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Jonathan Macri previews Saturday's NBA games and gives us his picks

The trade deadline has come and gone, and while the league wasn’t exactly shaken to its core, there were a few tremors that will take some getting used to. In the meantime, several teams will be without key rotation pieces that could present solid opportunities for bettors all weekend. We start with the team that made perhaps the biggest move of all:

Chicago Bulls vs. San Antonio Spurs

The Chicago Bulls went all in.

That’s the only way to describe dealing away one recent lottery pick, the highest salaried player on the team, and two lightly protected first-round picks to add a 30-year-old center to a team that’s five games under .500. They also have a negative scoring margin and neither an offense or a defense that rank in the top half of the league.

But the current state of affairs in Chicago also explains why they felt they needed to make a splash, what with Zach LaVine now 16 months away from unrestricted free agency and no clear sense of improvement as the season has moved along.

Nikola Vucevic, along with Troy Brown Jr., Javonte Green and Al-Farouq Aminu, will debut for the Bulls in this game. They’ll be added to a rotation that is left mostly intact, save for the outgoing Otto Porter Jr and Wendell Carter Jr. Still, the starting lineup will shift once again, with Vooch certainly moving into the first five and Thad Young going back to the bench.

It’s a lot of adjustments to make going into a game against a team that overcame a 23-point-deficit against these same Bulls in Chicago a few weeks ago.

But it seems like Vegas may be overcompensating for that last game, as well as Chicago’s new additions, giving the Spurs an edge. The Bulls are 11-2 against the spread as a road dog this season – the second best winning percentage in the NBA in such situations.

That mark will be tested here, but given how the Spurs have been scuffling – a negative 2.1 net rating over their last 15 games, of which they’ve won just six – it’s the better bet.

The Pick: Bulls +2.5 @ +100

Boston Celtics vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

The Celtics were one of the other teams to take advantage of the Orlando tear down, acquiring Evan Fournier for the price of two second-round picks.

Part of the reason the cost was so cheap was because of Fournier’s limited ideal role on a good team: sixth man, which is exactly what he’ll be in Boston.

He should be ready to go for this one, as will Moe Wagner, who is replacing the departed Daniel Theis. Tristan Thompson (health and safety protocols) and Jeff Teague (traded for Fournier) will not be available, and Semi Ojeleye is also day to day. Boston will still be left with its core four though, plus Robert Williams, Grant Williams and rookie Payton Prichard. It should be enough to maintain some level of institutional memory on the court.

On Saturday, that should be enough. The Oklahoma City Thunder will be without star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for the foreseeable future, although the team has gone 3-6 without him this season. Luguentz Dort has averaged 18 points in the last seven games SGA has missed, but the Thunder as a whole have gone just 8-12 against the spread as a home dog this season.

Boston may have shuffled its deck, but what remains will be more than enough to cover on Saturday.

The Pick: Celtics -10 @ -105

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Other NBA Games

Detroit Pistons at Washington Wizards

Two of the worst teams in the league, except one continues to fight – the Pistons are 5-3 against the spread in their last eight – while the Wizards can’t wait to roll over and die, with a 3-6 mark ATS in their last nine and a 1-8 record on the court. Take the Pistons and the points on the road.

New York Knicks at Milwaukee Bucks

New York got walloped when they were in Milwaukee in their first game out of the break, but that was uncharacteristic of the feisty Knicks. They’ve covered six of seven since then, and with the Bucks playing the second night of a back to back, New York will make it seven of eight here.

Houston Rockets at Minnesota Timberwolves

It’s the basement bowl between the two teams in a class by themselves at the bottom of the Western Conference. These teams also played on Friday night, and most of the time this season, these double dip home series end up in a split. 

Dallas Mavericks at New Orleans Pelicans

Both teams are playing on the second night of a back to back and both have been playing fairly well of late. This one feels like a toss-up; take the points.

Memphis Grizzlies at Utah Jazz

The Jazz had won three straight coming into Friday night’s game against these same Grizzlies, with the last two coming in convincing fashion. They’re looking to put their 3-5 mini-slump behind them, and still have one of the best records against the spread as a home favorite.

Philadelphia 76ers at Los Angeles Clippers

The Sixers have covered nine of 11 games and are really rolling coming down the stretch, even sans Joel Embiid. They have the NBA’s best net rating over the last 10 games, most of which have come without their MVP candidate. They’ll keep this one close enough to cover.

Cleveland Cavaliers at Sacramento Kings

The Kings acquisition of Delon Wright and reluctance to trade Harrison Barnes speaks to their intention to try and hang around the play-in race. Cleveland, meanwhile, has long ago packed it in. Go with the home squad with something to play for as opposed to the bad team on the second night of a back to back coming off a cross-country trip.

NBA Expert Picks

(Click Odds To Bet)

Bulls +2.5 @  +100 (Click To Bet)

Celtics -10 @  -105 (Click To Bet)

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Article Author


Dean of Knicks Film School, host: KFS Pod, co-host: Pick N Pod. There isn't much about Knicks basketball that Jonathan doesn't know and he's here to break down the big games each and every week.


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