Perfect Ten (Week of January 17th)

Trade winds are blowing strong in the NBA and some key pieces are hanging out there for those that think they have Championship aspirations. Who will blink first?

Perfect Ten (Week of January 17th)

#10. Sacramento Kings (23-17) (+2000/+4000) - The Kings cling to a spot in the top ten due to their playoff experience from last season. They will likely need to make a move to be a championship contender Strengths: The combo of Sabonis and Fox is one of the best inside/outside duos in the NBA. Weaknesses: Can the Kings convince a veteran player on the trade market that Sacramento is a suitable destination? Last Week’s Rank: 7th

#9. Dallas Mavericks (24-17) (+1500/+3000) - Dallas remains the most intriguing of the teams in the bottom half based on their ability to pull off big deals. Strengths: Irving has come back looking like the perfect compliment to Doncic. Consider him a suped-up version of the Brunson/Doncic combo from a few seasons ago. Weaknesses: Can they get a deal done for the third complimentary piece they desperately need? Last Week’s Rank: Unranked

#8. Phoenix Suns (22-18) (+650/+1300) - The Suns finally have their version of the Big Three back together again. Strengths: The Suns look like a team that could gel and get hot in the second half of the season. Weaknesses: Can Phoenix grab a veteran who could help them off the bench at the deadline? Last Week’s Rank: Unranked

#7. LA Clippers (26-14) (+425/+900) - The Clippers seem to have found the formula that makes all their veterans happy. Strengths: Paul George looks healthy and spry which is not good news for the Western Conference. Weaknesses: Can George and Leonard be the defensive players they’ve been in the past come playoff time? Last Week’s Rank: 8th

#6. Philadelphia 76ers (26-13) (+500/+1100) - The Sixers welcomed back Embiid and got past what looked to be a sluggish stretch of play. Strengths: Management has made it known that the Sixers will add pieces at the trade deadline. Weaknesses: Can the Sixers add the right mix of players that can get them past Milwaukee and Boston? Last Week’s Rank: 5th

#5. OKC Thunder (27-13) (+750/+1800) - The Thunder aren’t ready to go away any time soon. Strengths: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a legitimate MVP candidate and the closer for this young team. Weaknesses: Can OKC leverage some of their stockpile of picks to get a true big to help them in the paint? Last Week’s Rank: 6th

#4. Minnesota Timberwolves (28-11) (+850/+1900) - The Wolves still have the best record in the Western Conference but not the respect. Strengths: Rudy Gobert changed the game for a team that used to be soft in the paint. Weaknesses: While both Edwards and Towns can take a game over, this team still needs a sharpshooter to provide instant offense off the bench. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

#3. Milwaukee Bucks (28-12) (+200/+475) - The Bucks blasted Boston at home and briefly quieted talks of the team’s struggles on defense. Strengths: Lillard showed his true value in their win over Sacramento by drilling a contested three for the win. Weaknesses: Sacramento highlighted once again this team’s struggles to defend the perimeter. Last Week’s Rank: 4th

#2. Denver Nuggets (28-14) (+210/+450) - Denver is rounding into form and looks poised to claim the top spot in the Western Conference once again. Strengths: Denver’s offensive efficiency has been on full display in recent weeks including a 56% shooting percentage in the last three games. Weaknesses: Denver has not looked like road warriors this season and that will be an issue in the playoffs. Last Week’s Rank: 3rd

#1. Boston Celtics (31-9) (+130/+320) - The Celtics took out the Timberwolves at home this week to avenge an earlier loss and have a three-game cushion for the NBA’s best record. Strengths: Jayson Tatum has become a nearly unstoppable force on the offensive end. Weaknesses: The Celtics still could use one more legitimate guard off the bench to spell White and Holiday. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

Top-Five MVP Candidates:

Here are my Top Five MVP candidates in the NBA at this point along with their current odds to take the award.

#1. Nikola Jokic (+230) - The field is tightening up as the All-Star break draws near. The Joker is still the steadiest big-time performer in the field. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

#2. Joel Embiid Phi (+260) - Embiid’s stock rose in the MVP race with a big effort against Jokic and the Nuggets on Tuesday night. His health is the only thing that keeps him just behind the Joker. Last Week’s Rank: 3rd

#3. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (+290) - Gilgeous-Alexander has been phenomenal this season and the true leader of the upstart Thunder. If the Thunder can maintain their pace, he could complicate what was thought to be a 2-horse field of Jokic and Embiid. Last Week’s Rank: 4th

#4. Luka Doncic (+700) - Doncic could be this year’s Embiid and close the gap on the field should the Mavs get hot and move up the Western Conference standings. He may be the best player in the league and he’s certainly in the running for MVP. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

#5. Giannis Antetokounmpo (+800) - Don’t look now but Tatum is gaining on you Giannis. His skill level is not in question but if Lillard continues to take a more prominent role, it could cut into Giannis’ MVP campaign.

Game of the Week, Season Record 5-7: The Heat got us back in the win column in a game against the struggling Magic.

Denver at Boston: This could be an NBA Finals preview as the Nuggets invade Boston on Friday night. The Celtics are undefeated at home and the Nuggets have struggled on the road. I like the C’s to stand strong in this game.

  • In parenthesis, conference odds and finals odds. Player MVP props are also in parenthesis. All odds Courtesy of

By Mark Ruelle

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Mark Ruelle

Mark has been a sports fanatic since childhood. He is also an avid follower of sports analytics and has used it in his own betting analysis for over two decades. Now we have Mark on our team here at Stat Salt. He holds degrees in marketing, broadcasting, and English and uses this vast array of assets to dissect and analyze game matchups. Mark will provide you with a wide variety of statistics to consider and a strong opinion in each matchup that he covers. Please follow him daily for an up-to-the-minute analysis of all the important games.