Post-All-Star Game NBA season is not just the stretch run to the playoffs. It is also the final gasp that each player will make as he pushes to bring home some hardware at the season’s end.
For all intents and purposes, the second half of the NBA season is a time when we can make some serious money on awards bets.
Often, players have been overlooked for a variety of reasons. Such as missing a few early games, lackluster early play, or even a sparing playing time to start the season.
Last season, Marcus Smart was +5000 to win Defensive Player of the Year around this time last season. He would go on to win the award.
We can’t guarantee that these picks below will cash out at those kinds of odds. But we do know that there is some value to be had here and that every current favorite will not end up winning the award.
Below I dive into the NBA awards odds, picks, and predictions to make before we restart the second half of the NBA season. Most teams have played between 58 and 61 games this season, giving us roughly 24 games, or 29.2 percent of the season, for players to make their mark.
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We have a clear favorite in the NBA for MVP this season, as Nikola Jokic would be the first player to win three straight MVPs since Larry Bird, who did it in the mid-80s. Jokic has been unbelievable this season, averaging 24.7 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 10.1 assists per game.
Joel Embiid (+450) again gives Jokic a run for his money, showing how big men in the NBA are proving their worth this decade. But the NBA Straw Poll by ESPN’s Tim Bontemps has again forced odds movement.
Last year, Jokic was an underdog to Embiid before turning to favorite status this time last season thanks to those results.
But this year, Jokic is a clear favorite, thanks to his 21 triple-doubles this season as of February 21st (11 ahead of Luka Doncic). This race should continue to be intriguing through the year, but Jokic’s team success should carry him to victory over Embiid, Antetkounmpo, and Doncic.
Frankly, Jokic’s advanced metrics are too historic to ignore.
Here is a list of every player in NBA history that averaged at least 25 points and eight assists per game with a usage rate of 30 percent or less:
|SEASON||PLAYER||TEAM||PPG||Usage Percent||Assists||True Shooting Percentage|
He is your midseason MVP. With the narrative in his favor and voter fatigue seemingly nonexistent, it appears that Jokic is on pace to three-peat this season, barring injury.
This award is now a three-horse race between Lauri Markkanen, Shai-Gilgeious Alexander, and Jalen Brunson. For weeks, Alexander was the favorite to win the award, but as of this week, those numbers flipped.
Brunson could have been had at +5000 on BetRivers just 10 days ago. But his performance has been immaculate in recent games. Let’s dive into some numbers where we break down players’ stats this season compared to their stats last season.
|PLAYER||PPG Differential||REB Differential||AST Differential||Player Efficiency Rating (PER) differential||Usage% Differential||FG% differential||3-point% differential||True Shooting% differential|
|Lauri Markkanen||+10.1 PPG||+2.9 REB||+.5 AST||+7.87 PER||+5.6 USG%||+6.8 FG%||+5.5% 3P%||+7.6 TS%|
|Shai-Gilgeious Alexander||+6.3 PPG||-.5 REB||-.2 AST||+6.33 PER||+1.9 USG%||+5.5 FG%||+4.3 3P%||+6.7 TS%|
|Jalen Brunson||+7.6 PPG||-.3 REB||+1.6 AST||+4.33 PER||+5.0 USG%||-1.7 FG%||+3.8 3P%||+.9 TS%|
Here’s the thing about this award and all awards: you can’t control the voters.
The reality is Brunson is having a fantastic season for the Knicks and has surprised the league with his play. He also plays in the biggest and best city in the world with a massive media presence that gives him plenty of shine night in and night out.
Statistically, though, he hasn’t actually improved that much this season. Rather, his usage rate has skyrocketed in his new home, giving him more of an opportunity to showcase his skills.
When you look at the other candidates, we have Markkanen, who also has seen a massive uptick in player usage but has also shown a significantly more efficient game.
Last season, Markkanen was the 162nd-rated player on ESPNs Hollinger PER chart. This year, he has climbed all the way up to 20th. This is even higher than Brunson, who is 28th this season. For reference, Brunson was 95th on the Player Rater last season.
Alexander was actually an excellent player coming into this season (36th on the player rater) but has missed a lot of games due to injury. Still, his skills have clearly improved, with a 5.5 percent increase in field goal percentage, jumping to No. 6 overall on the player rater, and a massive jump to 30.8 PPG for the Thunder from the mid-20s.
He also has barely increased his usage rate but still dramatically increased his production and percentages.
The major worry here is Markkanen and Alexander being shut down as their team’s tank for better chances at Victor Wembayama.
If that were to happen, Brunson would likely be the winning ticket. For now, let’s hold steady on the bets and see how each team proceeds as the season comes to a close.
This is the lone runaway award in the NBA this year, and the only thing that could ruin it is an injury. But for now, there’s no betting value anywhere here. You should’ve grabbed it when we mentioned it preseason at +350. If you missed it, go on to the next one.
Malcolm Brogdon’s checkered injury history worries me about laying juice on this award. But tons of sharp money is on Brogdon if you look at the handle percent that is provided to us by BetMGM, making it more than a reasonable expectation to expect him to win if he stays healthy.
The counterparts for this award that aren’t worth betting on at all are Russell Westbrook (+900) and Tyrese Maxey (+350). Westbrook is on a new team with a completely unknown role in Los Angeles.
The same can be said for Tyrese Maxey, who is barely a bench player. He has started 22 of 38 games. Frankly, he has missed too many games and started too many to even be considered.
If you are looking for a long shot, you could do worse than Christian Wood at +8000 on BetMGM, as the Mavericks will be in plenty of offensive shootouts as their backcourt defense allows blow-by after blow-by.
He has started 17 of his 48 games, but that might be the extent of his starting as Kyrie Irving’s acquisition will make it tough to start three offensively focused players at one time.
Still, Wood should still get plenty of run in Dallas and is averaging 17.8 and 8.0 rebounds per game. Perhaps he gets booted from the rotation altogether but oddsmakers at other books aren’t so sure. Giving him +3000 odds to win the award. +8000 is an excellent number at BetMGM.
History tells us that this award is based on statical performance and nothing else. Grab a small flyer on Wood and expect Brogdon to win this one going away, health permitting.
Last year I was burned by Bam Adebayo, “missing too many games to be considered for Defensive Player of the Year,” in the words of The Ringer founder and NBA award voter Bill Simmons.
I hope voters keep that same energy for Jaren Jackson Jr., who has played 40 of 57 games this season. Even the most minor injury that would keep Jackson out for a week or two should end his run at Defensive Player of the Year. That would put him right at Adebayo’s number of 28 games missed last season.
Then we are left to pick up the scraps and see who is worth a bet to win the award. There are really only two great options.
The first is Giannis Antetkounmpo at +3000 on BetMGM. He is playing his best basketball right now and is the league leader in Defensive Win Shares. Players are also shooting an abysmal 38.1 percent when defended by “The Greek Freak.”
That number is by far lower than any other candidate like Jackson (44.7 percent), Evan Mobley (45.6 percent), and Adebayo (48.4 percent).
The only issue for Antetkounmpo is his lack of steals (.8) and blocks (.8) per game. Both of those numbers would have to climb in order to truly be considered.
The other guy worth looking at is Bam Adebayo, who is averaging 1.2 steals and .8 blocks this season. But again, Jackson’s numbers far surpass this (3.3 blocks and 1.1 steals).
There is a Reddit/Twitter conspiracy theory running around about Jackson’s home vs. road splits and homecourt scorekeepers pumping up Jackson’s stats. That is primarily baseless, though, and his defensive stats are obviously impressive.
I’ll bet Giannis at these long odds and see how many games Jackson ends up playing as the regular season comes to a close. BetMGM is offering the best price at the time of writing.
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