Handicapping the NBA: Futures New Year's Eve Edition
2021/01/01 08:05

We are just over a week into the NBA regular season and already there's been some notable jumps in futures bets. The Nets' early season dominance has helped the case for Kevin Durant's MVP odds, which has spiked to +700 in most sportsbooks. Save for his rookie debut, LaMelo Ball has more or less looked the part of a possible Rookie of the Year frontrunner with his odds slightly rising over the past week. And Christian Wood has taken advantage of the situation in Houston easily making his case as a possible Most Improved Player of the Year contender. There's still some value to be had, particularly in the aforementioned awards, if you want to hedge your bets along with a newcomer that sportsbooks haven't quite adjusted for yet.

Anthony Edwards Rookie of the Year (+500 on FanDuel)

We really didn't know what we'd get out of the 2020 No. 1 overall pick, particularly after ESPN's pre-draft expose which drew a number of raised eyebrows after the Georgia product was quoted as being dispassionate about playing in the NBA.

It's obviously early in the season, but Edwards is leading all NBA rookies in scoring (15.0) and is averaging the third-most minutes (25.3) among rookies who have played at least four games. You'd like to see the 19-year-old add a bit more additional counting stats to his resume, particularly assists given his expected competition are primarily guards, but much like Ball in last week's write up, there's already a well defined narrative propelling Edwards that guys like Tyrese Haliburton (another name to monitor) just don't have. I suspect Edwards' odds will hover in this range for much of the season, particularly if no obvious option emerges over the next couple of weeks.

Myles Turner Defensive Player of the Year (DraftKings +4000)

FanDuel and BetMGM were quick to adjust Turner's odds with the big man racing out to a league-leading 20 blocks through four games, but DraftKings evidently is content with their pre-season assessment.

Look, there's been one person in the history of the NBA to average over five blocks per game over the course of a season (shoutout to 1984-85 edition of Mark Eaton!) so it would take a truly unbelievable performance for Turner to continue at this torrid pace especially in today's game. But the Pacers center does at least have a history of being a rim-stopper, posting three seasons averaging at least two blocks per game, including the 2018-19 season in which he led the league (2.7 per game) in that category.

The problem has always been Turner's lack of minutes forcing the 24-year-old to fall drastically behind in terms of rebounds, and perhaps more crucially, defining "resume" games. The Pacers once again look to be a contender in the Eastern Conference, but that'll hardly be a feather in Turner's cap unless he can get on the court more. Otherwise, the law of averages will naturally lean in the direction of Rudy Gobert who is once again making a compelling case for the award.

The odds are too good "not" to make a bet on this, especially considering the NBA's history has been littered with big men struggling with injuries as they get older, but just understand there's a reason Turner was considered this much of a longshot entering the season.

Bradley Beal averages over 26.5 points in regular season (BetMGM -110)

I rarely look at these type of prop bets because so many things can go wrong without much of a payoff, but with Russell Westbrook now in Washington, this feels like a massive slam dunk. 

There wasn't any specific language regarding how many games Beal needs to play either, although if you're debating between "will this pay out if he gets hurt" or just taking the bet outright, it feels like a no-lose situation.

Beal averaged 30.5 points across 57 games last season and is actually attempting more field goals than he did in 2019-20. Perhaps a midseason trade puts Beal in a spot where his usage just falls off a cliff, but I'd still contend the All-Star will have created enough of a scoring floor early on where it won't matter.

Michael Porter Most Improved Player of Year (FanDuel +1100)

I know we touched on this in last week's article, but this will be your final time to get Porter over +1000 odds this year. Both DraftKings and BetMGM have lowered the odds below +1000 and I have a hard time believing FanDuel won't follow suit if Porter continues to post double-digit scoring efforts on a nightly basis.

Wood certainly seems like the odds-on favorite right now for the award, but those numbers could drastically change with John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins set to make their respective Rockets debuts sometime this week.

So long as Porter gets the minutes, it's hard not to assume he'll pull closer to even money with Wood as the season progresses and the Nuggets certainly haven't been shy with his playing time this season.