Charlotte at Sacramento
Time: 9 PM CT, NBA LP
Spread: SAC -5.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Charlotte Hornets are three games below .500 but hang precariously to the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. Its opponent, the Sacramento Kings, may wish it were in the East: Sacto is at an even 21-21 but is 1.5 games behind the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. Whatsoever the case, Sacramento hosts the Hornets as 5.5-point favorites according to NBA Oddsmakers at 5dimes. The betting total is set at 233.5 points and the game will air at 9 PM (CT) on NBA League Pass.
The Sacramento Kings have lost five of its last seven games, but at .500 as the season reaches its mid-point it is hard to call it anything but a success for a team that has not sniffed the postseason in 11 seasons (and counting). What has made part of the difference for the Kings is that it simply has amassed so much young talent it is hard to be anything but at least decent: Buddy Hield has rounded into a legitimate No. 1 option while second-year guard DeAaron Fox has continued to improve in his ascent to becoming one of the better young point guards in the league.
Hield is averaging better than 20 points per game and shooting strong percentages: 47.8 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from behind the arc. Fox is doing a little bit of everything, averaging 18 points, 3.5 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game while leading the Kings in Player Efficiency Rating at 19.0. Perhaps the biggest surprise for the Kings has been the consistency and offensive improvement of center Willie Cauley-Stein. Thought to be something of a bust, WCS has come into his own this season. The former Kentucky Wildcat is averaging 13.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.1 steals per game while playing just 28 minutes a game.
The Kings have had to exercise patience with rookie Marvin Bagley whose injuries have kept him on the shelf after a promising start to his NBA career. The Duke big man returned just on the 7th of January but has played two promising games since then, averaging nine points and 6.5 rebounds over his 20 minutes in each game. When the minutes’ restrictions lift and Bagley returns fully to form, this Kings team could find its way into the playoffs. Just making the postseason would be a tremendous step forward for a team that has lingered in obscurity for over a decade.
The Charlotte Hornets have hit something of a real wall in its improvement. Despite Kemba Walker playing like an absolute monster and maximizing every bit of his potential, the team still sits three games below .500 and is searching for answers to try to get more out of a roster that really seems to be all about Walker.
For starters, Malik Monk has proven to be mostly a disappointment. While he is not short on highlights, he is short on minutes and production. In his second season, he is seeing just 19 minutes as night and tallying 10.7 points per game while shooting abysmal percentages from the floor (39 percent field goal, 33 percent three). Jeremy Lamb has proven to be a more reliable 2-guard, but his upside is a bit more limited than Monk’s (supposedly) and neither has proven to be a solid No. 2 option for a team, nor a great complement to Walker’s talents at the 1-spot.
Kemba has averaged 25 points, four rebounds and nearly six assists per game, but the Hornets are not getting enough from a number of declining veterans (Nicolas Batum, Tony Parker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) and the rotation is substantially weaker than the top teams in the Eastern Conference, even.