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Monday, 23 October 2017

NBA Picks October 2017 (October 23-31)

The NBA might not be grabbing the headlines in the first week of the new season when it is being opposed by the World Series and the NFL/College Football seasons.

That is always the case during the first three months of the NBA season as teams at this time of the year are still working the kinks out of their performances. It has been said for a long time that the top teams only really focus completely when they get through the All Star break in February (which also coincides with the NBA and NHL being the only sports whose seasons are being played until the Major League Baseball season begins in April).

There are still moments when the NBA is the big show in town like the Christmas Day schedule, but for the most part the headlines are generated by other sports until later in the season.

Last week we saw the NBA season begin and the first major bit of news was the firing of Earl Watson at the Phoenix Suns. Of course injuries have also reared their ugly head already, while teams will be beginning to work out whether they are going to be making trade moves once all the restrictions have been restricted.

With so many teams having new looks, it is perhaps no surprise that there have been inconsistent results, although that has to be expected in a regular season which lasts until April.

The NBA picks had a solid start to the season last week as I put together a 8-2 record, but I won't be fooled into thinking it will always be that good. In a long regular season you are going to have ups and downs and that is just the nature of the way things will go, and I certainly won't be expecting a 80% strike rate every week.

The key is to try not to have a truly terrible week in response to a good week.

This thread will cover the remainder of the October schedule for the NBA and the next thread will cover the first few days of November as the season goes on.

Monday 23rd October
Philadelphia 76ers @ Detroit Pistons Pick: The Philadelphia 76ers are expected to take the next step in their development as they come into the season with their best young talent available for selection. There may be a minutes restriction early in the season for those players, but the 76ers had a surprising 2016/17 and a Play Off spot is the minimum the fans will be expecting.

It has been a difficult start on the schedule for the 76ers though and that has contributed to a 0-3 start to the new season. They have faced three Play Off teams from the Eastern Conference from last season and the 76ers were competitive in back to back games against the Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics before being blown out by the Toronto Raptors.

This is a team that is likely to improve, but it might not come immediately as they travel to face the healthy Detroit Pistons. Much of their issues last season came from the fact that Reggie Jackson was not fully healthy, but he has looked much better in the last week and has been joined by Avery Bradley in the back court to give the Pistons some nice shooting options.

Bradley's biggest impact will always be on the Defensive side of the ball although the Pistons have some real room for improvement on that side of the court in the early games of this season. Where the Pistons look to have the edge in this one is their presence on the boards with Andre Drummond and Tobias Harris likely to give Philadelphia some further problems on the rebounding numbers in this one.

So far the Pistons have also got more out of their bench which is likely to be important in this game and I do like Detroit to win and cover.

Detroit are 6-1 against the spread in the last seven against Philadelphia overall and they are 8-2 against the spread in the last ten when they have hosted them. The 76ers might be a team I am keeping an eye on in the early weeks of this season, but Detroit should be too good for them in this one and I will back the Pistons to cover the number against the 76ers as they have managed to do in recent games in the series.

Sacramento Kings @ Phoenix Suns Pick: The Phoenix Suns are a very young team and they had a difficult 2016/17 season and there were not huge expectations on this team going into the new season. However they have been even worse than most would have expected and that has been highlighted by some really terrible performances which suggested the had lost their patience with the Head Coach.

Management and ownership seem to have seen the same thing and a decision was made to fire Earl Watson over the weekend. That was quickly followed by Eric Bledsoe taking to social media and indicating how much he 'hates' being with the Suns and this is a team that will take some turning around.

Bledsoe joined up with the team on Monday despite the comment he had made, but he has been sent home and won't be taking part in the game with the Sacramento Kings. The latter are also a team in transition having made the decision to trade DeMarcus Cousins before the trade deadline in the 2016/17 season and this is not necessarily a very strong situational spot for the Kings.

They are playing the third time in four days with all of those games being on the road, while Sacramento have New Orleans and Cousins next up on deck which may be taking away some of the focus. The Kings were blown out at Denver last time out, and there are some questions about the Offensive side of the court for Sacramento to deal with.

The Offensive side might be helped by the fact they are facing the Phoenix Suns who have given up an average of 128 points per game in their opening three games of the season. Phoenix have been dominated on the boards and I think that will make a difference in this one for the Kings who have been strong enough in the rebounding numbers even without Cousins.

Sacramento have also shot the three point well enough to expose the holes Phoenix have had Defensively and I do like the Kings despite the negative schedule spot. They are 5-1 against the spread in their last six visits to the Suns and the Kings have covered the spread the last five times they have been off a loss.

With Phoenix being 1-9 against the spread in their last ten games against a team with a losing record and I will look for the road team to cover.

Tuesday 24th October
A couple of sloppy opening halves from the two teams I picked on Monday meant there was no way back despite both Detroit and Sacramento getting close to recovering their positions.

It's disappointing to have my first losing day of the season, but hopefully I can bounce back immediately on Tuesday with these three picks.

Brooklyn Nets @ Orlando Magic Pick: It is too early in the season to know how much to read into the starts teams are making, but the Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic are both at a surprising 2-1 after the first week of the season is in the books.

This is already the second time Orlando and Brooklyn are playing one another in the 2017/18 season and it was the Nets who won the first game at the Barclays Center last week. However the Magic have showed they can bounce back from their setback with a really impressive road win at the Cleveland Cavaliers as Orlando look to take a step forward in their development after an underachieving 2016/17 season.

On the other hand it is all about the transition for Brooklyn who are no longer spending lavishly for a quick fix, but instead have turned to a young core who can develop into a strong team. The Nets look likely to be a team with a losing record at the end of the season when the youngsters perhaps hit a wall, but at the moment they are enjoying their basketball and scoring plenty of points.

The fast paced system which leads to plenty of three point shots has really appealed to some of the younger talent on the roster and they are making it work. So far the Orlando Magic have defended the three point arc fairly effectively, but that will be put to the test by the Nets as will the overall Defensive schemes of the home team having see Brooklyn at first hand last week.

As much excitement as there is about the Offensive performances of the Nets, they still look a little weak on the other side of the court and that is where Orlando have to make hay. Much of the focus is on the Nets Offensive stats, but Orlando are averaging 117 points per game and they have been efficient enough to give Brooklyn plenty to think about.

Orlando are 5-1-1 against the spread in their last seven games against the Brooklyn Nets at home and the favourite has been strong in this series.

I like the spot for the Magic in this one too as they are playing with revenge after losing to Brooklyn just last week, while they are rested off a big win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Speaking about the Cavaliers, the Nets host them on Wednesday and it would not be a big surprise if a young team is looking ahead to that one instead of this as a chance to prove themselves against the defending Eastern Conference Champions.

With the recent trends in the series, I will look for the Magic to win and cover.

New York Knicks @ Boston Celtics Pick: The New York Knicks are looking for a better way to finish games after blowing a huge lead over the Detroit Pistons to fall to 0-2 in the new season. It will be tough to get into that position against the Boston Celtics despite the fact that the latter have been hit with the injury bug early in a campaign where big things were expected of the team.

Kyrie Irving's frustrations came to the boil in the win over the Philadelphia 76ers over the weekend as he was caught abusing one of the home fans. Irving insisted he was provoked and didn't offer an remorse for his actions which resulted in a fine from the NBA although he did avoid any suspension.

Irving is irritated having left the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Celtics but seen the likes of Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart go down. Smart isn't a long-term issue, but he may miss this game which means Boston have to lean on some of the younger players that they would have preferred to have built up and developed more slowly.

There is still some considerable talent on the roster so it isn't all doom and gloom for Boston even it feels like the loss of Hayward means they have actually taken a step away from the Cleveland Cavaliers rather than closing the gap like they had wanted.

Getting back to 0.500 is the start for the Celtics who snapped their two game losing run with a win over the 76ers and now they host the New York Knicks who are a roster in transition. Not many Knicks fans have held high hopes for the 2017/18 season and this is clearly a work in progress.

The problems the Knicks have to fix will be on the Defensive side of the court and that may mean Boston have a better shooting day than they have so far this season. There is room for improvement on the Defensive side of the court for the Celtics to produce, but I think their numbers have been manipulated by the schedule over the first three games and I do like the chances of the Celtics to dominate this game.

It will be close at times, but I can see the superior talent of Boston producing a couple of big runs which takes the game away from the New York Knicks. The road team has been dominant in the recent series, but I will back the home favourite to work their way to a double digit win.

New Orleans Pelicans @ Portland Trail Blazers Pick: The Portland Trail Blazers and the New Orleans Pelicans are both hoping to be a part of the Play Off picture in the loaded Western Conference this season and the season series between the teams could be very important when it comes to tiebreakers in April.

In recent years the Trail Blazers have dominated the Pelicans at home with their eleven game winning run against them only ended in a game at the end of last season. That game had factors which contributed as Portland were gearing up for the Play Offs and rested their starters including Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum who will both be available on Tuesday.

Saying that, New Orleans didn't have either DeMarcus Cousins or Anthony Davis in that win here in April. Those two are very good players but they are still looking to find the right rhythm alongside one another and that has contributed to the Pelicans opening the season 1-2, although they did snap the losing run with a win over the Los Angeles Lakers last time out.

The Pelicans have not been helped by the schedule makers and now they have to take on a Portland team playing in their home opener. The challenge will be for the Pelicans Defensively having had their struggles to open the season and now facing a Portland team who have averaged 116 points per game and who have been shooting the ball efficiently.

Portland have been particularly strong from the three point line which is an area in which the New Orleans Pelicans have struggled to defend. The Trail Blazers will also feel they have the size to challenge Cousins and Davis on the boards, while they have been playing well on the Defensive side of the court.

That will be challenged by the efficient shooting of the Pelicans, but I do give the overall edge to the Trail Blazers in this one. I also do wonder if Cousins returning to Sacramento in the next game is going to be on the mind of the Pelicans who will want to make a statement in that Arena after the way Cousins was traded out of Sacramento last season.

The Trail Blazers are 5-1 against the spread in their last six at home against New Orleans, while the favourite is 7-2 against the spread in the last nine. I will look for Portland to keep those trends going as they play their home opener.

Wednesday 25th October
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Brooklyn Nets Pick: Both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets put in a big effort in their Tuesday night games, but it was the Cavaliers who managed to earn a win while the Nets were going down to the Orlando Magic.

Back to backs in the NBA can be difficult to read at this stage of the season, but I do like the Cleveland Cavaliers here. They are just 1-3 against the spread to open the season, but the Cavaliers should take advantage of the poor Defensive performances of the Brooklyn Nets and I think it will be difficult for a young Brooklyn team to keep up.

Brooklyn have been shooting the ball well enough, but they are overly reliant on the three point shot and if that fails them then I do think they could be blown away.

The Nets have performed well against the numbers against Cleveland in recent meetings, but I will look for the Cavaliers to have too much depth for them here.

San Antonio Spurs @ Miami Heat Pick: The San Antonio Spurs have a 'next man up' mentality which has made them one of the top NBA teams over the last twenty years. No matter what happens you have to expect the Spurs to be there or thereabouts when it comes to determining the NBA Champions, although it would be a big surprise if they could upset the Golden State Warriors over seven games.

Injuries have hurt the Spurs early in the season, but they have fought through those to open the season 3-0. That familiarity to deal with injuries should help the Spurs who face an injury hit Miami Heat team that could be missing the likes of Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic although the latter is hoping to make it back.

Even if Dragic is back, he could be limited and I think the Spurs can continue what has been a recent dominance of the Heat. With the Defensive strength and the ability to dominate the boards should give the San Antonio Spurs the chance to extend their recent trends in the series.

San Antonio are 8-1 against the spread in the last nine against Miami and they have covered in their last five visits to South Beach. Miami are also 0-6-1 against the spread in their last seven at home and I will back the Spurs here.

Washington Wizards @ Los Angeles Lakers Pick: There is some tension around this game after LaVar Ball's comments about his son Lonzo got a response from the Washington Wizards. Both teams should be motivated to play and the John Wall match up with Ball is likely going to make the headlines.

However in reality I think the Washington Wizards are significantly better than the Los Angeles Lakers even if the Wizards are 0-3 against the spread in their unbeaten start to the season.

Neither team has performed as well on the Defensive side of the court as they would have liked, but Washington may have the edge on the boards. They also create more than the Lakers and I think Wall will want to show why he is one of the elite Point Guards in the NBA against a rookie who gets a lot more attention thanks to his father.

Washington are a hard team to trust when they give up as many points as they do, but they are 6-1 against the spread in their last seven visits to take on the Los Angeles Lakers. Both of the Lakers losses have come by at least seven points this season and I will look for the Washington Wizards to cover here.

Monday 30th October
There is nothing wrong with taking a few days off to step back and re-assess during a long regular season like the one the NBA have.

I had a couple of rough picks a few days ago which I felt I had misread and so I decided to step back and review what I have been doing. It probably was a good decision, but I will look to end October with some winners to make sure the first month of the season is a positive one for the NBA Picks.

Minnesota Timberwolves @ Miami Heat Pick: There won't be any real panic for teams in the first two weeks of the NBA season, but no one wants to build up a negative momentum at this stage. It can become difficult to get out of the malaise of a poor start unless you are one of the real contenders to win the NBA Championship like the Golden State Warriors or Cleveland Cavaliers, but that is not the case for the two teams in action on Monday.

Both the Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves missed out on the Play Offs last season, but have come into the 2017/18 season with real ambitions of finishing in the top eight of their respective Conferences. While the Heat only missed out on a tie-breaker, the Timberwolves had more work to do and to that end they traded for Jimmy Butler to improve their chances around a young roster.

Neither team has made the start they would have wanted to the new season, although the Minnesota Timberwolves are coming off a big win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Two of their three wins this season have actually been against the Thunder, but it isn't easy to trust any team who have been blown out by the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons as Tom Thibodeau still struggles to get some consistent performances from his team.

Minnesota will still come in as the favourite against the Miami Heat who have dropped back to back games. The defensive frailties of both teams suggest we could get a high-scoring game here, but I do lean towards the Timberwolves having a slight edge which can see them end up with the victory.

That edge is the absence of Hassan Whiteside who remains questionable to return to the court. Without their big presence in the front court, Miami have could have some difficulties on the boards which could see Minnesota perhaps gaining the extra possessions to win this game and cover the number.

The Heat have also struggled in these small spread games as they are 0-3 against the spread when either favoured or dogged by up to 4 points. It has also been tough sledging for the Miami Heat when playing in South Beach as they have dropped to 1-9-1 against the spread in their last eleven home games, while the road team is also 4-1 against the spread in the last five in this series.

I hate how poorly Minnesota have continued to execute on the Defensive side of the court, but I do think they can do enough Offensively to overcome the stubborn resistance of the Heat. I will back the Timberwolves as the road favourite in Miami on Monday night.

Denver Nuggets @ New York Knicks Pick: The New York Knicks might be one of the weaker teams in the NBA at the moment, but they have a bona fide star to build around in Kristaps Porzingis. The Latvian scored 30 plus points for the fourth time in his first five games which is a record for the New York Knicks and Porzingis is clearly the man who is going to carry the can for the Knicks with Carmelo Anthony gone.

His performance helped New York upset the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday and that also means the Knicks have won back to back games as they look to push back up to 0.500 for the season. They have a chance to do that on Monday when they return home to host the Denver Nuggets who had a dominating road win at the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday night.

The Nuggets have also won back to back games and both teams should come into this one with some confidence. It should be a close game, but I can't ignore the fact that the Knicks will be coming off an emotional win and one that will be difficult for a young roster to completely put to the back of their minds when they tip off to face the Nuggets.

That looks to make this a difficult spot for the Knicks who will be hosting the Houston Rockets, one of the premier teams in the NBA, on Wednesday. While the Knicks would have had to travel back to New York for this game, Denver were winning in nearby Brooklyn and that is another factor that seems to work in the favour of the Nuggets.

The play on the court will be close with both teams strong on the boards and having very similar shooting numbers. It will be important for the Denver Nuggets to try and get some runs together when they allow their bench players onto the court against the New York rotation and I do think the emotional factor of the win over the Cavaliers plays a part in that.

Denver are 5-0 against the spread in the last five in this series and the favourite is 9-3 against the spread in the last twelve. The Nuggets have also been strong in the second half of a back to back spot in recent months, while New York are just 1-6 against the spread following a win by double digits. I will look for the Denver Nuggets to have too much energy for the home team and make it three wins on the bounce while covering the spread.

Tuesday 31st October
That was an irritating Monday as the Miami Heat made big shot after big shot to stay within the spread for their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. That happens sometimes but blowing 7 point leads twice in the last ninety seconds of regulation and then in Overtime was annoying to say the least from the Timberwolves.

Oklahoma City Thunder @ Milwaukee Bucks Pick: The Milwaukee Bucks have showed they could be amongst the best teams in the Eastern Conference by beating the Boston Celtics, but subsequent losses to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Celtics will raise some questions for them. They are a young team with plenty of potential, but the Bucks are looking for another stand out win to prove they are making strides in the right direction.

That isn't taking anything away from a 4-2 start to the season but outside of the win over the Boston Celtics I don't think the Bucks really have beaten any team of note. The Bucks were favoured to win their last three games that they have and so this is a big test for them when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder who are still trying to find their feet with a new look line up.

The Thunder have yet to beat a team that is expected to finish with a winning record on the season, while they have been beaten by two teams who could be contending for Play Off spots. That is not a real surprise when you think Oklahoma City are still trying to find room for Paul George and Carmelo Anthony alongside Russell Westbrook, although the concern is the losses to the Timberwolves and Utah Jazz are against teams who will be at the bottom of the Western Conference Play Offs at best.

Another fact that perhaps won't surprise is that the Milwaukee Bucks have looked more locked in Offensively compared with Oklahoma City. The Bucks have a team that is more settled than the one the Thunder have come in with and that has shown up Offensively, although the Thunder will be feeling confident having looked stronger on the Defensive side of the court.

Turnovers have been an issue for the Bucks and Oklahoma City will also feel they have the size to win on the boards. The game could easily come down to which of the two stars, Russell Westbrook or Giannis Antetokounmpo, can have the more efficient game.

You have to respect the 'Greek Freak' Antetokounmpo and what he has done for the Milwaukee Bucks, but there may be an early over-reliance on the star. At least the Thunder can spread the ball around a little more and they can extend their 5-2 record against the spread in the last seven in the series with Milwaukee.

Oklahoma City have played very well against the Eastern Conference in recent games and the Milwaukee Bucks may be in a tough spot as they play the second of three games in a four day stretch. I will lay the points with the Thunder in this one.

Detroit Pistons @ Los Angeles Lakers Pick: There is so much hype around Lonzo Ball which is not going to be going anywhere any time soon and that means every game, positive or negative, is a headline maker. At the moment Ball has had a couple of rough outings which would be expected of any rookie coming into the NBA, but it does feel like his father's brashness means more people revel in his failures than they should.

I don't care too much about what LaVar Ball has to say for himself, but Lonzo is a good player and is going to be a solid player for the Los Angeles Lakers. He does need time as he learns from the experiences he is having in the NBA and Ball is not exactly surrounded with a huge amount of talent as the Lakers have dropped down to 2-4.

Now they have to host the Detroit Pistons who have made a surprisingly good start to the season and looking to conclude this mini trip to California on a high. The Pistons have already won road games at the Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors and will be returning home after going back to the Staples Center.

I do think Detroit will see their record regress back to the mean as they have made some big plays at key times. The raw numbers show that Detroit have been as efficient Offensively as they have Defensively but they have restricted the turnovers which has helped them win games.

Against the Los Angeles Lakers both teams should have their successes at both ends of the court, but the Lakers have been struggling with the three point shot which can make the difference. I do think the Pistons will be able to make their three point plays a little easier than the Los Angeles Lakers and that is likely to lead to the Pistons winning here.

The Pistons don't have a great record when visiting the Los Angeles Lakers, but they have won and covered in the last three in the series against them. Detroit have also covered in their last six road games and I am going to back them to win and cover at the Lakers in this one.

MY PICKS: 23/10 Detroit Pistons - 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
23/10 Sacramento Kings - 2 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
24/10 Orlando Magic - 5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
24/10 Boston Celtics - 9 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
24/10 Portland Trail Blazers - 4.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
25/10 Cleveland Cavaliers - 7 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
25/10 San Antonio Spurs - 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
25/10 Washington Wizards - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
30/10 Minnesota Timberwolves - 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
30/10 Denver Nuggets - 4 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
31/10 Oklahoma City Thunder - 1.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
31/10 Detroit Pistons - 4 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)

October 23-31: 4-8, - 4.32 Units (12 Units Staked, - 36% Yield)
October 17-22: 8-2, + 5.37 Units (10 Units Staked, + 53.7% Yield)

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