The Quickie Betting Preview is back. Friday night in the NBA features a fun Central Division throwdown between the Chicago Bulls visiting the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. On Sunday, LeBron James returns to South Beach when the struggling Los Angeles Lakers visit the surging Miami Heat in a tale of two opposite clubs. Sunday’s action also includes Ja Morant and the hot Memphis Grizzlies squaring off in the Big D against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavs.

Ja Morant Luka DOncic Grizzlies Mavs Memphis Dallas Lakers Heat Bulls Bucks
Luka Doncic from the Dallas Mavs defends Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies last week, and the two square off again on Sunday. (Image: Justin Ford/Getty)

The NBA offers a light schedule on Saturday with only three games, but they’re sandwiched in between a full slate of games on Friday and Sunday. The suits at the NBA assumed everyone would be watching the NFL Divisional Playoffs on Saturday, so didn’t bother to overload the schedule.

The trade deadline is less than three weeks away. Some players are showing the stress of being mentioned in trade rumors (e.g., Russell Westbrook), while other veterans stepped up their game (e.g., Jerami Grant) because they want to look good for prospective shoppers.

NBA Friday: DDR vs Greek Freak, Morant vs Jokic

Los Angeles Lakers (22-23) at Orlando Magic (8-38)… Someone call Baywatch! The Lakers are on the verge of drowning after a tumultuous week. Even oddsmakers think they’ll barely finish above .500. The last thing the Lakers want to do is lose a game to the worst team in the NBA. The Magic also boast the worst home record as well. We’ll get to see how Russell Westbrook responds to getting benched on Wednesday.

Chicago Bulls (28-15) at Milwaukee Bucks (28-19)… Two of the big dogs in the Eastern Conference meet in the marquee game of the weekend when the Bulls make a trip north via I-94 to Milwaukee to play the defending-champion Bucks. Da Bulls lost two starters to knee injuries, including Zach LaVine and Lonzo Ball. Looks like it’s up to DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic to lead the Bulls into battle against the Greek Freak and the Bucks.

Memphis Grizzlies (31-16) at Denver Nuggets (23-20)… The Grizzlies and Ja Morant get to take their high-flying show to Denver, but they’ve lost two out of their last three games. Morant dropped 33 points and dished 14 assists in a close loss to the Bucks on Wednesday. Nikola Jokic has been on fire with three triple-doubles in the past week, including a 49-point triple-double in overtime against the Clippers. The Grizzlies are 30-17 ATS, for the third-best betting record in the NBA.

NBA Saturday: B2B for Bucks, Thunder

Sacramento Kings (18-29) at Milwaukee Bucks (28-19)… We don’t mention the Kings very often in these quickie previews because, frankly, no one gets excited to see them play. Perhaps that will change if the Kings pull off a crazy trade to acquire emo Ben Simmons. In the meantime, the Kings and their third-worst defense in the NBA head into Beer City to play the defending champs. The Bucks are 3-5 straight up and 2-6 ATS in back-to-back games this season.

Oklahoma City Thunder (14-30) at Cleveland Cavs (27-19)… Two of the top betting teams square off, but someone has to win. The Cavs boast the best ATS record in the NBA at 29-14-3, while the Thunder are second at 28-15-1. The Cavs are also the fourth-best under team in the NBA at 27-18-1, while the Thunder are fifth at 26-18. Expect a close and low-scoring affair in this one. The Thunder are 1-5 SU and 3-3 ATS in B2B games this season.

NBA Sunday: LeBron Back in Miami, Ja vs Luka II

Atlanta Hawks (19-25) at Charlotte Hornets (25-20)… The Hawks are still the subject of heavy trade rumors involving John Collins and Danilo Gallinari. The Hawks have the worst betting record in the NBA at 17-27 ATS, while the Hornets are 28-17 ATS for the fourth-best betting record.

LA Lakers at Miami Heat (29-16)… The Lakers are the fourth-worst betting team in the NBA at 18-27. Bookies love the fact that the public keeps backing a team in turmoil. LeBron returns to Miami, but his squad is on the verge of utter collapse and firing Frank Vogel as a scapegoat.

Memphis Grizzlies (31-16) at Dallas Mavs (26-20)… Too bad this isn’t in primetime because Ja Morant vs Luka Doncic is must-see TV. It’s payback time for the Grizzlies, who lost to the Mavs by 27 points last Friday night. Doncic notched a triple-double on Monday, then unleashed 41 points against the Raptors on Wednesday. However, he struggled from deep recently, shooting only 20.8% from 3-point range.

Utah Jazz (29-16) at Golden State Warriors (32-13)… Two good, but struggling squads meet in a Western Conference showdown. The Warriors slipped to #2 after an ugly 3-6 stretch over their previous nine games. They won’t have Draymond Green (back/calf) in the lineup for a bit, and will have to rely on rookie Jonathan Kuminga to make his mark. Meanwhile, everyone is waiting for Klay Thompson to unleash his first monstrous game after returning to the lineup two weeks ago. The Jazz slipped to #4 and are stuck in the middle of their worst stretch of basketball in a couple of seasons. The Jazz are 1-6 over the last two weeks, including a shocking five-point loss against the last-place Rockets on Wednesday.