We are at the NBA’s midseason point and this is a great time to check in on the NBA awards market. Most of the awards have a minus favorite but there are a few value bets out there. In this article, I will find those value bets to capitalize on!
(Editor’s note – SGPN NBA writer Daniel Vreeland also has some advice for these awards, which you’ll see sprinkled in below)
NBA Rookie of the Year
Evan Mobley currently is the odds on favorite to win the Rookie of the Year and rightfully so. Mobley has been a huge part of the success thus far for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who as of today are the #3 seed in the Eastern Conference. He is averaging 15.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per contest. He ranks top three amongst rookies in scoring and rebounds.
One player in particular who currently has value for this award is the #1 overall pick Cade Cunningham. Cunningham was battling injuries earlier this season but is back on the court for the Pistons and playing at a high level. In fact, Cunningham has improved in scoring, field goal percentage, and free throw percentage every month. Additionally, Cunningham also leads in scoring amongst rookies this season. If Cunningham can continue improving his stats there is a bit of value at +550 for Cunningham to close in on the award.
Best Bet: Cade Cunningham +550
Daniel Vreeland’s Take:
The Case to Go Chalk
It’s pretty rare that you see NBA futures odds this early in the season with a negative number on them. However, that’s just how dominant Evan Mobley has been. The Cavaliers have been one of the biggest surprises of the year and it’s partially due to the 15 points and eight boards that Mobley has been supplying. He’s also been great on defense and is firmly in the top ten in blocks.
The Case to Not Go Chalk
The reason not to go chalk here has far less to do with Mobley than it does with the nature of NBA futures odds. He does seem like the obvious pick here, but a lot can happen in half a season. I’m not fading him here by any means, but I do think playing those kinds of odds before the All-Star break is a little crazy.
If there is another guy on this list that makes you second guess a play on Mobley, it’s probably Cade Cunningham. He’s actually outscoring Mobley in points per game and isn’t all that far behind him in rebounds. Maybe not an obvious case to overtake Mobley, but given the hip issues Mobley has had, he’s close enough that an injury could make the switch happen.
He may not be the most consistent name on this list, but my God does Josh Giddey put up crazy numbers from time to time. The 19-year old Aussie became the youngest player in league history with a triple-double. He did so with 17 points, 14 dimes, and 13 boards – none even close to 10. He’s had games where he’s way up and others when he looks like an afterthought. However, if he were to put together a second half where he has a bulk of his games on the higher end, I can see him making people who got in on a +2200 NBA futures bet very happy.
NBA Coach of the Year
Monty Williams +120
J.B. Bickerstaff +320
Billy Donovan +650
Taylor Jenkins +650
Steve Kerr +800
Erik Spoelstra +800
After an incredible season last year and finishing second in the NBA Coach of the Year race, Monty Williams today is the odds on favorite to win Coach of the Year. Williams led the Suns to an NBA Finals appearance last year and they look to be headed in the same direction this season. Currently, the Phoenix Suns have the best record in the entire league at 39-9 and are one of the favorites to come out of the West. I can not argue with Coach Williams being the favorite.
As I mentioned above, the Cavs are the biggest surprise this season and are far exceeding expectations. First, the Cavs came into the season with a projected win total of 26.5. Currently, the Cavs have a record of 30-19 through 49 games. Next, the Cavs have battled season-ending injuries to their starting point guard Collin Sexton and backup point guard Ricky Rubio. With all that being said, J.B. Bickerstaff has the Cavs playing at a high level. Furthermore, they are the best team against the spread thus far this season. Now I know that is not accounted for in the voting process but from a betting standpoint it is impressive. If you listened to the NBA Gambling Podcast, we gave out J.B. Bickerstaff at 40/1, 20/1, and 12/1. Bickerstaff is on pace to have the biggest win improvement year over year this season.
Best Bet: J.B Bickerstaff +320
NBA Defensive Player of the Year
Draymond Green has helped the Golden State Warriors become the best defensive efficient team thus far this season. However, I believe there is a player who is climbing the odds who can have a shot to win this award. That player is Jaren Jackson Jr. In the month of January, Jackson is averaging 3.2 blocks per game and has a total of 50 blocks. The Memphis Grizzlies also rank #6 in defensive efficiency in the entire league. I know it will be difficult for Jackson to make a case but I can not ignore how dominant he has been thus far. If he keeps this pace up these odds are only going to continue to shorten!
Best Bet: Jaren Jackson Jr. +2000
NBA Most Valuable Player
Joel Embiid +240
Stephen Curry +330
Nikola Jokic +440
Ja Morant +1300
Devin Booker +2000
This is a difficult awards market because it is the most volatile in my opinion. Joel Embiid was +5000 at the beginning of the season and now is the odds on favorite. Further, Steph Curry was +900 at the beginning of the season and now is +330. Typically the regular season MVP leads the league in PER (Player Efficiency Rating). As of today, the reigning MVP, Nikola Jokic leads the league in PER. Additionally, Joel Embiid is second followed by Giannis, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant. The odds reflect this list. I do believe if Embiid continues the way he is playing he will be the MVP this season. For a pure value bet, if the Lakers can stay healthy and make a run in the second half of the season, +4500 on James is worth a pizza bet!
Best Bet: Joel Embiid +240 and Steph Curry +330
The Case to Go Chalk
Back in the day, the NBA scoring leader seemed to have an advantage when it came to winning the NBA MVP award. It wasn’t necessarily a rule, but the person putting up buckets tended to get plenty of looks for the prestigious award. That’s not the case anymore. None of the past five MVP award winners won a scoring title. However, a lot of them did have one thing in common – boards.
Four of the last five MVP winners finished in the top ten in rebounds per game. The only one missing from that top ten was James Harden in 2017-18. Not only does Joel Embiid have the boards that match this, but he’s currently contending for the scoring title as well, as he’s only behind Kevin Durant at the moment. If he were to finish in these positions with the Sixers poised to make the playoffs, it’d be hard to give it to anyone else. However, you may just want to wait a bit to see how the Sixers shake out before you log that NBA futures ticket.
The Case to Not Go Chalk
While Embiid has some gaudy numbers, the Sixers aren’t that far clear of the play-in games. Right now, they’re only three games clear of the Hornets for the seventh spot and a possible play-in tournament appearance. Should they fall that far down with a couple of bad games, it would really hurt the candidacy for Embiid’s MVP chances.
Whether the Sixers fall back or not, Embiid and crew won’t be the team that made the biggest jump or surprised the most people this year. After all, they had the number one seed in the East last year. Meanwhile, both Stephen Curry and Ja Morant have turned their teams around in one year from being in the play-in tournament last year to being legit contenders this year. That shift might make it close if the stats stay close as well.
My favorite NBA Futures MVP sleeper is the aforementioned Ja Morant. At the time of writing this, the Grizzlies are just three wins away from meeting their total from last year and it’s largely due to the play of Morant. He’s scoring seven points a game more than last year with two extra rebounds – all without letting his assist numbers slip. Plus, at 20-to-1 odds, it seems like it’s worth a dabble.