This article is part of our Handicapping the NBA series.
The Super Bowl has concluded, and until the NFL Draft, where we will see a relative spike in attention and focus paid back to football, the NBA is here to take over until June. By all means, I am a big football fan, but the combination of college basketball picking up AND the NBA season hitting full stride with a playoff picture starting to take form makes me feel like Rob Gronkowski during a victory parade.
...if only this column's last two installments included ONE correct pick.
Last week: 0-1 (18-18-1 on the season).
Raptors at Timberwolves (-3.5)
The Timberwolves are a bad underdog this season, with a 12-18 ATS record, the expectations are still too high for a second half turnaround that just does not seem like it will come to any fruition. The injury blow to Zach Levine, who was progressing every time he touched the ball this season, is what seems like unrecoverable set back - and that's regardless how much of unicorn Karl-Anthony Towns is.
On a side note, not to pick on Andrew Wiggins, but this is inexplicably bad shot selection (:55-second mark):
Toronto's backcourt has the upperhand here, and the Wolves have dropped four straight.
The Pick: Raptors -3.5
Nuggets at Hawks (-4)
This game will ride on whichever streaky player emerges. Will Barton exploded for 31 points on 18 shots in the Nuggets' most recent win against the Mavericks. Barton is an inconsistent shooter, and the rather banged-up Denver squad (who will get Kenneth Faried back in the rotation Wednesday) has been relying far too much on the up-and-down nature of players like Barton. It is unfair to label Jamal Murray the same – he's a rookie – but when he gets hot off the bench, it is a tremendous boost to the team.
The Hawks, on the other hand, have observed a strong showing over the last 10 games (17.5 points, 3.5 boards, 3.4 assists and 2.1 three-pointers.) from Tim Hardaway Jr. after moving him into the starting lineup. The athletic wing has been a seamless fit in the offense, and he plays unselfishly among his teammates Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard.
Speaking of bad underdogs, Denver is 7-20 as an underdog this season.
The Pick: Hawks -4