The NBA is back!
Even though the NBA never really leaves with the Finals moving right into draft frenzy continuing to free agency and summer league then moving on to weird-story-and-rumor-land, today the NBA is officially back.
To celebrate, here’s a look forward to this season with some of my favorite prop bets for individual awards and team success.
LeBron James +290
Boring? Sure, but LeBron is a threat to take home the MVP trophy in any season he steps onto the floor. This year specifically he’ll have the added advantage of a storyline in which he attempts to bring the Lakers back to greatness. MVP awards tend to skew towards a good story. If LeBron can somehow get Los Angeles into the top half of the Western Conference standings and revitalize Lakers hoops in the City of Angels that narrative will be hard to look past in the absence of any other historically great performances in the league. A bet on LeBron for MVP is never a bad idea.
Giannis Antetokounmpo +400
The Greek Freak became even more freakish this offseason. He bulked up with an insane amount of muscle while also seemingly improving his jump shot. The combination seems like it should be impossible. Early indications show that Antetokounmpo somehow pulled both off.
Milwaukee gave the Celtics everything they could handle in the first round of the playoffs last season. They’ll be looking to take the next step forward this year. Antetokounmpo is the unquestioned leader of the Bucks, fills up the stat sheet in every category, and is a human highlight reel. If his transformation translates to on-court success, and the Bucks take the next step forward, he’ll be closing in on his first MVP caliber season.
Anthony Davis +400
Davis recently told Rachel Nichols he’s the best player in the NBA. He pointed to the fact that he was the only player named a finalist for both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year last season. That sounds like a man on a mission to prove himself, and take what he believes is his rightful place on the NBA-player throne.
Individually, Davis certainly has what it takes to be a league MVP, but the one thing standing in his way could be team success. The Pelicans look to build on their first-round upset victory over the Trailblazers last season, but things aren’t going to be easy in a loaded Western Conference.
Joel Embiid +1600
Philly’s big man is entering what is technically his third NBA season (fifth if you count the double redshirt after he was originally drafted third overall by the Sixers in 2014.) It seems crazy, but this season will follow his first ever fully-healthy offseason. Embiid has already been a terror without having the opportunity to fully work on his game and conditioning between seasons. Philly is looking to continue their transition from league punching bag to the one throwing the knockout blows.
Unless they’re hit with incredibly bad luck, Philly should finish the season near the top of the East, and Embiid should be the one to lead them there. If his work in the offseason helps him fine tune his skills, improve his conditioning, and raise what was already an All-NBA worthy game, Embiid could make the leap from feared opponent to the top echelon of players league-wide. A combination that could land him his first MVP trophy.
Jayson Tatum +15000
The Celtics “suffer” from an embarrassment of riches on their roster. This would certainly make it difficult to name one of their many stars MVP. But at +15000, why not take a shot that the second-year phenom could make his claim as the man on what should be the best regular-season team in the East (and possibly the league). If that happens, the built-in narrative will certainly be there and momentum could carry the budding superstar into a surprise MVP award at the end of the season.
Rookie of the Year
Luka Doncic +250
Deandre Ayton +300
Sticking to chalk might be the best plan for betting on ROY this season. Doncic has already shown signs that his super-slick game will translate to the NBA. First-overall draft pick Ayton has been filling up the stat sheets this preseason while showing an improved defensive presence over his college days at Arizona. Both players should get enough playing time to put up the type of numbers voters like to see when casting ballots for Rookie of the Year. A slight edge to Doncic as the Mavs could be competitive this season, with him being the catalyst for a turnaround in Dirk Nowitzki’s final season in Dallas.
Wendell Carter Jr. +1400
Carter likely won’t fill up the stat sheets like Doncic and Ayton, but he’ll be featured on many highlight reels with his rim-running dunks and soul-crushing blocked shots. He might not have the highest ceiling of any of the rookies this year, but he might have the highest floor. He’ll be steadily good, and in years where top rookies suffer from an injury or under-perform, steadily good is all it takes to win Rookie of the Year.
Harry Giles +2200
Giles is a redshirt rookie with major injury red flags. He’s also on a Kings team with too many young big men in a league running away from big man play. But he also might be the most talented of the bunch that also includes Willie Cauley-Stein, Marvin Bagley III, and Skal Labissiere. He should have every opportunity to prove that on the floor. Giles was considered the best player in his high school class and a lock for the number one pick until a knee injury ended his only season at Duke. The Kings selected him 20th overall, sat him out last year, and now look to have a steal on their hands as Giles has wowed in summer league and the pre-season. A healthy Giles has the chance to put up big numbers on what should be a terrible Kings team. A comeback season would be a great story for Giles and add a nice touch to the ROY conversation.
Atlanta Hawks UNDER 23.5 (-130)
The Hawks should not be good this year. They should be actively bad. They should give their young players all the playing time they need to develop no matter how hard the growing pains. This translates into losses and lots of them. And high draft picks. And a hopeful turn-around. Trust the process, and take the under.
Boston Celtics OVER 59 (-140)
The Celtics recently said they have what it takes to beat the Warriors in the finals. They’re a hungry team that almost made the NBA Finals last season without two of their top players. They’re deep enough to keep winning and give their most valuable players rest. They’re young enough to handle the push of an 82 game season without sacrificing stamina for the playoffs. They’re experienced enough to TKTKT. They’re well-coached and will be prepared for anything any opponent will throw at them. This is a combination that should lead to the best regular season record in the East, and possibly the entire NBA.
Milwaukee Bucks OVER 48 (-120)
The Bucks pushed the Celtics to the brink of elimination in their first-round playoff series last season. New head coach Mike Budenholzer lead the 2014-15 Hawks to a 60-win season and looks to continue that regular season success with Milwaukee. The team is set up to make a run at the wide-open East. They’re lead by a super-duper-star in Giannis Antetokounmpo who is surrounded by a very strong supporting cast. They can shoot, they’ve got length at every position. And they can throw different defensive looks at anybody they play. They should be a team to be reckoned with in the East and push past the 50-win benchmark this year.
New York Knicks UNDER 29.5 (-150)
The Knicks don’t really have a reason to be good this year. Kristaps Porzingis may sit out the entire season to rehab his torn ACL, which would not bode well for New York’s win column. The rest of their roster is a mix of players trying to find their way, That search for identity should extend to the team as a whole this season, which should lead to losses piling up for the Knicks.
Utah Jazz OVER 49.5 (-145)
The Jazz finished last season fifth in the West with a 48-34 record. They’re a team on the rise with a budding superstar in Donovan Mitchell, a defensive anchor in Rudy Gobert, and the right pieces around them to bring it all together. They’re well-coached, and look to make the leap into the top tier of teams in the West. There’s a great chance they do just that this season.
It’s difficult to see this season ending with anyone but the Warriors bringing home the title, which is why they are sitting at -180 odds to do so. But all dynasties eventually fall, and another will rise in their place. Will this be the year for that? Most likely not. But since this is about our favorite bets, we’re going to leave the Warriors out and say the money is better spent on these teams.
Boston Celtics +550
This team probably has the best chance of any to beat a healthy Warriors in a playoff series. They have the star-power, the depth, and the coaching to match up physically and mentally with Golden State.
Milwaukee Bucks +7000
While I don’t necessarily think the Bucks will win the title, I like the +7000 odds on them doing so. They gave the Celtics fits in the playoffs last year, and have the type of roster that can disrupt any lineup they’re up against. They’ve got a new coach, a new energy, and a newly-jacked superstar looking to make the leap into another stratosphere, bringing his team along with him for the ride.
Los Angeles Lakers +1200
This is our “maybe the Warriors will have a terribly unlucky season and someone else will have to come out of the West” pick. Houston is tempting at +800 but something just seems like if it was going to happen for them it would have been last year. Utah is interesting at +4000 but they don’t have what the Lakers have – LeBron James. He’s that much of an x-factor any team he’s on has to be considered in talks about title contenders. And as I said previously, even though the team right now might not be set up to win a title, there’s a lot of time and a lot of room for the Lakers to make moves that can set them up to be before the end of the season.