There is a matchup today of two of the Eastern Conference’s most talented teams when the 3-5 Cleveland Cavaliers visit the 4-3 Washington Wizards (7pm ET Friday on ESPN).
Neither team has looked great to start the season, though Washington has been decent. The Wizards have been a bit inconsistent, losing most recently to the rebuilding Phoenix Suns at home.
Cleveland, meanwhile, has been a disaster thus far. The Cavs have the league’s worst defense per 100 possessions. Part of it has to do with the roster makeup, but the team just isn’t trying right now. Their past six opponents have scored at least 112 points, which is never a recipe for success. Unfortunately, key big man Tristan Thompson recently suffered a calf injury and will miss Friday’s game, weakening the defense.
The Cavaliers are somewhat tough to predict right now because their performance is significantly linked to their volatile effort. However, let’s try to analyze how this game will pan out and then decide our recommended picks and predictions with the aim to profit from the top-rated American sportsbooks’ betting lines.
Will the Wizards Prioritize Ball Movement Against a Slow Cavs Defense?
Cleveland is struggling in almost every facet of defense right now. It’s hard to find a thing the Cavs are actually doing well.
Maybe the team’s biggest issue is how slow they rotate in the half court. Any team with decent ball movement can stymie them, and that’s why the Cavs are worst in the NBA with 27.5 assists allowed per game.
The Wizards are a team that can become too reliant on John Wall’s ball-handling ability, and sometimes don’t prioritize ball movement. Washington is No. 28 in the NBA in passes per game (269.2), but the squad will need to kick that number up significantly to reach its offensive potential on Friday.
Will Jae Crowder and J.R. Smith Recover Their Three-Point Strokes?
The biggest problem for the Cavs is on defense, but they’re also just 24th in three-point success rate (33.1). Last year, they were second, at a 38.4 percent clip.
Some of this decline can be attributed to the additions of Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose, two guards who shoot the three poorly. However, their two starting wings who are supposed to be outside threats (Crowder and Smith) are not living up to their reputations.
Crowder is making just 1.1 downtown shots per game on a 28.1 percent success rate, down from 2.2 and 39.8, respectively, last year with the Boston Celtics. Smith’s doing even worse, with just one made three on 19.5 percent, down from 2.3 makes and 35.1 percent last season.
When the starting point guard (Rose) and two starting wings aren’t three-point threats, it becomes much harder for LeBron James to get the spacing he needs for his trademark drives to the rim.
How Will Markieff Morris Look in His Season Debut?
Morris is officially off the injured list following his sports hernia surgery during the offseason, and he served his one-game suspension against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.
He should move into the starting power forward spot, re-forming the Wizards’ first unit that was so lethal last season. However, will the veteran big man be his normal self? When he’s healthy, he’s a versatile defender who can score capably inside and out.
If he’s not in great shape, he could have trouble with some of Cleveland’s quicker forwards, like James and Crowder. Kevin Love could also bully him down low.
Our Preview’s Cleveland Cavaliers vs Washington Wizards Predictions & Betting Picks
Washington has so many things going for it in this game that a Cavaliers win seems unlikely. It is at home, it is playing much better at the moment and it is getting back a full rotation for the first time this season. The Wizards will also care more about this game, since it’s an opportunity to make a statement against the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions. Here are this preview’s betting predictions & picks:
- Washington is a 3.5-point favorite heading into this contest. Go with the Wizards -3.5pts @ best odds of -105 with Bookmaker.
- I’ve given up on expecting the Cavaliers’ defense to perform well. The Wizards’ defense has also been lazy on occasion this season and Washington plays very fast. Our pick is to bet over 222pts @ -110 with BetOnline.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.