The operator opted to prematurely reward those who’d previously bet on “the Beard” to win the 2018-19 NBA MVP award. The announcement of the early payout came shortly after yet another eye-popping stat line by Harden in an interconference battle versus the Boston Celtics:
🚨NBA MVP EARLY PAYOUT ALERT🚨
We've seen enough here at PointsBet HQ. That stepback over Kyrie & Tatum was from a 2 Time MVP Winner…
— PointsBet Sportsbook (@PointsBetUSA) March 3, 2019
Harden racked up 42 points over 39 minutes in an on-the-road win versus Boston. That pushed his season averages to 36.7 points, 7.6 assists, 6.6 rebounds and 2.2 steals over 59 games. The scoring and steal averages both represent career highs.
Among the many highlights of his jaw-dropping campaign is a just-snapped 32-game streak of 30-point efforts. That ranks as the second-longest such stretch in league history.
In other words, the payout seems a reasonably safe proposition at the moment. But, it’s not as if Harden is without competition.
The Thunder’s Paul George likely represents the biggest threat to PointsBet potentially taking a bath on the decision. Like Harden, PG13 is also enjoying a career season. Despite sharing the floor with a former MVP in Russell Westbrook, George leads OKC with a career-best 28.6 points and is notably outpacing Harden in rebounds (8.1) and steals (2.3).
The Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, the aptly nicknamed “Greek Freak,” is likely the only other relatively serious challenger for the MVP crown. He’s behind both with an average of 27.6 points per game. However, his average of 12.6 rebounds is easily the highest of the trio.
Accordingly, PointsBet currently lists the three, in that order, in terms of current MVP odds:
- Harden: -125
- George: -110
- Giannis: +900
PointsBet’s move comes on heels of FanDuel’s early payout
PointsBet’s move is newsworthy, but not unprecedented, in the New Jersey market it recently entered.
On Dec. 1, FanDuel Sportsbook became the first legal operator in the United States to engage in an early payout. It was one it ultimately wouldn’t have had to make, had it stayed put.
On that date, FanDuel Sportsbook cashed out all customers who’d placed futures bets before Nov. 30 on the Alabama Crimson Tide winning a third national championship in four years.
At the time, the Tide seemingly had a leg up on the handful of potential candidates for the mantle of college football’s top team after another perfect 12-0, regular-season mark. The listed odds (at the time of FanDuel’s decision) of -280 reflected as much.
Of course, the best-laid plans of mice and men (and sportsbooks) and all that good stuff.
The Clemson Tigers ultimately handed Nick Saban‘s crew a 44-16 shellacking in the national championship game on Jan. 7.
Ultimately, FanDuel paid out $40,000 on the early bets and an additional $42,000 on winning wagers involving the Tigers. And it’s worth noting the former figure doesn’t include parlay bets including an Alabama win that didn’t close out until after the date of the game.
PointsBet strives to stand out in a crowded field
The Harden payout is the second significant ripple in the NJ sports betting pond that Australia-based PointsBet has made recently.
In the latter portion of February, the operator announced a marketing-focused partnership with Topgolf in the state that will mostly be centered around major sporting events. The most imminent example of such is a March Madness-themed Hole in One competition that will unfold at the Topgolf’s Edison and Mount Laurel locations.
It will feature a $25,000 grand prize to be awarded March 23.
Like FanDuel, PointsBet surely feels reasonably confident that the money it just shelled out was leaving its coffers later this year anyhow.
And if the “never say never” scenario plays out and say that George takes home the MVP in an upset? PointsBet is undoubtedly banking on the goodwill and promotional benefits of its move making it worthwhile over the long term in an increasingly competitive New Jersey market.
With NBA All-Star Weekend in the rear-view mirror, how do oddsmakers view the remainder of the season?
The Golden State Warriors are not surprisingly odds-on favorites to threepeat, listed around -210 at New Jersey sportsbooks. While they do not own the league’s best point differential (that belongs to the Milwaukee Bucks, more on them shortly), FiveThirtyEight agrees with their favorite status, projecting them at 62% to win the title.
Are the Bucks undervalued?
Led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee owns the NBA’s best record (43-14, followed by the Toronto Raptors at 43-16 and Golden State at 41-16). More importantly, they own the best point differential, often the best indicator to a team’s overall strength, at +9.8. Golden State is the next closest at -7.1, 2.7 points lower. The Bucks have the best defensive efficiency rating (Golden State is 16th) and fourth-best offensive efficiency rating (Golden State is 1st).
Despite all of this, Milwaukee is only the third favorite to win the final on BetStars NJ at 10/1 (+1000), and third at FanDuel Sportsbook at +1200 (tied with Philadelphia). On BetStars, they’re the fourth favorite to win the Eastern Conference at +300 behind the Raptors (+250), 76ers (+275) and Celtics (+275).
2019 NBA Title Futures Odds
Meanwhile, Lakers not expected to reach playoffs
This was probably not how LeBron James expected his first season in LA to go, is it?
James, usually an injury-proof iron man, has missed significant time this season. He was unable to orchestrate a trade for Anthony Davis. And his team is on the outside-looking-in of the Western Conference playoffs.
At 28-29, the Lakers are a full three games out of the eighth seed. At one point during the season, LeBron & Co. were -600 to make the post-season. Now, the Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas has them as an underdog to make the playoffs.
When most kids his age were enthralled by NBA 2K5, Zion Williamson already had his sights on gracing its cover someday.
Fast forward 14 years. The dominant force nicknamed “Zanos” by his teammates is on the precipice of both video-game- and real-world NBA stardom.
The 18-year-old has been outclassing older opponents since his AAU days thanks to outstanding athleticism and a frame that always belied his age. Incidentally, those metrics currently check in at a whopping 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds.
The Duke Blue Devils ultimately won the Williamson Sweepstakes after his stellar high school career at Spartanburg Day School. He’s rewarded the program with averages of 22.0 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per contest as a freshman.
But, like the Brahma Bull he portrays on the hardwood, Williamson is seemingly too overwhelming to keep confined in the college ranks for more than one year.
Zanos is headed to the NBA this June. The one question — will he be a top overall pick before his 19th birthday?
Unsurprising odds on favorite as top pick
DraftKings Sportsbook is making him the clear favorite for the honor.
Williamson’s chances of being selected No. 1 overall this June are currently listed as a hefty -2000 on Draftings. The gulf between Williamson’s odds and those of the next closest player are about as wide as the talent gap between him and many of his opponents — teammate R.J. Barrett checks in behind Williamson at +550.
There’s been some buzz that Murray State’s Temetrius “Ja” Morant, a dynamic guard that owns multiple school records, could potentially usurp Williamson at the top of the draft. DK Sportsbook doesn’t appear convinced. Morant checks in behind both Williamson and Barrett at +650.
Naturally, no prognostication of which player is most likely to be taken first overall is complete without also evaluating what team might be in position to nab him. And that becomes a more interesting exercise this year than in the past. When the annual NBA Draft Lottery unfolds May 14 in Chicago, it will do under slightly different rules.
Thanks to changes approved by the NBA Board of Governors in September 2017, the teams with the three worst regular-season records will now all have a 14 percent chance of garnering the top overall pick.
Previously, the “top seed” — aka team with the worst regular-season mark — had a 25.0 percent chance. The second and third seeds had a 19.9 percent and 15.6 percent chance, respectively.
Likely top five lottery teams all hungry for Williamson’s skill set
With that in mind, a look at the five worst records in the NBA at the All-Star break and their corresponding DK Sportsbook odds of claiming Williamson at the top of June’s draft:
- Phoenix Suns (11-48): +450
- New York Knicks (11-47): +450
- Cleveland Cavaliers (12-46): +450
- Chicago Bulls (14-44): +600
- Atlanta Hawks (19-39): +700
Without necessarily evoking that dirty “T” word, let’s just say that each of the Suns, Knicks and Cavaliers would be exceedingly motivated to secure the rights to the versatile Williamson:
- The Suns swung and missed badly at power forward high in the draft in recent years with the likes of Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss.
- Then, the Knicks seemingly put up a massive neon sign welcoming Williamson to town when they unexpectedly jettisoned Kristaps Porzingis to the Mavericks in a recent blockbuster trade.
- And let’s just say that despite Cedi Osman‘s solid play this season, the Cavaliers could move some things around to accommodate a player that could bring back an elite level of play to the small forward position in Cleveland following the departure of that LeBron guy (again).
As the team that currently has the fourth-best chance (12.5 percent) of garnering the No. 1 overall pick, the Bulls would also be highly likely to hone in on Williamson with that selection.
Yes, recent first-round picks Chandler Hutchison and Lauri Markkanen slot in at the two forward spots at present. However, Williamson is widely regarded as a generational talent that could potentially displace Hutchison, for example.
What’s more, Zion is believed capable of playing some small-ball center. That’s a role he could aptly fill in the Windy City as a complement to another former Blue Devil, Wendell Carter, Jr.
The arrival of NBA’s All-Star Weekend is far from the basketball sports betting wasteland one might initially assume. Yes, the six-day break in the regular season brings a departure from the nightly smorgasbord of games to choose from. Yet there’s actually still plenty of hardwood action to plunk cash down on.
No other professional league has managed to turn their All-Star proceedings into as dynamic and multi-layered an event as the NBA. By the time the actual All-Star game rolls around Sunday — a contest that actually may be the most dubious to handicap of all the weekend’s wagering options — there will have been plenty of other opportunities for those who want to continue getting their NBA betting fix.
DraftKings Sportsbook offering odds on All-Star Weekend events
This year’s All-Star extravaganza unfolds in Charlotte, North Carolina at Spectrum Center, home of the Hornets. There are events spread throughout three days, beginning with Friday’s All-Star Celebrity Game.
In addition to the All-Star game itself, DraftKings Sportsbook is offering odds on the Rising Stars Challenge, the Skills Challenge and the Three-Point Shootout.
Notably, there were odds initially made available on the Slam Dunk Contest as well, although those were subsequently pulled. An e-mail to DraftKings seeking comment on that decision has yet to be replied to as of this writing.
Rising Stars Game- Team World vs. Team USA (Friday, Feb. 15)
Favorite: Team USA -3
Moneyline: Team USA -155/ Team World +128
Projected total: 290.5
The Rising Stars Game has been in its current format since 2016. It pits two squads of at least three rookies and three second-year players. Each roster typically consists of four backcourt players, four frontcourt players and two swingmen. The game is formatted into two 20-minute halves.
Notable participants on each roster include:
- Deandre Ayton (Suns)
- Bogdan Bogdanovic (Kings)
- Luka Doncic (Mavericks)
- Lauri Markkanen (Bulls)
- Ben Simmons (76ers)
- John Collins (Hawks)
- Trae Young (Hawks)
- Kyle Kuzma (Lakers)
- Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
- Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
Skills Challenge (Saturday, Feb. 16)
The Skills Challenge competition was first instituted for 2003 All-Star Weekend. The contest is formatted as a single elimination tournament.Skills tested are ball-handling, passing and shooting.
The participating players face off against the other in pairs and traverse an obstacle course while dribbling around obstructions, successfully passing into a suspended net and draining a three-pointer from the top of the key. The first player to score the trey is declared the winner of the pairing.
The final round is guaranteed to feature a matchup between a guard and a center. The defending champion, Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets, won’t be able to participate in this year’s contest due to recent thumb surgery.
DK Sportsbook’s odds for each participant are as follows:
- Luka Doncic +400
- De’Aaron Fox +400
- Trae Young +500
- Mike Conley +550
- Nikola Jokic +600
- Jayson Tatum +600
- Kyle Kuzma +700
- Nikola Vucevic +750
Three-Point Shootout (Saturday, Feb. 16)
The Three-Point Shootout is the longest-tenured of All-Star Weekend’s complementary events, having been instituted in 1986. For the first time, the field has been expanded to 10 participants this year.
The contest features five racks of five balls set up around the three-point area of the court. Four of the balls are worth one point apiece. A fifth one — a red, white and blue ball — is considered the “money ball”. Successfully draining a trey with the money ball nets two points instead of one.
Each participant gets one minute to put up as many three-point attempts as they can. The maximum possible score in each round is 34 points. The top three scores advance to face off in the championship round.
This year’s defending champion is the Suns’ Devin Booker, who checks in with the second-highest odds of winning again behind the Warriors’ Stephen Curry. Booker set a record last year for most points in a round by racking up 28 of the possible 34.
DK Sportsbook’s odds for each participant are as follows:
- Stephen Curry +215
- Devin Booker +450
- Joe Harris +450
- Seth Curry +600
- Buddy Hield +650
- Damian Lillard +800
- Danny Green +1150
- Kemba Walker +1150
- Khris Middleton +2000
- Dirk Nowitzki +3000
All-Star Game- Team Lebron vs. Team Giannis (Sunday, Feb. 17)
Favorite: Team LeBron -6
Moneyline: Team LeBron -245/ Team Giannis +195
Projected total: 310.5
The weekend is capped off with the 67th NBA All-Star Game. This year will mark the second edition of a format that sees two team captains putting together a roster from All-Star eligible players. The player selection process was televised for the first time this year.
Typically featuring precious little defense, the All-Star Game traditionally generates NBA 2K-like statistics and combined point totals. Even so, a projected total of over 310 points may seem absurd at first blush. But it comes off as almost stingy when considering the numbers generated in four of the last five ASGs, contests that featured many of the stars that will play an integral part in this year’s game:
- 2017: 374 points
- 2016: 369 points
- 2015: 321 points
- 2014: 318 points
After both LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo finished their selections and executed a Russell Westbrook-for-Ben Simmons trade, the final All-Star squads shape up as follows:
- LeBron James
- Kevin Durant
- Kyrie Irving
- Kawhi Leonard
- James Harden
- Anthony Davis
- Klay Thompson
- Damian Lillard
- Ben Simmons
- LaMarcus Aldridge
- Karl-Anthony Towns
- Bradley Beal
- Dwyane Wade
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Stephen Curry
- Joel Embiid
- Paul George
- Kemba Walker
- Khris Middleton
- Nikola Jokic
- Russell Westbrook
- Blake Griffin
- D’Angelo Russell
- Nikola Vucevic
- Kyle Lowry
- Dirk Nowitzki
Other wagering options also available
In addition to the event-based odds just listed, there are naturally also plenty of prop– and parlay-based wagering options. These include odds on the MVP of each game, as well as various parlays involving both the Rising Stars Challenge and the All-Star Game itself.
The first half of the NBA season is in the books. Well, between 57 and 59 games are completed, leaving between 25 and 23 games remaining on respective schedules.
A brief moment of silence for the league’s ability to understand how math works.
All-Star Weekend has arrived, a lackadaisical convention in Charlotte signifying the homestretch toward the playoffs.
Yet something interesting has happened that forces us to reflect on what happened during the “first half” of the season. It’s not the fact that the Golden State Warriors, ruiners of NBA sports betting, don’t own the league’s best record or even the second-best record. (Respect, Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors.)
The lightning rod of hate, the titan of tampering, has garnered mass attention from bettors, particularly in New Jersey.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook data in NJ, LeBron James received the most betting action among individual players so far this season. Despite the King missing 18 games just ahead of All-Star Weekend, James still drew more attention for individual performances such as over/under totals on points in a game, among other player-specific prop markets.
That’s ahead of Houston’s James Harden, who’s eclipsed 30 points in 31 straight games that’s tied for the second-longest streak in NBA history. It’s ahead of Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid as well as Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, the league’s next generation of stars.
But that is only the beginning of what we’ve learned from NBA betting thus far.
It’s the Warriors’ title to lose
The season began as it has each of the past few years: Golden State will win the NBA championship.
This year was, and still is, even more to the extreme. From the season’s get-go, pundits crowned the Warriors and looked ahead to the 2019-20 season. Golden State, after all, entered the season with a -200 line to win its third straight title. No other team over the past 30 years carried such heavy favorite odds.
Naturally, at both DraftKings and FanDuel Sportsbook, the Warriors have been the most wagered-on team in the league this season, ahead of the 76ers and Lakers.
For this exercise, though, who the Warriors play — and could potentially lose to in the playoffs — becomes more entertaining.
Per DraftKings, the most popular Warriors opponent wagered on has been the Boston Celtics, followed by the Lakers and 76ers. Additionally, Philadelphia, Boston and Los Angeles have been the most bet-on teams to claim the NBA title outside of Golden State, just ahead of Toronto and Milwaukee.
In-play betting is king for NJ sportsbooks
Just before the NBA season tipped off in October, Kambi Group, which powers DraftKings, introduced in-play betting for the 2018-19 season. The game had become “extremely popular over the last few years,” according to Kambi Head of Live Basketball Stefanos Moysidis. It had become faster and smarter with “teams relying on analytics more than ever before.”
Kambi recognized the demand of in-play wagering. And answered. As have other NJ online sports betting products.
FanDuel, for example, has seen in-game betting become a lynchpin for NBA action. According to the sportsbook, 45 percent of sports betting handle for NBA games have come via in-play betting.
Interestingly, no other market has emerged as a go-to for bettors. Moneyline wagering and “other bet types” represent 30 percent of bets, while point spread and over/under totals come in at 27 and 13 percent, respectively.
Risers and fallers for NBA futures
No other sport has a trade deadline quite like the NBA. The first month and a half of the new calendar year features a spinoff of sorts to the NBA season. Yes, the Warriors are great, and who can dethrone them? Harden is balling, as is Russell Westbrook, averaging a triple-double for the third straight season, has logged an NBA-record 11 straight triple-doubles.
But the trade deadline takes center stage until early February. While the Pelicans did not deal Anthony Davis, as many anticipated, futures odds did shift for several teams after the deadline passed.
According to DraftKings, the Philadelphia 76ers, after shedding Markelle Fultz and acquiring Tobias Harris, among other moves, jumped from 16/1 to 14/1 odds to win the title. The Bucks, with the addition of Nikola Mirotic, went from 14/1 to 11/1 post-deadline. And the Raptors, who brought in Marc Gasol, inched up from 9.5/1 to 9/1 odds.
While Golden State remains the odds-on favorite to win the NBA championship (-225 at DraftKings, -210 at FanDuel), the gap has closed a tad. The Raptors and Bucks have risen to the second- and third-favorites, respectively. Even Philly has climbed, to a fourth-place tie with Boston (DraftKings) and a third-place tie with Milwaukee (FanDuel).
Since the start of the season, the Bucks (70/1 to 11/1) have made the biggest jump in NBA title odds at FanDuel, followed by Toronto (18/1 to 9/1). Even the Denver Nuggets, with the second-best record in the Western Conference and fourth-best leaguewide, have leapt from 100/1 to 30/1.
The flip side of that conversation is just as fun to soak in.
After opening at 7/1 to win the title, the Rockets have slipped to 14/1 at FanDuel. The Lakers went from 9/1 to 22/1, and the Celtics slid from 6.25/1 to 12/1. Going back to the Davis drama, the Pelicans have plummeted from 35/1 season-opening odds to win the championship to 150/1.
The NBA: It’s fantastic.