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By Alex Lauzon from the “Course of Life” podcast
As always… that was quick.
The time warp of the NBA offseason is in the rearview. We sit mere days away from the season tipping off. So this is the time to find extreme value on teams and players before the marathon begins.
I’m well aware that sitting on preseason futures for the entirety of the season is a low liquidity bet, but if you’ve hit one before you know how amazing the payoff is. If you don’t know, well… then that’s why you’re reading!
More than any sport (I would contend), the NBA is a league full of “me-first” competitors who care deeply about end-of-year hardware, even if it’s just for them and not for their team’s performance. With that, let’s unpack who has a chance to bring home the trophy for the NBA Season, with some bonus thoughts on each conference’s landscape.
League MVP (2022 Winner = Nikola Jokic)
Once again the Dad Bod God doubt sets in on Jokic, with oddsmakers not even listing the two time defending MVP in the top three favorites to win it again and three-peat (+1100). Luca Doncic, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo all sit next to each other as the favorites around 5-to-1 odds, and out of that pack I like my chances with Giannis (+550) getting the Bucks back atop the East and emerging as a favorite in the spring. Looking further down the list, Steph Curry at +1300 or Lebron with a rejuvenated Lakers squad at +1800 to win could be long-shot plays.
Defensive POY (2022 Winner = Marcus Smart)
As a Celtic fan, there was pride in seeing Smart win this honor. The defending champ sits also at +1100 odds to reclaim the title, FWIW, and ironically not even the Celtic with the best odds to win as big man Robert Williams posts up at +1000. Obviously, the Goliath in this category is three time champion Rudy Gobert (2018, 2019, 2021) wh goes off as the betting favorite at +450, and he’ll be hard pressed to be beat. Williams can’t stay healthy and Smart won’t repeat, so I’m looking at Bam Adebayo (+700) to take the title for the first time, or Kawhi Leonard (+2800) returning to win this award again.
Rookie of the Year (2022 Winner = Scottie Barnes)
Last season #4 overall pick Scottie Barnes got it done for the Raptors. This year we’re looking at #4 pick Keegan Murray (+550) to be a breakout in Sacramento for the Kings, who frankly need some hope. Murray and Jaden Ivey out of Purdue are tied for the second lowest odds at +550 to win behind prohibitive favorite Paolo Banchero (+200), who shined at Duke and will take his talents to Orlando to create some magic of his own.
Sixth Man of the Year (2022 Winner = Tyler Herro)
Always an interesting award, as the winner is typically who by all accounts WOULD start on most NBA rosters, but circumstances have them as the sixth man. Tyler Herro (+450) is pretty much evenly paired around 4 to 1 odds to win this award again alongside Jordan Poole, the breakout sixth man for the Warriors who shined in the NBA finals. Malcolm Brogdon (+1400) is my semi-biased pick and should really thrive in a bench role for the Celtics. If you’re looking to take a flyer, 2020 Champion Montrezl Harrell is worth a glance.
Most Improved Player (2022 Winner = Ja Morant)
This is a fascinating award because you only get it once in your career. Last year, Ja Morant earned the title with ease for what he did for the Grizzlies. It arguably could have gone to Anthony Edwards last year, so is this year his turn to be recognized? At +900 Edwards feels like the necessary and honorary recipient, if he continues to leap the way his game did last year. Tyrese Haliburton is the co-favorite at +850 to win, and if you still have any hope left for Zion Williamson, he’s going off at 20 to 1 odds to win.
Coach of the Year (2022 Winner = Monty Williams – Phoenix)
A gossip filled category to say the least, as the betting favorite Ime Udoka was pulled off the sportsbooks as he deals with HR turmoil, scandal and a year long suspension looming. With that, this category defaults to champion Steve Kerr as the +700 favorite? I don’t see that narrative playing out even if the Warriors look great, so I’m looking to play Ty Lue with the Clippers (+1000) for Coach of the Year.
Odds to win the Eastern Conference (2022 Winner = Boston Celtics)
The Celtics, Bucks and Nets all find themselves atop the odds to win the east, but all have questions. There’s in-house scandal and drama in Boston with their suspended coach, Milwaukee’s core did not come through in postseason crunch time like years prior, and will the Nets really all be out on the floor and put it all together? When I see these headlines, it makes me look for more value. The Sixers (+750) or the Heat (+800) both have chances to slide into the fray if distractions continue in the east. Miami has one three away from winning the east and the Sixers are due for a break or two in the postseason.
Odds to win the Western Conference (2022 Winner = Golden State Warriors)
I’m relatively high on the Clippers (+325) to do big things, but can they tame the Warriors in a 7-game series? I’m still not sure, so Warriors +250 is the most square play I have for your winner in the West. I’m not seeing a world where any of these squads present the challenge to tame a wiser, bolstered GS team. If you’re feeling randy and want the West to be shaken up, then take a look at Ja and the Grizz at +1000 or Mavericks +1100!
Alex’s WAY too early Picks to win it all:
Warriors +700 and Heat +1800