After an extended vacation along with a visit to Team USA camp in Las Vegas alongside Sheridan over the summer, my NBA gambling column is back.
We absolutely NAILED last year’s NBA Championship winner (at 14-1, too, I might add) and I’m excited to be back on deck for the 2015-16 season.
I’m going to kick things off with a series of preseason gambling predictions. We’ll cover all the major awards, division winners and even find where the value lies in the NBA Championship and conference winner markets. You can also expect to find plenty of NBA betting hints, tips and tricks along the way.
We start with one of the NBA’s most coveted awards: The Most Valuable Player.
The tricky thing from a gambling perspective is that there is no real definition, criteria or guidelines for voters selecting an MVP. Each voter uses the criteria of his/her choosing.
In my opinion James Harden was the Most Valuable Player in the league last year. Without him I don’t see how that Rockets team would have won 35 games, let alone the 56 wins Harden led them to.
However, I also believe that Steph Curry had a better season than Harden did in terms of quality of production – and so the confusion of the award continues.
I’ve noted a basic criteria that an MVP winner must meet. Now remember, there is a big difference between MVP candidates and MVP winners. Perennial ‘in the conversation’ guys don’t pay the bills when it comes to gambling. We are looking for guys capable of taking a leap to the next level.
MVP winners MUST
- Score points – Steve Nash is the only winner of the award since before I was born (1991) to average less than 20 points a game.
- Be on winning teams – well above .500
- Play the majority of the season – 80% of games (65 games out of a possible 82)
- Prioritize offense over defense – the last 10 winners (yes including LeBron) were all significantly better offensive players than they were defensive players during the regular season.
So let’s take a look at the early NBA MVP market for the 2015/16 season
First things first, let’s weed out the players with no chance at all. I forbid you to throw money away on these players. These guys are the awards pretenders. PUT A LINE THROUGH THEM.
DeMar DeRozan, Tim Duncan, Marc Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, Al Jefferson, Andrew Wiggins, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant (despite what colleague Shlomo Sprung wrote), LaMarcus Aldridge, Jimmy Butler, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Derrick Rose, Paul George and Chris Paul.
LeBron James, Anthony Davis, James Harden, Steph Curry, Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, John Wall, Kawhi Leonard and DeMarcus Cousins.
Do you see a theme above?
Apart from LeBron, they are all young players with plenty of upside left in their careers. They are all capable of producing ‘career years’ this season. Ask yourself, if the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge hasn’t come close to producing an MVP season yet as the number one guy in Portland, what makes you think he can do it in his 30s while possibly on a on a minutes restriction in a very balanced Gregg Popovich offense? 22-1 seems awful odds.
Where’s the value?
Remember, value doesn’t necessarily mean higher odds. A value bet is a bet whose odds have a probability value higher then the real probability of it happening. Take LeBron for example. His odds of 3/1 state that the bookies believe he is a 25% chance of winning the award. Whether or not you believe his chances are higher or lower than 25% will define whether you believe he is a good value betting proposition or a bad one.
LeBron James 3/1
The King is still the best player in the League but has much bigger fish to fry. Expect the Cavs to monitor his minutes and give him a few nights off.
Anthony Davis 4/1
I’m a HUGE Anthony Davis fan, however I have doubts on his team winning the 50+ games he’ll need to contend for this award.
James Harden 5/1
He should have won the award last year, and natural improvement and Ty Lawson relieve him of some ballhandling duties. That should improve his efficiency. Houston is going to win a lot of games this year.
Steph Curry 11/2
I can’t knock him, but I don’t think I want to bet on him at those odds. There may be an element of ‘he’s already had his MVP vote from me’ amongst ballot holders.
Kevin Durant 13/2
He looked good at Team USA camp in Vegas, but coming off that kind of injury it’s hard to get excited about his value. The Thunder have more depth this season and they should be able to nurse Durant through the first half of the season.
Russell Westbrook 11/1
You probably need Durant to miss 20 games this season to get excited about Westbrook’s MVP chances. Is that conceivable? Absolutely! If you like him, hard to argue with his odds.
Blake Griffin 14/1
The Clippers had a good offseason… eventually. The good thing about all of their acquisitions for Blake’s MVP chances is that they are all role players. They will not necessarily take food off his table. They have good depth, which will mean Chris Paul will be able to sit more and Blake will emerge as their ‘best’ player.
Kawhi Leonard 50/1
Huge Kawhi fan. When he was healthy last year he was one of the 5 best players in the league. He’s the only member of the Spurs I could consider for MVP betting.
John Wall 50/1
If he can shoot the 3 like he did two years ago, I think he can average 20 points, 10 assists and almost 2 steals a game. On a team that looks a lock to be top 4 in the East.
DeMarcus Cousins 90/1
Don’t laugh! I’m buying the Kings this season as you’ll find out in coming weeks. Boogie is the best center in the NBA and will have no direct competition on his team for MVP votes.
VERDICT: Small speculative bets on Cousins, Wall and Leonard. The bigger bets on Blake Griffin and James Harden.
Jake Henson works for a corporate bookmaker in Australia and will be providing regular NBA gambling advice throughout the season. Follow him on twitter and tweet him your thoughts on any betting market that tickles your fancy – @jwhenson_