NBA Futures Bets & Picks: Betting NBA Finals Matchups, Nikola Jokic’s Shrinking MVP Odds
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Nikola Jokic #15 and the Denver Nuggets.
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.
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.
Conference Winner Parlay: Milwaukee Bucks | Phoenix Suns +1070 (DraftKings, 0.25 units)
This is a Bucks-Suns NBA Finals matchup parlay.
You’re getting 10-1 that the reigning champs with a player who is arguably MVP and will likely finish top-3 in voting, with Brook Lopez practicing towards a return, will come out of the East, and the No. 1 team in the league who has been a buzzsaw who is also the reigning Western Conference champs will make it for a rematch.
There isn’t a team in the West you can feel good about matching up with the Suns. If the Clippers get Kawhi Leonard and Paul George back, that changes things, dramatically. However, the odds on that are very low as Ty Lue has openly said he doesn’t think Leonard returns this season.
Denver struggles with Deandre Ayton who Nikola Jokic has credited with guarding him well. Dallas struggles with their phalanx of long defenders, and Phoenix can match their firepower five-out. Utah struggles with teams that can switch effectively and teams that can punish Gobert in drop coverage; no one is better at that than Chris Paul who should be back for the postseason.
The Warriors can match up; they took two of the first three meetings this season. Fully healthy, I like the Warriors there. But the Warriors will have to get out of a tough bracket that will include two of Memphis, Dallas, and Denver. If it gets to that point, the Warriors will still be dogs and you’ll have a hedge position available with the East.
In the East, do I trust the Sixers to deliver and carry vs. the Bucks? Milwaukee was in that game a few weeks ago before the All-Star break despite playing poorly and being without Brook Lopez.
Over the course of a series I have more faith and confidence in Giannis and company than Embiid and company. The Nets struggle with the athleticism of the Bucks and sure, Kevin Durant’s foot yada-yada but the Nets are coming out of the play-in and still lack interior defense.
I’m more worried about Miami (who I’ve also bet to match up with the Suns) than the other teams in the East.
I’m getting what I still believe are the two best teams in each conference at 10-1 to win those respective conferences and meet again in the Finals. To me, this is great value.
Nikola Jokic to Win MVP +170 (DraftKings 0.25 units)
We’ll be writing and talking a lot about this remarkable MVP race in the coming weeks. For right now, I think there’s value in betting Jokic.
The performance on Sunday vs. the Pelicans when Jokic scored 30 in the fourth quarter and overtime caught a lot of voters’ eyes. We’ve seen Bill Simmons and Zach Lowe, both voters, cape for Jokic in recent days. He’s getting a lot more attention than last year and there seems to be a thaw for him among voters who were skeptical for so long.
To be sure, there will be resistance to him, and honestly, in a first, second and third-place votes may hurt him.
But you’re getting him at +170 when I think he’s taken the lead in recent days. A detailed study of the candidates makes it very difficult not to vote for Jokic. He’s been without his two best supporting players the entire season, and yet has carried them. The advanced metrics case will swing any analytics-forward voter.
I typically default to wins as a tiebreaker. But the Nuggets are just two behind the Sixers in the loss column. I don’t think the addition of James Harden will slow down Embiid’s counting stats much, but the strongest case for Embiid over the last month has been “he leads the league in scoring for the team with a better record.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo overtook Embiid for the scoring lead this week. (Giannis should be getting more focus for MVP and that’s a topic for another time.) And when you factor the continued possibility of injury and rest for Embiid, Jokic’s case improves.
I will say this: I’m expecting Embiid to drop 40 on Jokic on Monday in the MVP matchup and for the Sixers to win. That game will definitely swing voters (though it shouldn’t).
If you’re going to bet on Embiid or Jokic, you want to do it before that matchup because it may significantly move things.
It seems counterfactual that I’m suggesting a play on Jokic despite expecting him to lose the matchup I think will swing voters. But while I think Embiid will have a big game in a win Monday, it is entirely possible Jokic drops a 30-point triple-double in a win and in that case, these odds are gone.
I think it’s a good play to bet Jokic in what is a very tight MVP case, with the understanding that the value can change dramatically after Monday.