Friday NBA on ESPN Picks: Cleveland Cavaliers at Washington Wizards

Washington is rolling along and getting top-notch play from its starring backcourt.

Cleveland at Washington
Time: 6 PM, ESPN
Spread: WAS -4.5
Total: 221.5

Odds c/o 5dimes

The Cleveland Cavaliers are just 3-5 on the season and 1-2 on the road where it will travel to face the 4-3 Washington Wizards at 6 PM (CT) on ESPN Friday Night NBA action. The Cavs are 4.5-point underdogs to the Wizards. Washington is 2-2 at home this season and currently has a point differential of +4.1, while the Cavaliers are good for -6.9.

What has caused the struggles for LeBron James and company so far? For starters, Kyrie Irving was subtracted and replaced with an injured star in Isaiah Thomas, who has yet to play this season as he battles a serious hip injury. James has been steady and brilliant, but the Cavaliers need a lot more from Dwyane Wade this season. Wade has been good for just 7.7 points per game in 22 minutes a night.

The former mate of James is averaging just 41.4 percent shooting while hitting 25 percent from three-point range. Kevin Love has been steady and solid with 18 points and 11 rebounds per game, but his efficiency lingers, too, with a 41.5 percent field goal percentage and 35 percent clip from deep. The Cavs are getting strong play from new acquisition Derrick Rose, who has tallied 15 points per game on 51 percent shooting, attempting 11.3 field goals per game. Rose has settled into his role alongside James as the primary playmaker; James averages 8.9 dimes per contest. Rose still makes plays, but his 1.8 assists in 28.5 minutes a game show his primary responsibility now is to score the basketball.

It is a fitting role for the one-time MVP, who clearly still has a few tricks in his bag, even if his destroyed ACLs limit his once high flying game around the basket. He still shows the ups he had in his young-prime, occasionally, and Rose is performing far better than Wade, whose haphazard all-out style seems to have really taken its toll on his body. Perhaps many will remember this old Wade, rather than the 2-guard who challenged and led the league in scoring prior to James joining the Heat.

And maybe that is an unnecessary digression, but the Cavs will need more from Wade, Jae Crowder, and JR Smith, in addition to getting Isaiah Thomas healthy. The “OVER” predicted on season wins at Maddux, now appears to have been the wrong call perhaps.

The Washington Wizards sit 3rd in the Southeast Division with a 4-3 mark, and Bradley Beal has led the team in scoring with 22.4 points per game, to go along with 4.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.14 steals per game. John Wall has been All Star caliber as usual with 21.6 points and 9.7 assists per game. Wall was our preseason pick to lead the league in assists, and he should climb northwards of 10 per game as the season wears on.

The biggest change for the Wiz this season has been the emergence of No. 3 overall pick Otto Porter of Georgetown. Now far more than a role player, Porter has averaged 18.7 points, 7..5 rebounds, two assists and 2.67 steals per game this season. His defense has queued the Wizards in transition, and Kelly Oubre Jr. has been a viable sixth man for the Wizards this year off the bench. Oubre is seeing 33 minutes per game and averaging 11 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Marcin Gortat has been steady with a double-double average and a PER Of 16.4.

The Wizards have just four players playing above the league average PER (15), so efficiency must improve. Washington shoots 45.1 percent from the floor as a team and is good for 35.9 percent from deep, but the team averages 13.4 turnovers per game while maintaining an excellent 1.8 A/TO ratio. Washington is getting what it needs, but it still lacks depth in some ways. Tim Frazier seemed like an excellent addition, but the former Pelicans guard has barely seen the court. Ian Mahinmi could prove a valuable defender against teams with bigger lineups, but he is currently just seeing spot minutes behind Gortat.

Backup shooting guard and new acquisition Jodie Meeks represents a key to the bench shooting, and Meeks is hitting 1.4 threes per game at a 34.5 percent clip. The shooter from Kentucky can heat up fast, and the Wiz will look for him to perform a better version of what the team had expected from Brandon Jennings a season ago.

The Wiz may have made just some minor tweaks, but they will be in the playoff picture as a threat to upset one of the juggernauts (Cleveland, Boston, Orlando, etc) in the East.

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