The NBA regular season is right around the corner!
Many of you must be thinking, "boy that was quick!" In reality, they are starting late. The bubble was a fun experience but now it's time for teams to get back into their home arenas, albeit without fans.
With the season tip-off about a week away, I thought it would be a good time for me to go through some of my favorite futures bets for the upcoming 2020-21 season. All of the latest odds can be found by visiting DraftKings Sportsbook.
Western Conference Winner and NBA Championship
Let's keep it light and straight-forward here. I like the Lakers to repeat as Western Conference winners (+140) and NBA Champions (+275). Outside of injuries I don't see how the Lakers can be dethroned.
Eastern Conference Winner
The market opened up with the Milwaukee Bucks as the favorite to win the East (+230) and likely meet the Lakers for the NBA title. Even with Giannis Antetokounmpo locked up, I don't think the Bucks are that good, and can't wait to put my money where my mouth is on Christmas Day when they face the Golden State Warriors. The Money Line dripper will be back for that one.
MORE ON GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO'S MAX EXTENSION IN MILWAUKEE
The Bucks were bad in the bubble but their trouble actually started around the beginning of March last year. They closed out the shortened 2019 -2020 regular season going 4-9 and went 5-5 in the postseason. The Brooklyn Nets are going to be a trendy futures bet in the East, but Kevin Durant and the always drama-filled Kyrie Irving won't run through some of the veteran teams in this conference. I like the Celtics (+550) led by Jayson Tatum to make the leap to the NBA Finals, Miami (+650) will be a tough out and I won't be so quick to right off the Raptors (+800), but when Kemba Walker gets healthy I think he can guide Boston back to the NBA Finals.
Most Valuable Player
Giannis Antetokounmpo walked away with his second straight MVP award putting together another great season. He averaged 29 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists per game. Before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the sports world the Bucks looked like the best team in the NBA but once play resumed in Disney the Bucks did not look like the same team. They struggled in Orlando and left the bubble earlier than they thought they would.
DraftKings Sportsbook opened up their futures market with Giannis as a co-favorite for the league's most prestigious individual award along with Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic (+400), and that's my pick for 2021.
Coming into his third season Doncic appears to be ready to take the league by storm. He's had some great individual moments in the bubble including his show-stopping game-winner vs the Clippers. The Mavericks will have to fare better as a team for Luka to win the award, but I think they are good enough to finish in the top half of the Western Conference. A 1-4 seed should be enough for Luka to take home the hardware.
I have two more players that I will be laying a few bucks on to take home the league MVP. I have a feeling Boston's Jayson Tatum is getting ready to take his already dominant game to the next level. Tatum is a skilled baller playing for a historic franchise. If Boston is in position to have the top seed in the East, Tatum at +1600 to win the award makes for a nice bet. I'm also going to throw a few bucks on Atlanta Hawks Point Guard Trae Young at +6000, Young is a very talented young superstar, the Hawks will be a playoff team in the East this year and I truly believe Young has an MVP in his future, it may not happen this year but +6000 is very good odds.
Rookie of the Year
The award for the league's top rookie will be very interesting this season. Last year was the Ja Morant show, and at one point the Grizzlies guard was -1100 to win the award which he eventually took home. In 2018 Luka Doncic was a clear choice. This year Lamelo Ball opens up as the favorite.
I think LaMelo will be a highlight reel player. His fancy passes will wow fans and get shared a ton on social media, plus the hype around his family name will make him a household name. I often refer to LaMelo as the NBA's version of Odell Beckham Jr. The youngest of Lavar's boys has swag on top of swag, but swag alone won't win the award or games; just ask Odell.
Golden State Warriors rookie James Wiseman will play good minutes on a good team, and at +600 odds he is a very solid option. The same thing goes for New York Knicks rookie Obi Toppin. He will play quality minutes in a high profile market. The team won't be good, but any improvements to their win-loss record can be an added plus for him.
The player that really intrigues me is Chicago Bulls rookie Patrick Williams the Bulls picked Williams with the fourth overall pick in the draft. He is listed as a small forward, but he can defend and play multiple positions, Williams is a fast learner with a great attitude, and if his offensive game comes around I think he can be a steal at +2200
Most Improved Player
In 2019, this award went to New Orleans Pelicans' forward Brandon Ingram. Fans initially tuned into Pelicans games to see Zion Williamson, but left impressed with Ingram.
This season we see Oklahoma City's Shai Gligeous-Alexander and Denver's Jamal Murray as the co-favorites to win the award at +1200. Both are solid options, but I like a player from the next group.
De'Andre Ayton, Michael Porter Jr, and Coby White all come in at +1600 via DraftKings Sportsbook, I worry about injuries when it comes to Ayton and Porter Jr. so my money will be on Chicago's 2nd-year point guard Coby White. In his last nine games of the 2019-2020 season, Coby White averaged 26 points per game. The former Tarheel has already seen some success early in the preseason, and working with Bulls new Head Coach Billy Donovan will only make White better.
Speaking of Zion, he is +5000 to win this award, so it would be silly not to place a few bucks on him if he can catapalt his game to the next level. Additionally, Hawks forward De'Andre Hunter at +5000 is also an intriguing name to throw in the mix.
NBA Leading Scorer
This is a fun bet to sweat if there are multiple names battling it out for scoring champ. James Harden is the favorite at +125, but I'm not going to be a "square" like our colleague Frankie Taddeo calls our other colleague Bill Enright. So, in the spirit of "Frankie Fat Stacks," I'm going to go off the board a bit and go with Phoenix Suns bucket getter Devin Booker, "The Basket Cooker."
D-Book was phenomenal in the bubble averaging 30 points per game and leading the Suns to an undefeated record in Orlando. With success comes confidence and also Chris Paul, apparently! Paul will make Booker an even more lethal scorer so I love this bet at +1100. Also, this market opened up with Booker at +1660, so we may be on to something.
I will also put a few bucks on another bucket getter, Bradley Beal in Washington D.C, Beal playing along with Russell Westbrook could open him up for more looks. Washington will not be good on defense again this season, so that pace of play could help Beal load up on volume scoring, and is currently +2000 to win.