NBA Monday: Underdogs headline value selections

NBA Monday: Underdogs headline value selections article feature image

With players seemingly going down every other day, it’s refreshing to get some positive injury news: Rudy Gobert is set to return to the Utah Jazz after missing 11 games.

Given how well Derrick Favors has been playing in his absence, we might see a few teething issues incorporating the Frenchman back into the lineup. Until Quin Snyder has his rotations sorted, it might be best to avoid the Jazz, who were inconsistent prior to Gobert’s injury.

I’ll be passing on Wizards vs. Jazz, but I’ve picked out a pair of lines I like the look of tonight including a big fade of the public.

Magic @ Hornets

The Magic started the season so well, but a nine-game losing streak well has truly brought them back down to earth. At one point they led the league in 3-point shooting and defended it better than anybody else, but they’ve since regressed toward the mean.

Back-to-backs in the NBA are always something to be aware of, but the Magic actually perform exceptionally well in that situation. Perhaps it’s due to being a young team full of energy. Whatever it is, Orlando is one of the few teams with a positive net rating with zero days rest.

The Magic’s 110.3 offensive rating would rank sixth in the league if they could keep it up every night.

Tonight they face a Hornets team that has been beyond poor the last four games. Throughout the four-game losing streak, Charlotte has only managed 100.5 offensive rating while giving up 110.2 on the defensive end.

Kemba Walker has missed the last two games, but he’s expected to return tonight.

Even with Walker’s return to the lineup, the Hornets aren’t a team that blows others out of the water. I like the Magic to continue their good form on the second night of a back-to-back and keep this one close.

Pick: Magic +8

Cavaliers @ Bulls

We had the brief moment of questioning the Cavaliers before they embarked on this 11-game winning streak. LeBron James has put to bed the idea this team isn’t a contender by rattling off 27.2 points, 8.9 rebounds and 8.4 assists throughout the unbeaten run.

The streak looks good when you’re just checking the standings, but a look at the schedule shows it’s not exactly dominant.

The Cavaliers are banged up and have found themselves playing down to the opposition of late. In three of Cleveland’s last five wins, they beat a poor Charlotte team by one, the famously bad Hawks by seven, and the injury-ravaged Grizzlies by five.

A straight up 11-0 record is excellent for the fans, but the punters haven’t profited from their surge, going just 5-6 against the spread.

The Bulls, on the other hand, have been playing some of their best basketball of the season. They’re unlucky to be on an eight-game losing streak; their last three losses have come by a combined seven points.

Chicago’s 98.6 offensive rating for the season is dwarfed by their 108.1 rating over the last three games, while their defensive rating has remained around the 110 since October.

Though they’re far from a good team, the Bulls have been a challenge recently. And with the Cavaliers nursing plenty of injuries, the Chicago should receive even more of a push.

Some reverse line movement has seen the Bulls line drop from +10 to +8.5, with 82 percent of the tickets on the Cavaliers. It could continue to fall in the build up to the game, but proceed with caution taking anything less than the +8.5 available as this is published.

Pick: Bulls +8.5

All stats provided by Basketball Reference and NBA Stats as of 12/4

All odds provided by William Hill as of 12/4

Be part of the Action

Download the Sports Action app at the App Store or Google Play