Hard to believe there are only 12 days left until the start of the 2020-21 NBA season. But 2020 being the year of surprises, we are here to surprise you with a dozen NBA wagering opportunities that the major US sportsbooks have put up.
Sadly, US laws prevent anyone from wagering on which team James Harden will play for next. But it is pretty certain that the Rockets are going to be a lesser team than they were a year ago – even if Harden stays. Their over/under win total is 34.5 at PointsBet, which means they are looked at as a .500 team after being a legit championship contender when Mike D’Antoni was the coach, Chris Paul was the point guard and super small-ball was all the rage.
That said, the Rockets do have an interesting player making an injury comeback in DeMarcus Cousins, who was an All-Star before tearing his Achilles tendon and missing nearly two full seasons. He leads off our dozen of fun wagers:
12. Sixth Man Award
Cousins is +8000 at BetMGM to be the Sixth Man of the Year, which assumes that he will be coming off the bench behind newly acquired Christian Wood, plus can return to something resembling the form he had four seasons ago when he averaged 27.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Lou Williams is the favorite here at most books. He is +450 to win it at PointsBet.
11. Most Valuable Player
The chalk says it’ll be Luka Doncic or Giannis Antetokounmpo, because those guys are freaks who put up freakish stat lines night-after-night-after-night. But voters go for guys who exceed expectations, and that is where taking a flier on someone who leads an overachieving team might be worth while.
FanDuel Sportsbook spokesman Kevin Hennessy said his book took $50 on Karl-Anthony Towns at +12000. Another worthy FD flier pick is Jamal Murray of Denver at +10000.
At PointsBet, Doncic (+380), is currently head and shoulders above the rest in terms of bets placed, accounting for 38%. Behind Luka is Damian Lillard (+2000) at 13.5%, and Devin Booker (+3300) at 11%, PointsBet spokesman Patrick Eichner said.
FanDuel has LeBron James listed at +1500.
“We are excited for the NBA to tip off and we are rolling out our offerings every day until the start of the season,” Hennessy told TheLines. “As we do every year, we like to go deeper to offer our customers more ways to win with unique markets like NBA division winners and ‘To Make the Eastern Conference Play-in Tournament.’”
The largest single individual award wager taken by DraftKings so far is Doncic for $1225 at +450, according to DraftKings Sportsbook spokeswoman Remington Parker.
10. Rookie of the Year
Winning means nothing in this category as far as voters are concerned. It goes to the guy who puts up crazy numbers and makes Top 10 Plays of the Day on a regular basis, as Ja Morant did for Memphis last season. LaMelo Ball and James Wiseman are the chalk.
With the Knicks set to again be terrible, they will give heavy minutes to their rooks. Immanuel Quickly is +7500 at William Hill. Obi Toppin is +550 at PointsBet.
9. Over/under win totals
Everyone is ga-ga over the Los Angeles Lakers, and for good reason after they improved in the offseason by adding Dennis Schroder, Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell. But everyone overlooks the Portland Trail Blazers, who were damn good in the bubble with Jusuf Nurkic putting up monster numbers at center. They added Robert Covington in the offseason, and it says here they are the second-best team in the West. Their win total over/under (with the NBA set to play a 72-game season) at PointsBet is 40.5. They should hit 41 by late March.
8. Most Improved Player
This is a very, very subjective category that went to Brandon Ingram of New Orleans after he was traded from the Lakers and became an All-Star for the Pelicans. So if you look for a similar formula – a young player who got traded and now will play big minutes: how about Markelle Fultz of Orlando? Fultz finally started looking something like the player he was in college at Washington last season with the Magic. He is +5000 at DraftKings.
For what it’s worth, Eichner said PointsBet took a $1000 bet on Christian Wood (Houston) at +2500.
7. Leading rebounder
You would have to be nuts to bet against Andre Drummond of the Cavs, who has led the league in boards in four of the past five seasons and will likely do so again as he plays out the final season of his contract. His odds are very short — +120 at PointsBet. If you are feeling frisky and looking for a flier, though, Nurkic averaged 10.3 boards in limited minutes for the Blazers in the bubble as he came back from a broken leg. If he plays in the 38-minute range (he averaged 31 in the bubble), he has a shot.
6. Leading scorer
Harden has led the league in scoring each of the past three seasons, but a prolonged holdout could keep him from qualifying for the scoring title. And remember, the Rockets hold leverage over him because even though he wants to be traded, Houston needs to get a motherload of value back if they are going to deal him. Devin Booker of the Suns finished ninth in the NBA last season but scored 30 or more in five of eight bubble games. And now he has Chris Paul feeding him the ball. Booker is +1100 at DraftKings Sportsbook.
5. Most assists
LeBron James is the favorite at +275 at DraftKings after leading the league in this category this past season, but he has been vocal about having Anthony Davis carry more of the load this season, and the Lakers also now have a true point guard in the starting lineup with Schroder. Trae Young (9.3 assists per game) was second and Doncic and Ricky Rubio tied for third (8.0) last season. Lonzo Ball of New Orleans, who will have a healthy Zion Williamson to feed throughout the season, after averaging 7.0 last season, is +3300 at PointsBet.
4. Coach of the Year
The guy who should have won it last season, Erik Spoelstra, suffers from a lack of respect from his peers because of their jealousy toward Spoelstra’s boss, Pat Riley. So that will work against him, even though at +1200 he has the second lowest odds at PointsBet behind Brad Stevens at +900. Among the favorites are Doc Rivers (+1400), Frank Vogel (+1400), Rick Carlisle (+1400) and Steve Kerr (+1500).
3. To win Eastern Conference
Let’s face it. The Lakers are winning the West unless James and/or Davis gets knocked out for the season with an injury. Lest we forget, James has been to nine of the last 10 NBA Finals, so you really don’t want to bet against him. In the East, the Bucks and Nets are rightfully the favorites, and there is a lot of talk about Philadelphia acquiring Harden. But what if it is the Pacers who grab him? They have the means to do so. Indiana is +4000 to win the East at DraftKings Sportsbook.
2. To qualify for the playoffs
They have been under the radar all summer, though not for a lack of trying. Sources have said no team has been more active in pursuing possible trades than the San Antonio Spurs – who missed the playoffs last season for the first time in 23 years. The rules have changed this year, and teams 7-10 will compete in a play-in tournament to determine the Top 8. San Antonio is definitely a Top 10 team in the West, and they are +350 to make the final eight at BetMGM.
1. Most regular season losses
OK, Knicks fans. You want something to bet on other than Quickley and Toppin? Your team is going to be horrible, yet the Knicks have the same odds (+325) to lead the league in losses as the Cleveland Cavaliers, who will have Drummond for a full season along with one of the speediest backcourts in the NBA, and solid vet Kevin Love. No way these two teams should be treated as equals, yet that is what is on the board at BetMGM.