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.

Mayo Needs To Find His Stroke

The Dallas Mavericks are still in the midst of a playoff push in the Western Conference. They are three-games back in the Western Conference playoff race, though they still have a heck of a lot of teams to catch to reach their goals. Dallas has run off four straight wins, but it is going to need to win a ton of more games in order to get into the postseason.

OJ Mayo is a man that is going to really need to step it up if Dallas is going to keep making for great NBA picks for the rest of the regular season, and hopefully into the postseason.

Mayo has averaged just 13.5 points per game over the course of his last 12 games, and that’s a far cry from the man that put up an average of 22.2 points per game in the first 12 games of the campaign. The Mavericks were 7-5 in those first 12 games, and they are only 23-28 since that point. Needless to say, that’s a big difference, both in terms of Mayo’s production and in the won/loss column.

The other problem that Mayo is having is that he is turning the ball over far too much. The 2.65 turnovers per game isn’t that it is all that awful, but the games in which he isn’t keeping tabs on the rock, Dallas is really struggling. Not surprisingly in this four-game winning streak, Mayo only has turned the ball over a total of three times in those games. He has turned it over at least five times in 13 times over the course of the season. Dallas has only gone 1-12 in those games.

Thornton Finding Niche In Sacramento As Sixth Man

It’s been a rough season for the Sacramento Kings, but it’s looking increasingly like they may have found something in the form of shooting guard Marcus Thornton. A former second round pick out of LSU, Thornton has averaged nearly 20 points over the last 10 games, including a 32-point outburst against the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday.

Thornton has admirably filled the sixth-man role in relief of a Kings’ starting five that boasts high-draft picks like Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins, but zero cohesion. Thornton hit 12-of-21 from the field—5-of-11 behind the arc—in his breakout performance against the Nuggets.

The Kings are a dismal 21-42 straight-up this season and have already managed to lose two games this week. Those followed a rare win that came against the lowly Charlotte Bobcats on Sunday. Fans should note things haven’t been much better for Sacramento versus the number. The Kings are a roll-breaking 27-34-2 against the spread this season.

As for Thornton, even head coach Keith Smart sounds excited about the recent production, according to the Sacramento Bee.

“He’s playing good basketball and obviously that’s what I envisioned that’s how he’d play on our team give us a boost with our second unit,” Smart told the paper. “Because he has the ability to score from the perimeter as well as drive and he makes free throws.”

Thornton has played a sizable role since coming to the Kings as a late-round pick in 2009. He averaged 21.3 points a game his sophomore season, though that came in just 27 games, and posted 18.7 points a game while starting all 51 games a season ago. Despite those numbers, the Baton Rouge native has been pegged as the sixth man behind the backcourt of Evans and Isiah Thomas, who was a high first-round pick by the Kings two seasons ago.

Nets Need Blatche To Shine

The Brooklyn Nets are still searching for the lead in the Atlantic Division, but their dream is starting to become a heck of a lot less than a potential reality. They are five back in the loss column of the New York Knicks, and time isn’t on their side with just 21 games left in the season. In fact, Brooklyn has to be careful. The team is currently in the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, but only 3.5 games separate it from the No. 8 seed.

Deron Williams and Brook Lopez are nice, but the Nets require some sort of glue to get into the playoffs and make a push when they get there. Andray Blatche is the type of man that can provide that spark for Brooklyn when he is called upon, and if it is going to make for successful NBA picks in the final quarter of the season, Blatche is the man that is really going to have to step it up.

We’ve seen the big man do this before, though. He isn’t quite getting the same type of minutes that he was getting when he was with the Washington Wizards, but his level of effectiveness is still right up there. Blatche’s numbers seem to be pedestrian, as he is averaging just 10.0 points and 5.3 boards per game, but we also have to remember that he is only on the court for 18:45 or so per night on average. 18.865

If you take Blatche’s numbers and plug in the amount of time per game that he played for the Wizards in his best season (33:57 per game in 2010-11), his averages would be even stronger than they were then. Blatche would be good for 17.9 points, 9.5 rebounds, and over a block and almost two steals per game.

Conley Key Defensive Cog For Surging Grizzlies

The Memphis Grizzlies have the fourth-best record in the Western Conference thanks in large part to its consistently strong defensive effort. A key cog for the Grizzlies, which ranks second in the NBA in points allowed at just 89.6 points a game, is ball-hawking point guard Michael Conley.

The No. 4 pick in the 2007 NBA draft out of Ohio State, Conley is considered to be among the best perimeter defenders in the entire league. He leads the NBA with 119 steals this season, which is just ahead of Chris Paul (115) and comes just two years after setting a franchise-record for steals in a season with 144 in 2010-2011.

Pair Conley’s defensive production with the rough-and-rugged inside duo of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol and you can see why only the Indiana Pacers are allowing fewer points per game (89.4) than the Grizzlies.

It’s not just on the defensive end that Conley has proven to be a valuable piece for the Grizzlies. He is also a solid facilitator and adequate shooter at the point guard position. Conley leads the team in assists with 5.9 a game while also averaging 13.3 points a game, which is a solid number for a team’s third option on offense.

As you consider your NBA picks for this week, note the Grizzlies are an excellent 34-23-1 against the spread thanks in large part to Conley’s steady hand at the point guard position. They have also won nine of their last 10 games straight-up to inch within just two games of the Los Angeles Clippers for the West’s No. 2 seed.

This week the Grizzlies have three very winnable games against Portland on Wednesday, at the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday and at home against the New Orleans Hornets on Saturday. Three straight games against non-playoff contenders means the Grizzlies excellent run isn’t likely to end soon.

Mo Williams Nearly Back From Injury

Twenty-four games into the NBA season, Mo Williams went down with a thumb injury. Little did he know that he would be spending the better part of three months on the shelf for the Utah Jazz. The timetable isn’t quite definite for when the point guard will be returning to the fold, but we know that it will be sooner than later, giving the Jazz a real boost in their push for the playoffs in the Western Conference.

The timing couldn’t be better for Williams. He was averaging 12.9 points and 6.7 assists per game when he was the starting point guard for this team, but he has since been replaced by Jamaal Tinsley, who has been ineffective at best.

The Jazz currently sit in eighth place in the Western Conference, and they are one of the five teams that are separating by just a total of five games in the standings. Three will get into the second season. Two will be left behind.

Utah has had problems on the road all year long, as demonstrated by its 11-19 ATS mark and its 10-20 SU record. The team is on the road for the next three games, facing the Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, and New York Knicks before coming home for three of the next our and heading out for three more in the Lone Star State. Williams’ return would be a huge boost for the team.

Williams joined the Jazz this year in the offseason after playing for the Los Angeles Clippers for a season and a half. Making NBA picks is going to be a heck of a lot easier with Williams in the fold than to be counting on Tinsley, who should immediately go back to the bench and become a reserve player once again for this playoff-hopeful club.

DeRozan Helping To Carry Raptors

The Toronto Raptors made the boldest play of the trading season, picking up Rudy Gay from the Memphis Grizzlies. Many figured that would make the men from the Great White North instant contenders to get into the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference. It isn’t going to happen in all likelihood after a four-game losing streak to end February/start March, but this is still a team that many won’t want to mess with down the stretch.

DeMar DeRozan has quietly become a huge success for the Raptors. He is having the best season of his four-year career, averaging 17.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. Many figured that when Gay came to take, DeRozan would fall off of the map, but that just hasn’t been the case.

Over the course of the last nine games, DeRozan has continued his push as one of the most underrated scorers in the NBA. He has averaged 19.7 points per game since February 12th, putting him on one of the better runs for players in the Eastern Conference since that point.

Unfortunately for Toronto, it hasn’t been the best team to make NBA picks on down the stretch. The team has failed to cover four in a row, and DeRozan is seemingly doing better in games in which the team isn’t covering than when it is. The Southern Cal native has averaged 19.2 points per game over the course of the last six that the Raptors haven’t covered. He is only averaging 17.3 points per game in the last four in which they have beaten the spread.

DeRozan is setting a career-high for scoring (17.8 PPG), rebounding (4.1 RPG), assists (2.5 APG), steals (1.0 SPG), and free throw shooting percentage (83.1%) this season, and if he can carry this into next season with Gay, the Raptors might ultimately become one of the scarier teams in the East.

Beal, Lillard Move To Head Of NBA Rookie Class

With the second half of the NBA season underway, it’s worth taking a look at the emerging stars of this year’s rookie class and the potential impact they could have on their teams moving forward.

Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards and Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers are considered by most to be at the head of this season’s freshman class. They have consistently played the best basketball among this year’s rookie crop and will need to be accounted for when making any further NBA predictions.

Beal has regained his top form since returning to the starting lineup after being sidelined for five games because of a wrist injury. He poured in 28 points in a win against the Milwaukee Bucks last week and added 25 points in a loss to the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday. He is averaging 13.5 points a game this season and was named the NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for both December and January. Those honors were accrued mostly without having point guard John Wall in the lineup, who has since returned and provided a spark to the Wizards.

Given its poor straight-up record, Washington has been largely disregarded by bettors and that has resulted in an excellent 31-19-2  record against the spread this season. Beal’s continued emergence as a top rookie, combined with a healthy Wall, should continue that positive trend for the Wizards.

Lillard is the de-facto NBA Rookie of the Year at this point following a brilliant first-half that’s seen the point guard from Weber State average 18.4 points, 6.5 assists and 3.2 rebounds a game for the Blazers. He’s helped keep Portland on the periphery of the Western Conference playoff race, but it remains to be seen whether the small-college product can continue this type of production for a full rookie campaign.

French Lead Foreign NBA Stars

Over the course of the last decade or so, we have seen an insurgence of basketball players into the NBA that have come from overseas. Today, we’re listing off some of the best internationally born players that are now in the NBA.

When the international phase started in the NBA, there were a ton of players coming from countries like Croatia, Lithuania, and the likes. However, some of the best NBA internationals right now are coming from France. Tony Parker and Joakim Noah are both clearly amongst the best 50 players in the NBA at the moment, and they are arguably the two best international players that the league has to offer.

Nicolas Batum of the Portland Trail Blazers also has to be considered a Top 10 international player from France.

England’s Luol Deng is still doing the job for the Chicago Bulls as a big man alongside of Noah. Parker has a pair of great international teammates as well in Tim Duncan (from the Virgin Islands) and Manu Ginobili (Argentina). The Spurs are making for great NBA predictions this season, and they broke the record this year for the most internationally born players on an opening day roster with eight.

Pau and Marc Gasol are both brothers from a Spanish international team that is chock full of NBA players. Serge Ibaka has to be considered on this list of international stars in the NBA as well. Honorable mentions clearly have to go out to Jose Calderon and Ricky Rubio.

The New Orleans Hornets have done well with Greivis Vasquez, who is the most notable Venezuelan to make it to the NBA.

It’s tough to limit this list to just 10, as we haven’t even mentioned some of the names from Montenegro. This countries has given us the likes of Nikola Pekovic and Nikola Vucevic.

Tyreke Evans Is A Forgotten King

This has been another lost season for the Sacramento Kings, who currently sport the second-worst record in the Western Conference. That lack of team success has left many to forget about the play of Tyreke Evans, who just three seasons ago was named the NBA Rookie of the Year.

Evans has been largely overshadowed this season by the ongoing antics of DeMarcus Cousins, who in addition to being the team’s leading scorer remains a suspension waiting to happen. The arrival of Cousins two seasons ago has helped to suppress Evans’ numbers this season. Following a switch from small forward to shooting guard this season, Evans is averaging a career low in points (15.3 a game) and assists (3.2 a game).

Despite that drop in production, Evans remains one of the league’s top talents and the only consistent player for the struggling Kings. He was drafted by the Kings out of Memphis with the No. 4 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft and went on to earn Rookie of the Year honors by averaging 20.1 points a game with 5.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds in 2009-2010.

While the numbers are down this season, Evans has made a fluid transition to the shooting guard position opposite Isiah Thomas. Evans is shooting a solid 48 percent from the field this season, though he continues to struggle from behind the arc. He is a career 26 percent shooter from three-point range, but has been better this year while connecting with 32.7 percent of his three-balls.

With the first half of the season in the books, handicappers are looking ahead and formulating their NBA predictions for the stretch run. There has been some speculation that Evans could be dealt prior to the trade deadline. If that does happen, you can expect the Kings to continue their spiral into the NBA’s Western abyss.