How is everyone’s NBA Awards futures bets going? We break down the favorites for each award, examining how they have earnt favoritism and whether they can keep it. For those that like a sleeper with long odds, we have also added one roughie that people may have forgotten about to provide some extra value!
Most Valuable Player
Favourite: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
2020-21 Stats: 25.8 PTS, 8.0 RBS, 7.8 AST, 1.1 STL, 0.6 BLK, 50.9% FG
LeBron James shot to clear favoritism for MVP early in the season and is still favorite on most sportsbooks. At age 36, in his 18th season, James is leading the Lakers in their defense of their 2020 Championship, currently with a 24-13 record and in fourth place in the West.
While fourth in the conference doesn’t stand out from the crowd, they are just one game behind second place, 3.5 games behind Utah in first and only half a game behind Philadelphia, who are first in the East.
The thing is LeBron isn’t just 14th in points and ninth in assists, something we are more than accustomed to by now, but he is third in individual defensive rating, while the Lakers lead the league in that category. One thing that many cristise James on as he has gotten into the later years of his career is his lack of presence on defense, but it is obviously something that he is focusing on and only trails Rudy Gobert and Joel Embiid in that area.
.@ShannonSharpe on who’s the MVP for the 1st half of the season:
“The best player in the NBA is LeBron James, but given what Joel Embiid did last night, that was unbelievable. I’m going to say Embiid has a slight lead in the MVP race.” pic.twitter.com/uTSw75TyZF
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) March 4, 2021
Speaking of Embiid, he is the second favorite for the award, but where James has the edge is that through the Lakers’ first 37 games, he has played in 36 of them, only missing one game that the Lakers lost.
Embiid has missed six games, and while the Sixers have gone just 1-5 in those games which highlights his importance, that is a lot of games to be missing in the shortened 2020-21 season and James’ ability to play at such a high level, in nearly every game is a true testament to him.
Halfway Point Sleeper: Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers
Defensive Player of the Year
Favourite: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
2020-21 Stats: 14.2 PTS, 13.1 RBS (9.8 DRBS), 1.5 STL, 2.7 BLK, 53.2% FG
Rudy Gobert, who won this award in 2018 and 2019, had his Defensive Player of the Year award streak broken by Giannis Antetokounmpo last year, but he is back and as good as ever on the defensive end.
Gobert averages the second most blocks, third most rebounds and has the equal second most double doubles this season. When looking at defensive metrics, the 7’1 frenchman has a defensive rating of 101.7, clearly the best in the league with Joel Embiid in second sitting on 104.3. The distance between Gobert (1s) and Embiid (2nd) is larger than the distance between Embiid (2nd) and Draymond Green (7th).
On top of that, Gobert has helped the Jazz sit fourth in team defensive ratings at the halfway point of the season, have the best net rating and the best overall record in the league.
Early Season Sleeper: Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
Rookie of the Year
Favourite: LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets
2020-21 Stats: 15.8 PTS, 6.0 RBS, 6.3 AST, 1.6 STL, 0.4 BLK, 44.9% FG
Without jinxing him, this is Lamelo Ball’s award to lose now. It seems that the only thing that would prevent him from winning the award was an injury, *TOUCH WOOD*.
While not missing a game for the entire season, Ball started on the bench and showed glimpses of incredible play but was unable to consistently be efficient, costing him a shot at starting. However injuries enabled James Borrego to insert Ball into the starting lineup 15 games ago and he hasn’t looked back since.
LaMelo Ball’s last 5 games:
30 PTS – 6 REB – 8 AST
24 PTS – 4 REB – 12 AST
22 PTS – 7 REB – 6 AST
20 PTS – 4 REB – 8 AST
21 PTS – 7 REB – 4 AST
Give him his respect. pic.twitter.com/yNOOC1SW68
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) March 2, 2021
Ball leads all rookies in points, rebounds, assists and steals whilst helping Charlotte to sixth in the Eastern Conference, and an 8-7 record since starting. He has been controlling the floor for the Hornets, leading them in assists and steals, and has made highlight plays as well as winning plays for his club.
Early Season Sleeper: Tyrese Halliburton, Sacramento Kings
Most Improved Player
Favourite: Jerami Grant, Detroit Pistons
2020-21 Stats: 23.4 PTS, 5.3 RBS, 2.9 AST, 0.8 STL, 1.1 BLK, 43.3% FG
Given Christian Wood has missed the last 13 games and a total of 17 out of 34 for the season, Jerami Grant is now the clear favorite for Most Improved Player.
After moving from Denver last year due to being promised more opportunities from Detroit, Grant has definitely received those and made the most of them. Some of his statistical increases are: +11.4ppg, +1.8rbg, +1.7apg and +1.1 threes per game.
Grant is the only main scoring threat on the Pistons and while they have been playing poorly as a team, they are just 1-2 without him so far this season and his increases in performance have warranted attention.
Early Season Sleeper: Julius Randle, New York Knicks
Coach of the Year
Favourite: Quin Snyder, Utah Jazz
2020-21 Record: 27-9
It is honestly surprising that Quin Snyder isn’t shorter in the odds here as the Utah Jazz have clearly been the best team to the midpoint of the season. Their 27-9 record is three games better than any team in the league and the Jazz went on a 21 game stretch where they went 20-1 overall.
While Utah stumbled into the All Star break, losing two straight and three of their last four, they still boast the best record and the best net rating in the league. Utah’s 9.04 net rating is so good, that the gap between them and Phoenix in second, is bigger than the gap between Phoenix and the Lakers in seventh.
Western Conference Coach of the Month Quin Snyder led the @utahjazz to a 12-2 record in February. During this period, the Jazz are averaging a league best 16.9 3PM & 46.3 RPG.
Congrats to Coach Snyder & the entire Jazz coaching staff on this award for the 2nd consecutive time! pic.twitter.com/NMmlNLgZfE
— NBA Coaches Assoc. (@NBA_Coaches) March 2, 2021
After finishing sixth, fifth, fifth and fifth in the West the last four years, Snyder has his team playing the right brand of basketball and it is finally translating to wins. The Jazz are the only team that are top five in offensive (3rd) and defensive (4th) rating this season and their head coach is a big driving force behind that.
Early Season Sleeper: Steve Nash, Brooklyn Nets
Sixth Man of the Year
Favourite: Jordan Clarkson, Utah Jazz
2020-21 Stats: 17.9 PTS, 4.0 RBS, 2.3 AST, 0.9 STL, 0.2 BLK, 44.7% FG
Jordan Clarkson is playing incredibly off the bench for the Utah Jazz and is a big reason why they are the best team in the league so far this season. Averaging career highs in points, rebounds and free throw percentage, Clarkson has grown into his role as the shot maker off the bench since joining the team via trade halfway through last season.
Clarkson’s 96.7% from the line leads the NBA among qualified players and his efficient play is what has allowed him to thrive in the third best offense in the league. He can play as the primary ball handler of the second unit, especially when Mike Conley is out and Joe Ingles starts, but can also thrive off the ball as a spot up shooter and slasher.
With career highs in usage and true shooting percentage, the Jazz wouldn’t be where they are without Clarkson and given his locked in role off the bench, he is the clear front runner here.
Early Season Sleeper: Chris Boucher, Toronto Raptors
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