This article is part of our Handicapping the NBA series.
We got hit with some big, spread-altering news Thursday afternoon. Marvin Bagley has a broken thumb and will be out 4-to-6 weeks, and Deandre Ayton is facing a possible 25-game suspension for violating the league's NBA Anti-Drug policy due to use of a banned diuretic.
Portland opened as 1-point dogs to Sacramento, which was great value. After the Bagley news, Portland moved to 2-point favorites which...is still great value. More on that in a second.
The Suns started at +12.5, which quickly, and justifiably, got bet down to +11. After the Ayton news, it's moved back up to Suns +11.5. Initially, I thought the line had some value. Double-digit lines should be reserved for elite teams against the true bottom-feeders, and the Suns (with Ayton) project to be competitive. We saw the Knicks cover a double-digit spread Wednesday against the Spurs, for example. But now, this Suns/Nuggets game is in Don't Touch territory.
Let's dive in:
Trail Blazers (-2.0) at Kings – FanDuel 10:04 PM CT Thursday
On the Thursday edition of the RotoWire NBA Podcast, prior to the Bagley news, my guess for this line was Blazers -3.5. So with Bagley out, I love -2.0. I don't think we learned anything good or bad about Portland during Wednesday's eight-point loss to the Nuggets. Denver is the better team and it was competitive throughout. The Blazers actually shot more efficiently and turned the ball over less than the Nuggets. Whiteside and Bazemore seem like solid complementary pieces to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
The Kings' 29-point loss to the Suns was a real gut-punch for a team who feels they should be in the Western Conference Playoff picture. They're probably around a .500 team when completely healthy – maybe a couple games over. But the way this line opened, Kings -1.0, was surprising. It almost felt like bait by the oddsmakers. Declaring the Kings the favorites makes Wednesday's blowout feel even more like an outlier, pushing the public to bet Sacramento in hopes of regression to the mean. If Sacramento was the underdog, everyone would be more inclined to take Portland under the assumption that the Kings are definitely worse than the Blazers (which they are). I hope I don't sound too much like Conspiracy Kyrie. What I'm trying to say is: Bet on Portland. This line isn't right.
Timberwolves (-5.0) at Hornets – FanDuel 2:56 PM CT Thursday
The Hornets pulled off an upset one-point win against the Bulls on Wednesday, but it took making a franchise-record 23 triples to do so. There have been 20 games in NBA history, regular season or playoffs, where a team has made 23 threes. All but two of those games were victories. The fact that Charlotte was only able to win by a single point actually affirms how bad they are, rather than suggesting they might be better than we thought.
The Timberwolves also secured a one-point victory against the Nets to open their season. They did so despite shooting only 42.6 percent from the field, winning the differential in turnovers, offensive rebounds and free-throw rate. Their talent advantage over the Hornets is significant, especially given the presence of a star in Karl-Anthony Towns. I don't think the Hornets could pull off a victory in a seven-game series against the Wolves, so I'm pretty confident laying five points here. Seriously, the Hornets are awful.
Bulls (+2.0) at Grizzlies – FanDuel 2:56 PM CT Thursday
Given what happened to the Bulls on Wednesday (mentioned earlier), this is a good spot to take the points. They actually won three of the four factors – eFG%, TOV%, ORB%, FT/FGA – in that contest. You can probably guess which one they fell short in. Lauri Markkanen's 35 points and 17 rebounds were extremely encouraging, and neither Zach LaVine nor Otto Porter are as inefficient as their combined 8-for-22 shooting suggests.
Speaking of the four factors, the Grizzlies lost all of them Wednesday against the Jimmy Butler-less Heat. Ja Morant was an abysmal -29. This team will just have trouble generating offense if Morant isn't playmaking. Plus, with Jonas Valanciunas less than 100% healthy, the floor for this team is low.
Wizards at Thunder (-7.5) – FanDuel 2:56 PM CT Thursday
The Wizards made Wednesday's game competitive, somehow, losing by just eight points against the Mavericks. Washington had nice 11 offensive rebounds, but I suppose there's a greater chance of that happening when you shoot 39.8 percent from the field. Bradley Beal will carry this team some nights, but his offensive rating against Dallas was an extremely-poor 82. If you only looked at Washington's team stats, you would assume this team lost by twice as much.
Putting aside a tragic 12-point first quarter, the Thunder actually outscored the Jazz 83-77 on Wednesday. Chris Paul, Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander each dropped at least 20 points. Contributions from role players will be hard to come by, though I think Steven Adams and Dennis Schroder are better than their combined 2-for-16 mark from the field suggests.