NBA Christmas Odds: Unwrapping Predictions on Star-Studded Slate

Eric Rosales

by Eric Rosales in NBA Basketball

Aug 11, 2018 · 1:00 PM PDT

Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook's knee surgery and subsequent missed games could be the difference in deciding Northwest Division champion. Photo by Erik Drost (Flickr).
  • LeBron James and the Warriors headline a star-studded Christmas Day slate
  • Two Eastern powers clash in Boston as the Celtics host the 76ers
  • Current and former MVPs battle as Houston hosts OKC

The NBA’s corner is Christmas Day, and they make sure they give the people what the want – a slate of superstars showcasing while we eat and greet to our hearts content. Also, great commercials. This one is my favorite:

We’ll get to the games shortly, but there appears to be one glaring omission, and it’s the dudes up North getting snubbed. Again.

Winning is supposed to cure everything, but not here. The Toronto Raptors have been one of the winningest teams in the NBA the last five years. They were the top seed in the East last year.

List all the mega stars that are playing December 25th and no matter how you cut it, you’re missing one.

And to top it off, they acquired superstar Kawhi Leonard from San Antonio over the summer. List all the mega stars that are playing December 25th and no matter how you cut it, you’re missing one.

That’s about the only lump of coal you’ll get here.

On to the matchups.

Bucks vs Knicks (12pm ET)

Favorite Underdog
Bucks -4.5 (-110)
Knicks +4.5 (-110)

Your first gift features a matchup between two of the NBA’s modern day unicorns, as Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks tangle with the Knicks, and their burgeoning superstar Kristaps Porzingis, who will hopefully be healed from his ACL injury.

The Greek Freak has been steadily on the rise in his meteoric development and will be again in the mix for the MVP. He’s also apparently found the weight room.

The Knicks are in a transitional stage, but Kevin Knox looks like a star pick, and there’s always those Kyrie and Butler rumors. Things are looking up in the Big Apple, but they should not be playing on Christmas Day, Basketball Mecca, blue blood franchise and all. Toronto would have slid nicely into this space.

Don’t overthink this one.

The pick: Bucks

Thunder vs Rockets (3pm ET)

Favorite Underdog
Rockets -6 (-110)
Thunder +6 (-110)

Lunch is over and already you’re smack dab in the middle of what is probably the second best game of the day, when the past two league MVPs, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, collide in Houston.

Despite being cap-strapped, the Thunder were somehow able to keep Paul George, pick up a great secondary guard in Dennis Schroeder, and upgrade the interior of the defense with a still-improving Nerlens Noel, while (most importantly) dumping Carmelo Anthony and his mammoth contract to save them from tax Armageddon.

Speaking of ‘Melo, he’s now on the opposition in this one, and looking for a more inventive third wheel role more suited to his iso scoring skill set – which is still lethal – than spotting up for triples. Despite ‘Melo’s resume, which is borderline HOF, he is a downgrade on the wings, considering Houston lost both Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute.

Plenty of scoring in this one, but this Thunder team is loaded this season, and wildly underrated on this line.

The pick: Thunder

76ers vs Celtics (5:30pm ET)

Favorite Underdog
Celtics -5.5 (-110)
76ers +5.5 (-110)

A rematch of the wonderful conference semi-final from a year ago, and added star power (presumably) with the return of both Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to the Celtics’ lineup. The C’s are built to crush with long, athletic players at every position to switch everything on defense and pick apart mismatches on offense. Jayson Tatum is also a star in waiting.

It’s early, but maybe Markelle Fultz becomes that third wheel that Philly needs so desperately to compliment Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. The addition of Wilson Chandler was nice, as he was probably going to split reps at wing with ultra-talented rookie Zhaire Smith. Until, you know, Philly happened.

Get ready for your first last second shot of the day.

The pick: 76ers

Lakers vs Warriors (8pm ET)

Favorite Underdog
Warriors -8.5 (-110)
Lakers +8.5 (-110)

Some tasty appetizers, but the main course is front and center in what is now the best interstate rivalry in the NBA. The Warriors get their first look at Laker LeBron and the cast of misfits that Magic Johnson put together.

I’ve expected another coasting regular season for the Warriors, but they’ll summon up the energy in spots. This is one of them.

Watching the Warriors and James at peak performance on the largest stages always begs the question: can the others keep up? This will be a nice test to see what the young Lakers bring to the table, and what the veteran pick-ups have left in the tank.

It’s close early, as LeBron is one of the great Christmas Day performers in league history, but Dubs roll late.

The pick: Warriors

Trail Blazers vs Jazz (10:30pm ET)

Favorite Underdog
Jazz -5.5 (-110)
Trail Blazers -5.5 (-110)

And now it’s time for dessert.

Nice battle to close things out in the West. You know what you’re getting from Dame Lillard and CJ McCollum, but it will be interesting to see just where they are heading into this game. A three seed in the loaded west a year ago, they weren’t able to make many great upgrades, and lost Ed Davis. Will running it back equal a decline?

And then you’ve got the Jazz, who may have landed themselves their star with rookie Donovan Mitchell. They also have a rejuvenated Ricky Rubio and the ultra-defensive monstrosity that is Rudy Gobert. By the way, Joe Ingles is a beast.

A lot of up and down in this one, and if you’re still awake you’re likely going to see the night’s second last-second play to seal things. I’m leaning towards taking the points

The pick: Trail Blazers

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