With NBA fans taking a break from their day jobs over the holiday period, social media has been awash with fierce debate over the three main awards.
All three have a considerable betting favorite, but with the season not yet at its halfway point, there’s still plenty of time for a surprise winner to creep up.
The Most Valuable Player award, in particular, has been broken wide open due to an injury, while the Rookie of the Year might not be as obvious as first thought, either. Meanwhile, the Sixth Man of the Year seems as though it could be handed out right now, but in a time where narratives drive opinion, there’s one sneaky undercover candidate demanding consideration.
Most Valuable Player
James Harden is out in front at -110, and at this point, only LeBron James is visible in the rearview mirror at +225.
Harden’s numbers have been otherworldly and have barely taken a hit despite Chris Paul returning to the lineup. His 34.4 points and 10.1 assists in November have dipped ever so slightly, but when you’re adding Paul, you can afford to drop to 33.6 points and 8.1 assists per game in December.
There is no question that the numbers are there for Harden. In fact, you could argue the numbers have been there before. The issue for The Beard in previous seasons was that the eventual winner had an intriguing narrative. That could be an issue again.
Approaching his 33rd birthday, James is having one of the best seasons of his career. He’s once again leading his team through the regular season without breaking a sweat, and until Tuesday, he had done it without his start point guard.
If the season ended today, Harden could be handed the award without any complaints. But prepare yourselves, Rockets fans: The idea that LeBron steals it by the end of the season isn’t as farfetched as you think.
The news Harden will miss at least two weeks with a hamstring strain has already given James’ chances a boost. Only two MVP’s since 1977-78 have missed more than seven games in a season.
Odds provided by William Hill
Rookie of the Year
Ben Simmons (-1000) had this award wrapped up by the end of November, but December has unearthed two candidates clapping at the heels of the Australian.
Scoring 19.5 points per game on 40 percent shooting from beyond the arc in the final month of 2017, Kuzma has shot his way into the ROY conversation (+700). He’s become a go-to guy for the Lakers down the stretch highlighted by the two — albeit terrible — attempts to win their game against the Rockets on New Year’s Eve.
It looks as though Kuzma will play 34 minutes a night for the rest of the season, so the Utah product’s averages will continue to rise, and his name will become more and more prevalent when it comes to voting time.
That said, Simmons’ biggest threat is Donovan Mitchell. The Jazz rookie has effectively unseated veteran Ricky Rubio as Quin Snyder’s No. 1 ball-handling guard, and he and continuously repays his coach’s faith.
The 21-year-old’s November numbers were solid, but Mitchell became everyone’s favorite player in December.
His 23.1 points on a touch over 50 percent shooting hasn’t been enough to lead the Jazz to regular wins, but it has given his ROY odds a boost to +600. Having not even been available as a preseason option on some books, Mitchell is now the next name mentioned after Simmons.
That’s not to say he doesn’t overtake him by the end of the season, though.
I’ve never seen All-Star players flock to a rookie after the game quite like they do for Donovan Mitchell.
Opposing players love the kid.pic.twitter.com/z8HVpR60SF
— Jason (@SportsJO13) December 24, 2017
Odds provided by William Hill
Sixth Man of the Year
The ROY award isn’t the only one with a head-and-shoulders, clear-cut favorite.
Eric Gordon (-1000) would need to fall over tomorrow and not play again for anybody else to be within striking distance of the award.
As an integral part of one of the elite teams in the West, Gordon is averaging 19.4 points per game off the bench despite shooting his worst percentage from beyond the arc since 2012-13. In saying that, the 34.3 percent he is shooting is nothing to scoff at. He is, after all, hoisting 9.5 3-pointers a game, behind only James Harden and Steph Curry.
Gordon is everything the Rockets and Mike D’Antoni need off the bench, and so far, he’s producing at a level that will see him individually recognized at the end of the season.
And that was all true before the news that Harden will be out for a fortnight. Gordon’s inclusion in the starting lineup will only boost his numbers before he returns to the bench and further increase his chances at his second straight award in this category.
— NBA (@NBA) January 1, 2018
But if he Gordon doesn’t make it to the end of the season, who takes it?
Tyreke Evans (+100): Out of nowhere, Evans has revitalized his career coming off the bench in Memphis. On the back of his career-high 42.6 percent 3-point shooting, the 28-year-old has been diamond in the rough for the 12-25 Grizzlies, averaging 19.6 points a night.
Lou Williams (+100): After propping up the Lakers last season, Williams has been forced to do the same for the Clippers in 2017-18. As a professional scorer, you can always rely on Sweet Lou to fade left and hit a few shots. What you don’t expect is for the 31-year-old to average 21.4 points per game, but that’s the state of the Clippers right now. Blake Griffin’s return should result in that number dropping, though.
Dwayne Wade (+100): Award voters love a narrative, and after effectively benching himself to start the season, Wade may have extended his career. The switch has allowed the 35-year-old to take charge of the second unit before playing a key role down the stretch on both sides of the floor.
His numbers don’t scream 6MOTY, but his name, age and position in the standings will all help his case when the ballots are being filled in.
Odds provided by Betfair
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