Charlotte Hornets @ Cleveland Cavaliers – 7PM ET
A battle of two top five picks from the 2020 draft, LaMelo Ball and the Hornets travel to Cleveland to take on Isaac Okoro and the Cavaliers.
Both young stars have been very impressive in the preseason, but the two teams have had some injury issues to deal with. The Hornets could be without their $120M man Gordan Hayward who suffered a broken finger, while the Cavaliers have six players listed as day-to-day, including Andre Drummond and Kevin Love.
The Charlotte Hornets were the better team last season and are a more experienced team and should get the job done in this one.
NBA Pick – Charlotte Hornets (-125).
New York Knicks @ Indiana Pacers – 7PM ET
After a disappointing playoff exit, the Indiana Pacers changed head coach and are hungry to have a better outcome to their upcoming season.
Their first opportunity to make amends comes when they host the New York Knicks, who have added some pieces to help bolster the roster to be more competitive.
The Knicks added Obi Toppin through the draft and Nerlens Noel, Alec Burkes and Austin Rivers in free agency, however the latter is likely to miss some time due to a groin complaint.
The Pacers on the other hand are relatively healthy, with TJ Warren the only day-to-day player from the Indiana team that played in the Orlando Bubble. Victor Oladipo is reportedly back to full health and this Pacers team will win this one easily at home.
NBA Pick – Indiana Pacers (-351).
That’s why he’s the 🐐 pic.twitter.com/IfBn6BdoP9
— Heat Nation (@HeatNationCom) December 21, 2020
Miami Heat @ Orlando Magic – 7PM ET
The Heat lost some of the wing depth that got them to the NBA finals, with Jae Crowder and Derrick Jones Jr leaving in free agency.
Avery Bradley, who is one of the best perimeter defenders in the game, signed with the team and will help bolster a tough defense that is headlined by Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler.
The Orlando Magic are bringing back a relatively similar team that got eliminated in the first round of the 2020 playoffs, but the progression of some of their younger players including Markelle Fultz and Aaron Gordon should see the team improve as well.
Orlando hasn’t been able to prove themselves as legitimate contenders in the East and Miami will have the two best players on the court in Butler and Adebayo. Take the Heat.
NBA Pick – Miami Heat (-160).
Washington Wizards @ Philadelphia 76ers – 7PM ET
A pair of teams with some new pieces are taking battle in Philadelphia.
The Washington Wizards flipped John Wall, who hadn’t played in two years, for Russell Westbrook to give Bradley Beal some assistance. Beal had a breakout year where he averaged over 30 points per game, but his performance didn’t translate to team success.
The Philadelphia 76ers turned Josh Richardson and their failed experiment with Al Horford into Seth Curry and Danny Green. The two new additions will help Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid by providing spacing with their three point shooting ability.
One to watch in this game is the trash talking rivalry between Westbrook and Embiid that has emerged over the last couple of seasons.
It will be interesting to see how each side plays with their new additions, but the 76ers are the better team, were the best team in the NBA when playing at home and will win this one.
NBA Pick – Philadelphia 76ers (-320).
Milwaukee Bucks @ Boston Celtics – 7:30PM ET
The biggest story of the offseason was the Bucks’ trade for Jrue Holiday in an attempt to convince Giannis to sign the supermax extension, which he eventually did. All the pressure is on Giannis and the Bucks to win an NBA Championship, or atleast even make the NBA Finals.
The Boston Celtics lost some key pieces of their rotation in Gordan Hayward, Enes Kanter and Brad Wanamaker, but brought in Tristian Thompson and Jeff Teague to help bolster their bench depth.
Boston will be without Kemba Walker who is still strengthening his knee after offseason surgery and Giannis will be keen to come out and make a statement in their opening game of the season.
NBA Pick – Milwaukee Bucks (-171).
The Celtics outscored their preseason opponents with Jayson Tatum on the floor.
— CelticsLife.com (@celticslife) December 21, 2020
New Orleans Pelicans @ Toronto Raptors – 7:30PM ET
The team impacted most by the 2020/21 COVID-19 NBA season is the Toronto Raptors who have relocated to Tampa Bay for their home games.
They host the New Orleans Pelicans who have traded away their long-standing guard Jrue Holiday but improved the roster around Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson.
The Pelicans have added Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams to help strengthen their defense and help the development of Ingram, Williams and Lonzo Ball.
The Raptors on the other hand have lost two important pieces in Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. The team surprised many by finishing second in the East last season despite losing Kawhi Leonard for nothing, but will need to find ways to grow and develop again with their new losses.
The Raptors will need some time to learn their new playing style and Williamson has been thriving for the Pels in the preseason. We are backing New Orleans to cause the upset.
NBA Pick – New Orleans Pelicans (+160).
Atlanta Hawks @ Chicago Bulls – 8PM ET
We finally get to see how the Atlanta Hawks, who had one of the biggest offseasons, will use their new parts and gel together on offense.
Trae Young and John Collins are growing and developing together for the Hawks who have now added Clint Capela, Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic to take the team to the next level.
They open up their season on the road against the Chicago Bulls who have changed coach and are hoping to get more buy-in from their players. Zach Lavine will lead the team against and can put up points with ease.
While the Hawks may have some new players that need to be integrated into the playbook, they are the better roster and have the higher expectations and should be winning this one.
NBA Pick – Atlanta Hawks (-131).
Finishing preseason with the win last night was fun 🙌 pic.twitter.com/bTeyBLMZSP
— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) December 20, 2020
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Houston Rockets – 8PM ET
UPDATE: THIS GAME HAS BEEN POSTPONED DUE TO COVID-19 PROTOCOLS. A NEW DATE HAS NOT BEEN SET YET FOR THIS GAME.
A rematch of the opening round of the 2020 playoffs, things are very different now for both sides. Chris Paul has been traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have fully embraced the rebuild, and Russell Westbrook was traded, with the Houston Rockets getting John Wall in exchange.
Despite losing a former MVP, the Rockets have upgraded the roster, adding Wall, Demarcus Cousins and Christian Wood to help James Harden compete for a championship.
While there has been question surrounding Harden’s offseason, he is back in the fold and ready to go for their opener.
We are looking forward to Harden going head-to-head with Lu Dort after their ferocious matchup in the playoffs.
Dort emerged as an exceptional on ball defender, and is part of the young core the Thunder are building for the future, along with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Darius Bazley.
The Thunder are rebuilding the roster for the future while the Rockets are in win now mode and that is what they will be doing.
NBA Pick – Houston Rockets (-281).
San Antonio Spurs @ Memphis Grizzlies – 8PM ET
One of the surprises of last season, the Memphis Grizzlies owned the eighth seed in the West for most of the season until the last few seeding games in the Orlando Bubble. They now look to go even better this season with Ja Morant leading the charge.
The San Antonio Spurs are looking to come into Memphis and spoil the party early with Greg Popovic having a longer offseason than usual due to not making the playoffs for the first time in 23 years.
DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge will be leading the team full of young emerging stars like Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker IV.
The sides won 2 games each from their four meetings last year, but Memphis is on the rise while the Spurs are on the slide. The Grizzlies will win this one at home.
NBA Pick – Memphis Grizzlies (-131).
Detroit Pistons @ Minnesota Timberwolves – 8PM ET
The Wolves missed Karl-Anthony Towns for parts of last season and traded Andrew Wiggins in exchange for D’Angelo Russell and have now added the number one pick in the 2020 draft, Anthony Edwards.
This is what Anthony Edwards can look like on the defensive end when he’s fully engaged. Quick feet, physical at 230 pounds, long-armed. Really nice 1-on-1 defense against one of the best players in the NBA. pic.twitter.com/ezzDcFWixj
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) December 18, 2020
There is expectation surrounding the team that they will be able to compete in the West and get to a play-in game at an absolute minimum.
The Pistons on the other hand traded away their best player and then saw two of their best young players leave in the offseason.
Losing Andre Drummond was a tough pill to swallow for Pistons’ fans, but to see his replacement in Christian Wood follow him out the door in free agency was even tougher.
The Pistons made some very interesting moves in the offseason, but whether it made them better is another question. Take KAT to have a big game and Minnesota to win this one comfortably.
NBA Pick – Minnesota Timberwolves (-191).
Sacramento Kings @ Denver Nuggets – 9PM ET
The darlings of the Western Conference playoffs, Denver is looking for their young players to have their natural progression and help them get even further. The Sacramento Kings have other ideas in both sides’ first games.
Losing Bogdan Bogdanovic for nothing was a debacle by the Kings’ front office, but bringing in Hassan Whiteside to help De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley on the defensive end was a nice move.
The Kings were very disappointing last season and after getting a max extension, Fox has some points to prove and quiet some doubters.
The Denver Nuggets have one of the best young duos in Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic and will rely on them to continue their push up the West standings.
This seems like a mismatch and it will likely play out that way. We are taking Denver to start their season on a high.
NBA Pick – Denver Nuggets (-370).
Utah Jazz @ Portland Trail Blazers – 10PM ET
The Utah Jazz travel to Portland in a matchup between two teams that were eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs, but had much higher expectations.
After holding and losing a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets, the Jazz have gotten healthier, brought back key players and will look to build around Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert as their franchise cornerstones.
Bojan Bogdanovic getting back out there for Utah is extremely important and will help Utah greatly.
The only issue is their opening game is against a Portland Trail Blazers team that had one of the best offseasons in the league. Adding Robert Covington, Derrick Jones Jr and Enes Kanter helps bolster up a frontcourt that needed all the help it could get when eliminated by the Los Angeles Lakers.
Dame Lillard has vocalised his desire to win and win now, and he finally has the pieces around him to actually do that. This is one of the closer games of the day, but Portland and their new roster should be able to take control of the Jazz.
NBA Pick – Portland Trail Blazers (-121).
CP3 FEEDS AYTON 😤 pic.twitter.com/stKnfJkisr
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) December 15, 2020
Dallas Mavericks @ Phoenix Suns – 10:30PM ET
Phoenix made the first big splash of the offseason by trading for Chris Paul in an attempt to help Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton reach their potential.
Paul and Jae Crowder bring a hard nosed competitive spirit that should help Phoenix take the next big step and finally make the postseason.
Dallas was a team that surprised many by climbing up to the seventh seed in the West and stealing two games off the Los Angeles Clippers in their opening round matchup.
They did so without Kristaps Porzingis, who will also be out for this one as the Mavs ease him back into the season. It is a big loss and Doncic will have the entire roster on his shoulders, and it will just be too much to overcome a more experienced and well-rounded Phoenix outfit.
NBA Pick – Phoenix Suns (-115).
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*Odds and spreads correct at time of publication, courtesy of PointsBet.