Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 9:30 AM EST. Odds subject to change.
Minnesta -1 -107 over Toronto
7:30 PM EST. We can't take too much from the series between these two teams last season. Not only did it result in a 1-1 record for both squads, but injuries and roster moves present entirely different rosters and it's just not worth our time. What we can speculate about and what we can see as a great betting angle is the trajectory of these two franchises. When it's the first game of the season, the identities of each team, aka who they want to be, is generally on full display, more so than the litany of games that will come in the next two months as teams progress through their desired rotations. In this case, one program is more mature and more ready than the other, and we don't think it's close.
Let's start with the Toronto Raptors. Since the 2018 season, Nick Nurse established himself as one of the best head coaches in the NBA because of how instantaneously successful he was in Toronto. He won a championship in his first full year as HC, and then went on to the conference semifinals in 2020. Since then, the results have been shaky to say the least. Toronto didn't come close to the postseason in the "bubble year" after they lost Kawhi, then they were ousted early in the 2021 playoffs, losing 4-2 to Philly in the first round. Last season they were booted by Chicago in the play-in tournament. Regardless, Nurse found a way to siphon the most out of his teams, even if the talent didn't stack up against NBA elites.
Why do we mention all this? Because under NIck Nurse, the Raptors became a crunchy-granola hipster squad who found ways to win no matter how its roster was composed. And now Nick Nurse is gone, taking his talents to Philadelphia to try and handle that mess. Good luck with that, Nick. Either way, the Raptors are without a true star, Pascal Siakam comes close but he's not dynamic or consistent enough, and the 2023-24 season is bound to be more challenging without the captain that kept their ship afloat for so many seasons.
Players like forward Scottie Barnes and guard O.G. Anunoby flank Siakam as the 2nd and 3rd most important scorers, but their performances are jup and down. We won't speculate on how good the Raptors' new coach is because no one truly knows if he'll have an early impact. Darko Rajakovi? is Serbian and moved overseas to become an NBA assistant in 2014. He's been a part of a few winning franchises since, but this is his first stint as head coach and he has a complex roster to configure. That can't be easy.
The Minnesota TImberwolves have no such issue. Chris Finch enters his third season as the T-Wolves coach, and he has a bonafide star who's beyond ready to explode this season. The NBA is a superstar league, i.e. you can't win consistently or in big games without one, and Anthony Edwards is their guy. The 22 year old is getting more confident and more aggressive with each passing game. Astoundingly he's entering his fourth season as a pro, and last year he had career highs across all data-points. He was more efficient than he's ever been from the field (46%) and averaged more in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. A true throwback player, "Ant" hates the idea of resting, which we love, and he has all the makings of a true court-general as he continues to mature. It doesn't hurt that he's complemented by Karl-Anthony Towns, one of the most dynamic big-men in pro basketball.
We also love that Minnesota grabbed MIke Conley last spring. Finch's experiment with two-bigs, constructing a starting lineup where Towns and defensive stalwart Rudy Gobert were often on the floor together, was very clunky last season. It was dramatically better when Conley was on the floor, likely because of his long tenure with Gobert in Utah and steady-hand at the point-guard position. We're counting on more chemistry in their front court, which would only mean better results for Edwards and their talented guards.
Minnesota has solid depth, a core that's been together for a full season, and legitimate talent surrounding their star. Home or not, we'd expect some growing pains for the Raptors, while the Timberwolves are ready to win now and surge again after a playoff appearance last season. We expect a fired up Minnesota squad, whose identity is taking form, and a showcase-performance from Edwards. This line is simply too short.
Minnesota -1 -107 (Risking 2.14 units - To Win: 2.00)