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Buy or Sell

   by ASA - 02/05/2009

Sell – New Orleans Hornets

Never has an MVP candidacy been improved as much as Tuesday night when Chris Paul left New Orleans’ game with Portland with his team up 20 points. His Hornets proceeded to go in a complete funk, quickly giving away their 20-point lead in an eventual 8-point home loss to Portland. New Orleans looked completely lost without Paul running the show and will continue to struggle with him sidelined with a groin injury.

Paul’s injury, coupled with center Tyson Chandler’s ankle injury, leaves the Hornets without their best offensive and defensive player. That’s not good for any team, especially team that relies on one player as much as New Orleans does with Paul. Guys like David West, Peja Stojakovic and Rasual Butler can attribute much of their success to playing with Paul. Without him, they’ll struggle to meet their season averages.

New Orleans is fortunate to have its next three games at home but that won’t necessarily translate into wins. The Hornets have lost their last two home contests, averaging just 88 points per game in those games, and are just 10-12-1 ATS at home on the year. Perhaps the best spot to play against the Hornets will be Monday against Memphis. The Grizzlies will be playing their fourth consecutive home contest and will want to close their home stand with a win. New Orleans meanwhile will be playing the second night of a back to back and have a bigger fish to fry next with the Spurs on deck.

The Hornets are simply a different team with Paul sidelined. Even if he returns early, groin injuries are the kind that can severely limit what a player can do. New Orleans has three straight both SU and ATS and will continue to struggle.

Buy – Chicago Bulls

Chicago has kicked off its 7-game road trip with some solid play, winning three of four contests by 17.3 points per game with their only loss coming by one point in overtime. The Bulls have a rough conclusion to their trip with the final three contests all coming against potential Western Conference playoff teams. But they are playing better team basketball and should be a strong play once they return home.

A good opportunity to play on Chicago will be in its first two games back in the Windy City next Tuesday and Thursday. The Bulls will open with a home contest against the overrated and massively underachieving Detroit Pistons and then face the Heat two nights later. The Bulls will be well rested for both games as they’ll have been off since Saturday, Feb 7th. Chicago is just 1-4 SU their last five at home but three of those losses came to Atlanta, San Antonio and Portland who have a combined record of 90-50. The lone Bulls home win in that stretch did come against the 38-9 Cleveland Cavaliers.

The return of Kirk Hinrich has taken some of the load of play-making rookie Derrick Rose and has given Chicago a nice 3-guard rotation that also includes the high-scoring Ben Gordon. Additionally, the enigmatic young frontcourt of Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah has shown signs of finally getting things together. Thomas has averaged 12.8 points, 8.3 boards and 1.5 blocks over the last four games while Noah has averaged 11.3 points, 8 rebounds and 3.8 blocks over that same span. The Bulls also benefit with the return of Drew Gooden who is expected back this weekend.

The Bulls struggled over their first half of the season under first-year head coach Vinny Del Negro. This young team is starting to come together, though, and should be a solid play once they return home.

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