Thunder vs Kings – NBA Pick for February 22nd
Mercifully, the NBA season resumes on Thursday night. I don’t know about you, but those 3 days without any hoops whatsoever were grueling. You can only watch so much Olympic curling.
Anyway, we’ve got a nice 6-game slate on tap for tonight. None of the games really stands out as a must-watch, but we do have an interesting late night tilt going down in the California capitol between the Thunder and the Kings. OKC has righted the ship after stumbling early in the season, and they enter tonight’s game at 33-26.
Russell Westbrook was passive early in the year in an attempt to get his new teammates involved, but we’ve seen the old Russ of late. He’s not getting close to the same fanfare we saw during his MVP campaign a year ago, but he’s almost averaging a triple-double again this season. Through 57 games, Westbrook is averaging 25.4 points, 10.4 assists and 9.4 rebounds per game.
His scoring numbers are down, but that was predictable considering Paul George and Carmelo Anthony are now in town. His shooting still leaves plenty to be desired, but OKC has turned it around since Westbrook went back to being his old ball-dominant self.
The Thunder have been stout defensively for most of the season, but they’ve struggled a bit on that side of the floor since Andre Roberson was lost for the season. Roberson is their best perimeter defender, and they don’t really have a backup capable of bringing what he brings. George is fabulous in his own right, but he can only guard so many people.
The Thunder have allowed at least 100 points in all but one game since they lost Roberson. Fortunately, they get a positive matchup tonight against a Kings team that struggles tremendously to put the ball in the bucket.
Sacramento is dead last in the league in offensive rating, averaging just 100.9 points per 100 possessions. They’re also the second-worst defensive team, conceding just under 110 points per 100 possessions. All of this is to say that the Kings are not very good.
And their 18+39 record certainly bears that out. The Kings are one of the many teams jockeying to become the league’s worst at season’s end so as to accumulate as many draft lottery balls as possible. Head coach Dave Joerger has done a weird job this season with his rotations. He straight up said a few weeks ago that he’ll be resting a few veteran players every night, but he since seems to have abandoned said plan.
At this point, the Kings need to focus on developing some of their promising young talent. Bogdan Bogdanovic, De’Aaron Fox and Willie Cauley-Stein have each shown flashes of promise so far this season. Bogdanovic even took home the MVP award at the Rising Stars Game at All-Star weekend. Sacramento should be giving these young guys all the minutes they can possibly handle moving forward.
If the Kings do commit to the youth movement, they’ll continue to lose games while developing their players. Isn’t that exactly what they want to be doing?
OKC could be a bit rusty coming off the break, but this game has the makings of a blowout. 7 ½ points doesn’t look like a big enough spread given the massive talent discrepancy here tonight. Take the Thunder to cover that spread, even on the road.
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