With the festive season over, the schedule is filling up again, and tonight brings a hefty nine-game slate that yields plenty of value to the discerning eye.
As always, we’ve scoured the major betting agencies to bring you some great plays for the slate on offer this Thursday. Check out our best pick and value pick below and good luck to everyone following!
NBA Picks – Thursday, January 2nd
Utah Jazz @ Chicago Bulls
United Centre, 8.00pm ET
Depending on which site you look at, the Chicago Bulls are either last or second-last in the NBA in offensive rating. Their significant reinvention over the last year or so that was designed to help them keep up with modern offensive principles has not been successful; they rank in the middle of the pack for both pace and outside shooting, while ranking last in field goal percentage, and also near the bottom in turnover rate and offensive rebounds. They are not getting efficient looks with any regularity.
Neither have the Jazz been. With Mike Conley out for most of the season, and far from at his best when he did play, Utah have been short of creators themselves, and while Donovan Mitchell has improved his decision-making and control, he is the one that spacing should be being created for, rather than always being the one doing it. The recent trade of Dante Exum for Jordan Clarkson was done specifically to get Utah a third healthy player (the fourth being Bojan Bogdanovic) who can consistently create and score in the half-court, yet even though they have the best three-point shooting percentage in the league, it comes on sufficiently low of a volume that they are ranked only eighteenth in offensive rating, something underpinned by having the worst turnover rate in the league.
Two of the league’s weaker offences, then, are going head to head in what is likely to be the opposite of a shootout. Indeed, even though the Jazz are the superior unit, even their offensive strengths do not figure to match up well against Chicago. The Jazz may have the best three-point shooting in the league, but the Bulls have the fourth-best three-point defence, and they also force the most turnovers in the league, something Utah already struggles with.
Rare in this extremely high-scoring NBA era would we ever suggest picking the total score of under 200 or less. It is not 2007 anymore. Tonight, though, might be an exception, especially with the Bulls having failed to meet that mark in two out of their last three games.
Toronto Raptors @ Miami Heat
American Airlines Arena, 7.30pm ET
As we also looked at before Toronto’s last game, they currently have very little depth in their frontcourt. Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol are both out long term due to injury, which leaves only Serge Ibaka and Chris Boucher as healthy centre options. And Boucher has yet to earn more than only a few minutes in a reserve role, meaning that Ibaka is receiving as many minutes as you can handle.
Because he is the only healthy centre, he is also being relied upon as the rebounding leader. And although he historically has never been the best rebounder – particularly on the offensive end, as he plays further and further away from the basket with each passing season – he has now posted three double-doubles in a row, as well as in five of his last eight games.
The match-up tonight against the excellent Bam Adebayo will be a difficult one, and Ibaka is the only player on the Raptors’ roster equipped to handle it at all. They therefore will playing as much as he can handle, making a fourth consecutive double-double likely, barring anomalous foul trouble.
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