Welcome to another edition of the NBA Notebook.
This week I have my eye on the struggling Warriors and the surging Jazz, the Sixth Man of the Year race, and the impact of injuries to several of the NBA's best guards.
Jump ahead here:
Let's dive in!
Much of the conversation has been about the struggles of the Golden State Warriors. They suffered numerous backbreaking losses, including when Nikola Jokic banked in a running three-pointer to beat them at the buzzer.
Steve Kerr has taken a lot of heat for seemingly pushing the wrong buttons with the Warriors' lineups. But the job facing Kerr is not a simple one. He has a lot of low-feel, poor playmaking players who don't fit well together.
The biggest worry is the possibility of Steph Curry's decline. On Sunday, Steph went 0/9 from downtown ,the second time he's had a game without a three-point make in less than a month. Prior to that, he had made a three in 268 straight games.
It might be time to consider taking the Warriors to miss the playoffs at -190.
Last year, the Utah Jazz entered their rebuild in earnest, only to make magic with a roster of players cast off from other teams who didn't seem to have complementary skills. Eventually trading away Mike Conley restarted the tank.
This year they seemed headed for the bottom of the league, but again they are surprising with a strong stretch of play. They've won 11 of their last 15 games and their dominant home-court advantage is now translating to road victories as well, including quality ones over the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks.
Utah's secret weapon is that the Jazz play one of the deepest rotations in the NBA, regularly going as deep as 13 players in a single game. They outlast opponents and have the best fourth-quarter net rating as a result at 9.1. When betting a Jazz game, look for them to mount their push in the final frame.
My last trend is not about a single team, but instead highlighting the unheralded work of a single player: Isaiah Hartenstein. Hartenstein was thrust into the starting center role for the New York Knicks when they lost Mitchell Robinson for the season.
He's had two games with 19 or more rebounds in his last four outings and thoroughly outplayed Joel Embiid as well. Hartenstein has more offensive synergy with Julius Randle because he's a plus passer for his position and his floater extends his range at least a bit away from the rim, giving Randle more room to attack than Robinson does.
As long as the Knicks don't bring in another starting center, Hartenstein is a strong prop target for blocks, assists, or boards depending on the matchup.
I'm beginning this week's spot bets by targeting Saturday's game between Orlando and Oklahoma City. The Magic are likely to be worn down after a potentially grueling game against the Miami Heat on Friday night. I think Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's steals prop is one to keep an eye on.
Not only is SGA averaging 2.4 steals per game, but in terms of total steals, he's nearly on pace to double up Matisse Thybulle, who has the second-most overall. He's become one of the NBA's best defensive playmakers on the perimeter, leading the NBA in deflections as well.
The Magic have a 14.8 percent turnover rate, which is the eighth-worst mark in the Association, per Cleaning the Glass. The Magic just don't have a strong group of guard ballhandlers.
Anthony Black is a turnover machine with an 18.2 percent turnover rate, while Jalen Suggs is abysmal as well with a 15.4 percent turnover rate. Paolo Banchero is also a high-turnover player, and he's being asked to carry an immense burden as Franz Wagner misses time.
Again on Saturday, I'm looking at the Warriors who are on a back-to-back against the Bucks. Size has been a serious issue for Golden State, and as we saw when the Raptors were in the Chase Center, a team that pushes the ball and attacks mismatches can feast against them. Draymond Green covers up so many issues for the Warriors, and as he's expected to still be out, Giannis Antetokounmpo's points prop is going to be a potentially strong bet.
Lastly, the Pacers are in Utah on Monday night after a game in Denver on Sunday. Not only will the altitude and travel be against them, but as I'll detail in the injury report, they'll also be without star guard Tyrese Haliburton.
When Haliburton is on the court, the Pacers have a 126.3 offensive rating, which is just about the best mark in the NBA. Despite a brutal defense, the offense that Haliburton drives is so good that the Pacers still have a +6.1 differential in his minutes. But in the 1,091 possessions they've played without him? Their differential is -8.8.
While the Pacers might play a bit better than that, don't let their spirited second-half win over the Celtics fool you. With Haliburton out, this team is going to lose a lot of games and cover in very few of them, making a Jazz cover bet something I'm keeping my eye on for Monday.
This week, I'm looking at the state of the race for Sixth Man of the Year. For most of the season, it's been a three-way race between Tim Hardaway Jr., Immanuel Quickley, and Austin Reaves in some order.
Quickley is now effectively out of the race having been traded into a starting role in Toronto. Austin Reaves is available at +600 after having been leading the pack because he's been reinstated as a starter by Darvin Ham. Neither makes sense as a realistic bet at this point.
Of the three season-long frontrunners, Hardaway Jr. is the only one still with a realistic shot and is now the odds leader at +250. But he's still not my favorite value available.
While Bogdan Bogdanovic is having a strong season and is second on the board at +400, I like Malik Monk at +450. Monk has steadily climbed the odds board in recent weeks, having been down at +1200 a month ago.
Monk has been one of the Kings' three best players all year long, is regularly closing games, and coach Mike Brown seems to have no intention of shifting him into a starting role. Bogdan is both a trade and injury risk, while I think Hardaway's candidacy is based almost entirely on hot shooting.
Monk has a diverse offensive game, and his finishing package makes for explosive highlights which move the national conversation and ultimately, voters.
Sadly, this week's injury update is both extensive and significant.
After a brief shining return, the Memphis Grizzlies will be without star point guard Ja Morant for the rest of the season after MRIs revealed he suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder that requires surgery. Having dug a deep hole during Morant's 25-game suspension, this latest injury is the final nail in the coffin of what should have been a promising Grizzlies season. Expect the value of Marcus Smart and Desmond Bane assist props to rise again accordingly.
As mentioned in my spot bets section, Haliburton suffered a hamstring injury on Monday night. Haliburton had to be carried off the court, but early reports suggest he may only miss two weeks. That means bigger roles for other guards like Bennedict Mathurin in the meantime.
Chris Paul suffered a fractured hand and his timetable is 4-6 weeks, which takes his return date past the NBA trade deadline. Given that Paul is on an expiring contract and the Warriors are in dire straits, CP3 may have played his last game as a Warrior. Curry should see his assists and turnovers rise in Paul's absence.
Lastly, Cade Cunningham has reportedly avoided serious injury after suffering a knee strain against the Nuggets and will be re-evaluated in 7-10 days. With Cunningham out, the Detroit Pistons' chance to cover the spread, let alone win a game, drop precipitously. Jaden Ivey becomes an intriguing prop target as well, as he'll likely see an increased offensive role.
"We have to play better. We have to play better. We have to defend better. We have to trust one another better. We have to be coached better. Every single thing, everybody has to be better. Everybody. It starts from the equipment manager. He has to wash our clothes better. The bench has to be better. The leaders of the team have to be more vocal. We have to make more shots. We have to defend better. We have to have better strategy. We have to be better." Giannis Antetokounmpo following the Bucks' loss to the Rockets.
Odds mentioned in this article were correct at the time of writing and are subject to change.