If not for James’ Harden’s 44 points in his debut, Trae Young of the upstart Atlanta Hawks would be leading the NBA in scoring after going for 37 and 36 in his first two games, both victories.
If not for a loss last night to the Charlotte Hornets, Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets would be the runaway early-season favorite for the NBA MVP award in the minds of many gamblers, no matter what the sportsbooks are saying about the probability of Luka Doncic or Giannis Antetokounmpo winning the award.
We are about to enter Week No. 2 of the NBA season, and the astute observer is noticing some trends.
Betting the hot hand
Some teams that were supposed to be good have started poorly; some teams that were supposed to be weak have started strongly. And as it rates to the futures markets, the place to find value right now appears to be the NBA Most Valuable Player market. A few folks are noticing.
Kyrie opened +6600, now +4000. Trae opened +8000, now +5000. Said John Ewing, a spokesman for BetMGM, “Of course, both are still longshots. Luka was the favorite entering the season and has seen his odds move from +400 to +350.”
But Doncic has not yet had a triple-double as the Mavs have opened 1-2, and the second choice, Giannis Antetokounpo, also plays for a 1-2 team and is shooting 58 percent from the line.
So there is an opening for folks following the overachievers, and five days into the season the only undefeated teams left are Cleveland, Orlando, Indiana, Atlanta and Oklahoma City. Nobody expects the Cavs, Magic and Thunder to keep this up, but the Pacers and Hawks could be top four teams in the East if the heavily bet Celtics and Sixers falter.
Domantas Sabonis had a triple-double on Saturday and is averaging a career-high 24.3 points per game. He can be wagered at odds ranging from +10000 at BetMGM.com to +25000 at both DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook.
But Sabonis is not a prolific scorer on an up-and-coming team. The same cannot be said for Young and the Hawks, who have a young, strong nucleus of Young, John Collins and Clint Capela that have been joined by veterans Bogdan Bogdanovic, Rajon Rondo and Danilo Gallinari. The Hawks are a sleeper team, +40000 to win the Eastern Conference and +100000 to win the NBA championship. But they are tied for third in the NBA in scoring (behind the Rockets and Lakers) at 123 points per game, so that should not be viewed as an aberration. Their point differential of 15.0 is third behind the Lakers 17.4 and the Lakers’ 17.3.
According to FanDuel spokesman Kevin Hennessey, the biggest odds movers have been the following four players:
- Kyrie Irving: Opened: +4900; Season start: +6500. Today: +5500
- Trae Young: Opened: +8500; Season start: +6500. Today: +6500
- Ja Morant: Opened: +25000. Season start: +19000. Today: +8500
- Zion Williamson: Opened+ 19000; Season start: +3600. Today: +3600
Irving is an intriguing MVP futures player because of the start he got off to in the Nets’ first two games before passing up the game-winning shot Sunday night and passing to Kevin Durant, who missed in a loss to the Hornets. Irving is averaging 29.3 points per game on 61.1 percent shooting, the latter number up from his career average of 46.7. (Nobody is taking action on Irving for Most Improved Player). The Nets are at home Monday against Memphis as Irving will square off against Ja Morant, a must-see game on a night with a mere five games.
“Kyrie was 50/1 and Trae was 60/1, and we took a $1,000 bet on Trae at 100/1 before the start of the season,” William Hill spokesman Kyle Whatnall said.
DraftKings has taken only 3 percent of the handle and 3 percent of the bets on Young, and 3 percent of the handle and 2 percent of the bets on Irving, spokesman Parker Winslow said.
Brooklyn also is home Wednesday against Atlanta, when Irving can be measured against Young. If the Hawks defeat the Pistons tonight, they will enter that game undefeated, although likely not favored.
And while we are on the subject of favorites, it is worth reporting that the Clippers were favored by three Sunday in a game that they lost by 51 points against Dallas. The under was 7-3 Sunday after going 5-5 a day earlier. Over the first couple days of the season, the unders were hitting at a very high rate.