While Thursday may not have marked the beginning of trade season, it at least gave the market a jolt. The Atlanta Hawks swapped Allen Crabbe for Jeff Teague with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and while that trade in itself might not be particularly important, what it says about the deadline absolutely could be. 

This trade was a compromise for Minnesota. While Teague is hardly the prime asset he once was, one would think that Minnesota could have at least convinced someone to give up a second-round pick for him rather than just exchanging expiring salary. That they couldn’t, and still acted with three weeks left before the trade deadline, suggests that teams are fairly pessimistic about what’s out there. 

Rumors are going to be fairly light by recent standards. Futures bets are safer now than they usually would be in January. Expect a quiet deadline, one that allows us to focus solely on the games in front of us. On that note, let’s dive into today’s top picks. 

All lines via William Hill.

1. Utah Jazz at New Orleans Pelicans: Jazz -5

Until the Jazz manage to lose a game, there is no good reason not to keep riding them. Their winning streak is currently at 10. They’ve won the first two games of this road trip by double digits, and seven of their 10 total wins during the streak have come by at least 10 points as well. They have the NBA’s third-ranked offense since Mike Conley went down in early December, and while the New Orleans defense has certainly improved since Derrick Favors returned, it just gave up 128 points to Utah when these two teams played 10 days ago. The Jazz look unstoppable at the moment, so cash in while you have the chance.

DFS millionaire Mike McClure got off to a blistering start in the 2019-20 NBA season, and he’s been helping DFS players cash all year. You can see McClure’s optimal NBA lineups for Thursday only at SportsLine.  

2. Orlando Magic at Los Angeles Clippers: Clippers -11.5

Yes, this line would look far better if Paul George was playing, but consider this from Orlando’s perspective. They are playing on the second night of a back-to-back after their biggest win of the season over the Lakers, so they will likely be emotionally spent. The same is likely true physically. L.A. nightlife is undefeated, after all. Markelle Fultz isn’t exactly consistent. He was excellent against the Lakers, but he has tended to regress to the mean after great games so far this season. After his career-high 25-point outing against the Nets, for instance, he fell back to only six points against the Wizards two nights later. With Evan Fournier, D.J. Augustin and Michael Carter-Williams all dealing with injuries, Fultz is basically the last remaining ball-handler for Orlando. He’ll have Patrick Beverley’s and Kawhi Leonard’s undivided attention, and that doesn’t bode well for Orlando.

Legendary NFL handicapper Hammerin’ Hank Goldberg is 18-6 on his best bets in the last eight weeks, and he’s posted picks for both conference championship games. Check out Goldberg’s strong plays over at SportsLine.  

3. Denver Nuggets at Golden State Warriors: Under 212

The Nuggets were already missing Gary Harris and Paul Millsap when they lost Jamal Murray on Wednesday against the Charlotte Hornets. Now they are playing a road back-to-back against the resurgent Warriors’ defense. Winning is obviously a priority, but expect this game to be a slog. The Nuggets are just going to want to escape in one piece with one of the hardest stretches on their schedule ahead of them.

SportsLine MMA analyst Kyle Marley is up more than $19.000 in the past year on his MMA selections. He has just released his picks for the much-anticipated UFC 246 card, and you can get them all only at SportsLine.  

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