This article is part of our Handicapping the NBA series.
The first week of the NBA season is in the books. According to Basketball-Reference's Simple Rating System, the Hawks are the best team in the league, while the Warriors are the worst. It's easy to overreact at this point of the season. The hard part is trying to decipher who is set to regress, and who could take a true step forward or backward compared to expectations.
Through Week 1, my record ATS stands at 10-7-1.
Warriors (0-2) at Pelicans (0-3) – 10:17 PM CT Sunday FanDuel/DraftKings
Pick: Pelicans -3.0
Players not named Steph Curry went 23-for-74 shooting during Sunday's loss in Oklahoma City – a game in which the Warriors were down 70-37 at halftime. Draymond Green said after game that the Warriors' situation "Sucks pretty bad," and that "our defense right now is nonexistent. I don't even think we know what defense is right now." I'm not sure I could have put it better. The team is carrying this energy into the second half of a back-to-back on the road. They'll likely get some bettors hoping for a bounceback. I need to see it first.
The Pelicans are 0-3, but they've been competitive. They only lost by three points to the Rockets sans Jrue Holiday, while the season opener against the Raptors went into overtime. Holiday is questionable for Monday's game, but I think the Pelicans could cover this without him. A huge strength of New Orleans is its depth, and the Warriors, conversely, have one of the worst benches in the league.
Trail Blazers (2-1) at Spurs (2-0) – 10:22 PM CT Sunday FanDuel/DraftKings
Pick: Spurs -5.5
The Blazers were able to close a two-point win over the Mavericks on Sunday, but they lost Zach Collins to a shoulder injury in the process. He exited the game in the third quarter, and he's slated to undergo an MRI. It would be very surprising if he played Monday, which will vault Mario Hezonja and Skal Labissiere into expanded roles. Neither of those players are especially trustworthy. So Portland is down one of their key starters, is on the road, and is on the second half of a back-to-back. It's tough to have much confidence in that situation.
The Spurs are undefeated, though haven't been especially convincing. They've beaten the Knicks and the Wizards by a combined 11 points. Still, the game script plays heavily in their favor, and they should start gelling sooner than later. Dejounte Murray may be able to limit Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum, while I'm not sure Portland has the personnel to suppress the Spurs' offense.
Jazz (2-1) at Suns (2-1) – 9:33 AM CT Sunday FanDuel
Pick: Jazz -4.5
Utah's sloppy loss to the Lakers on Friday is likely what's sticking in people's minds, but they rebounded to demolish the Kings the next day. While a small sample size, the Jazz currently have the best defensive rating in the league (91.3), and it's their offense (ranked 25th) that's behind. Mike Conley should get in a rhythm soon, and Bojan Bogdanovic is back, giving the Jazz optimal spacing. If Utah is as good as we think they are, this is the perfect spot to bet them against a Suns team that pulled off what was a fluke win against the Clippers on Saturday.
While Phoenix might be better than their over/under suggested, I'm looking for them to regress Monday as they continue to be without Deandre Ayton. They're presumably being handed two or three extra points here because of home court advantage, but I still think Utah is 6-8 points better than Phoenix. If the Suns do pull this one out, they're going to start getting some real playoff buzz.