Buyers Remorse For Wizards With Nene

Two seasons ago, the Washington Wizards made a move for trade for a big man to help the team out both then and in the future. Nene Hilario (now just known as Nene), is making $13M per year for the next three seasons, and the Wizards probably wish that they had saved that money so they could have spent it elsewhere.

It’s not that Nene hasn’t turned out to be a productive piece of the puzzle for the Wizards, as he is their third leading scorer this season at 12.9 points per game. It’s that he is clearly diminishing in value, especially in the Eastern Conference. For a team that is built to start winning either next year or in two seasons from now, this contract really is wearing the team down and killing any chance that it had of going out and signing a big free agent this summer.

As it is for this season, Nene has averaged 12.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. This will be the first year that he hasn’t averaged at least 7.4 rebounds per game since 2007-08, and the first year that he hasn’t averaged at least 13.4 points per game since that same injury-shortened season. T

he Brazilian is also only shooting 48.0 percent from the field, a far cry from the 61.5 percent that he was shooting when he was traded from the Denver Nuggets back in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

Our NBA predictions suggest that the Wizards are about set to be able to crack the playoffs in the Eastern Conference with a healthy G John Wall and G Bradley Beal, perhaps as early as the 2013-14 season. However, with Nene really weighing them down, it is going to be tough see how the Wiz can truly contend for an Eastern Conference crown until his contract expires in three seasons.

Florida Key Sweet 16 Pick

The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles are the sweethearts of the NCAA Tournament, as they have made it to the Sweet 16, marking the first time that a No. 15 seed has ever reached this point in the dance. However, the team for the Atlantic Sun champs is going to be coming to a close this week against the No. 3 Florida Gators, one of the favorites to win March Madness.

FGCU is a great story, but no one was really paying attention to it at the outset of the dance. Now, there are two games of film for head coach Billy Donovan to be watching, and you can bet that his Gators are ready to pounce. Florida is favored by 13-points in this one, and though the men in orange and blue are the biggest favorites on the NCAA basketball betting odds in the Sweet 16, we absolutely think that it is justified.

To start off the second week of the tourney though, we have our eyes on the Syracuse Orange. What we have seen all season long with the ‘Cuse is when they’re hot, they’re hot. When they’re not, they are absolutely not. Head coach Jim Boeheim’s bunch has stormed through the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament by using that patented 2-3 zone look the whole way. Now, the Indiana Hoosiers are on tap, and the game could be a great one.

Remember that Syracuse was able to go on the road this year and knock off the Louisville Cardinals, and if it is able to do that, the idea of knocking off Indiana isn’t all that far out of the question as we see it. The Orange are 5 ½-point underdogs, so we don’t need them to win the game, just keep it close to cover.

Wall Back And Arguably Better Than Ever

The Washington Wizards really aren’t going anywhere in the Eastern Conference this year, as they are just 24-43 and are already guaranteed of yet another losing season. However, John Wall is back, is playing well, and is giving this team a tremendous amount of hope for the future of the franchise.

Wall didn’t make his first appearance in a game since January 12th against the Atlanta Hawks this season, and he really started off the campaign in a bit of a slump. However, on February 2nd, Wall went off for 21 points, nine assists, and five boards against the San Antonio Spurs. That game was lost on the road, but it was the beginning of a great run here for the Wiz. Washington has gone a very respectable 13-9 SU and 12-10 ATS in the 22 games since that point.

The man from Kentucky really has started to shine as well in that stretch. He has only had two games in which he didn’t score at least 10 points (and both of those games ended with Washington getting covered), and he has averaged 16.8 points and 8.1 assists, and 3.8 boards per game. These are the numbers of a man that could legitimately become an MVP candidate over the course of the next 12 months or so.

The Wizards have been particularly good for NBA picks in their last five games. They are 4-1 SU and ATS in those outings, though we have to put the caveat on there that the only team that is even going to remotely sniff the second season in that string of games was the first, a win over the Milwaukee Bucks at the Verizon Center. In that stretch, Wall has averaged 22.5 points, 8.3 assists, and 3.8 rebounds per game, and he has also forced 2.0 steals per game as well.

Cavs Struggling Without Irving

Any time you end up with the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, it happened for a reason. Either you made a brilliant trade with a foolish team, got incredibly lucky, or in the case of the Cleveland Cavaliers, you just flat out stunk the year before.

It has now been two years since the Cavs grabbed Kyrie Irving out of Duke. He has only played in 100 of the possible 133 games that Cleveland has played since the youngster has come to town, and he is going to be on the shelf for at least the next two weeks as well with a shoulder injury. What we’re finding out once again in this stretch is that Cleveland, when playing without Irving, once again still simply stinks.

The team without Irving on the court does look a heck of a lot better than the team that broke the NBA record for the longest losing streak in a season, but the squad is nowhere near being truly competitive. Cleveland has lost three of its four games without Irving in the fold during this shoulder injury, including getting dumped by 21 points at home on Monday night by the division-leading Indiana Pacers.

It’s easy to see why the Cavaliers are brutally missing their point guard, though. Not only is Irving the man that is routinely handling the basketball, but he is also the man that is doing the most scoring on the team and taking the most shots. Irving is averaging 23.0 points and 5.7 assists per game, and prior to his injury shoulder problem ,he had three straight games with at least 20 points under his belt.

Interestingly enough though, Cleveland is a better team on the NBA odds without Irving than it is with him. The squad is 9-7 ATS in the 16 games that the Duke product has missed this year, while it is 25-25-1 ATS when he is in the fold.

Rough Rookie Season For Kidd-Gilchrist

Charlotte has been the worst team in the NBA over the course of the last two seasons, and it really hasn’t been all that close. The club was in line for the top pick in last year’s NBA Draft, but instead of winning the NBA Draft Lottery, which would have given the team Anthony Davis as its new franchise player, Charlotte was stuck with another Kentucky Wildcat, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Unfortunately for the Bobcats, the man they call MKG has really been nothing particularly special this season.

Part of the reason that Charlotte has really struggled this year for those making NBA picks is because it just doesn’t have a great offensive post weapon. Kidd-Gilchrist was a fantastic player in and near the paint in college, and that figured to translate over to the pros. Unfortunately, the former Wildcat has only knocked down 44.9 percent of his shots this year, and he just isn’t showing the ability to get on the boards as well as he did in Lexington either.

Kidd-Gilchrist is averaging 8.9 points per game this season, but his numbers are starting to fall off. He scored just six points in 25 minutes against the Boston Celtics on Saturday, and that marked the fifth straight game in which he was held to single digits in the scoring column.

The tide really turned for MKG right at the end of the calendar year. In November and December, Kidd-Gilchrist had three games with at least 20 points scored, and he averaged 10.9 points per game. The rookie also scored in double figures in 17 of his 30 games. Since that point, he is averaging just 7.0 points per game, and he has reached at least 10 points in 10 of 33 games.

Pacers Will Have To Lean On George

The present and future of the Indiana Pacers seems to hinge largely on the play of Paul George, the third-year pro who was selected to his first All-Star Game this season.

The former Fresno State star has helped push the Pacers to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference this season with a record of 40-24. George leads the team in scoring with 17.6 points a game, while also chipping in a healthy 7.8 rebounds a game from the small forward position. His youth and all-around production has moved him past Danny Granger as the Pacer’s most indispensable asset moving forward.

As you consider your NBA picks, consider the Pacers have been an excellent 36-28 against the spread this season. However, that strike rate has cooled a bit as they are just 2-3 against the number in their last five games.

The Pacers will need play big down the stretch if they hope to hold on to the second-spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets are both within 2 1/2-games of the Pacers. That means George will have to keep playing at his current All-Star level, especially after it was revealed Thursday that Granger will be out for at least another three games. The former All-Star has played just five games this season because of a devilish left knee injury.

The three games Granger is scheduled to miss will be Friday at home against the Los Angeles Lakers, who in all likelihood will be without Kobe Bryant; Saturday on the road versus the Philadelphia 76ers and Monday on the road against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Pacers figure to be favored in all three of those games, even without Granger.

The concern with the Pacers is George has been playing heavy minutes of late and eventually he could begin to get worn down given all that he contributes on the floor. Still, he’s a 22-year-old star in the making that will be asked to do most of the heavy lifting for Indiana down the stretch.