TV channel, NBA live stream info, start time

The Cavaliers will be in front of their home fans on Tuesday, but a look at the spread shows they might need that home-court advantage. They will take on the New York Knicks at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Both teams took a loss in their last game, so they’ll have plenty of motivation to get the ‘W’.

Last Saturday, Cleveland couldn’t handle Indiana and fell 125-113. The Cavaliers have now taken an ‘L’ in back-to-back games.

Evan Mobley put forth a good effort for the losing side as he dropped a double-double on 33 points and 14 rebounds. He hasn’t dropped below two blocks for three straight games.

Meanwhile, New York also suffered a loss in their last game, but this one to New Orleans by a score of 96-87.

Even though they lost, the Knicks were smashing the offensive glass and finished the game with 16 offensive rebounds. They easily outclassed their opponents in that department as the Pelicans only pulled down four.

Cleveland now has a losing record at 1-2. As for New York, they now also have a losing record at 1-2.

Not only did the pair lose their last games, but neither team managed to cover the spread. Looking ahead, the Knicks are expected to win a tight contest, barring any buzzer beaters. This contest might not be the best time to bet Cleveland against the spread since they’ve let bettors down the last three times they’ve played.

This contest is one where the number of possessions is likely to be a big factor: The Cavaliers have been smashing the glass this season, having averaged 45.7 rebounds per game. However, it’s not like the Knicks struggle in that department as they’ve been even better at 50.3 per game. Given these competing strengths, it’ll be interesting to see how their clash plays out.

New York is a 3-point favorite against Cleveland, according to the latest NBA odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Knicks as a 2.5-point favorite.

The over/under is set at 215.5 points.

See NBA picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History
New York has won 7 out of their last 10 games against Cleveland.

Apr 26, 2023 – New York 106 vs. Cleveland 95
Apr 23, 2023 – New York 102 vs. Cleveland 93
Apr 21, 2023 – New York 99 vs. Cleveland 79
Apr 18, 2023 – Cleveland 107 vs. New York 90
Apr 15, 2023 – New York 101 vs. Cleveland 97
Mar 31, 2023 – New York 130 vs. Cleveland 116
Jan 24, 2023 – New York 105 vs. Cleveland 103
Dec 04, 2022 – New York 92 vs. Cleveland 81
Oct 30, 2022 – Cleveland 121 vs. New York 108
Apr 02, 2022 – Cleveland 119 vs. New York 101

Luka Doncic stands out as pick for MVP; Cam Thomas gaining steam for Sixth Man of the Year

Week 2 of the 2023-24 NBA season is underway and plenty of unexpected things have already happened on the hardwood. We wrote on some of the best future bets for awards earlier this month and some individual performances already have us re-evaluating where the best value is. Are you looking to place early wagers now to get the best odds possible for your favorite season-long award races? We’ve got you covered with three options we feel have stood out the most so far.

Doncic kicked off the season on a “minute restriction” and has still blown by all expectations early on. The Dallas Mavericks superstar’s odds have risen from +550 since early October and his team’s early success could help bolster his chances. Dallas hasn’t played any real contenders yet but boasts a 3-0 record despite Kyrie Irving already having missed one game. Doncic will even out over time, but he’s shooting 55.6% from the field and 48.6% from deep early on. His one-man show will be hard to beat if he continues to move the needle by putting up otherwordly numbers and winning games en route to securing a playoff berth.

Victor Wenbanyama (-170) and Holmgren have improved their odds since the season began, but Holmgren has been just as impressive as the top pick from the 2023 NBA Draft, so far. The two gangly bigs have nearly identical stats, but Holmgren has been far more efficient. The Gonzaga product is shooting better than 60% from the field and deep, while Wembanyama is below league average in both categories. Bettors shouldn’t assume that Wemby winning this award is a foregone conclusion and Holmgren appears to have the chops to challenge the Frenchman early on.

This ticket excites me more than any other, as Thomas is on track for an unprecedented jump after posting 10.6 points per contest in 2022-23. Basketball fans saw that he could score at an elite level last season when the shorthanded Brooklyn Nets handed him the keys to the offense temporarily but he returned to a supporting role following the arrival of Mikal Bridges and others in a midseason trade. Now Thomas has become the youngest player to score at least 30 points in three consecutive games to start a season since Shaq while converting 61.4% of his field goals. He’ll surely be relegated to the bench once Nic Claxton, Cam Johnson, and Spencer Dinwiddie are healthy, but it’s clear that he’ll be a key part of the rotation moving forward. I don’t think that Chris Paul (+650) has the scoring upside to get the job done given the winners from previous years.

Celtics among the best; Lakers, Knicks overload on color

The NBA unveiled unique designs for the In-Season Tournament courts on Monday, and there was a lot to unwrap. While some teams understood the assignment, others played it too safe — and, of course, some tried to do a little too much.

There have been plenty of alternate jerseys over the years, but this is the first time the NBA has implemented an alternate court for all 30 teams. The inaugural In-Season Tournament will tip off on Nov. 3 and concludes with the championship game on Dec. 9. Until then, let’s have some fun examining the designs.

  1. Washington Wizards
    It’s not a requirement to use the team’s main colors, but it feels like that would make the most sense. No hate on teal as it’s a great color, but overall this looks more like a court for the WNBA’s New York Liberty.


  1. San Antonio Spurs
    The Spurs don’t deserve to be dead last because they took a chance, but it just didn’t work out. Although it was clever to try to use the Fiesta colors, this is giving Seattle SuperSonics nostalgia.


  1. Detroit Pistons
    For branding purposes, it feels like the Pistons should’ve incorporated some blue to this design because you should be able to tell whose court it is without having to read.


  1. Milwaukee Bucks
    The colors are not bad, but the Bucks logo needs to stand out more because it unfortunately gets overshadowed by the name of the arena.


  1. New Orleans Pelicans
    This is another one of those designs in which we can appreciate that a risk was taken, but it ended up giving more Halloween or space video game vibes.


  1. Sacramento Kings
    Points for the throwback logo, but otherwise there is not much exciting about the Kings’ design.


  1. Miami Heat
    The Heat have a cool team name and could’ve gotten really creative with this assignment, but unfortunately the design is bland, and that’s disappointing.


  1. Dallas Mavericks
    It’s not bad, but the font on the sidelines looks like it’s plucked from a newspaper and the logo could’ve been more exciting.


  1. Brooklyn Nets
    This looks too basic. Not really any creativity going on.


  1. Philadelphia 76ers
    Nothing necessarily wrong with the 76ers’ design except it’s boring and, like with other teams, more could’ve been done with the logo.


  1. Memphis Grizzlies
    Gold is awesome, but this doesn’t quite make sense for the Grizzlies. If the Vegas Golden Knights ever played basketball instead of hockey, this would fit them very well.


  1. Chicago Bulls
    The choice of making the logo white was interesting. It definitely stands out, but I’m not sure if this design as a whole should’ve been the final draft. It’s not quite there yet.


  1. Oklahoma City Thunder
    There could’ve been so many cool designs with the Thunder’s colors, but this is a forgettable look.


  1. Orlando Magic
    Not quite as magical as it could’ve been. Making the star the star of the show would fit the Dallas Cowboys better.


  1. Los Angeles Lakers
    There is no doubt purple and gold are iconic colors, but this might be a bit too much gold. It will either look really cool during a game or tire your eyes out.


  1. New York Knicks
    Good job on branding, but this is another example of a team overloading on color and potentially making it hard to keep fans’ eyes on the game. Staring at the logo could get disorienting.


  1. Denver Nuggets
    The Nuggets took a chance by making their literal mile high elevation (5,280 feet) their logo instead of the actual logo, and it kind of works. This design would be a cool graphic for TV or social media.


  1. Atlanta Hawks
    The logo feels like it’s part of the trophy, and maybe that’s a good thing. It’s a clean design. The only note would be to make the words “lift as we fly” a bit more visually exciting.


  1. Houston Rockets
    Maybe too much red, but it’s fun and looks like it has the makings of a cool varsity jacket.


  1. Minnesota Timberwolves
    Very similar to the Hawks because of the baby blue, but I still can’t deny the aesthetic is beautiful. Simple, yet classy and elegant.


  1. Golden State Warriors
    This feels like a design fans will either love or hate, so it deserves to be sort of in the middle. The colors represent the Warriors’ dynastic run over the years, but some might have issues with the shades of brown.


  1. Los Angeles Clippers
    While it might not be enough to be the top court on this list, good choices were made here. The Clippers’ logo stands out while also fitting perfectly with all the other parts. It just feels right.


  1. Indiana Pacers
    The Pacers got creative with this one and came up with a vibrant, fun design. Just like the Rockets, the Pacers have plenty of merch potential here.


  1. Portland Trail Blazers
    Portland and flannel? Perfect match. This design is creative yet it stays true to itself. Good use of colors without being too overwhelming or one-dimensional.


  1. Toronto Raptors
    Perhaps it’s missing red, but other teams made grey and black look boring while the Raptors made it feel luxurious. The “We The North” along the sideline helps make a statement.


  1. Utah Jazz
    The purple shines, but the overall design is not overwhelming. “Utah” stands out beautifully in the middle. No notes.


  1. Charlotte Hornets
    The colors, the logo: This is how you make a cool design that doesn’t look like a video game. Just enough to be exciting, but didn’t cross the line.


  1. Phoenix Suns
    The Suns had fun with their El Valle look. It’s worth applauding the effort made to come up with something special and vibrant that represents the community.


  1. Boston Celtics
    It’s perfect for the team, it just screams Boston, and everything came together cleanly. Lucky the Leprechaun can be proud.


  1. Cleveland Cavaliers
    The Cavs did a great job creating a unique look for their court while making sure they didn’t go over the top. They found a perfect balance between creative and professional.

Top DraftKings, FanDuel daily Fantasy basketball picks for Tuesday, Oct. 31 include Evan Mobley

There may only be three games on the NBA schedule for Tuesday, but there are plenty of stars in the NBA DFS player pool. Options such as Jalen Brunson, RJ Barrett, Victor Wembanyama, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will be popular selections as NBA DFS picks. However, Donovan Mitchell (hamstring) and Norman Powell (foot) are both questionable, and those are injuries to monitor throughout the day when forming NBA DFS lineups.

The Clippers host the Magic on Tuesday after reportedly acquiring 10-time All-Star James Harden from the 76ers earlier in the day. The Clippers sent four players, including role players such as Marcus Morris, Robert Covington, Nicolas Batum, and picks to the 76ers, so the Los Angeles bench will likely be limited on Tuesday. Does that make it a viable NBA DFS strategy to stack Magic players such as Wendell Carter Jr., Markelle Fultz or Cole Anthony against a potentially depleted Clippers defense? Before making your NBA DFS picks, be sure to check out the NBA DFS advice, player rankings, stacks and top daily Fantasy basketball picks from SportsLine’s Mike McClure.

McClure is a DFS professional with more than $2 million in career winnings. He’s also a predictive data engineer at SportsLine who uses a powerful prediction model that simulates every minute of every game 10,000 times, taking factors like matchups, statistical trends and injuries into account.

This allows him to find the best NBA DFS values and create optimal lineups that he shares only over at SportsLine. They’re a must-see for any NBA DFS player.

On Monday, McClure highlighted Nets guard/forward Ben Simmons as one of his top picks in his NBA DFS player pool on both sites. The result: Simmons had 11 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, returning 38 points on DraftKings and 36 points on FanDuel. Anybody who included him in their lineups was well on the way to a profitable day.

McClure has turned his attention to NBA action on Tuesday and locked in his top daily Fantasy basketball picks. You can only see them by heading to SportsLine.

Top NBA DFS picks for Tuesday, October 31
For Tuesday, one of McClure’s top NBA DFS picks is Cavaliers forward/center Evan Mobley, who is listed at $8,100 on both FanDuel and DraftKings. Mobley is coming off a monster performance with 33 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and three blocks against the Pacers on Saturday. The day before, the 22-year-old had 14 points and 15 rebounds against the Thunder. Now that Mobley has some time to rest, he could have something even better in store against the Knicks.

Mobley, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, averaged 16.2 points and nine rebounds last year. He’s played an expanded role to begin this season as starting center Jarrett Allen (ankle) is set to miss his fourth straight game to open the year. Allen being sidelined has opened up dominant rebounding performances for the 6-foot-11 Mobley. Guard Darius Garland (hamstring) is also out and star guard Mitchell (hamstring) is questionable. Mobley could become one of the go-to scorers yet again and paired with his high rebounding floor, Mobley is a strong play for NBA DFS lineups.

Another part of McClure’s optimal NBA DFS strategy includes stacking Mobley with guard/forward Caris LeVert ($6,100 on DraftKings and $6,400 on FanDuel). LeVert was given complete control of the offense on Saturday with Mitchell and Garland sidelined, and the 29-year-old had 31 points, five rebounds and eight assists with 28 field-goal attempts. LeVert, himself, is listed as questionable for Tuesday with hamstring soreness, but you have to believe he’ll do everything he can to take the court with the abundance of shots he’s set to receive.

LeVert lit up the Knicks in the first round of last year’s playoffs, particularly over the last four games of New York’s five-game series win. Over that stretch, he averaged 18 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists while knocking down nearly 40% of his 3-point attempts. The eight-year veteran also had 17 points in the second game of the season where Mitchell played and Garland missed, so even if Mitchell is active, he still has the potential to outperform his price point in a limited NBA DFS player pool on Tuesday. See McClure’s other NBA DFS picks right here.

How to set your NBA DFS lineups for Tuesday, October 31
McClure is also targeting a player who could go off for massive numbers on Tuesday because of a dream matchup. This pick could be the difference between winning your tournaments and cash games or going home with nothing. You can only see who it is here.

2023 NBA picks, Oct. 31 best bets from proven model

The Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks rekindle a rivalry on Tuesday evening after the two met during the 2023 NBA Playoffs. The first matchup between the squads in 2023-24 will be televised nationally, with both teams 1-2 overall to begin the new season. This game will take place at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, with the Knicks entering at 1-1 on the road and the Cavaliers aiming for their first home win of the campaign. Darius Garland (hamstring) and Jarrett Allen (ankle) are out for Cleveland, with Donovan Mitchell (hamstring) and Caris LeVert (hamstring) listed as questionable.

SportsLine consensus lists New York as 2-point favorites, and tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET. The total number of points Vegas thinks will be scored, or the over/under, is 214 in the latest Knicks vs. Cavaliers odds. Before making any Cavaliers vs. Knicks picks, you need to see the NBA predictions and betting advice from SportsLine’s advanced computer simulation model.

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times and has returned well over $10,000 in profit for $100 players on its top-rated NBA picks over the past five seasons. The model enters Week 2 of the 2023-24 NBA season on a 77-41 roll on all top-rated NBA picks dating back to last season, returning nearly $3,000. Anyone following it has seen huge returns.

Now, the model has set its sights on Knicks vs. Cavs and just locked in its picks and NBA predictions. You can head to SportsLine now to see the model’s picks. Now, here are several NBA odds and betting lines for Cavs vs. Knicks:

Knicks vs. Cavaliers spread: Knicks -2
Knicks vs. Cavaliers over/under: 214 points
Knicks vs. Cavaliers money line: Knicks -127, Cavaliers +106
NYK: The Knicks are 30-18-1 against the spread in the last 49 road games
CLE: The Cavaliers are 25-20-1 against the spread in the last 46 home games
Knicks vs. Cavaliers picks: See picks at SportsLine
Why the Knicks can cover
The Knicks have strong defensive fundamentals dating back to last season. New York led the league in points allowed in the paint (45.9 per game) in 2022-23 and ranked in the top five in field goal percentage allowed (46.2%) and fast break points allowed (12.7 per game). The Knicks also secured 72.7% of available defensive rebounds, and New York leads the league with an 80.7% defensive rebound rate to begin the 2023-24 campaign. Opponents are averaging only 8.3 second-chance points per game against the Knicks this season, and New York is also allowing only 31.7% shooting from 3-point range.

The Knicks also enjoyed big-time success on the road last season, finishing in the top five of the league in win-loss record (24-17) and net rating (+1.5) away from home. New York is also a potent offensive team, with top-five marks in 3-pointers per game, offensive rebound rate, and second-chance points to begin the season. The Knicks also scored 1.17 points per possession last season, No. 4 in the league, and New York’s depth is impressive. See which team to pick here.

Why the Cavaliers can cover
Cleveland’s defense is incredibly stout, headlined by Evan Mobley. The 22-year-old big man is averaging 11.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game so far this season, and Mobley was also named first-team All-Defense in 2022-23. The Cavaliers bring dynamic size in the frontcourt, and opponents are averaging only 11.0 second-chance points per game this season. Cleveland is also blocking 6.7 shots per game and giving up fewer than 21 free throw attempts per contest.

Over an 82-game sample last season, the Cavaliers led the NBA in defensive efficiency, giving up only 109.9 points per 100 possessions. Cleveland led the league in assists allowed (23.0 per game) and ranked in the top five of the NBA in 3-pointers allowed (11.3 per game), turnover creation (12.7 per game), second-chance points allowed (12.7 per game), and points allowed in the paint (46.3 per game). With excellent guard play also fueling a potent offense, Cleveland is in an encouraging overall position at home. See which team to pick here.

How to make Knicks vs. Cavaliers picks
SportsLine’s model is leaning Over on the point total, with seven players projected to score at least 14 points. The model also says one side of the spread has all of the value. You can only see the model’s pick at SportsLine.

How to watch online, live stream info, start time, TV channel

The Suns are 9-1 against the Spurs since April of 2021, and they’ll have a chance to extend that success on Tuesday. The Phoenix Suns will be playing at home against the San Antonio Spurs at 10:00 p.m. ET at Footprint Center. The Spurs took a loss in their last contest and will be looking to turn the tables on the Suns, who come in off a win.

Last Saturday, Phoenix made easy work of Utah and carried off a 126-104 victory. The Suns pushed the score to 106-78 by the end of the third, a deficit the Jazz cut but never quite recovered from.

Among those leading the charge was Kevin Durant, who earned 26 points along with 7 assists. Less helpful for the Suns was Nassir Little’s abysmal 0-5 three-point shooting.

Meanwhile, it’s hard to win when your shooting is a whole 14.1% worse than the opposition, a fact the Spurs found out the hard way on Sunday. They were completely outmatched by Los Angeles on the road and fell 123-83.

Phoenix now has a winning record of 2-1. As for San Antonio, they now have a losing record at 1-2.

Looking forward, the Suns are the favorite in this one, as the experts expect to see them win by eight points. They might be worth a quick bet since they’ve covered the spread the last three times they’ve played San Antonio.

Everything went the Suns’ way against the Spurs when the teams last played back in April as the Suns made off with a 115-94 victory. Do the Suns have another victory up their sleeve, or will the Spurs turn the tables on them? We’ll have the answer soon enough.

Phoenix is a big 7.5-point favorite against San Antonio, according to the latest NBA odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Suns as a 7-point favorite.

The over/under is set at 226.5 points.

See NBA picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History
Phoenix has won 9 out of their last 10 games against San Antonio.

Apr 04, 2023 – Phoenix 115 vs. San Antonio 94
Jan 28, 2023 – Phoenix 128 vs. San Antonio 118
Dec 04, 2022 – Phoenix 133 vs. San Antonio 95
Jan 30, 2022 – Phoenix 115 vs. San Antonio 110
Jan 17, 2022 – Phoenix 121 vs. San Antonio 107
Dec 06, 2021 – Phoenix 108 vs. San Antonio 104
Nov 22, 2021 – Phoenix 115 vs. San Antonio 111
May 16, 2021 – Phoenix 123 vs. San Antonio 121
May 15, 2021 – Phoenix 140 vs. San Antonio 103
Apr 17, 2021 – San Antonio 111 vs. Phoenix 85

Joel Embiid fined $35,000 by NBA for D-Generation X celebration vs. Trail Blazers

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid is known for his impressive basketball skills and big personality but took a celebration too far in the eyes of the league over the weekend. Embiid deployed a wrestling celebration after finishing through contact against the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday. The league responded to his actions by fining him $35,000.

This isn’t the first time Embiid has been fined for this particular celebration, as it’s become a go-to response of his. The league fined him $25,000 for performing it against the Brooklyn Nets in January. It appears like the NBA has no intention of easing up on the reigning MVP’s penalties moving forward and he could rack up more fines throughout the season as he continues to post big-time stat lines.

Embiid tallied 35 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, and six blocks against the Trail Blazers to power the 76ers to their second win of the season. They now boast a 2-1 record after narrowly falling short against the Milwaukee Bucks in their season opener.

Embiid won’t suit up again until Thursday and he’ll be joined by a slew of new teammates. Philadelphia shipped off the disgruntled James Harden to the Los Angeles Clippers in a trade on Tuesday morning in exchange for Marcus Morris, Nic Batum, Robert Covington, KJ Martin, and draft capital in an unexpected trade in hopes of improving its title odds.

How to live stream, TV channel, start time for Tuesday’s NBA game

Having just played yesterday, the Orlando Magic will head out on the road to face off against the Los Angeles Clippers at 10:30 p.m. ET on October 31st at Arena. The Magic are expected to lose this one by eight points, so we’ll see if that gives them a bit of motivation.

It’s hard to win when your shooting is a whole 13.2% worse than the opposition, a fact the Magic found out the hard way on Monday. They fell just short of Los Angeles by a score of 106-103.

Meanwhile, everything came up roses for Los Angeles at home against San Antonio on Sunday as the squad secured a 123-83 win. The Clippers pushed the score to 93-60 by the end of the third, a deficit the Spurs had no chance of recovering from.

Orlando’s defeat dropped their record down to 2-1. As for Los Angeles, they now have a winning record of 2-1.

While only the Clippers took care of their fans the last time they played, both teams pleased bettors by covering the spread. As for their game on Tuesday, the Clippers are the favorite in this one, as the experts expect to see them win by eight points. Orlando might be worth a quick bet since they’ve covered the spread the last three times they’ve played.

The Magic didn’t have too much breathing room in their matchup against the Clippers when the teams last played back in March, but they still walked away with a 113-108 win. Do the Magic have another victory up their sleeve, or will the Clippers turn the tables on them? We’ll have the answer soon enough.

Los Angeles is a big 7.5-point favorite against Orlando, according to the latest NBA odds.

The oddsmakers were right in line with the betting community on this one, as the game opened as a 7.5-point spread, and stayed right there.

The over/under is set at 221 points.

See NBA picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History
Los Angeles has won 7 out of their last 10 games against Orlando.

Mar 18, 2023 – Orlando 113 vs. Los Angeles 108
Dec 07, 2022 – Orlando 116 vs. Los Angeles 111
Jan 26, 2022 – Los Angeles 111 vs. Orlando 102
Dec 11, 2021 – Los Angeles 106 vs. Orlando 104
Mar 30, 2021 – Orlando 103 vs. Los Angeles 96
Jan 29, 2021 – Los Angeles 116 vs. Orlando 90
Jan 26, 2020 – Los Angeles 112 vs. Orlando 97
Jan 16, 2020 – Los Angeles 122 vs. Orlando 95
Jan 06, 2019 – Los Angeles 106 vs. Orlando 96
Nov 02, 2018 – Los Angeles 120 vs. Orlando 95

Clippers give star guard everything he could ever ask for … and one year to make it work

In James Harden’s last full season with the Houston Rockets, they tried something radical, swapping their rim-protecting center (Clint Capela) for a 3-and-D forward (Robert Covington) and betting that the benefits — spacing for Russell Westbrook and Harden, speed, switchability — would outweigh the big, glaring drawback: No one in the rotation was taller than 6-foot-8.

In retrospect, the experiment was more interesting than it was revolutionary. The post-trade Rockets were formidable in the regular season — they outscored opponents by 7.8 points per 100 possessions with both Covington and P.J. Tucker on the court, per Cleaning The Glass — but, in the second round of the playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers pushed them around, ignored Westbrook on the perimeter and disposed of them in five games. Teams have continued to use unconventional lineups since then, but going centerless is generally a change of pace, not a starting point, and the league has trended bigger, not smaller.

What if that Houston team, which went out in the bubble starting Harden and Westbrook next to Eric Gordon, Covington and Tucker, could have swapped two of its supporting characters for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George? And what if, instead of punting on traditional bigs, it was able to add all of this skill while maintaining its size?

This is the promise of the Los Angeles Clippers. By acquiring Harden and Tucker from the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, they can throw out a Harden-Westbrook-George-Leonard-Tucker lineup, switch just about everything, and, in theory at least, pile up points playing 5-out. Harden is now 34, Westbrook almost 35 and Tucker 38, but, with two star wings flanking them, the ex-Rockets won’t have to do as much as they did four seasons ago. And with Ivica Zubac sure to remain the Clippers’ starting center, plus Mason Plumlee backing him up, coach Tyronn Lue can use small ball the way recent champions have: as a counterpunch.

If Lue wants to balance the rotation, he might not even start Westbrook. I like the idea of Harden, George, Leonard and Zubac starting next to Terance Mann, Tucker or even Norman Powell, whose shooting and slashing would make him a deadly (and extremely overqualified) No. 4 option. The Clippers aren’t quite as stacked with role players as they appeared to be entering last season, but their top nine is up there with anybody’s, which is more important.

For the Clippers, who are completely committed to chasing the championship this season and face massive question marks after that, this was likely the best trade they could have made. They have never been a particularly good passing team in the Leonard-George era, so they acquired the guy who led the league in assists last season and finished second the season before that. In 2022-23, for all their supposed depth, they only outscored opponents by 1.3 points per 100 possessions when Leonard was on the court without George and were outscored (-1.4) when George was on the court without Leonard, per Cleaning The Glass. Harden should ease the playmaking burden on both of them and, ideally, get them more open looks.

For Harden, who at times when playing with Joel Embiid found it challenging not to be able to run the show the way he was used to and said he had to change his game because the Philadelphia 76ers didn’t have a lob threat, partnering with Zubac should be a blast. Like Westbrook last season, he’ll benefit from the Clippers’ collective shooting, switchability and all the attention that opposing defenses have to pay to Leonard and George. It will be even cleaner if Harden is willing to take spot-up 3s semi-frequently and can get comfortable running dribble handoffs with Plumlee, but, generally speaking, this is an environment where he can be himself.

After a third fulfilled trade request in less than three years, Harden has found himself on a roster that blends the custom fit that he had in Houston with the sheer talent that he had next to him in Brooklyn and Philadelphia. No one knows what might happen if this group doesn’t jell, as Leonard, George, Harden and Westbrook could all be free agents in July, but it appears that the bearded future Hall of Famer has everything he could have asked for.

Well, almost everything: It’s a shame that Los Angeles couldn’t get Danuel House Jr. in the deal and keep Covington out of it.