I’ve been covering the NBA since 1992
James Harden is still a bigger favorite than Luka Doncic in NBA Most Valuable Player futures wagering.
But just barely.
Doncic dropped 41 points on the Houston Rockets last night in a 137-123 victory, adding 10 assists, leaving the entire NBA aghast once again. The 20-year-old sensation from Slovenia has the Dallas Mavericks (11-5) sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference, and they are now a unanimous choice for “most surprising team after the first month of the season.”
Doncic has scored 30 or more points in each of his last four games, and Sunday night represented his second 40-plus point game of the week.
And get this: His season low was 12 points against Denver in Oct. 29. He has scored at least 20 points in every other game.
The sportsbooks in the legalized U.S. gambling market have reacted quickly, dropping Doncic’s futures odds in the MVP race. At DraftKingsSportsbook, he is all the way down to 4-1 (compared to LeBron James at 7-1), and at Fan Duel Sportsbook he is at +460 … just ahead of Harden’s +430.
Giannis Antetokounmpo remains the favorite, and with the Milwaukee Bucks leading the Eastern Conference at 13-3, he is a worthy favorite.
Still, the climb by Doncic is somewhat astounding. But it is a testament to the 20-year-old phenom who is becoming must-watch TV. He is averaging 30.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and 9.8 assists, moving him even closer to becoming the third player in NBA history to average double figures in points rebounds and assists (the others were Russell Westbrook and Oscar Robertson).
In terms of exceeding expectations, only the Miami Heat at 11-4 are in the same class as the Mavs. The oddsmakers are not all that convinced, however, as the Heat are listed at 60-1 by DK and 65-1 by FD to win the championship. (Dallas has the exact same odds.)
But futures bets when it comes to player props are what sports fans love to take a chance on, which is why sportsbooks are especially proactive when it comes to adjusting MVP and Rookie of the Year odds for the NBA.
Strangely, however, the two big domestic books are still listing Zion Williamson as the favorite to win Rookie of the Year, although Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies is now down to 2-1, with Miami Heat rookies Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn both sitting at 14-1 at DK.
At sports gambling becomes more commonplace around the United States, the books will try to entice sports gamblers with as many “teaser” picks as possible.
But when it comes to odds to win the championship, the books are conservative. The Clippers, Lakers, Bucks and Sixers remain the favorites … and with good reason. Of the three 11-4 teams in the Eastern Conference (Boston, Toronto and Miami), the longest odds are on the Heat.
As for everyone else?
Well, here is your stat of the day: There are 30 teams in the NBA, and only 12 of them have above .500 records. All the more reason to set the DVR for the Utah-Milwaukee game tonight on NBA-TV.
Other than Philadelphia-Toronto (no national TV coverage in the United States, it is the only game among 11 on tonight’s NBA slate that features two teams with winning records.