. I will take the points with the Milwaukee Bucks.


Thursday 19th October
Chicago Bulls @ Toronto Raptors Pick: The NBA season has gotten underway for most teams, but the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls have had to wait a couple more days before they get their opener going. There are completely different expectations for the two teams going into the new season with Toronto expected to be amongst the top contenders in the Eastern Conference and the Chicago Bulls potentially finishing with the worst record in the NBA.

Much of that is down to the moves the Bulls have made in the off-season with some of the veteran players on the roster being moved on. The biggest move had to be the decision to trade Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves and that means Chicago are going into the season with a young roster.

Those players are clearly not all on the same page at the moment though as evidenced by Nikola Mirotic being ruled out for the next few weeks with a fracture in the facial area. That came after he got into an altercation with Bobby Portis and resulted in the Bulls suspending the latter too which means they are likely to be shorthanded in this one and that is not good news when facing the Toronto Raptors who have managed to keep a significant portion of their core together.

Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka remain in Toronto and that gives them the continuity that others team can miss early in the season. There is a new system in place which is going to ask the Raptors to inject more speed in their play and also look for more three pointers as they try to close the gap on the top teams in the Eastern Conference, although how quickly the likes of Lowry and DeRozan adjust is going to be a key.

These are two players that love to crash the paint and force their way onto the foul line so it may take some time for the new system to be accepted by the players. However the Raptors look in a good place to snap a 0-7 record against the spread in their last seven home games against the Chicago Bulls.

The underdog has been dominant in the recent series, but this time Toronto look to have a big edge on the court in terms of the experience and the quality of player they can call upon. Add in the issues Chicago have been having which has been highlighted by the Portis-Mirotic altercation and the Bulls could be shorthanded for this first game of the season and I am going to back the Raptors to cover a big spread.


New York Knicks @ Oklahoma City Thunder Pick: There is a lot of excitement around the Oklahoma City Thunder who have signed Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to join Russell Westbrook. Bringing three big players together is supposed to give the Thunder every chance to close the gap between them and the Golden State Warriors, although there remain some big questions as to which of these three players will dominate the shots at clutch times in the Fourth Quarter.

Those questions will be answered during the course of the season, but the headlines on Thursday will very much focus on Anthony facing his former team, the New York Knicks, in their season opener.

Melo was forced out of New York by management and the only surprise was that it took so long for a trade to be concluded that would send Anthony away from the Knicks. He still has a lot of love for the fans and his team-mates that have been left behind, but you can hear the anger and disappointment in the voice when Anthony speaks about how he was treated in the final months in New York.

That should mean Anthony is playing with a lot of motivation in this one and the Thunder are likely to be the much stronger team on the day. The New York Knicks now have a young core of players that they want to develop, but that means the 2017/18 season looks to be one of transition and one that is going to see their young players go through some teething troubles.

Kristaps Porzingis is expected to take over the Knicks as the young leader on the team, while Frank Ntilikina should be good to go in the opener as the new ball handler for the Knicks. However this is a team that looks like it will have some major problems on the Defensive side of the court and Oklahoma City certainly have the players to expose those vulnerabilities.

Doug McDermott and Enes Kanter are facing their former team too and could want to show the Thunder what they are missing, but I think the home team are clearly superior and should show that on the night. There will be a learning curve for the Oklahoma City Thunder moving forward, but I think they can score too many points for the Knicks in the opener and I will look for them to cover a big spread.


Friday 20th October
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Milwaukee Bucks Pick: Both teams opened the season with a win over the Boston Celtics and some may see this as a chance to lay down an early marker for being the dominant force in the Eastern Conference. It does feel like the game means more to the Milwaukee Bucks to prove they are ready to take the next step in their development as this young team build from their Play Off appearance from last season.

That's not to say this doesn't mean anything to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the only team that can make a big statement are the Bucks. If the Cavaliers lose no one is going to lose faith that they are the team to beat in the Conference, but a Bucks loss will raise more questions as to how far away Milwaukee are from being able to challenge the very best teams in the Conference and then the NBA.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has been speaking about become a MVP candidate this season and he showed in the opening game what he is all about. Now he comes up against LeBron James who continues to show why he is the premier player in the NBA although Kevin Durant may have something to say about that.

James was in special form on opening night although that game was overshadowed by the injury to Gordon Hayward of the Boston Celtics. I do think that had an impact on the Celtics when they faced the Bucks the next evening and even then the game was very close before Milwaukee pulled away at the end.

Both Cleveland and Milwaukee showed they can perform on the Defensive side of the court against the Celtics, but I do think the Cavaliers might be the more efficient team on the other side of the court. The key to the outcome is likely to be which of the teams can perform best on the boards and I do think that will be close which is part of the reason the oddsmakers are not really able to offer a big spread in this one.

Picking a winner isn't easy but I am leaning towards the Cavaliers as I can see a situation where the occasion could get to the Bucks. I just feel they might want this too much as they look to prove they belong with the elite, but I think that will be motivation for the Cavaliers to show why they are still the team to beat.

Cleveland have won six of their last seven against Milwaukee and that includes the last three last season after dropping the first game. I will look for a good start for the Cavaliers in this one and I will back them to cover the spread in what is a big early season game.


Utah Jazz @ Minnesota Timberwolves Pick: The Minnesota Timberwolves made one of the stand out trades in the off-season when they were able to bring in Jimmy Butler from the Chicago Bulls. Butler had plenty of success playing under Tom Thibodeau when they were both in Chicago and Butler joined a really young and talented core of players.

Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson have been signed to offer some veteran guidance to Butler, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves are a trendy pick to make the Play Offs this season. It has been a long time since Minnesota were able to play Play Off basketball and it has to be seen as the next step of the development for some of their players.

The arrival of Teague meant Ricky Rubio was not needed any more in Minnesota and he has joined the Utah Jazz so will be in town for the home opener. The Timberwolves were beaten at the San Antonio Spurs in their opening game, while Rubio was influential in helping the Jazz knock off the Denver Nuggets before heading to the Target Center for this game.

The Jazz did lose Gordon Hayward in the off-season and most are expecting them to take a step back, although they will be hoping to keep the Defensive shape together that was so important to Utah last season. It will be interesting to see how they get on with that in the weeks ahead, but I do think the Jazz can make these points count.

At the moment I think the Timberwolves are going to be overrated being the trendy pick for a place in the Play Offs, and so they are dealing with some spreads that are skewed in favour of their opponents. I think Utah will be motivated to spoil the party especially with Rubio returning to his former team and I will take the points with the Jazz.


Saturday 21st October
Detroit Pistons @ New York Knicks Pick: The New York Knicks might be my favourite NBA team, but they are going to have some real problems over the 2017/18 season as they look poor Defensively and the young players need time.

The only benefit for them in this one is they are facing a Detroit Pistons team who are off a back to back and who have a really poor record at Madison Square Garden. That might be the reason the Knicks are only narrowly set as the underdog, but I think the Pistons are considerably stronger and should be too good on the night.

Detroit have the superior bench and I think they can be backed here to cover on the road.


Oklahoma City Thunder @ Utah Jazz Pick: The Utah Jazz narrowly lost at the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night, but that might have taken something out of the tank. It is tough to get up and chase down the Oklahoma City Thunder shooters in this back to back and Utah have a really poor record in that spot over the last year.

However there are some teething problems for the Thunder which was evidenced in the win over the New York Knicks despite eventually pulling away. Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Camelo Anthony will get on the same page, but it may take some time.

That is likely to see the Thunder being over-rated in the weeks ahead, but I will back them here with Utah perhaps having invested a little more in their loss last night.

The Thunder are also 4-1 against the spread in the last five in the series and they might have enough shooting to win this one and cover the number too.

MY PICKS: 17/10 Boston Celtics + 4 Points @ 1.91 Coral (1 Unit)
17/10 Golden State Warriors - 9 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
18/10 Indiana Pacers - 3 Points @ 2.00 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
18/10 Milwaukee Bucks + 3 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
19/10 Toronto Raptors - 12.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
19/10 Oklahoma City Thunder - 12 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
20/10 Cleveland Cavaliers - 1.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
20/10 Utah Jazz + 4.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
21/10 Detroit Pistons - 2 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
21/10 Oklahoma City Thunder - 4.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)

Oct 17-22 Update: 8-2, + 5.37 Units (10 Units Staked, + 53.7% Yield)

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