As the NBA trade deadline shuts for another year, what we long knew has been confirmed: only five teams believe they can win a title. The rest are merely gearing up to sink, swim or preparing already for seasons ahead.
Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs opted out of the skirmish. The LA Clippers dumping Lance Stephenson is a means of finally eradicating old wounds following Josh Smith’s prior departure.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have gambled on adding size with Channing Frye but at the expense of losing popular but oft-injured Anderson Varejao. That Kevin Love is staying put is a certain roll of the dice.
While the Oklahoma City Thunder acquisition of Randy Foye is more about dollars than sense, even if D.J. Augustin was gathering dust.
But his outdoor shooting and veteran help might provide a minor assist. And Foye, notching six points per night, could be a plus in a potential playoff match-up with the Warriors small lineup.
His debut will come on Friday when OKC, who have won 14 of their last 16, host the Indiana Pacers. Few of those victories have even been close with the Thunder held to three on a trio of occasions but no more.
The Pacers have only beaten one of the Big Five all season – the Clippers back in early December – although Paul George has been on a roll with his 41 points in the All Star Game and an average of 22.5 over his last 10 games, pushing his team’s average up to 102.5.
However with some solid battles in store, it’s worth a punt on going under the total points line of 210.5 even if the best handicap value is on Indiana at +7.5.
Of keener interest is the Thunder’s clash with the Cavs on Sunday in what remains one of the possible NBA Finals previews.
Cleveland are surely a lock now for the East, reflected in their narrowing to 1.33. Yet there are still flaws for new coach Ty Lue to work out. Oklahoma City, on their own court, have momentum and confidence on their side and could come up trumps at -6.5 on the handicap, especially with their comfort in pushing the pace.
Either way, the run-in to the post season has truly begun,
Best bet: Go under a total points line of 210.5 in Thunder-Pacers at 2.45