Utah at Orlando
Time: 4 PM CT, NBA TV
Spread: ORL -6
Odds c/o 5dimes
Orlando has been led by Nikola Vucevic, who is having a career season. Potentially an All-Star reserve this year, the big man has averaged 20.6 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game, while also coming up with 1.96 blocks/steals per game. Even his defense has been on point, but of course, this comes in a contract season for the big man. With Orlando recently having selected center Mo Bamba No. 6 overall in 2018, will it let Vucevic walk, or will it pay up for the big man who had been mostly a disappointment prior to this explosive campaign he is putting together?
No matter what the case, Orlando does have Aaron Gordon tied up to a long-term contract. And Gordon has been good, if not equally as enigmatic as he has been throughout his short career thus far. He is averaging 16.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.80 steals/blocks per game, but he has not erased his tendency to utterly disappear from games at times. Evan Fournier is serving as the No. 3 scorer this season at 15.1 points per game, but Orlando could probably part with Fournier given the emergence of Terrence Ross, who essentially does most of the same things as Fournier, while also being younger.
Jonathan Isaac has emerged as Orlando’s best overall defender, but his offense is slow in coming. Isaac is averaging just 8.3 points per game while shooting 43.8 percent from the floor and 25.5 percent from three. The Magic hope his offense will come along, and the team is averaging 104.6 points per game this season, which is hardly lighting it on fire. The Magic do possess the No. 8 defense in the league, though, holding opponents to 107 per night, but doing the math, that is still a negative differential for the 12-15 Magic. There is potential on the roster, and Vucevic is playing better than ever, but what will Orlando do when it faces its crucial decisions after this season?
The Utah Jazz, for a number of reasons, are one of the most intriguing teams in the West. This curiosity begins with runner-up for Rookie of the Year, Donovan Mitchell. Known affectionately as “Spida,” Mitchell was taken No. 13 overall last year to end up being probably the best in his draft class (Jayson Tatum enters this argument clearly). Mitchell now looks to build on last year’s campaign and provided he stays healthy, this should be his first All-Star season.
The Jazz is a team built on a defensive identity too, and it goes from the 1 to the 5-position, with Ricky Rubio being a super point guard defender and Rudy Gobert being the league’s most dominant rim protector. The Jazz also possesses depth, and it is a team with few, if any, glaring weaknesses. Joe Ingles is quietly one of the better swingmen due to his deadeye shooting and underrated defense.
The Jazz also have a unique trio of players at the power forward spot, with Derrick Favors, Jae Crowder, and Georges Niang. Niang, in particular, looked really impressive in the preseason with his defense and athleticism, and Crowder is a lock-down defender in his own right. Favors has been something of a disappointment over his career, but he is still capable of a double-double on any given night.
Perhaps the biggest question mark on Utah’s roster is deciding what it can manage to get out of former No. 5 overall pick Dante Exum. Exum has been a flop mostly, but he seems to be showing some signs of possibly capitalizing on his high potential. Grayson Allen of Duke joins as this year’s rookie for the Jazz, and he could be a lot better than pundits (who mostly focus on his “dirty” plays) are willing to admit. Then again, that whole notion of surprising teams might be firmly behind Utah after how tough it played in the 2018 postseason. This could be another jump for Utah, and we like the OVER on the shoulders of Mitchell’s athleticism, maturity, and his leadership.