Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#521 Oklahoma City Thunder 219 vs.
#522 Utah Jazz -9
Wednesday, October 23, 2019 at 9:05pm EDT
Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City
Written by The Stash

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#521 Oklahoma City
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Two teams headed in opposite directions will face-off here on the first full day of the NBA season as the Utah Jazz host the Oklahoma City Thunder. OKC appears to be entering a lengthy rebuild, while the Jazz are going all-in on winning in 2019. Utah is hoping to compete in the Western Conference, while the Thunder are hoping to compete for an early draft pick. Oddsmakers have the Jazz as a nine-point favorite.

Thunder

The Thunder might've had the weirdest offseason of any team. They went all in on winning the past couple of years, pulling off a blockbuster trade that landed them Paul George. After just two years of the George/Russell Westbrook partnership and two first-round playoff exits, they decided to blow everything up.

George was shipped off to the Clippers for a haul of draft picks, and Russell Westbrook was traded to the Rockets. In return for Westbrook, they landed Chris Paul, who they attempted to trade immediately. But because of Paul's contract, they couldn't find any suitors, and now they're more or less stuck with the veteran point guard. They're in a very interesting spot as they're looking to rebuild, while Paul's entering the twilight of his career. Oklahoma City doesn't plan on winning many games this season, and you could reasonably say they're tanking. It's hard to predict exactly what they're going to look like in 2019 because they could trade Paul at any moment.

All that being said, there are reasons to believe they might not be as bad as everybody expects them to be early on. They still have Steven Adams, who is capable of playing like one of the league's better big men. They also have Shai Gilgeous Alexander, who they got in return for George from the Clippers. They also have Dennis Schroeder, and when you throw in Danilo Gallinari, the roster really isn't as bad as it seems. Everybody is counting them out because of the trades they've made, but I'm not so sure they're going to be a disaster.

Jazz Go Bold

While the Thunder tore down their team and started building for the future, the Jazz did the exact opposite. The team let Ricky Rubio walk in free agency and made an aggressive move to land Mike Conley in a trade with the Grizzlies. They also went out and signed Bojan Bogdanovic, providing them with some much-needed frontcourt scoring. With Conley, Bogdanovic, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, and Rudy Gobert all in the fold, they have one of the best starting lineups in the entire league. While it will be easy to get excited, things might not be so smooth early on. They've got a lot of new pieces, and it could take a while for the chemistry to build and all the guys to start to gel together.

I love head coach Quin Snyder and his staff but it's important not to let expectations get too high this early in the year. I'm also a bit concerned about their depth, especially in the backcourt. Dante Exum is injured yet again, so they really don't have much behind Conley and Mitchell at the two guard positions. Emmanuel Mudiay finally made some progress last year playing for the Knicks, but I'm still not sold on him as a real scoring option as the team's third guard. Utah had a really tough time slowing down Paul when he played for the Rockets, and it'll be interesting to see how they stop him from penetrating here. The Jazz are always known as a defensive team, but they made big moves to upgrade their offense this offseason. It'll be interesting to see if they pay off.

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For a few reasons, I think this will be a lot closer than people expect.  The Thunder have been buried by everybody because they traded away Jordan Westbrook but the roster actually isn't all that bad.  They've still got a lot of talent, and the Jazz are still going to be working out the kinks as they have a pretty new team. Paul isn't the type to let his team get embarrassed and I don't think he's going to lose by double digits here in his first game with the Thunder

Prediction: OKC +9

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The under also makes a lot of sense in this one.  The Thunder or placing almost all of their scoring from last year and the Jazz have a bunch of new pieces who aren't used to playing with each other. That's a recipe for a defensive struggle, and both teams are looking to make defense the centers of their identity anyways.  The Jazz are always a defensive team, and they have the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Rudy Gobert. Neither team is going to light up the scoreboard here.

Prediction: Under
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Written By Alex Porter , "The Stash"

Alex Porter is one of the premier minds in basketball and football handicapping. With a degree in statistics, Alex uses advanced metrics as well as copious amounts of film study to make his picks. Since starting his betting career at the age of 18, the recent college graduate has never had a losing football season. We are very glad to have Alex as a part of our team here at StatSalt.