Why Luka Doncic leads the MVP race while Victor Wembanyama misses on Rookie of the Year

One week into the 2022-23 NBA season, Steve Nash was still coaching the Brooklyn Nets and the Portland Trail Blazers had the league’s best record at 4-0. If that doesn’t make it clear how unreliable these early-season samples are, nothing will. Things change drastically over the course of 82 games, and at no other point in the season would we let two or three games so drastically shape our opinions.

But first impressions tend to be strong ones. After waiting four months to see all of these players and teams take the floor for the first time, we’re bound to react strongly to even unsustainable trends. So let’s lean into this a little bit and try to pick award winners based solely on the first week of the season. These are not the players likeliest to actually win the awards when the season ends, but simply the players whose opening weeks most closely fit the criteria we’re looking for.

Most Valuable Player: Luka Doncic
Nikola Jokic has a viable case on strength of schedule alone. Both the Mavericks and Nuggets have played the Grizzlies, but Denver’s wins over the Lakers, Thunder and Jazz are more impressive than Dallas’ victories over the Spurs and a Nets team that had to play without starting center and primary rim-protector Nic Claxton. Jokic’s performance seems more sustainable, and the Dallas defense may yet drag Doncic down, but for now? The numbers are just unassailable.

Doncic is averaging a ridiculous 39 points, 9.7 assists and 11.7 rebounds per game. He is shooting 55.6% from the floor and 48.6% from 3-point range, and his game-winning banker against the Nets is almost certainly going to go down as one of the season’s best clutch shots.

— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) October 28, 2023
The Nuggets have the NBA’s second-best net rating through one week, and they’re doing it against good teams. Dallas has played close games against underwhelming opponents. But Doncic is carrying a Mavericks team that plenty of people projected to struggle just to reach the play-in round. Jokic is leading a defending champion. If Doncic can keep playing like this on a somewhat uninspiring roster, he’ll have a real chance at his first trophy.

But if you’re looking for a favorite over the next six months? It’s Jokic without question. He never gets hurt. His superior roster will probably lead to more winning. He’s won this trophy twice. Even the NBA pegged Jokic over Doncic with its first Western Conference Player of the Week award. They’re both off to terrific starts, and Doncic has a ways to go before he can unseat a former winner, but right now, he has the lead by a hair.

Defensive Player of the Year: OG Anunoby
This is typically a rim protector’s award, but none of the big men have stood out early in the season. Jaren Jackson Jr. and Evan Mobley are both struggling to adjust to life without their starting centers. Anthony Davis and Bam Adebayo are having to put out too many fires started by their own backcourts. Minnesota’s defense is thriving, but against weaker competition, and Rudy Gobert’s numbers and metrics don’t scream Defensive Player of the Year at the moment, especially after Monday’s collapse against Atlanta. Kristaps Porzingis has quietly been incredible at the rim, but Boston’s defense is loaded and, though opposing shooting luck is behind this, has been roughly average in efficiency this season.

So with no obvious big man (yet), let’s turn to by far the best perimeter defender of the early season. According to NBA.com’s matchup data, OG Anunoby was the primary defender on 28 shots in his first two games. His matchups made five of them. Here’s how the data breaks down:

Obviously, it’s difficult to give this award to someone based on three games of film, and Toronto’s defense as a whole has looked terrific. Jakob Poeltl’s rim protection has been a significant addition, Dennis Schroder has been better than Fred VanVleet was, and Scottie Barnes has taken a significant leap. But that unit starts with the league’s best perimeter defender, and Toronto’s entire offense relies on the defense to generate turnovers so it can live in transition instead of the half-court. Perimeter players rarely win this award, but a healthy Anunoby on a defense this good is going to make a serious run at the trophy. A couple of big men will eventually separate themselves and probably crowd him out of the running, but Anunoby has been the standout of the first week.

Rookie of the Year: Chet Holmgren
If Victor Wembanyama was part of a better team defense and could be relied upon to play 65 games, he might already be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. As of Monday, opponents were scoring just .208 points per possession on shots in which Wembanyama was the primary defender, the lowest figure in the entire NBA, according to Synergy Sports. Of course, Holmgren is no slouch defensively either. Jokic may have had his way with him on Sunday, but he blocked seven shots against the Cavaliers on Friday, and while it’s too early to tell if it was an outlier or a trend, he hasn’t been forced into foul trouble yet as Wembanyama was in his debut. There’s a gap here, but it’s not a significant one.

Wembanyama has been asked to do more on offense, and it’s reflected in the numbers. They’re scoring a similar number of points, but Holmgren is shooting over 15 percentage points higher from the field. That’s a reflection of their roles to some extent, and so is the fact that Wembanyama is turning the ball over three times as often. But it still matters in this race.

Over the long haul, Rookie of the Year is an award that tends to prize individual creators. It’s typically a guard award, but with our two best candidates clearly big men, it could help Wembanyama out down the line. For now, Holmgren gets the edge for more easily fitting into a winning infrastructure. He’s making a good team great. The Spurs have no intention of being good or great this season. Their whole goal is letting Wembanyama explore and develop his talent. He’ll do so, and it might eventually result in this award, but Holmgren gets the slight one-week edge.

Most Improved Player: Cam Thomas
Historically, this is the first-time All-Star award. That typically isn’t the best representation of actual improvement. Players like Ja Morant will frequently win the award going from “very good” to “great”, leaving players who went from “total obscurity” to “very good.” This year provides a candidate that comes a bit closer to checking both boxes. He wasn’t well-known before the season, and it’s not as if he’s added many tools to his skill set, but he’s getting far more opportunities this season and he’s making the most of it.

Cam Thomas wasn’t totally off the radar last season. He had three 40-point games in four days in February. But he only reached 20 points 11 times and saw inconsistent playing time down the stretch and in the playoffs. Jacque Vaughn was hesitant to play him because, despite his scoring prowess, he brought very little else to the table. That hasn’t exactly changed, but the Nets, as a team, have.

Brooklyn is committed to playing Ben Simmons significant minutes. With Nic Claxton at center, the half-court offense is going to be cramped, but the defense should be very good. Thomas is the perfect counterbalance. He needs an elite defensive roster to protect him and he needs a dedicated playmaker to create looks for others so that he can focus on doing his thing. And boy, has he done that this season, averaging 33 points in his first three games.

Thomas was always a bucket. We saw that last season, so it’s a bit disingenuous to suggest he improved substantially as a player. But he averaged 10.6 points in around 17 minutes of playing time last season. He’s tripling his scoring total right now and playing a significant role for the Nets this season. That makes him an easy candidate for an award that has always favored circumstantial statistical growth over skill improvement.

Sixth Man of the Year: Chris Paul
Thomas came off of the bench for Brooklyn on opening night, but has started ever since due to Claxton’s injury. If he goes back to the bench when Claxton returns, he becomes the favorite for this award. If he keeps playing as he has though, It would be hard to justify starting Spencer Dinwiddie over him. Another candidate is in a similar boat right now. Jalen Johnson came off of the bench for two games, but started on Monday. Given how well he is playing, he should never surrender that spot. So for now, we’re looking for players who are actually going to stay on the bench. Ironically, we’re turning to someone who was almost exclusively started in his career to get there.

Chris Paul does not fit the typical statistical profile of a Sixth Man of the Year winner. The award almost always goes to one of the league’s best bench scorers, and the Warriors have already been robbed of one deserving winner outside of that mold in Andre Iguodala. Paul is averaging only 10.5 points per game so far this season. But who cares? Golden State is currently plus-31 with Stephen Curry off of the floor. To give you a sense of how preposterous that is in context, the Warriors are minus-1,311 in all non-Curry minutes since Steve Kerr took over as Golden State’s coach.

Paul has already started two games this season. Injuries might force him to start more. But stabilizing Golden State’s bench units is quietly among Paul’s most impressive feats in a brilliant 18-year NBA career. It would take a lot to deprive him of this award if that continues.

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Coach of the Year: Frank Vogel
Picking this award after one week of games is borderline impossible. Evaluating coaches requires a ton of context. We have almost none of it through three or four games, so this choice means by far the least among the awards we’re handing out. Still, let’s give a shoutout to Frank Vogel, who has a Phoenix roster built entirely for offense ranked No. 2 in defense. Granted, he needed a fair bit of shooting luck to make that happen, as Suns opponents are making the second-lowest percentage of their 3s in the league, but even average felt unlikely for Phoenix coming into the season. If Vogel can get this team to defend, he’ll have a great chance at a top seed and a bit of individual hardware.

Does James Harden improve Clippers title odds? Is Luka Doncic the MVP?

The NBA season is just a week old, and there’s already been no shortage of drama and storylines. James Harden finally got his wish to be traded to the Clippers, Victor Wembanyama made his highly anticipated debut and we’ve already got several players sitting out of games for “rest”. It’s like the NBA never left.

It’s still too early to make grand proclamations about most teams and players, but one thing is for certain, the Denver Nuggets look like a legit threat to repeat as champions. The Celtics also look like they may coast through the Eastern Conference. But let me not get too ahead of myself, with the first week in the books, let’s break down what we saw from all the action around the league and determine if it’s fact or fiction.

James Harden significantly improves the Clippers title odds
Fact or fiction: Fiction

It’s no secret what Harden will give the Clippers on offense. He’s an automatic scorer who can get to the free-throw line at will. He’s an elite facilitator, all you need to look at is how he led the league in assists per game last season to prove that point. He gives the Clippers another player who can fill it up from outside, improving what was already the third-best 3-point shooting team in the NBA a year ago. L.A.’s need for a lead guard who can initiate the offense and calm things down in tight situations has been a talking point about this team for years, and Harden can certainly provide that. When you look at the trade through that lens, you can see why the Clippers wanted to get this deal done.

However, the amount that L.A. gave up to acquire Harden may burn them on the backend. Keeping Terance Mann was a plus, but losing Robert Covington and Nicolas Batum, two forwards who give L.A. the versatility to play small ball when needed alters the makeup of this team on both ends of the floor. And despite Harden’s individual success throughout his career, each of his last two stops in Philadelphia and Brooklyn haven’t yielded a ton of team success. In fact, Harden actually decreases L.A.’s championship odds, according to projections from SportsLine data scientist Stephen Oh:

The Clippers are a different team than any Harden has played with in the past, but nothing about his previous two stints suggests this will be the time he helps carry a team to the NBA Finals.

Luka Doncic is the frontrunner for MVP
Fact or fiction: Fact

You could argue Nikola Jokic is in the lead for this award. You could also argue that Stephen Curry is up there too. But we all know that MVP is just as much a narrative-based award as it is merit-based, and so far this season Doncic has led in both categories. Last season the Mavericks missed the postseason entirely after stringing together enough embarrassing wins and deciding — with two games left in the season — to tank in order to keep their draft pick. It was a bad look from a team that just went to the Western Conference finals in 2021. So to say there was a significant amount of pressure on Dallas entering this season to prove last season was an exception is an understatement.

So far the Mavericks are 3-0, and in those games, Doncic is averaging 39 points, 11.7 rebounds and 9.7 assists. He’s also shooting 55.6% from the field and 48.6% from deep. His scoring is first in the league, his rebounding is first amongst guards and he’s third in assists. The scoring volume is nothing new, but the efficiency is. Doncic has been an average 3-point shooter over his career, but so far this season he’s been damn near automatic from deep. In back-to-back games, he’s knocked down three straight triples to either ice the game for Dallas or extend their lead. It’s been arguably the best start to a season of Doncic’s career, and given he’s gotten a lot of criticism for entering the regular season out of shape, it’s a positive sign for Dallas that their franchise superstar is beginning to take his conditioning seriously. Doncic’s likely to regress over the course of the season, but right now his blistering start has him out front for MVP.

Suns early season injuries are concerning
Fact or fiction: Fiction

The Suns spent big this summer to add Bradley Beal to a lineup that already featured Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, and while the team is 2-1 that trio hasn’t managed to play a single game together yet. Beal hasn’t suited up as he’s been dealing with back pain, an injury Phoenix is reportedly being cautious about. Booker has missed the last two games for the Suns with a foot injury, and is listed as doubtful for Phoenix’s Tuesday night meeting with the Spurs and Victor Wembanyama. It’s easy to draw comparisons to how Durant’s previous team, the Brooklyn Nets, were always saddled with injuries to their star players, but I don’t think this situation shares any similarities with that one.

Both Beal and Booker have played in over 95% of their games throughout their careers, suggesting durability even when minor injuries do pop up. This isn’t a case of two players who are always injured, but rather a team wanting to be cautious with two of their star players after spending a significant amount of dough on this roster to try and win a championship.

Milwaukee will once again be top 5 defensively
Fact or fiction: Fiction

Sure, Milwaukee staved off a comeback from the Heat to improve to 2-1 on the season. And yes, the Bucks held the Heat to 73 points through three quarters. But they also allowed Miami to go off for 41 points in the fourth quarter of that game to almost steal a win. This is just a day after the Bucks fell behind by as much as 31 points to the Atlanta Hawks before losing by a more respectable margin of 17 points. Milwaukee’s start to the season on defense has been rough, but not at all surprising when you consider they swapped five-time All-Defensive Jrue Holiday, for the automatic offense of Damian Lillard.

Last season Milwaukee was a top-5 defense, so far this season they’ve freefallen to 25th. Surely they’ll figure some things out, but that once stout defense from a year ago may not return. With Lillard as a liability on defense, it’s going to require even more from the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez. And while it might be a “bend don’t break” mentality for the defense this season, that strategy may not work when the playoffs start.

Chet Holmgren ahead of Wembanyama for Rookie of the Year
Fact or fiction: Fact

Wembanyama may be getting the bulk of the attention, but Holmgren may be in front of him by a hair for Rookie of the Year right now. When you put their stats side-by-side one thing sticks out, Holmgren has been more efficient than Wembanyama to start the season.

That’s in large part due to Holmgren being on a team that is 3-1 and is a playoff contender, while Wembanyama is on a rebuilding Spurs team still a couple of years from serious contention. But you do the best with what you’re given, and Holmgren has made a significant impact on the Thunder. Already he’s recorded seven blocks in a game, highlighting how he’s already an elite shot blocker and his efficiency from beyond the arc is truly impressive.

Kristaps Porzingis is the biggest steal of the offseason
Fact or fiction: Fact

The Celtics are 3-0 and Porzingis looks at home in Boston’s offense. He’s averaging 20.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and perhaps most importantly two blocks a game. He’s looked like the perfect missing piece to Boston’s roster, spreading the floor to allow Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown more space to operate in the paint, and being the elite rim protector that earned him an All-Star nod way back when he was on the Knicks. It has taken Porzingis no time to fit in with Boston, and that should be scary for the rest of the Eastern Conference.

It’s almost not surprising in a way that Porzingis is thriving in Boston, given that the biggest drawback about him was his durability. He’s always been a 20-points-a-game scorer, but his health has always limited his availability. But his season last year with the Wizards, where he played in 65 games and averaged a career-high 23.2 points, showed those issues are behind him. If this version of Porzingis was on the trading block right now, the Celtics would’ve had to send a lot more than Danilo Gallinari and Mike Muscala to the Wizards to acquire him. Holiday may be the best player Boston acquired this summer, but getting Porzingis for what they gave up was a steal.

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Grizzlies shouldn’t be worried about 0-4 start
Fact or fiction: Fiction

It was always going to be a tough road ahead for Memphis without Ja Morant for the first 25 games of the season, but no one could’ve predicted that we would be entering Week 2 of the season and the Grizzlies are still searching for their first win. And with no immediate, significant help on the horizon, Memphis should be worried about this rough start, especially given their upcoming schedule. Meetings with the Clippers, Lakers, Heat and Celtics over the next 10 games are going to make it difficult for the Grizzlies to dig themselves out of this hole they’ve created, even the “easier” games on their upcoming schedule against the Jazz, Spurs and Trail Blazers aren’t guaranteed.

It’s still too early to hit the panic button on this team, especially when Morant is suspended, Steven Adams is out for the season and minor injuries to role players are making an impact. But Memphis fared significantly better last season without key players in the rotation, so this shocking start is concerning.

Brandon Miller is off to a sensational start in Charlotte

In a 2023 draft class headlined by No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama, everyone, relatively speaking, is going to be something of an afterthought. After Wemby, No. 3 overall pick Scoot Henderson has gotten the most buzz, if only as an innocent bystander through all the Damian Lillard drama.

Meanwhile, the guy who got picked between Wemby and Henderson, Brandon Miller, who was almost immediately relegated to the shadows of the rookie conversation this summer, has looked awesome.

A lot of people believed the Charlotte Hornets made a mistake by drafting Miller over Henderson at No. 2 overall. Admittedly, I was one of those people. While no conclusions can be drawn about any player a week into his rookie season, I’m already thinking I might’ve been a little too caught up in the Scoot hype to fully appreciate everything Miller brings to the table.

On Monday, Miller continued what has been a sensational start to his rookie season with 22 points and nine rebounds, albeit in a 133-121 Hornets loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

Through three games, Miller is averaging 17.3 points with an elite 61.3 true-shooting percentage on better than five 3-point attempts per game — and he’s already an impact defender with his seven-foot wingspan and top-end athleticism, both of which were on full display with the monster block above the square that you’ll see in the reel below.

No. 2 Pick Brandon Miller showcased an array of skills tonight vs. the Nets 👀

22 PTS
1 BLK pic.twitter.com/ZBVBNjW5XT

— NBA (@NBA) October 31, 2023
Miller isn’t starting yet. I’d bet it won’t be long. Part of Charlotte’s rationale for taking Miller over Henderson is the former’s fit alongside LaMelo Ball, where Scoot would’ve been somewhat redundant. Ball, who hasn’t yet found his stroke this season, and Miller make for a super long, athletic tandem in a league that punishes small backcourts.

Terry Rozier feels like a perfect sixth man when Miller’s starting number gets called, or perhaps it’s Gordon Hayward bound for the bench. Either way, sooner or later, Miller is going to be the guy next to Ball, because he’s a flat-out difference-maker in a variety of forms.

Knockdown 3-point shooter? Check. Attack closeouts for pull-up jumpers over smaller defenders? Check. Smart cutter? Efficient off-ball mover? High-flying athlete in transition and stronger-than-you-think finisher? Check, check and check. It is all there for Miller physically, and this is to say nothing of how competitive he clearly is, and how poised he has looked after just one year in college.

“He is not like most guys his age,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said of Miller following an impressive NBA debut. “If you watch him, he’s got great self-confidence.”

Three shots in that debut stood out, beginning with his first regular season shot as a professional, a deep catch-and-shoot triple from the left wing.

First NBA bucket for No. 2 overall pick and @AlabamaMBB product @brandmillerr ✅ pic.twitter.com/aITlW3jbZL

— Bally Sports South (@BallySportsSO) October 25, 2023
Guys can say whatever they want about how the NBA is “the same game I’ve been playing all my life,” but that first shot in the league does not come without a little extra juice flowing. And Miller cashed that thing in the coolest fashion. No hesitation. From well beyond the arc.

That was one of Miller’s three 3-pointers in his debut, and the other two came with the game hanging in the balance: the first a gorgeous corner 3 off an escape dribble that pulled the Hornets within one, the second a catch-and-shoot to give Charlotte the lead inside the final five minutes.

Brandon Miller with a couple of HUGE fourth-quarter triples 🔥 pic.twitter.com/lM3vvVSKf0

— Brett Usher (@UsherNBA) October 26, 2023
Those are big-time shots for anyone, let alone for a 20-year-old playing in his first career game. On top of that, Miller had been in foul trouble after a couple questionable calls before coming back in to drain these shots. Out of rhythm, he easily could’ve hesitated to pull the trigger in such high-leverage moments.

But he didn’t. The guy is a pure shooter, but he’s got some guts and nerve, too. The Hornets have started the season 1-2 and it’s going to be a while before they’re competitive, but Clifford has called this team the most talented he’s ever coached.

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Miller — who in the early going has the highest single-game scoring output and highest scoring average of any rookie, as well as the most total 3-pointers of anyone from the 2023 class (shout out to Chet Holmgren) — is already proving to be a big part of that statement. And when you hear Clifford talk about his work ethic and what a quick study he is, you get the impression that Miller going to make big strides throughout his rookie season.

“Brandon Miller, you show him something in the afternoon and he can do it tonight,” Clifford told reporters on Monday. “He has a super high IQ, and it comes easy to him. He sees what has to happen, whether it’s a technique thing on defense or you change something, and you don’t teach that. You don’t teach that, any of that. He learns quickly.”

The Hornets are not a good team. It’s going to be easy to forget about them as the season goes on; they will only be on national television one time, on Jan. 12, and that’s only because they’ll be playing against Victor Wembanyama’s Spurs. But keep your eye on Miller. While we’re all going gaga over Wemby, it may well be Miller, just like on draft night, who ends up right behind him on the Rookie of the Year board.

Giannis Antetokounmpo dresses as Hulk, Joe Burrow dons alien mask

Per tradition around this time of the year, athletes are getting creative with their Halloween gameday fits. Stars such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joe Burrow are starting to show off their costumes, and so far the results have not been disappointing.

Some costumes are funny, some are nostalgic and some are scary, but the whole point was to not take the process too seriously — unless you are New York Jets linebacker Quincy Williams, who dressed up as the Joker from DC Comics.

“Why so serious? Because it’s game day,” William said before the Jets’ game against the Giants.

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Speaking of the Jets, Jermaine Johnson, Will McDonald IV and Bryce Huff decided to do a group costume. The three of them walked in dressed as Akatsuki, a fearsome group from the anime “Naruto.”

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Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow showed up to Levi’s Stadium with a look that was out of this world. He arrived to the game against the San Francisco 49ers wearing an alien mask paired with a NASA shirt and some colorful pants.

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After leading the Milwaukee Bucks to a 122-114 win over the Miami Heat on Monday, Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo showed up to his postgame press conference dressed in an Incredible Hulk costume.

Giannis Antetokounmpo just did his full media availability with an Incredible Hulk mask on his face.

Remained earnest and serious throughout the entire session. pic.twitter.com/qa7URaQFS1

— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) October 31, 2023
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James wore an incredibly detailed costume inspired from the Tim Burton film “Beetlejuice.”

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Legendary boxer Mike Tyson decided to, in the words of the great Muhammad Ali, sting like a bee this Halloween.

“Happy Halloween. Bee the force that cannot bee stopped.” pic.twitter.com/r0rSDgySL2

— Mike Tyson (@MikeTyson) October 31, 2023
Carolina Panthers wider receiver Laviska Shenault Jr had fun hiding inside a puffy Minions costume.

The reveal 😂@Viska2live https://t.co/Ymip4oQpDw pic.twitter.com/p1j3cSidrn

— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) October 29, 2023
Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett fully committed to the spirit of Halloween as The Creeper from the “Jeepers Creepers” horror franchise.

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Chicago Bears conrnerback Kyler Gordon dressed up as Spiderman, which has been his nickname for a while because of his agility and speed.

Kyler Gordon’s spidey senses are tingling 🕷️ @kyler_gordon pic.twitter.com/7kXOjwaFB5

— NFL (@NFL) October 29, 2023
The Toronto Raptors are taking Halloween seriously, as Gradey Dick showed up to the team’s Halloween party dressed up as Scooby-Doo. Meanwhile, Scottie Barnes went as Frozone from the “The Incredibles.”

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Scottie Barnes, meanwhile, went as Frozone. pic.twitter.com/uRXz6CBWgE

— Adam Laskaris (@adam_la2karis) October 23, 2023
In one of the funnier bits this spooky season, New Orleans Pelicans guard Trey Murphy ran out of the tunnel before Monday’s game against the Warriors wearing a referee’s outfit.

2023 NBA picks, October 31 predictions from proven model

Hours after reportedly trading for James Harden, the Los Angeles Clippers will take the floor opposite the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night. Harden won’t suit up for Los Angeles, and the team is depleted as it parted ways with four players to acquire the former Sixer. The Clippers are 2-1 overall and finished last season 44-38, while Orlando is 2-1 overall and finished last season 34-48.

Tipoff is at 10:30 p.m. ET at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles. The Clippers are favored by 6 points in the latest Magic vs. Clippers odds, and the over/under is 220 points. Before entering any Clippers vs. Magic picks, you’ll want to see the NBA predictions from the model at SportsLine.

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times and has returned well over $10,000 in profit for $100 players on its top-rated NBA picks over the past five seasons. The model enters Week 2 of the 2023-24 NBA season on a 77-41 roll on all top-rated NBA picks dating back to last season, returning nearly $3,000. Anyone following it has seen huge returns.

The model has set its sights on Clippers vs. Magic. You can head to SportsLine to see its picks. Here are several NBA odds and betting lines for Magic vs. Clippers:

Clippers vs. Magic spread: Clippers -6
Clippers vs. Magic over/under: 220 points
Clippers vs. Magic money line: Clippers: -251, Magic: +204
Clippers vs. Magic picks: See picks here
What you need to know about the Magic
It’s hard to win when your shooting is a whole 13.2% worse than the opposition, a fact the Magic found out the hard way on Monday. They fell just short of the Los Angeles Lakers by a score of 106-103. Six different players scored in double-figures for Orlando with Gary Harris leading the way with 17 points off the bench.

The Magic were middle-of-the-pack last year defensively, but thus far in the 2023-24 NBA season, Orlando leads the league in both points allowed per game and defensive rating. On offense, Franz Wagner leads the team with 19.3 points per game, but the team is still waiting for an offensive explosion from reigning Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero. After averaging 20 PPG last year, Banchero is putting up just 11.7 PPG thru three games. See which team to pick here.

What you need to know about the Clippers
Meanwhile, Los Angeles really took it to San Antonio for the full four quarters on Sunday, racking up a 123-83 victory at home. The contest was all but wrapped up at the end of the third, by which point the Clippers had established a 33-point advantage. Seven different players scored in double-figures, led by Kawhi Leonard with 21 points to go along with four assists, three rebounds and two steals.

L.A. will be without Marcus Morris, Nicolas Batum, Robert Covington and Kenyon Martin Jr. on Tuesday as they were all included in the Harden trade. Additionally, Terance Mann (ankle) is out, while Norman Powell (foot) and Ivica Zubac (thigh) are both questionable. That could force the Clippers to be even more reliant on Leonard and Paul George, who are combining to average 50.3 PPG, as well as Russell Westbrook, who leads the team in both rebounds (7.3) and assists (6.7). See which team to pick here.

How to make Clippers vs. Magic picks
The model has simulated Magic vs. Clippers 10,000 times and the results are in. We can tell you that the model is leaning Under, and it’s also generated a point-spread pick that hits in over 60% of simulations. You can only see the pick at SportsLine.

A brief history of NBA MVPs getting traded, from Wilt Chamberlain to James Harden

James Harden got his wish…again, and has been traded from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Los Angeles Clippers. It marks Harden’s fourth team in three years which ties the record for most times a former league MVP has been traded in NBA history. Harden ties Moses Malone, Bob McAdoo and Russell Westbrook with this latest trade.

We’ll have to see if Harden’s time with the Clippers can be more successful than his previous two stints in Brooklyn and Philadelphia. But as the dust settles from the Harden trade, here’s a brief history of every time an NBA MVP was traded after winning the award.

Philadelphia 76ers receive: Wilt Chamberlain
San Francisco Warriors receive: Paul Neumann, Connie Dierking, Lee Shaffer, $150,000 in cash
Trade aftermath:

This was an absolute steal for the 76ers. Neumann and Dierking were solid players, but neither ever even made an All-Star Game, while Shaffer retired immediately after the trade. With Chamberlain in town, the Sixers became a powerhouse. Chamberlain won three straight MVPs from 1966-68, and led the Sixers to a championship in 1967.

Coincidentally, the team the Sixers defeated in the Finals that year was none other than the Warriors, who, thanks to the arrival of Rick Barry in the 1965 NBA Draft, recovered quite well from trading one of the best players of all time. Barry would eventually lead them to a title of their own, though not until 1975.

Los Angeles Lakers receive: Wilt Chamberlain
Philadelphia 76ers receive: Darrall Imhoff, Jerry Chambers, Archie Clark
Trade aftermath:

After three-plus seasons in Philadelphia, Chamberlain requested a trade and his wish was granted, making it the first time a reigning MVP was dealt. Unsurprisingly, the Lakers were the major winners here. They were already a terrific team, and Chamberlain’s arrival only cemented that fact. They went to the Finals in four of his five seasons in Los Angeles, and won the title in 1972, with Chamberlain taking home Finals MVP.

As for the 76ers, things didn’t work out so well for them. Much like they didn’t give up much to get Chamberlain in the first place, they didn’t get much back for him,
Milwaukee Bucks receive: Oscar Robertson
Cincinnati Royals receive: Flynn Robinson, Charlie Paulk
Trade aftermath:

Ahead of the 1970-71 season, Milwaukee won the sweepstakes to acquire Robertson, who had soured on the situation in Cincinnati. Already a strong team with a young then-Lew Alcindor leading the way, the Bucks became dominant with Robertson added to the mix, and won the 1971 title while losing just two playoff games along the way. That would prove to be the first and only title the franchise has won.

The Royals, meanwhile, moved to Kansas City a few years later where they became the Kings. Now in Sacramento, the franchise has won just seven playoff series in 50 years since trading Robertson.

Just seven years after trading for one MVP big man, the Lakers did it again in 1975. And once again, things worked out tremendously well for them. Abdul-Jabbar won three more MVPs in Los Angeles and helped the Lakers win five titles. During his 14 years with the Lakers, the team went to eight Finals and missed the playoffs just once.

Considering the circumstances — Robertson retired in 1974, and Abdul-Jabbar wanted to live anywhere besides Milwaukee — the Bucks actually did alright for themselves. Winters and Bridgeman became franchise icons and helped usher in a successful era in the 1980s. However, the Bucks have not returned to the Finals since losing Abdul-Jabbar.

This was a bit of a weird one. Cowens actually retired in 1980, but decided to make a comeback two years later. Boston still held his rights, however, and had since added Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, so Cowens requested a trade. He was eventually dealt to the Bucks. who at that time were a really solid playoff team. Cowens had a decent season for them but ended up getting hurt and missing the playoffs, where they were lost to the Celtics.

The Celtics had reloaded in the aftermath of Cowens’ retirement and obviously went on to have plenty of success in the 80s with Larry Bird, McHale and Parish running the show. Getting anything at all for a player that had previously retired was a huge win for them, and Buckner became a nice role player for them.

After winning titles in 1970 and 1973, the Knicks tried to keep the good times rolling by adding McAdoo. But though they gave up basically nothing to get him, it didn’t work out. McAdoo was terrific, but the Knicks only made one playoff appearance in his three seasons at Madison Square Garden and were knocked out in the second round by the Sixers.

The Braves had a nice run in the mid-1970s with McAdoo leading the way, but trading him was essentially the end of professional basketball in Buffalo. They moved to San Diego a few years later, and are now the Los Angeles Clippers. We all know how things have gone for them.

Led by Bird, Parish and McHale, the Celtics were one of the dominant teams of the 1980s and had won the title in 1981 and 1984. But after losing to their arch-rivals, the Lakers, in the 1985 Finals, they decided they needed some a boost. They found it in the form of Walton, who was nearing the end of his career and hampered by injuries. He stayed healthy in 1986, however, and won Sixth Man of the Year and Finals MVP as the Celtics reclaimed their throne.

Walton’s time with the Clippers was not successful, and at that point, the franchise was a complete mess. They were bad and Walton was often injured, so getting Maxwell and a first-round pick (which actually later became Arvydas Sabonis) was a fine return, but it just didn’t matter. As we know, it would take a few decades before the franchise did anything of note.

With the arrival of Julius Erving in 1976, the Sixers became one of the best teams in the league. They kept falling short in the Finals, however, losing in 1977, 1980 and 1982. Fed up with those results, they made a move to acquire Malone. He proved to be just what they needed, and they won the title in his first season with the team.

The Rockets did not want to pay to keep Malone, and this was a rare case where moving a former MVP actually worked out well for both parties. They took a big step back in the first few years without Malone, and as a result ended up with the No. 1 pick in the 1983 and 1984 drafts, which they used on Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon. Meanwhile, the pick from the Sixers became Rodney McCray. They were back in the Finals in 1986 and won two titles in the mid-1990s with Olajuwon leading the way.

Following their back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995, the Rockets tried to extend their championship window by making a number of moves, including trading for Barkley. They almost did so in his first season with the club, but ultimately lost in the Western Conference finals. That was their last real run, and Barkley’s final three seasons with the club saw them win zero playoff series.

Barkley’s time in Phoenix had run its course by 1996, and both sides were ready to move on at that point. They did pretty well all things considered. Most notably, Cassell was later flipped for Jason Kidd, who later on was then turned into Steve Nash. Phoenix never made it back to the Finals without Barkley, but they were a regular playoff team.

Olajuwon’s relationship with the Rockets disintegrated towards the end of his career, which is how he ended up having a one-year cameo with the Raptors. The fledgling franchise saw an opportunity to add a legend and a veteran presence to a team that was coming off a strong playoff run. Olajuwon played a decent role for the team, but they ended up losing in the first-round of the playoffs, and he retired due to a back injury.

The most notable of the two draft picks from the deal was Bostjan Nachbar, which is all you need to know from the Rockets’ side of things. At that point in his career, getting a return for Olajuwon was a “hey, better than nothing” situation.

His relationship with Kobe Bryant and the franchise in tatters, O’Neal wanted out, and the Heat saw a tremendous opportunity. It was clear Dwyane Wade was on his way to becoming a star, and adding O’Neal made them an instant contender. They went to the Eastern Conference finals in 2005, then won it all in 2006, giving the Heat their first title in franchise history.

The Lakers, meanwhile, dropped way off in the next few seasons. However, they eventually regrouped, thanks in large part to the return they got in the O’Neal trade. Butler was flipped for Kwame Brown, who then became the centerpiece of the Pau Gasol trade, and that first-round pick became Jordan Farmar. Gasol, Odom and Farmar all played key roles on the Lakers teams that won back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010.

Iverson was nearing the end of his prime at that point but was still the reigning scoring champion, and the Nuggets hoped they would be able to make some noise in the Western Conference by pairing him and young Carmelo Anthony. It never quite went to plan, however. They were a good team, to be sure, but lost in the first round in his first two seasons with the club, and he was eventually traded to the Pistons.

The 76ers were well past the point of contending with Iverson at the time of the trade, and to be honest they haven’t come all that close to doing so since. In the 15 years since Iverson’s departure, they’ve won three playoff series.

After trading for Ray Allen ahead of the 2007 NBA Draft, the Celtics seized their opportunity to put together a true big three and added Garnett to the mix. Those two, along with Paul Pierce, took the league by storm. They won 66 games in their first season together and defeated the Lakers in the 2008 Finals to win the Celtics’ first title since 1986. They never again won it all but made another Finals trip in 2010, and a conference finals appearance in 2012.

The Timberwolves have truly never recovered from moving Garnett. In the 13 seasons since he’s been gone, they’ve had the No. 1 overall pick (twice) more often than they’ve been to the playoffs (once).

By 2016, Rose had undergone multiple knee surgeries and was nowhere near the MVP-version of himself. He played fine, but the Knicks were bad and late in the season he suffered a torn meniscus that required another surgery and ended his time in New York.

The Bulls were firmly Jimmy Butler’s team by the time of the trade, though he himself would eventually be moved a year later. Save for a frisky playoff appearance in 2017 that ultimately ended in a first-round exit, the Bulls have done nothing of note on the court since the Rose deal.

As the relationship between James Harden and Chris Paul dissolved, the Rockets made the stunning decision to trade Paul to the Thunder for Westbrook. Looking back, it’s clear now that that was the beginning of the end for the Harden era in Houston. The Rockets were still good, but no longer a title contender without Paul, and they lost to the Lakers in the second round of the playoffs inside the bubble. Now, both Westbrook and Harden are gone.

The Thunder, on the other hand, made off like bandits in this deal. Paul led them to the playoffs in his one season with the team, and they eventually flipped him to the Suns for a bunch of assets that they used to get even more assets. Altogether, they ended up with four first-round picks for Westbrook, which is a good bit of business considering how his career has gone in the past few seasons.

Brooklyn wanted to pair Harden with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, immediately making them even tougher title contenders. But that goal was never realized as injuries and suspensions limited the trio to only 16 games over a season and a half together. Harden then again requested a trade, this time hoping to land with the Philadelphia 76ers to reunite with team president Daryl Morey.

For the second time, Harden landed on his preferred destination of the Sixers, as Philadelphia wanted to pair the former MVP with their franchise centerpiece of Joel Embiid. The Sixers were a year removed from an embarrassing fall in the second round of the postseason and were trying to move Simmons, who requested a trade from Philadelphia after receiving significant criticism for his performance in the playoffs. Once Harden asked out of Brooklyn, it was a mostly easy swap of the two stars.

While the Sixers won 50+ games in each of the two seasons Harden was on the team, the Sixers failed in both years to make it out of the second round of the playoffs. Fast forward to this past summer, with Harden deciding to either opt-in to the final year of his contract, or become an unrestricted free agent, the All-Star guard shocked everyone when he opted in on his player option and then immediately requested a trade from the Sixers. Harden cited a deteriorating relationship with president Daryl Morey, calling him a “liar” in front of a crowd of people and saying the relationship was irreparable. He hoped to be traded to the Clippers to try and still compete for a championship.

Brooklyn Nets receive: Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Jae Crowder, four unprotected first-round picks and a 2028 pick swap

Phoenix Suns receive: Kevin Durant, T.J. Warren

Trade aftermath:

Durant originally requested a trade the summer before the 2022-23 season, but at the time, the Nets did not find a deal for him. He agreed to rejoin the team, but after Kyrie Irving requested a trade in February 2023, Durant shortly followed as he saw the writing on the wall in what would be a full rebuild for Brooklyn. He was sent to his preferred destination of the Phoenix Suns, who just two years prior made an NBA Finals run and were looking to get back there.

At the time of Durant being traded he was still dealing with an injury, and after returning from that to play in three games for the Suns, he was put back on the injured list with an ankle sprain. He was mostly healthy for the postseason, but Phoenix fell in the second round to the eventual champion Denver Nuggets. Phoenix then added Bradley Beal via trade prior to the start of the 2023-24 season, but the ruling is still out on if they can do enough to win a championship.

Did team acquiring MVP win a title with them?: No

Prior to Harden, there were 15 MVPs traded at some point after winning the award
Seven went on to win titles with their new team: Chamberlain, Robertson, Abdul-Jabbar, Walton, Malone, O’Neal, Garnett
Seven did not win a title with their new team: Cowens, McAdoo, Barkley, Olajuwon, Iverson, Rose, Westbrook (It’s worth noting that of those seven, Cowens and Olajuwon were in the final years of their career, and Rose had suffered major injuries)
Three of the 15 players went on to win additional MVP Awards with their new teams: Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar, Malone
Coincidentally, that same trio — Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar, Malone — were the only players to be traded after winning multiple MVP Awards

How the Thunder weaponized their pick surplus to win the James Harden trade

The Oklahoma City Thunder have accumulated a lot of draft picks over the past four seasons. An unprecedented amount of them, in fact, as we covered earlier this month. Prior to Wednesday’s James Harden trade, they were set to have between nine and 15 first-round picks and between 21 and 27 second-round picks in the next seven drafts. As valuable as that mound of picks looks on paper, it comes with one significant drawback: roster limitations.

NBA rosters can hold only 15 full-time players. Rotations are far thinner, usually extending no further than 10th men and frequently winding up even smaller than that. First-round picks have no value if you have no minutes with which to develop those youngsters or roster spots to keep them. So once Sam Presti built his surplus, he set about using it to target quality over quantity.

The most notable example of this came during the 2022 NBA Draft. Neutral observers were shocked when gave away three first-round picks to nab the No. 11 overall pick, Ousmane Dieng. To the Knicks, three on-paper first-round picks held significant value as trade assets. But take a closer look at the picks Oklahoma City actually sent out: a top-14 protected Nuggets pick, a deeply protected Wizards pick that may never actually convey, and a deeply protected Pistons pick that is probably at least a few more years away from conveying.

Such picks hold value to normal teams. To the Thunder, they represent prospects that they can’t fit onto their roster or find minutes to develop. But Dieng? He represented a true home run swing, a chance at a future star. They had access to that player because, unlike most teams on the trade market, they have so many picks that they can afford to spare a few of the lesser ones. So they pounced on a player that they consider a premium asset.

This brings us to the Harden deal. Presti has a history of dealing with both of these teams. His 2019 trade of Paul George to the Clippers started this whole enterprise in the first place, and his 2020 swap of Danny Green for Al Horford wound up netting the Thunder three first-round picks in total once they successfully flipped Horford to Boston down the line. So when the Clippers and 76ers needed a facilitator, they found a natural fit in Presti’s Thunder.

The Clippers needed a firm first-round pick to send to Philadelphia to complete the deal. The pick itself didn’t have to be especially valuable, as Philadelphia would already be getting an unprotected 2028 Clippers pick in the deal, but it needed to be guaranteed to convey. The 76ers are looking to flip these assets in another trade down the line, so some degree of certainty was necessary. The Thunder have limitless certainty to offer. What they want is upside. So a bargain was struck.

Philadelphia will receive a 2026 first-round pick from one of three teams: the Rockets, Clippers or Thunder. The actual pick the 76ers receive will come down to which pick winds up being the least favorable. The Thunder will keep the two highest picks in the trio while the 76ers get the lowest. Oklahoma City retains its upside, whereas Philadelphia gets the certainty of a 2026 first-round pick even if that pick is almost certain to be fairly late in the first round.

But the Thunder get the real prize here: the right to swap first-round picks with the Clippers in 2027. By then, Kawhi Leonard will be 36, George will be 37 and Harden will be 38. Thanks to the earlier George trade and this one for Harden, the Clippers will have almost no remaining draft capital with which to reload. Cap space is probably off of the table as well if you assume that Harden, Leonard and George will all get big-money extensions this offseason. In other words: the Clippers are likely to be very old and well beyond their contention window in 2027.

But the Thunder? In 2027, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will be the oldest of their current core players at 29. They’ll be right smack in the middle of their contending window. As such, the pick they’ll have the right to swap will likely be fairly late. The pick they’re getting? That one has a chance to be very, very high.

Very few NBA teams are willing to give away the certainty of a first-round pick for the mystery of a swap four years down the line. The Thunder have so many picks that they can afford to take such chances. It might not pay off, but imagine how terrifying it will be for the league if a Thunder team at the absolute peak of its powers in 2027 is able to add another top draft pick.

That is the flexibility Presti has given himself by accumulating all of these picks. Many of them will amount to little, but when weaponized properly, they can be used to do effectively anything. They can get him players. They can get him cap relief. And now, as we’re seeing, they can even get him better picks down the line as well.

James Harden trade: Blockbuster move opens up options for Daryl Morey and Nick Nurse

You could scoff at the Philadelphia 76ers’ latest blockbuster trade. It’s another star out the door and another pivot for a franchise that has, through multiple front offices, multiple coaching staffs and all sorts of scandals and strangeness, been trying to build a championship team around Joel Embiid for the better part of a decade. Maybe next summer James Harden can arrange a dinner with Jimmy Butler, Al Horford and Ben Simmons.

It is fair to criticize the Sixers for losing Harden’s trust, as their former minority owner Michael Rubin did on their backup point guard Patrick Beverley’s podcast. Given the circumstances, though, they wiggled out of the Harden era gracefully. The three-team deal does not immediately give Philadelphia another star, but it gives team president Daryl Morey and coach Nick Nurse options.

Morey has more moves to make
Normally, the team that employs the reigning MVP would not trade a star player for a package of draft picks and expiring contracts. But this is not a normal situation, and, in the absence of a suitable win-now trade, Morey made a win-soon trade, as he said he would do. With an unprotected 2028 first-round pick, an unprotected 2029 first-round pick swap and second-round picks in 2024 and 2029 from the Los Angeles Clippers, plus a 2026 first-round pick from the Oklahoma City Thunder (the least favorable of the Clippers, Thunder and Houston Rockets’ picks, per Derek Bodner of PHLY Sports) at its disposal, Philadelphia can get in the game for the next guy who’s looking for a change of scenery.

This deal itself illustrates that the players the Sixers received — Nicolas Batum, Robert Covington, Kenyon Martin Jr. and Marcus Morris — could be used to trade for such a player. And since none of them are signed beyond this season and Philadelphia included P.J. Tucker (who has a 2024-25 player option worth $11.6 million), the front office has a small window of real financial flexibility: They could make no moves at all in between now and the trade deadline and enter the 2024 offseason with as much as $55.7 million in cap space, via ESPN’s Bobby Marks. (That figure assumes they renounce all of their free agents except Tyrese Maxey, they pick up Jaden Springer’s option and Paul Reed’s 2024-25 salary becomes guaranteed.)

Maybe there’s only a slim chance that the Sixers use that cap space to sign a free agent like Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Jrue Holiday, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, DeMar DeRozan, LeBron James or Klay Thompson. As Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri said in April, “Free agency doesn’t really happen anymore,” as stars tend to jump from team to team via trade. The Rockets wound up signing Fred VanVleet away from Toronto last summer, though, and Philadelphia has positioned itself to be similarly opportunistic. Trades, sign-and-trades and free-agent signings are all possible before next season.

Nurse has new pieces to play with
There is something satisfying about Covington returning to the place where he first found himself as an NBA player. One of the original success stories of The Process, the trade that sent him to the Minnesota Timberwolves five years ago was the Sixers’ first all-in move. Now, until they make their next one, it’s Nurse’s job to figure out how these four new pieces fit.

This should be relatively easy. All of them were acquired by the Clippers precisely because they can complement stars. Batum, in particular, profiles as tailor-made for Philadelphia’s new offense: He’s a connector and a floor spacer, the kind of role player who constantly makes smart reads and doesn’t take anything off the table. Even at almost 35 years old, he’s still switchable on defense, and both he and Covington — still, somehow, a 6-foot-7 rim protector — made small ball lineups work for the Clippers.

The ability to play small is why, although one of the new guys will likely slide into Tucker’s starting spot, this trade could mean a lot more for the minutes in which Embiid is on the bench. Batum, Covington and Morris will allow Nurse to play 5-out, and, while Martin stands only 6-6, he can function as the screen-and-dive big that the Sixers have almost never had. Such a lob threat would have been helpful when Harden was around, but, assuming Martin is able to crack a suddenly crowded rotation — Reed hasn’t gone anywhere — his solid screens and finishing ability will make Maxey, whose speed and shooting put tons of pressure on opposing defenses, even tougher to contain.

If Maxey is indeed making another leap, then maybe this move will make Philadelphia a better, more balanced team than it would’ve been with Harden, even if Morey doesn’t make more moves this season. Maybe Morris will reverse last season’s defensive regression and provide another source of scoring. Maybe Covington will make good on his “vendetta” and prove that he never should’ve fallen out of the rotation in Los Angeles. Maybe Batum will be the guy who glues wildly different lineups together, Martin will be Sixers fans favorite dunker since KJ McDaniels and the collective length on the roster will make Embiid’s life easier defensively. There are lots of variables here, but Nurse famously loves to experiment. Time to get in the lab.

Three plus-money NBA picks for Tuesday include props for Mitchell Robinson, Wendell Carter Jr.

Tuesday’s Halloween NBA slate will feature three games. The New York Knicks will take on the Cleveland Cavaliers before the San Antonio Spurs face the Phoenix Suns and the Orlando Magic wrap the night up against the Los Angeles Clippers. Some big names will be sidelined by injuries in this lineup, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t strong props worth betting on. We’ll go over a trio of eye-catching options here.

Grayson Allen O2.5 assists (+100)
Bradley Beal (back) and Devin Booker (toe) are out for a second consecutive game, so it’s safe to say that Allen will play a big role after logging at least 31 minutes his last two times out. He got off to a slow start with the Suns but tallied at least three assists against the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz. The Spurs are a young team and have forked up 123.7 points per game to opposing teams. Only the Washington Wizards have been worse. Few teams will give Allen a better chance to hit this prop.

Wendell Carter Jr. O10.5 rebounds + assists (+102)
WCJ doesn’t move the needle as a playmaker but hasn’t had a problem rebounding against the Clippers’ Ivica Zubac. The big man has averaged 11.7 rebounds against the Croatian center over three starts against him since joining the Magic. He only failed to reach double digits in boards once in those matchups. The Clippers’ frontcourt was already undersized before shipping off Robert Covington and Nic Batum to acquire James Harden. Carter can take advantage of the disarray by crashing the glass relentlessly against whoever fills in on Tuesday.

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Mitchell Robinson O6.5 points (+108)
Kristaps Porzingis played Robinson off the court last week with his outside shooting, but Robinson shouldn’t have the same issue in his first game of this week. The Cavs are down Jarrett Allen, and Evan Mobley isn’t nearly as much of a threat as Porzingis as an outside shooter. Robinson’s logged at least 29 minutes and scored at least seven points in his previous two games despite facing a premier rim protector in the Atlanta Hawks’ Clint Capela in his second appearance of the season. Robinson is no offensive savant, but every starting center that’s faced Cleveland so far has hit the seven-point mark.

Blue Jackets fire head coach Brad Larsen, do not renew goaltending coach Manny Legace’s contract

Hours after their season-ending loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the Columbus Blue Jackets fired head coach Brad Larsen. They also announced that they are not renewing the contract of goaltending coach Manny Legace.

Larson was named the eighth coach in franchise history on June 10, 2021. Under his watch, Columbus compiled a 62-86-16 record. The Blue Jackets were a surprising 37-38-7 during Larsen’s first season but finished the 2022-23 season with the fewest points (59) in the Eastern Conference and were tied with the second-fewest points in the entire NHL.

Injuries decimated the 2022-23 Blue Jackets, who were expected to compete for a playoff spot after acquiring longtime Calgary Flame left winger Johnny Gaudreau this past offseason. Gaudreau was one of the few Blue Jackets regulars who stayed healthy, however, as right wingers Patrik Laine and Jakub Voracek and defenseman Zach Werenski were among Columbus’ key players that missed significant time with injuries.

Goaltending was also an ongoing issue for the Blue Jackets, as they finished 31st of 32 teams in the NHL in goals allowed.

“This season has been extremely disappointing and the responsibility for that lies with all of us,” Jarmo Kekalainen said on Saturday, via a team insider. “These decisions were difficult and not made lightly given our respect for both Brad and Manny as coaches and people.

“Brad has been part of our organization for more than a decade, and we are extremely thankful for his hard work and many contributions – both on and off the ice – during that time. We wish nothing but the best for Brad and his family in the future.”

A former NHL player, Larsen began his time with the Blue Jackets’ organization in 2010 as the assistant coach at AHL Springfield. He then spent seven seasons as Columbus’ assistant coach under head coaches Todd Richards and John Tortorella. During that span, the Blue Jackets reached new heights that included three four consecutive playoff appearances from 2017-20. The 2019 Blue Jackets won the franchise’s first-ever playoff series after brooming the top-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round.

A former goaltender who won a Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002, Legace broke into coaching in 2012. He spent five seasons as the Blue Jackets’ goaltending coach after having the same role with the team’s minor league affiliates, the Cleveland Monsters.

Kekalainen said that the team will take a “deep look at all the best candidates” when it comes to finding the Blue Jackets’ next head coach.

“I don’t think we’re going to rush into anything,” he said. “The sooner the better, obviously, but I think we’re going to do thorough search.”