NBA Futures Draft: Our Staff’s Favorite Bets for MVP, Rookie of the Year, More Season Awards
Getty Images. Pictured: (L-R) Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks, Jalen Green #0 of the Houston Rockets, head coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors.
The NBA season is long and the betting markets are vast.
If you just focused on the odds for regular season awards, you’d be looking at six different bets. And as you might expect, our basketball analysts are interested in betting all of those awards.
But instead of having them all agree on betting the few frontrunners for each award, we decided to get a bit more creative and draft their favorite picks.
Here’s the concept: They each draft their bets for six awards — Coach of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, Most Improved Player, and Most Valuable Player — plus one flex pick that can cover any award on the board. They had to wager a bankroll of $1000 across the seven picks.
You can see each writer’s picks and thought process on how they drafted each award winner below.
|Coach of the Year||Chris Finch (+4000)||BetMGM||$30|
|Defensive POY||Myles Turner (+1200)||Caesars||$150|
|Rookie of the Year||Cade Cunningham (+260)||Caesars||$500|
|Sixth Man||Immanuel Quickley (+3300)||FoxBet||$30|
|Most Improved Player||OG Anunoby (+2800)||DraftKings||$110|
|Most Valuable Player||Trae Young (+2100)||FanDuel||$150|
|Flex (MIP)||RJ Barrett (+4000)||FoxBet||$30|
I had the first pick and decided to take the “safest” choice in a thin field and then build the rest of my futures portfolio with that base.
Personally, I bet Jalen Green when the odds were better, but considering the odds shortening, I decided to take the player who was no doubt the No. 1 pick in the draft.
He has the opportunity, he has the playmaking ability, and it looks like his 3-point shooting is translating from the collegiate level. I am spending half of my budget on Cade Cunningham to win ROY because it gives me a strong baseline for my picks.
After that, I saw what was an outlier line to me with Myles Turner to win DPOY. Had Turner not gotten hurt last season I think he could have beaten Gobert. He averaged 3.4 blocks per game, 0.7 more than Gobert, and no one else was within one block of him per game last season. If he gets traded it may raise his ceiling even more since he would not be sharing the floor with Sabonis.
I absolutely love OG Anunoby for MIP. He should see increased usage in Toronto without Kyle Lowry and with Pascal Siakam’s injury. He can really explode and take a step forward as we have seen in the preseason.
I finally entered the MVP fray with Trae Young. He is electric, and if he can navigate the non-basketball moves rule enforcement (he’s talented enough), then he clearly has the volume and usage 37.7% (Cleaning the Glass).
The Hawks should be good again — since Nate McMillan took over they were 27-11 in the regular season (71%). If they’re a top seed in the East, then Trae will garner MVP attention.
My final three picks are mostly flyers that have value. Chris Finch takes over the Timberwolves who have new ownership and a ton of young talent. They have room to grow, and if they are able to secure a spot in the play-in tournament or somehow exceed that, I think he will get some votes much like Coach Thibodeau of the Knicks did last season.
Immanuel Quickley has competition for Sixth man on his own team with Derrick Rose there, but IQ is a microwave scorer who should be able to put up points without any concerns that he really cracks into the starting rotation.
I went back to the Knicks for my flex spot with RJ Barrett as Most Improved Player. Barrett is also playing for a contender, and over the second half of the season, his 3-point shooting improved, and he shot 43.5% on 3s after the All Star Break while averaging 18.6 points per game, according to Basketball Reference.
With the additions of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier, Barrett should have less pressure to create offensively, which should make his life easier and allow him to function as an elite perimeter shooter while also having the ability to drive on smaller defenders.
|Coach of the Year||Nat McMillan (+1600)||FoxBet||$100|
|Defensive POY||Clint Capela (+4600)||FanDuel||$50|
|Rookie of the Year||Jalen Green (+320)||DraftKings||$100|
|Sixth Man||Derrick Rose (+1800)||FoxBet||$400|
|Most Improved Player||Jaren Jackson Jr. (+2400)||FanDuel||$50|
|Most Valuable Player||Luka Doncic (+500)||FanDuel||$250|
|Flex (MVP)||James Harden (+2000)||DraftKings||$50|
The Rookie of the Year award is the only one that has a clear two-person race, so after Cade Cunningham came off the board, I was ecstatic to select Jalen Green with the second pick.
The Houston Rockets and John Wall mutually agreed to part ways strictly so the Rockets could focus on the development and growth of their new centerpiece. Green is going to be getting a ton of usage and opportunity to show his talent.
Although his preseason stats leave more to be desired, Green is constantly looking to score and attack the basket in Houston’s fast-paced offense. This will yield plenty of counting stats that will be attractive to voters.
My next pick was Derrick Rose to win Sixth Man of the Year. The New York Knicks are going to need Rose to continue providing that scoring punch off the bench for a team that does not generate much offense. Despite only playing 35 regular season games for the Knicks, he still finished third in the final Sixth Man of the Year voting.
Next, I selected third year forward Jaren Jackson Jr. to win the Most Improved Player. Last season, he was recovering from a meniscus injury and was never fully healthy.
With Jonas Valanciunas gone, he is going to have a much bigger role on offense. He should pair well with newly acquired Steven Adams, who should be doing a lot of the dirty work while Jackson can feast on his matchups.
I see the Grizzlies outperforming their expectations, and it will be largely due to Jackson’s leap forward and breakout season.
For my next two picks, I doubled down on the Atlanta Hawks with Nate McMillan for Coach of the Year and Clint Capela for Defensive Player of the Year.
The Hawks outperformed expectations last season after dealing with a midseason coaching change and a myriad of injuries to key players. I see a ceiling of 50-plus wins and the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
Capela averaged 14.3 rebounds per game and 2.0 blocks per game last season, but the most eye-popping statistic was that Capela raised the Hawks’ Defensive Rating by 6.4 points (per Basketball Reference) when he was on the court.
Since my last few picks had longer odds, I decided to balance my portfolio with MVP favorite Luka Doncic. After the Mavericks missed out on Kyle Lowry in free agency, count on Doncic to have another season with a massive Usage Rate.
A lot of the front office dysfunction and turmoil that led to sweeping organizational changes was rumored to revolve around Doncic. I think he will come into this season with a chip on his shoulder and continue his ascension into superstardom.
Finally, for my FLEX position, I took James Harden to win Most Valuable Player. With Kevin Durant’s injury history for the past couple of seasons and Kyrie Irving’s unpredictable availability, I see an opportunity for Harden to be “the man” as he was in Houston. Outside of his hamstring injury this past season, he has been a tank his entire career.
If Harden stays healthy and Durant misses a portion of the season, I think Harden is still good enough to lead the team to a win threshold that will give him consideration for the MVP. Trust the Beard.
|Coach of the Year||Tyronn Lue (+1900)||DraftKings||$100|
|Defensive POY||Bam Adebayo (+1400)||BetMGM||$100|
|Rookie of the Year||Davion Mitchell (+1800)||DraftKings||$100|
|Sixth Man||Joe Ingles (+1200)||FanDuel||$50|
|Most Improved Player||Michael Porter Jr. (+900)||FanDuel||$50|
|Most Valuable Player||Giannis Antetokounmpo (+900)||DraftKings||$250|
|Flex (MVP)||Kevin Durant (+600)||DraftKings||$350|
I picked third overall and wanted Jalen Green +250 to win Rookie of the Year, but Austin scooped him at No. 2, so I went with my second choice of Giannis Antetokounmpo to win MVP at +900. Antetokounmpo is priced way too low for MVP, and Brandon recently wrote a great article on why you should bet him for MVP entering the season.
History tells us NBA MVPs are 24 to 28 years old, play almost all their team’s games, win enough to be a top-2 seed, and score 25 PPG.
Only one player clearly checks all four boxes this season.
— Brandon Anderson (@wheatonbrando) October 12, 2021
With my second pick, I was hoping to get Bam Adebayo for Defensive Player of the Year, but no one else had scooped up any of the favorites for MVP, so I double dipped and got Kevin Durant at +600 with my Flex pick. Matt wrote an interesting article recently that included a straw poll of NBA MVP voters on whom they thought had the best chance to win MVP.
In the article, Durant was first and Antetokounmpo was second, so I couldn’t pass on the chance to stack my futures with both of these players who will likely be the best player on a top-two seed in the East.
With others going after rookies early and only a few players there whose value I liked, I decided to keep the Adebayo pick in my back pocket and take Davion Mitchell for Rookie of the Year at +1800. Mitchell is easily the best on-ball defender in the rookie class, and if his jump shot holds up, he will be an incredible NBA player.
I bet on the Baylor Bears after the third game of last season to win the national championship largely because of my faith in him, and I think he cracks the deep Kings backcourt with De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton. Mitchell will physically be ready to play in the NBA from day one, and I like his chances as a dark horse for ROY.
Next I took Bam Adebayo for Defensive Player of the Year. Adebayo has put on about 15 pounds of lean muscle this offseason and the change in personnel defensively (replacing Kendrick Nunn and Goran Dragic with Kyle Lowry) will finally give the Heat’s defense a capable on-ball defender at the point of attack.
This means that Adebayo will play more drop (and thus amass more rebounds and blocks) while also not having to over-switch and leave the paint as much as last season.
Adebayo’s top two competitors from DPoY – Rudy Gobert and Ben Simmons – both have taken a step back after the end of the regular season as Terance Mann and the Clippers provided a blueprint for neutralizing his impact and Simmons is out of shape and at odds with his 76ers team.
I didn’t love the board for Coach of the Year, but I think there is value on Tyronn Lue at +1900 as there are relatively low expectations for the Clippers this season without Kawhi Leonard, but they proved in the postseason that they can win without him by eliminating the Jazz and taking the Suns to six games.
The Clippers still have a plethora of shooters as they were one of the best 3pt shooting teams in NBA history last season, and I think they are as undervalued as any team in the NBA.
I finished off with the favorite for Most Improved Player (Michael Porter Jr. +900) and the second-favorite for 6th Man (Joe Ingles +1200). MPJ should have plenty of opportunities to score with Jamal Murray out, and he is a BUCKET. However, his vaccination status does give me some cause for concern, but this late in the draft, beggars can’t be choosers.
Joe Ingles should have won the the Sixth Man award last season, and the Jazz still will have a good chance to be the top seed in the West. Maybe I can luck into one of those scenarios where the voters realize they made a mistake last season, and they make up for it by giving Ingles his due this season.
|Coach of the Year||Steve Kerr (+1100)||DraftKings||$25|
|Defensive POY||Ben Simmons (+500)||BetMGM||$1|
|Rookie of the Year||Evan Mobley (+800)||FanDuel||$100|
|Sixth Man||Tyler Herro (+1900)||FanDuel||$50|
|Most Improved Player||Collin Sexton (+2000)||FanDuel||$24|
|Most Valuable Player||Jayson Tatum (+2400)||FanDuel||$500|
|Flex (MVP)||Paul George (+3600)||FanDuel||$300|
I’m essentially going all in on my MVP Futures which I’ve been strong about all offseason since the rest of these were long shot fliers. While Giannis Antetokounmpo was my strongest pick for MVP which was snatched up before me, I felt that Jayson Tatum and Paul George were tremendous flyers to win the league’s Most Valuable Player Award.
All things considered, the Boston Celtics had an outlier season, and this team should be a lot better next season. A big part of that is 23-year-old budding superstar Jayson Tatum who is already a two-time All-Star and made third-team All-NBA in the 2020 season.
Tatum is poised to make the leap from All-Star to MVP candidate and if it weren’t for absences due to health and safety protocols as well as the struggles of the team around him, we might have seen him in the MVP discussion last season.
With Ime Udoka stepping in as the new head coach and an improved Celtics roster, I expect the Celtics to be back in contention in the Eastern Conference and for Tatum to be the driving force behind that, which gives this +2500 wager some value.
I also believe Paul George also has value to win MVP as he’ll be leading a Clippers team without Kawhi Leonard that should challenge for the postseason.
The rest of these I have minimal confidence in. However, I do believe Tyler Herro should provide scoring off the bench for a Miami Heat which could be one of the best in the Eastern Conference. Collin Sexton could make the leap into All Star.
Many people were a year too early on Ben Simmons being Defensive Player of the Year, and he could steal it if things workout in his return to Philly as they try to rebuild his trade value.
The Warriors should return to prominence, which means Steve Kerr is live. As far as Evan Mobley to win ROY, he was the the best on the board at that time.
|Coach of the Year||Billy Donovan (+1200)||PointsBet||$150|
|Defensive POY||Rudy Gobert (+380)||FanDuel||$150|
|Rookie of the Year||Josh Giddey (+3000)||BetMGM||$50|
|Sixth Man||Patty Mills (+1600)||FanDuel||$100|
|Most Improved Player||Zach LaVine (+4800)||FanDuel||$50|
|Most Valuable Player||Stephen Curry (+900)||BetMGM||$450|
|Flex (DPOY)||Anthony Davis (+1000)||BetMGM||$50|
Curry is my biggest position for MVP both here and in real life, after I added to my prior position this week. The Warriors look dynamite in preseason with a reloaded roster and Klay Thompson due back by midseason. Curry is a media darling who picked up a significant chunk of votes last year despite his team being in the play-in.
If the Warriors have a huge season, Curry’s odds are going to become significantly shorter. Advanced metrics support him, the 3-point numbers will be eye-popping as always, and the voters love him.
I’ve described the Bulls as a Rorschach test. You either look at them and see a bunch of bad defenders and not great offensive players, or you see a combination that compliments each other for a team that likely makes the play-in with less talent under better circumstances last season.
So, I think there’s a chance the Bulls jump into the top-4, top-5, and Billy Donovan is respected by both his peers and the media. He makes his teams collectively better. If the Bulls are suddenly the feel-good story like the Knicks were last season when Tom Thibodeau won, Donovan will be in the conversation.
I’m a big Zach LaVine guy. His game was transformative last season, especially in playmaking and efficiency. He’ll be protected defensively in their scheme. The last four and eight of the last eleven MIP winners were All-Stars who hadn’t been All-Stars before. There’s often a delayed effect with voters, and LaVine was worthy of more consideration for awards last season.
Rudy’s always high value, the voters don’t want to do the work for defense, and Gobert will always get talked about by players and coaches as the DPOY. His numbers back it up.
If the Lakers are awesome, it’s because their defense is elite again, and if the defense is elite again, Davis will get the Lakers bump. Voters want to reward him because he’s perceived as an even better defender than he is (and he is elite).
Giddey looks good in preseason and will get a ton of minutes in OKC, and Mills has been one of the best bench players in the league with no recognition. If the Nets don’t miss a beat without Irving, the bench will be surprisingly good, and Mills will get noticed in Brooklyn where he didn’t in San Antonio.
|Coach of the Year||Ime Udoka (+1800)||BetMGM||$217|
|Defensive POY||Draymond Green (+3300)||FanDuel||$122|
|Rookie of the Year||Jalen Suggs (+800)||BetRivers||$1|
|Sixth Man||Jordan Poole (+1400)||BetMGM||$132|
|Most Improved Player||Ja Morant (+3300)||PointsBet||$122|
|Most Valuable Player||Damian Lillard (+1400)||FoxBet||$274|
|Flex (MVP)||Anthony Davis (+3000)||BetRivers||$132|
I picked last in each round so I had to get a little creative. I badly wanted to build my team around an MVP Giannis pick or grab one of the two clear Rookie of the Year candidates, but with all of my favorite short-odds guys off the board, I decided to just go with all long shots.
There’s a decent chance I bankrupt here and end up with nothing, but if I do hit one of the six picks I feel good about, just one, then I probably win the contest. All-in, baby!
Draymond Green was my first pick. He’s the best defender of this generation and the one elite defender on one of the league’s finest defending teams, and this price is insane.
He should be at least a top-five candidate until proven otherwise, and the Warriors were top-five on defense last year and added better pieces. I also think there will be some voter fatigue on Rudy Gobert so I think there’s value at DPOY.
I went with another Warrior with my next pick. Sixth Man is all about scoring points, and Jordan Poole is going to score a lot this year. The Ws are shooting a ton of 3s, and Poole gets to cheat on this award by starting the first chunk of the season — more time, more shots.
The Blazers and Celtics are my two favorite sleepers. I think both of them have a shot at a top-3 seed, and that led to my next two picks. Dame already has the numbers and everyone loves him, so if his team improves around him as much as I expect, he could be this year’s Jokic as a potential MVP.
I don’t buy the Celtics having the same caliber of MVP candidate — I like them because of the team balance and the defense. We love to give Coach of the Year to first-year guys, and Udoka should get a lot of credit if Boston gets things back in order.
I honestly regret my Jalen Suggs pick. I really feel like either Cade Cunningham or Jalen Green will win Rookie of the Year, enough that I’d rather just bet on both of them than any third party. Suggs would be my third guy, but the price here wasn’t enticing enough for me to bet much.
My final two picks are longer shots, even by my own measure. Most Improved typically goes to a player making a noticeable statistical leap into All-Star or All-NBA contention. I like Memphis a lot this season, and Ja Morant fits the bill. Anthony Davis is a shot in the dark MVP candidate.
We overwhelmingly give MVP to guys age 24 to 28 — that’s your prime and when you’re healthiest and play the most. If Davis actually stays healthy for once, he’ll post awesomely efficient numbers with increased scoring and elite defense on what would probably be a 60-win team. He could be this year’s Embiid and finally have that year if he puts it all together.