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The MVP favorite is in a prolonged slump, and one of his closest pursuers just went on the shelf for four to six weeks. The best team in the NBA is clearly the Phoenix Suns, yet they are not even favored to win their own conference.  The trade deadline is less than a month away, and Zion Williamson remains out to lunch – probably a large lunch, given the size of the guy the last time we saw him.

Monday serves up a smorgasbord of NBA games and NBA news, not the least of which is that the Brooklyn Nets will be without Kevin Durant for at least a month after he sprained his knee Saturday night against New Orleans.

Just like that, the league’s scoring leader will be watching from the sidelines for the foreseeable future as his team, still heavy favorites to come out of the East, will log another long stretch of games without having their big three of Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden on the floor together. Today, they go up against the Cleveland Cavaliers, a 26-win team sitting in sixth place in the East behind four 27-win teams and the 25-17 Philadelphia 76ers, who are fifth because of an edge in percentage points.

The East is top heavy with quality teams, while the West looks as though it is going to have as many as four sub-.500 teams when the play-in tournament begins.

Today is one of the most important days on the calendar for commissioner Adam Silver, whose league annually schedules a bunch of marquee matchups for Martin Luther King Day because it is a national holiday in the United States with a cooped-up basketball-viewing public having had its fill of NFL playoff action the previous day.

A total of 22 of the league’s 30 teams are in action, and today’s “I have a dream” reference concerns a 12-wager parlay that we are going to try to hit along with our readers. We have one pick from each game. So let’s have at it … (and as always, you gotta round-robin, because as infallible as we feel in the a.m., Murphy and his dreaded Law beat us down by nightfall on a daily basis).

New Orleans at Boston: The Pelicans are 5.5-point underdogs against a Celtics team coming off a quality victory over the East-leading Chicago Bulls in which Al Horford broke a nine-game stretch of single-digit scoring games by going for 15 points. Horford has been below 8 points in five of his last seven games, so his point total over/under seems high at 10.5. Take the under.

BEST BET: Al Horford under 10.5 points -105

Charlotte at New York: The ‘Bockers are 1.5 –point home favorites for what could be Cam Reddish’s debut as he tries to crack a wing rotation that has been getting a boost from R.J. Barrett recently as he has scored 26 points or more in five of nine games. The play is LaMelo Ball over 19.5 points.

BEST BET: LaMelo Ball over 19.5 points -110

Philadelphia at Washington: The Sixers have looked pretty good recently as they continue to work through the distraction of Ben Simmons’ trade demand, which we expect to be fulfilled despite Daryl Morey claim that Philly is prepared to play the entire season with their second-highest paid player sitting out. The Sixers are favored by just 3.5 points (up from 2.5 earlier today) against a team they defeated by 21 on December 26. Give the points.

BEST BET: 76ers (-3.5) -110

Brooklyn at Cleveland: The Nets will be the James Harden Show for the next month or so, with Irving making cameos on the road, this time playing in one of his old stomping grounds. The Cavs are favored by 2.5, making this just the fifth time the Nets have been road underdogs. Former Net Jarrett Allen went for 20 points and 15 rebounds the last time these teams played. We like him to go over 10.5 rebounds today.

BEST BET: Jarrett Allen over 10.5 rebounds -110

Chicago at Memphis: Best game of the day, it says here, and this one will be televised by TNT as the first half of a doubleheader. The Bulls are 8.5-point ‘dogs (up from six earlier today) as they carry a season-high three-game losing streak into this game, and have been giving up points in bunches. The over/under of 224.5 is one of the biggest on the 11-game board. The play here is Nik Vucevic over 19.5 points.

BEST BET: Nikola Vucevic over 19.5 points -115

Indiana at L.A. Clippers: The Clips are favored by 1.5 in a matchup of teams that are going nowhere in a hurry. The Pacers have lost nine of 10 and are starting a stretch of seven of their next eight games being played on the road vs. West teams. Indiana is an NBA-worst 6-13-0 on over/unders as a visitor, but the under has dropped from 210 to 209. Take it anyway.

BEST BET: Under 209 points -115

Milwaukee at Atlanta: Time to reconsider the merits of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s MVP candidacy while he is on the board at +450, second behind Curry. He has put together a stretch of eight 30-point games in his last 10 outings, going 17-for-17 from the line last game. The second game of the TNT doubleheader is the first between the teams since last year’s East finals. The Bucks are favored by 5 (up from 4 earlier today). Take Bobby Portis under 16.5 points.

BEST BET: Bobby Portis under 16.5 points -110

Portland at Orlando: The Blazers are favored by two points (up from one earlier today) on the road as they are expected to have C.J. McCollum back after a collapsed lung sidelined him for six weeks. Orlando is the league’s worst team at 8-36, which somehow totally justifies the club extending the contract of general manager John Hammond. That one was ahead-scratcher, the pick is not: Blazers on the moneyline.

BEST BET: Trail Blazers moneyline -125

Toronto at Miami: It is taking some getting used to, this having Jimmy Butler available thing. We touted his MVP candidacy earlier in the year before he went out with an ankle injury, and those odds are now at +12500 with the Heat (favored by 3.5) just two games behind the Bulls in the loss column. If the Heat can somehow win the East, you never know. Give the points.

BEST BET: Heat (-3.5) -110

Oklahoma City at Dallas: The Mavs have quietly climbed into fifth place in the West with eight wins in their last nine games, with Luka Doncic posting triple-doubles in two of them. He is coming off an outlier three-assist performance Saturday, a season-low. He had 10 assists the last time these teams met, and although his assist line is 8.5, we prefer him going over 7.5 rebounds.

BEST BET: Luka Doncic over 7.5 rebounds -150

Phoenix at San Antonio: This is the second half of a road back-to-back for Phoenix, which is favored by five but defeated the Spurs by just four points in each of their previous two meetings. The pick here is Dejounte Murray to go over 7.5 assists.

BEST BET: Dejounte Murray over 7.5 assists -130

Utah at L.A. Lakers: A glorious day of basketball wraps up with this nifty matchup, the Lakers’ first appearance since getting blasted by Magic Johnson following their 37-point loss at Denver on Saturday night. The over/under is the highest on the board at 232.5, a testament to the poor defense the Lakers have been playing. We would cap the 11-for-11 parlay card with LeBron James going over 29.5 points because he may just win the scoring title, which was a +8000 prop wager a month ago. But remembering Murphy, we instead will take the over on his blocks total of 0.5. He has had at least one in 10 of 11 games.

BEST BET: LeBron James over 0.5 blocks -155

This particular 12-for-12 parlay card has odds of +151101, meaning a $20 wager would return $30,202.00. And yes, that wager has been placed. Join me, won’t you? See you again Thursday.