What are the odds: NBA’s bottom teams look to tank


Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS

The Brooklyn Nets’ Jarrett Allen pulls down a rebound against the Orlando Magic on Friday, Jan. 18.

By Colin Martin, Staff Writer

Another NFL conference championship weekend is in the books, and we finally have our Super Bowl LIII matchup — the New England Patriots vs. the Los Angeles Rams. Last week, I went 2-2 in my NFL predictions, bringing the season record to an average 6-6. Both the Patriots and New Orleans Saints covered the spread, as I correctly predicted.

However, I was unsuccessful in picking the point totals for both games. I thought the cold weather in Kansas City would cause New England quarterback Tom Brady to play more conservative, but the weather didn’t seem to bother the 41-year-old veteran. His Patriots scored 37 points against a strong Chiefs team that scored 31 themselves.

The NFC Championship had hit the over in four straight years going into the game, so I figured the streak would continue. Surprisingly, defense proved to be the strength for the Rams in New Orleans. That, and the worst non-call in NFL Playoff history took place with the game on the line, preventing the Saints from scoring and giving the Rams a win.

With the irrelevant Pro Bowl taking place this weekend in Orlando, Florida, there is no NFL game for the first time in months. We’ll take a look at some NBA games taking place Friday night as the season is more than halfway done. Tanking season is now in full form, with teams trying to lose more games in hopes of a higher draft position. Every NBA general manager would like to select top prospects like Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett, both first-year players at Duke. Even Jay-Z came out to Pittsburgh this past Tuesday night to see the phenoms dominate against Pitt. He’d certainly love to see either suit up for his hometown New York Knicks or Brooklyn Nets next year.

Never bet before? Here’s two quick definitions. The spread is a figure that oddsmakers set that predicts by how much a team is expected to win or lose. The over/under is a prediction of the final combined score of both teams.

Washington Wizards (20-26) vs. Orlando Magic (20-28)

Spread: Orlando -4

Over/under: 217.5

Analysis: The Washington Wizards were expected to be a playoff team going into the year. Instead, they currently sit outside the playoff picture and are without All-Star point guard John Wall for the rest of the season because of a heel injury. It may be in the team’s best interest to continue losing and look forward to the future by getting a good draft pick. In Wall’s absence, fellow All-Star Bradley Beal has led the team by averaging 24.7 points per game. His scoring should continue and possibly even explode when the Wizards face the poor Orlando Magic Friday night.

Led by center Nikola Vucevic, the Orlando Magic have had its usual difficult season. They find themselves well out of playoff contention and need to start focusing on the future. Vucevic is averaging 20.5 points and 12 rebounds per game this season, which is the last of his current contract with the Magic. The team should be smart and trade its big man to a playoff team in need of a center in exchange for young players and draft picks. The Magic is expected to have a top-10 pick this draft and could very much use another first-round selection to help build their roster. Last year, the Magic selected 7-foot center Mo Bamba with the fifth pick in the draft. It’s time for them to commit to Bamba and build a roster around him.

Bet: Washington covers the spread and bet the under.

Graphic by Anna Goetz | Staff Graphic Artist
Projected point total for Washington Wizards vs. Orlando Magic.

Miami Heat (22-24) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (9-40)

Spread: Miami -9

Over/under: 210

Analysis: Coming into the game with the worst record in the NBA, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been awful in their first season without LeBron James. The future Hall of Famer left Cleveland for the second time this past summer, deciding to join the Los Angeles Lakers. Since James left, the Cavaliers roster has been dismantled from what it once was. Their top two returning players, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, have battled injuries all season and are not expected to play Friday night. The Cavs have gone 1-17 since Dec. 19, with their only win coming against the Los Angeles Lakers — who were without James due to injury. Cleveland’s only hope going forward is to have the worst record in the league when the season ends, making their chances at the No. 1 pick more likely.

In the final season of his 16-year Hall of Fame career, Dwyane Wade has embarked on a retirement tour, averaging a mediocre 13.8 points per game. Life without Wade will be difficult to get used to for Heat fans next year, but in the meantime they must make the most of their season. Playoffs aren’t out of the picture for the Heat, but they’ll need to start winning more consistently. Small forward-turned-point guard Justise Winslow is finally becoming the player Miami envisioned when they selected him with the 10th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. He’s averaging 12.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game this year — all improvements from his career averages. Winslow looks like someone they can build a future with.

Bet: The Heat cover the spread and bet the over.

Graphic by Anna Goetz | Staff Graphic Artist
Projected point total for Miami Heat vs. Cleveland Cavaliers.

New York Knicks (10-36 ) vs. Brooklyn Nets (26-23)

Spread: Brooklyn -10.5

Over/under: 224

Analysis: Since being a laughingstock the past few seasons, the Brooklyn Nets came into the 2018-19 season with low expectations. Brooklyn has surprised the league by getting off to its best start in years — the Nets currently have 26 wins, only two less than they had all of last season. In fact, the Nets haven’t won 30 games since 2015. Led by the impressive play of young stars like D’Angelo Russell and Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn is in playoff contention. A recent injury to fan favorite Spencer Dinwiddie will hurt the Nets going forward, but he should be back in 4-6 weeks — just in time for a playoff push. Riding a five-game win streak, the Nets should extend that against their cross-town rival.

Now for the other New York basketball team — the Knicks, who have struggled all season long. Without star big man Kristaps Porzingis, who has been out since last year due to a torn ACL, the Knicks have the second-worst record in the NBA behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. According to New York Times reporter Marc Stein, the team has made three players available for trades. Guards Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee, along with center Enes Kanter have all been placed on the trade block prior to the Feb. 7 trade deadline. All three are worthy of contributing to playoff teams in need of improving their roster. It would be in the Knicks best interest to trade at least one, if not all three, of these veteran players in exchange for draft picks. The team does not expect Porzingis to return this year, meaning the tank for Duke star Zion Williamson is on. New York would love to draft Williamson if it gets the first pick in the draft — and losing as much as possible is the way to do it.

Bet: The Knicks cover the spread and bet the under.

Graphic by Anna Goetz | Staff Graphic Artist
Projected point total for New York Knicks vs. Brooklyn Nets.

All odds taken from https://www.sportsline.com/nba/odds/