October 19, 2021

Best Bets: 2021-2022 NBA Award Futures

The 2021-2022 NBA season tips off tonight with two marquee matchups: The defending NBA champions battle the Brooklyn Nets while the Los Angeles Lakers take on the Golden State Warriors.

In our previous NBA futures piece, we went over the best bets to win each conference as well as the NBA championship. In this article, we'll look at the best bets for the three major NBA awards: MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year. 

As always, please remember to gamble responsibly.

*Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook

 NBA MVP Odds:

  1. Luka Doncic +500
  2. Kevin Durant +650
  3. Giannis Antetokounmpo +700
  4. Joel Embiid +800
  5. Steph Curry +800
  6. Damian Lillard +1200
  7. LeBron James +1600
  8. Nikola Jokic +1600
  9. James Harden +1800
  10. Trae Young +2100

It was refreshing to see Nikola Jokic win the MVP last year for a couple of reasons. Following years of being neglected, the big-man position rightfully got some respect with Joker earning the honor. That also opens the door for other long-shot candidates to get more buzz. 

The NBA MVP award has turned into a joke. It is more storyline than anything. By the literal definition of "Most Valuable Player" who has been more valuable over the past 20 years than LeBron James? Well, since the award has turned into a popularity contest, it has lost some meaning. That is why Jokic winning last season gives us a little more comfort.

Anyway, the NBA is so wide open this season that it is hard to pick award winners. However, Kevin Durant will be asked to do more with the Nets now that Kyrie Irving has been told he cannot play until he adheres to the COVID-19 vaccine mandates. While James Harden's role will increase as well, Durant played just 35 games last season as he was still recovering from the Achilles tear that he suffered with the Warriors.

Durant looked unguardable in the playoffs last season and has proven to be able to put up big-time numbers while having other MVP-caliber players by his side. We do not even need to look at last year's statistics because, well, they do not matter. Durant looked as good as ever coming off a major injury and now that the Nets are down a star player, Durant will be asked to do more, and he will deliver.

Pick: Kevin Durant +650

Defensive Player Of The Year Odds:

  1. Rudy Gobert +380
  2. Ben Simmons +500
  3. Anthony Davis +500
  4. Giannis Antetokounmpo +800
  5. Myles Turner +850
  6. Joel Embiid +1200
  7. Bam Adebayo +1400
  8. Matisse Thybulle +2700
  9. Jrue Holiday +2700
  10. DeAndre Ayton +3000

With the Lakers starting Anthony Davis at center this season, he will use his greatest asset as a basketball player, his size. He is an elite rim protector and while his block numbers decreased to 1.6 rejections per game last season, he should see an increase in all defensive categories because he will be asked to do more.

This does not mean that he will be on the level of Rudy Gobert in terms of defensive big-man, but the NBA gets player fatigue real fast when it comes to awards. With Gobert winning his third NBA Defensive Player of the Year award last year, it would be wise to stay away from him.

Ben Simmons was a popular pick before he decided that he actually wants to play for the 76ers now? Or at least, he is with the team to start the season. There is just too much uncertainty around him to be comfortable putting a future on him.

The smart pick this season is to go with Davis. Being asked to guard the paint will benefit not only the Lakers but also his stat sheet and his DPOY resume. Plus, the rumbling started when he was traded to the Lakers that it's "his time" to start bringing home major awards.

Pick: Anthony Davis +500

Rookie Of The Year Odds:

  1. Jalen Green +210
  2. Cade Cunningham +300
  3. Jalen Suggs +700
  4. Scottie Barnes +1100
  5. Evan Mobley +1300

The final future we'll hit on is the hardest one to pick. We have not seen this rookie class play a real NBA game. Sure, we have a decent idea of what they bring to the table because of the Summer League and the preseason, but the regular season is a different beast.

Not only are we betting on a player to win an award, but we are also betting on that player living up to expectations. It is never fun going with the obvious option when picking a future, but Cunningham has to be the smart pick.

The Pistons are a really bad team that will rely on the No. 1 overall pick to do a lot in this offense. The same can be said about Jalen Green and that is a big reason why the No. 2 overall pick is the favorite. Green looked like the real deal in the G-League and that translated to the Summer League. The Rockets are not much better than the Pistons and could also be considered rebuilding.

However, Houston has a lot of potential on this roster that could take the next step this season. Players such as Kevin Porter Jr., Jae'Sean Tate, and Christian Wood can all take over games and leave Green behind Cunningham in the stats department.

The reason we are going with Cunningham is simple. He will be asked to do more and based on the potential, he will do more.

Pick: Cade Cunningham +300

Photo: Getty Images/Lines Illustration