NBA Futures Bets & Picks: Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid MVP Odds Offering Value
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets talks with Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Welcome back to Futures Friday!
Every week I dive into futures bets to play based on where the value is at that point in the season. Each week we’ll make plays based on distributing a half-unit of value. Over the course of a season, it’ll add up to a sizable position.
There are two futures bets I’m eying this week. For the most recent edition of this column, click here. For the full list of bets I’ve made so far this season, check out the chart below.
Kevin Durant’s injury created a massive disruption in the MVP market. With Durant out 4-6 weeks with an MCL sprain and then likely to miss time after on back-to-backs, and with Stephen Curry continuing to struggle with (of all things) his shot, there’s a window for longshots. So we’re going to add to the season long positions we have with two players you can still get long odds on.
Embiid on Wednesday dropped 50 points on the Orlando Magic. He has four 40-point performances this season, averaging 28-11-4. He has the profile of an MVP. Media darling, dominant figure, strong stats, and a winning team.
The Philadelphia 76ers are suddenly just two games back of the Brooklyn Nets in the loss column for the division and the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference. There’s a real chance the Sixers wind up with a top-two seed. If the Chicago Bulls drop — even if the Nets hold onto the top seed — Embiid will be the strongest candidate in the East.
The narrative helps a lot as well, here. “Look what Embiid did without Ben Simmons for the entire season and with Tobias Harris having a down year.”
Embiid was the frontrunner before his injury last season. Injury is always a concern with Embiid, but at 8-1 (he’s as low as 3-1 at some books), there’s definite value here.
Nikola Jokic MVP +800 (WynnBet, 0.25 units)
On the same night that Embiid was annihilating the poor lottery-bound Magic, the reigning MVP dropped a 49-point triple-double vs. the Los Angeles Clippers in overtime, including the game-winning assist over a double team.
Jokic was a bet earlier in the season and since then the Denver Nuggets have mostly stayed around .500. But Denver has suddenly won eight of its last twelve. Jamal Murray is on track to return in late February or early March (though the Nuggets have not provided an official timeline) and their schedule is home heavy, rest-heavy and opponent light the rest of the way.
Then there’s the numbers.
Jokic leads the league in Value Over Replacement Player, Win Shares, PER, Box Plus-Minus, and EPM. It is not an exaggeration to say he is without question the best player in the league from an empirical perspective.
He’s averaging 26-14-7. No player in NBA history since rebounds and assists began to be tracked has averaged those numbers. The only player to average 25 points and seven assists while shooting 60% or better inside the arc and 36% or better outside of it is LeBron James.
There’s a window for the Nuggets to make a run and if Curry’s shooting can’t get back to its standard, Durant misses too much time, the Sixers slide or Embiid hits another in a long line of injury issues, then guess who’s back in the default chair just like last time?
I’m not saying the voters want to give it to Jokic, but everyone’s aware of how great he is at this point; Jokic was the third-highest vote getter in the Western Conference All-Star returns. He’s on the map, finally, which validates him.
With 8-1 odds still on the board, shop around and fire away if you already have a Curry position.