The NBA season has just surpassed its halfway point, which means futures markets like awards and NBA Finals odds are starting to come into fairly clear focus. Time still exists to move the needle, of course. But bodies of work are taking shape in meaningful ways.
In that same vein, NBA.com’s Mark Medina assembled a midseason survey. Made up of the responses of 30 beat writers from around the league, the survey provides a snapshot of where various markets sit at the halfway point. By comparing these snapshots with the betting market, we can discern differences and hunt for potential value.
Let’s dive into the results that have relevance to the markets.
NBA Finals, Playoff Futures
The respondents to the survey started by ranking the top 10 teams.
|Team||Survey Points||NBA Title Odds|
|Boston Celtics||293 (25 first-place votes)|
|Milwaukee Bucks||231 (1 first-place vote)|
|Brooklyn Nets||218 (4 first-place votes)|
|New Orleans Pelicans||148|
One thing is clear right off the bat: the media strongly believes in the Boston Celtics. One can easily see why. They have the best point differential in the league, the best record in the league and the best non-garbage time efficiency differential in the league, per Cleaning The Glass. CTG has them first in offense and sixth in defense.
Coming off a season in which they made the finals and many thought had a stronger team than the eventual champion Warriors, it makes sense for Boston to be tabbed as the eventual likely winner.
Overall, the survey responses pretty much mirror the market. There’s a bit more belief in the high end of the Nets than the Nuggets. That’s understandable since the Nets have two stars who have helped lead championship teams, giving them an experience edge at the highest level.
Value In Warriors, Clippers?
The media does see clear potential upward mobility in two West teams: Golden State and L.A. Clippers. They finished far ahead of their peers in “Which team is poised to make a big second-half run?” They combined for 70% of the votes there.
The market still believes in the Warriors big time. With title odds of and West odds of , there isn’t much room to find value.
However, the Clippers ( to win title, to win West) may provide some. Kawhi Leonard has played in less than half of the team’s 45 games, Paul George in 30. Yet, they still sit in decent position, sixth in the West.
Leading the vote for which team will win the West at 34% (narrowly ahead of the Nuggets), the media has a clear opinion that the Clippers are undervalued.
Mark Medina’s Take
“I think with the Clippers these two different questions represent two different snapshots. Best teams in the NBA right now in this current moment, to your point, the Clippers didn’t get any votes. Clearly, they’ve been underachieving. They’ve been dealing with a lot of overlapping injuries, whether that’s actual injuries or load management. There is optimism that they can get to the NBA Finals.
“One, I think that some voters still have in the back of their mind that on paper they still have a lot of talent and depth. I think that there is a feeling that you can plug and play these guys and the lack of continuity isn’t going to be as much a factor as it was the first season with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. I think it also exposes how wide open the Western Conference is as a whole. Unlike the Eastern Conference, there weren’t really any predominant favorite teams. There’s a feeling that it’s up for grabs. There’s a lot of good teams but no dominant team.”
Video: Interview With Mark Medina On NBA Midseason Survey
NBA Awards Futures
Now, let’s look at how the media sees the various awards races. Note that, unfortunately, none of the sportsbook have yet been adventurous enough to set a market for the Clutch Player of the Year. Therefore, we’ve omitted that one.
|Player||Votes||NBA MVP Odds|
The market slightly favors Nikola Jokic. The media slightly favors Luka Doncic. Both see the same clear top two, with one young European phenom trying to stop the other from a nearly unprecedented MVP three-peat.
The Mavs remain afloat at fifth in the West, but the Nuggets sit in first, giving Jokic a clear inside track. While he has collected MVP awards the past two seasons, this team-level success still represents a clear step up. It may garner him some votes from those hesitant to award MVP to a leader of a down-ballot team.
The market considers Jayson Tatum and Giannis Antetokounmpo much closer competition to these two than the survey respondents. After another 51-point masterpiece on Monday and with Boston potentially running away with the top seed, Tatum in particular keeps building a strong case.
Mark Medina’s Take
“I thought that there would be almost like a top-five feel of everyone has a chance. And here, it seemed very clearly it’s just neck-and-neck between Nikola Jokic and Luka Doncic.
“With Luka’s play, he’s just been posting triple doubles and carrying the Mavericks. There’s also credit where if you remove Luka Doncic, would the Mavericks basically be a lottery team? They’d probably be competing for ping pong balls.
“With Jokic, obviously he’s been very consistent with his play. There hasn’t really been much of a voter fatigue as of now. The Nuggets are a team that is actually contending in the Western Conference. I know that some voters feel that is something that is very important.
“What I’m curious about moving forward is if these are the themes that are going to stand the test of time, to what degree will voters place importance on being a winning team? Because if that’s a thing, clearly Nikola Jokic is the favorite candidate. Because I don’t think the Dallas Mavericks are going to be a contender in the Western Conference. That variable might very well dictate who winds up hoisting that trophy.”
Rookie Of The Year
Not much to see here. Paolo Banchero has stepped into an immediate high-volume role and shined. Barring an injury, it seems he has the award locked up already.
Defensive Player Of The Year
|Jaren Jackson Jr.||27%||-135|
Unlike the other two awards, we do see a major disagreement between the media and the market here. The media likes Brook Lopez as the favorite, while the market actually favors Jaren Jackson Jr. over the field.
Both player anchor top defenses. Per Cleaning The Glass, Memphis has the top defensive efficiency with the Bucks right behind at No. 2.
Lopez has a sizable edge in volume, playing in 43 of his team’s games compared to 27 for Jackson, who opened the season injured.
Rate stats point to Jackson. He has a massive efficiency differential — +8.1 on/off team defensive efficiency compared to Lopez’s +3.7 — and eye-popping block numbers. Jackson led the league with 2.3 BPG last year and has somehow leaped up to 3.3. If he stays on the court, he’ll have a case, but he’s one injury away from ceding this to Lopez on the basis of volume.
Mark Medina’s Take
“Jaren Jackson Jr., for how effective he has been as a defensive player, he hasn’t always been available. He’s been on the floor for 704 minutes out of a possible 2,074 total minutes. That includes 16 games in which he didn’t play at all. That may have been a significant variable. When you look at his body of work when he has been available, he’s been very effective.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those favored odds toward Lopez went toward, hey, he’s had an established resume of what he’s brought defensively, as well as Jaren Jackson Jr.’s injury challenges at the beginning of the season.”
Sixth Man Of The Year
|Player||Votes||6th Man Odds|
Again, a strong media/market disagreement with NBA futures. Not listed here (but also receiving votes) was Russell Westbrook, who leads the market, favored over the field. His odds currently sit at .
Yet, if the Lakers maintain their poor standing — they’re still 1 1/2 back of even being in the play-in — it’s hard to see him garnering such fierce support.
If the voters are right about the Warriors pushing up the standings, and Jordan Poole continues heating up, he looks like solid value. Poole started the season ice-cold, but he’s up to 21/2.3/4.4 on 55/32/87 shooting splits. (Editor’s note: Poole moved into the starting lineup on Jan. 16. If he starts 20 more games, he won’t be eligible for the award.)
Most Improved Player
|Player||Votes||Most Improved Odds|
This time, there’s clear agreement on a top two. The other is flipped, much like the MVP poll, but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lauri Markkanen appear neck-and-neck for Most Improved Player at the halfway mark. Both players have made jumps, but Markkanen has made the biggest efficiency leap for sure. It could come down to which team remains on the fringes of playoff contention after preseason expectation had them competing for the top draft pick.
Tyrese Haliburton has some intrigue as a down-ballot longshot. Also named most underrated in the polling, Haliburton has led a shockingly competent Pacers team to a potential playoff run. Again, team success down the stretch looms.
Coach Of The Year
|Player||Votes||Coach Of The Year Odds|
Most operators don’t offer updated Coach of the Year markets, unfortunately.
In any case, of what we did find, there does appear to be some disagreement. Joe Mazzulla has led the Celtics through off-court turmoil that saw coach Ime Udoka suspended for the entire season. With the Celtics seeming to put that behind them and dominating the league, Mazzulla has a good narrative plus on-court combo. He’s the favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook.
However, the media likes the work of Jacque Vaughn and Willie Green more.
Vaughn has entered as an in-season hire and righted a very shaky Brooklyn ship. A massive winning streak surged them to second in the East. But, with Kevin Durant on ice for awhile, their position looks precarious. Still, snagging a top-three seed given the situation when he arrived would count for a lot.
Green has the Pelicans third in the West despite a hail of injuries. Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram have both missed significant time, but the depth of the roster has shined. Again, if Green leads the team to a top-four seed despite injuries, he’ll have a case.
Good luck with and NBA futures you decide to bet.