It was early December, and the Cleveland Cavaliers were staring down disaster. After a breakout season in 2022-23, they were sitting at a disappointing 13-12 through 25 games. To add to the growing crisis, their young stars Darius Garland and Evan Mobley were both suddenly lost to long-term injuries.
Instead of collapsing or panic-trading Donovan Mitchell, the Cavaliers have pulled off one of the more improbable and impressive runs in years, going 21-4 since.
Tonight’s opponent is no stranger to season-altering injuries. In the absence of Joel Embiid, the Philadelphia 76ers have struggled to stay afloat, and now face the prospect of falling into the play-in tournament in the increasingly competitive Eastern Conference.
The NBA odds heavily favor the home team today and with my free NBA picks for 76ers vs. Cavaliers, I’m looking outside the spread for my best bet.
76ers vs Cavaliers odds
76ers vs Cavaliers predictions
There’s been a lot of scrutiny on the development — or perceived lack thereof — of Evan Mobley in his third year in the NBA. Many point to the twin towers approach of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the cramped spacing that comes with it and conclude it’s not feasible in the modern NBA.
As such, those same critics believe the key to Cleveland leveling up as a playoff contender relies on Mobley developing as a 3-point shooter.
But that’s putting the cart before the horse. Mobley is an incredibly gifted big but is also one who has struggled to do traditional big man things throughout his early career. In seasons prior, the team didn’t function well when Mobley was playing center and Jarrett Allen sat on the bench, he did much better playing the nominal power forward spot next to him.
Power forwards who can’t shoot are among the least valuable archetypes in the NBA. A big like Mobley who can pass, switch onto wings, and do all the typical five things like defending the rim and rebounding by contrast is still incredibly valuable even if they can’t shoot threes.
The immediate path for Mobley lies not in developing that outside shot, at least not based on the (non-existent) progress he’s shown on that front to this point of his career. Instead, it’s to be better at what bigs normally do and allow his unique talents to make him an undeniably useful player.
Intriguingly, since Mobley came back from injury, there are some signs that this is happening. For one thing, J.B. Bickerstaff is working to stagger Allen and Mobley as much as possible, and Mobley is holding his own both as a rim protector and as a rebounder better than ever before.
Mobley’s 21.6% defensive rebounding rate is 78th percentile among all bigs as well as a career high, per Cleaning the Glass. Since his return at the end of January, his defensive rebounding rate is an astonishing 28.1%.
While Mobley has always thrived as a mobile big, he seems to be developing the muscle and fortitude to bang down low against the NBA’s bigger bodies and come out unscathed.
The Philadelphia 76ers are one of the NBA’s worst defensive rebounding teams, and while they’ve been a bit better on the defensive glass in Joel Embiid’s absence, that strikes me as just noise.
They just can’t match up with the Cavs’ size, and Mobley’s combination of dexterity and length should give him a strong edge against the likes of Tobias Harris.
Mobley is averaging 11 rebounds per game over his last five and has had 9+ in four of those five outings. These Evan Mobley odds seem tied to an older version of the player, not the one developing before our eyes.
My best bet: Evan Mobley Over 8.5 rebounds (-105 at SIA)
76ers vs Cavaliers same-game parlay
Evan Mobley Over 8.5 rebounds
Max Strus Over 3.5 rebounds
Buddy Hield to score 12+ points
If two things sunk the Cavs in the playoffs last season, it was their inability to get a defensive rebound and their gaping hole at the small forward position. While relying on internal improvement for the former, they got their guy by signing Max Strus away from the Heat to deal with the latter.
And Strus has delivered. Not only is he providing the shooting and defense that Cleveland was sorely missing at the three, but he’s making all kinds of other winning contributions.
One of those is his better-than-expected rebounding. Strus’ defensive rebounding rate of 12.1% is a career high, per Cleaning the Glass, and he’s averaging 5.4 boards over his last 10. He’s also grabbed 4+ in eight of those 10 games.
For the final leg of my SGP, I’m backing the newest edition to this Philly roster, Buddy Hield.
Nick Nurse is known for riding his players harder than Secretariat. If Tom Thibodeau built a career-defining reputation as a coach who plays his core players big minutes, then Nurse has taken that formula and expanded on it. Hield had lost his starting job for the Pacers but has been immediately elevated into a leading role in Philadelphia.
Hield played 40 and 36 minutes in his first two games as a Sixer and scored 20 and 23 points, respectively. He’s going to be a main fixture of the offense as long as Embiid is out and is the main pressure release valve working off of Maxey.
The Cavaliers have a lot of strengths as a defensive team, but they’re mostly concerned with warding off the basket. Hield is one of the NBA’s best and most prolific jump shooters, so this is a modest line for him to hit.
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76ers vs Cavaliers spread and Over/Under analysis
The spread for Monday has seen some push and pull. After opening at Cavs -8.5, it jumped as high as -10.5. It’s now available anywhere from -9.5 to -10.5 depending on the sportsbook.
Not only are the 76ers 2-8 straight up in their last 10 games, but they are just 3-7 against the spread despite increasingly favorable lines. It’s readily apparent that despite Tyrese Maxey’s rising star, this team is entirely dependent on Embiid on both ends for success.
The Cavaliers are 15-1 SU in their last 16 games, but they’re facing increasingly daunting spreads as a result. While they’re only 6-4 ATS in their last 10 games, they’re still outperforming the spread by an average of +7.1 in their last eight.
The total has seen a little movement, opening between 228 and 228.5 and climbing as high as 230.5 at the time of writing.
It’s foolhardy to make much of the 76ers total trends with Embiid out. He is both their most important offensive and defensive player, but the difference is that while they have plenty of players to soak up shots, they have no ready-made replacement for his paint dominance.
The 76ers do at least have the shooting to potentially make the Cavaliers’ double-big lineup a bit painful on defense, but that means they’ll have to get hot from outside. Hield and Maxey are certainly capable, but given the Cavs’ size advantage, they’re likely to dominate the possession game.
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76ers vs Cavaliers betting trend to know
The 76ers are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games. Find more NBA betting trends for 76ers vs. Cavaliers.
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76ers vs Cavaliers game info
|Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, Cleveland, OH
|Monday, February 12, 2024
|7:00 p.m. ET
|Bally Sports Ohio, NBCS-Philadelphia
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