The NBA MVP race is still being debated on social media, but Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic will supplant two-time recipient Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks as this season’s winner. Votes are already in, due to open the week before the NBA playoffs play-in tournament tipped off
Although 76ers center Joel Embiid, Warriors guard Stephen Curry, Antetokounmpo, Phoenix’s Chris Paul, Mavs star Luka Doncic, Washington’s Russell Westbrook, and New York’s Julius Randle are in the conversation and should finish among the Top 10, Jokic pulled away in March and April and hasn’t slowed down in helping his team wrap up a top-four finish in the Western Conference despite losing Jamal Murray, Will Barton and Monte Morris down the stretch.
Draft odds at FanDuel list Jokic as a -7000 favorite, which means you would have to risk $7000 to win a $100 bet on him capturing the trophy. If you’ve got it like that, you could win yourself a grand or something. DraftKings lists the Nuggets star as a -10000 favorite. Jokic is winning, but that’s not advisable. Here is what else we’re looking at for the other awards.
Multiple Candidates Emerge For Rookie Of The Year
Before LaMelo Ball fractured his right wrist on March 20, he looked like the runaway choice for Rookie of the Year, but he was written off when it was expected that he’d miss the rest of the season. Ball was able to resume basketball activities and returned to open May.
In the interim, Kings guard Tyrese Halliburton appeared to be the choice before a left knee ended his season on May 2 since he’d been such an effective piece for Sacramento all season. He excelled when De’Aaron Fox was out of the lineup, which included a 23-point, 10-assist night in an upset of the Laker to open this month.
After a slow start, No. 1 overall pick Anthony Edwards emerged for the Minnesota Timberwolves. After shooting less than 40 percent and scoring roughly 14 points per game through the end of January, Edwards shot over 45 percent from the field after the All-Star break, scoring 23.8 points per game and shooting nearly 35 percent from 3-point range. His improved efficiency included a consistent presence on the highlight shows with jaw-dropping dunks showcasing his elite athleticism.
Although the Wolves finished strong, it was the Hornets that made the postseason play-in tournament, which may play tiebreaker among the media members that vote for these awards. Odds at DraftKings (-2000) and FanDuel (-1900) certainly believe Ball will be crowned, but Edwards might be worth a look since he’s getting a return of +900 and +1200 respectively at those sites. His closing kick might have been strong enough to sway more voters than is being projected.
Randle Runaway Choice For Most Improved Player
The Knicks made the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and ended up finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference because Randle took his game to a level few expected him to reach. The first-time All-Star averaged 19.5 points and 9.7 rebounds in his first season in New York that ended prematurely due to the pandemic since they failed to even qualify for the bubble. He was the team’s best player but shot 27.7 percent from 3-point range.
This season, playing a career-best 37.6 minutes per game under new head coach Tom Thibodeau, Randle shot over 41 percent from beyond the arc, which really opened up the rest of his game. That’s where this Most Improved Award was won. He registered career-bests in points per game (24.1), rebounds per game (10.2), assists (6.0) and free-throw percentage as the Knicks played through him night after night. He may even finish top-five in the MVP voting but is a shoo-in to win this honor.
FanDuel lists his odds at -8000, while Detroit’s Jerami Grant (+1900) and Denver’s Michael Porter Jr. (+3000) are considered the top contenders. It’s hard to get over 100 voters to agree on anything, but Randle may wind up the unanimous winner of this award. He certainly deserves it.
Gobert Likely To Earn Third Defensive Player Of The Year Award
There’s some sentiment that Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons should win this honor since he’s had a terrific year defending every position for a team that ended up with the Eastern Conference’s top record.
Unfortunately for Simmons, Gobert has put up some incredible defensive metrics in enjoying his top season on that side of the ball. Considering he captured this award in 2018 and ’19 before losing out to Milwaukee’s Antetokounmpo last season, putting up unprecedented stats is obviously pretty good. It puts the 7-foot-4 French center in position to be awarded top honors since the Jazz finished with the best record in the entire league and he was on the floor for 71 of 72 games, outlasting fellow All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley, Jr., who both finished the season nursing injuries.
Gobert is listed as a -3335 favorite at DraftKings, while Simmons would net +1100 if he earns the award. Antetokounmpo is in the mix at +8000. FanDuel has Gobert as -3000 ‘chalk,’ Simmons at +1500 and Antetokounmpo at +10000. Gobert should win this award for the third time in four seasons.
Jazz Top Reserves To Battle For Top Sixth Man
Utah has seen guard Jordan Clarkson emerge as the NBA’s top-scoring reserve in 2020-21, averaging 18.4 points per game in supplying a consistent scoring punch off the bench to help create separation for the league’s most successful team. Although Dallas’ Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Miami’s Tyler Herro rank second and third respectively in points per game off the bench, Clarkson’s teammate, Joe Ingles, is the biggest threat to him winning this award.
The Australian veteran started 45 of the 72 games he played in due to injuries to Mitchell and Conley but he was primarily a facilitator off the bench, running the point and shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc while averaging 9.8 points.
Clarkson is a -177 favorite at DraftKings, which lists Ingles at +130. Lakers sixth man and reigning winner Montrezl Harrell, New York’s Derrick Rose, and Dallas’ Jalen Brunson are all listed at +10000 there. Clarkson is at -200 at FanDuel, Ingles is +150 and only Brunson and Harrell are listed as options (+10000). Although Ingles will steal some first-place votes, Clarkson should win Sixth Man of the Year and is among the most solid wagering options available given all the inflated odds.
Coach Of The Year Tightly Contested
Phoenix’s Monty Williams was awarded the NBCA Coach of the Year, which is voted on by the league’s coaches. That’s a separate award from the Red Auerbach Trophy, which is selected the media in a process similar to all these other honors. It’s very possible that a different recipient wins this when votes are tabulated. Utah’s Quin Snyder is my choice, but New York’s Thibodeau, Phoenix’s Williams, Denver’s Michael Malone and Philadelphia’s Doc Rivers will all get serious consideration. That makes this a no-touch situation, especially with Williams already recognized by his peers.