Three at 3: Can Youthful Kings Make Statement at Home vs. Spurs?

With the sixth-best home defensive rating in the NBA, the Kings could topple the Spurs in Sacramento on Monday night.
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On a 21-6 run against the spread after a 2-1 night on Friday, Three at 3 is back with your best bets for Monday night's NBA action.

1. Philadelphia 76ers at Miami Heat (-2.0)

7:30 pm ET

The 76ers stole headlines this weekend by dealing Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton. Philadelphia has long coveted a third star to add to the core of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, and the team apparently feels that Butler is the guy. For tonight's game in Miami, however, it doesn’t seem like Butler will be on the floor. And considering the trade left the Sixers without two starting-caliber players in Covington and Saric, it’s hard to imagine them coming away with a win over the Heat.

Over the last three seasons, the Heat are 9-0 against the spread when facing teams that attempt 27 or more free throws per game. The one guy that really knows how to get to the line for Philadelphia is Embiid, who is attempting 10.5 free throws per game this season (and canning 80.3% of them). But in Hassan Whiteside, Miami actually has a guy with the combination of size, strength and athleticism to stick with Embiid—Whiteside is averaging 3.5 blocks per game this year. The two also have a history of going at one another, so it's not hard to imagine one of Philadelphia's largest advantages on offense (Embiid in the post) being neutralized here. With the 76ers playing shorthanded, the Heat also have an edge on the wing. They should win this thing pretty easily.

Pick: Heat (-2.0)

2. Brooklyn Nets at Minnesota Timberwolves (-3.0)

8:00 pm

Jimmy Butler's departure from Minnesota should lift a gigantic weight off the shoulders of players like Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Butler had clashed with the young guys throughout his time in Minnesota, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the team saw a sudden surge of improved play over the next week or so. Wiggins, in particular, operates in the same areas of the court as Butler. With Butler being a superior player, that often meant that Wiggins was miscast as a spot-up shooter in the corner. Now, Wiggins should once again get the ball in the spots he prefers. Look for him to attack the rim more, and also expect him to spend some more time in the mid-post.

But the energy should be electric in Minnesota on Monday night, as these fans have been dying for this Butler situation to play itself out. And Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau also happens to be 11-1 against the spread in home games when the Timberwolves are coming off three or more unders in a row. And it helps that Minnesota is 8-2 straight up and 7-2-1 against the spread in its last 10 games hosting Brooklyn. New acquisitions Saric and Covington likely won't play tonight, but the T-Wolves have enough to get the job done here.

Pick: Timberwolves (-3.0)

3. San Antonio Spurs at Sacramento Kings (+3.0)

10:00 pm

Picking the Kings over the Spurs feels wrong, but this Sacramento team isn’t nearly as bad as in previous years. The Kings are currently 7-6 and nowhere near the bottom of the league in either offensive or defensive efficiency. In fact, the team’s minus-0.8 net rating is not far off from San Antonio’s 11th-best plus-1.6. And the Kings have been far better defensively when playing in front of their own fans this year, as they have a home defensive rating of 102.8 (sixth in NBA). Meanwhile, the Spurs have a defensive rating of 109.8 when playing away from home.

That is going to be a problem against a Kings team that is already a tough matchup for them. In second-year stud De’Aaron Fox and sharpshooter Buddy Hield, Sacramento has the type of backcourt that could drive San Antonio nuts tonight. The Spurs are shorthanded at point guard due to injuries, and DeMar DeRrozan isn’t exactly the best defender at shooting guard to begin with. That means that both Fox and Hield could have huge nights for the Kings, and Sacramento should be able to contain LaMarcus Aldridge inside. That is because the Kings have the luxury of throwing Willie Cauley-Stein on the six-time All-Star, and WCS has been a revelation for Sacramento this year. The big man currently has a defensive rating of 103.7 and a net rating of 9.4. Both are easily career-high marks, and he should play a huge role tonight.

The Spurs are just 7-20 against the spread in road games against teams scoring 106 or more points per game since the start of last season, and they lost those games by an average of 6.9 points per game.

Pick: Kings (+3.0)

Overall Record: 34-21-2