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Setting The Pick – Last call on NBA awards

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Multiple player award markets have experienced a final jolt in pricing with less than 10 games to go.

Last week, Sacramento Kings guard Malik Monk was running away with Sixth Man of the Year sitting at over -1000 odds.

Unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending MCL sprain on Saturday and now sits at -135 to win the John Havlicek Trophy.

Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault saw his pricing for Coach of the Year get as high as -500, but with the Minnesota Timberwolves tied for first out West after a statement win over the Denver Nuggets, their head coach Chris Finch has catapulted from 12-to-1 down to +200.

Just a few days ago, over half of the awards had favourites over -1000 odds.

As it stands, only two remain –San Antonio Spurs centre Victor Wembanyama for Rookie of the Year and Timberwolves centre Rudy Gobert for Defensive Player of the Year.

Let’s breakdown what scenarios need to play out for these late-season award risers to hit the finish line.

Luka Doncic, +750 for Most Valuable Player

The Dallas Mavericks are in the midst of a six-game win streak while the Nuggets have dropped two in a row, falling down to the third seed.

Nuggets centre Nikola Jokic has been a minus money favourite since the beginning of February and got as short as -1100 this past week.

At that price, FanDuel was implying that he had more than a 90 per cent chance to take home his third MVP trophy.

What they didn’t count on was Dallas making a legitimate run at home-court advantage for the upcoming playoffs.

Over Doncic’s last ten games, the Mavs have gone perfect with their lone loss coming against the Thunder, the one game he sat.

They had a dramatic win over the Nuggets where Kyrie Irving nailed the buzzer beater of the season.

Then this past week, they won a critical back-to-back versus Sacramento all but solidifying a top-six seed.

With the Los Angeles Clippers faltering of late and New Orleans Pelicans trying to survive without Brandon Ingram, the Mavericks have a reasonable chance to keep moving up. They sit one win behind the Pelicans and two games behind the Clippers.

For Doncic to garner serious MVP consideration, Dallas has to make its way into the four seed.

The path isn’t impossible as they only face one team with a playoff berth over their final nine games.

It would also require Denver to stumble over the final two weeks.

If the Nuggets hold onto the top seed, it’d be very hard to argue against Jokic.

But if Denver and Dallas sit side-by-side in the standings come playoff time, team success will get nullified.

Add in the fact recency bias might play a factor in voting, and a case could be made for Doncic to steal the Michael Jordan Trophy at the final hour.

Chris Finch, +200 for Coach of the Year

It is safe to say, the Timberwolves have overachieved in the absence of Karl-Anthony Towns.

After suffering a meniscus injury on March 4th, Towns left a gaping hole in Minnesota’s offence that FanDuel assumed could not be overcome.

Their odds to finish as the top seed dropped to over +800, leaving behind a two-horse race between Oklahoma City and Denver.

Since then, the Wolves have gone 8-3, with no win bigger than their Friday night victory in Ball Arena.

Finch has been a top candidate for this award all year but started to fade with the Thunder trending towards the one seed.

But after four wins in a row this past week, oddsmakers seem to be impressed by how coach Finch has the team playing, especially on the defensive end.

They’ve held three of their last four opponents to under 100 points and are all but guaranteed to wrap up the season with the top defensive-rating.

This award is quite straightforward – if Minnesota finishes ahead of Oklahoma City, Finch wins. If it’s the opposite, Daigneault wins.

These two are currently tied for the top spot out West, but the Timberwolves have the easier schedule.

The first tiebreaker for NBA seeding is head-to-head record.

They split it 2-2 this season.

The next is division record. Oklahoma City is 12-4 with no more games while Minnesota is 12-3 with one final game versus Denver.

Should the Wolves lose that game, it’d go to a third layer, conference record.

Minnesota is 35-12 as of this article, the Thunder are 33-16.

All this is to say, if they finish with the same record, the Wolves win the tiebreaker.

But sometimes it’s good to quantify the math to make sure.

Naz Reid, +125 for Sixth Man of the Year

Connected to the COTY breakdown, Reid’s ascension for 6MOY is tied to KAT’s injury.

Reid has been a critical bench player for Minnesota all season but has elevated his production stepping up for Towns.

Here are his stats before and after March 4th:

Pre-KAT injury: 23.0 mins, 12.3 pts, 4.8 reb, 1.1 ast, 0.7 stl, 0.8 blk
Post-KAT injury: 29.3 mins, 18.3 pts, 7.0 reb, 2.4 ast, 0.9 stl, 1.3 blk

One can make the argument that Reid’s inflated stats as a starter shouldn’t count in his case for 6MOY.

But in his case, it’s not as if his production is night and day.

He’s shooting with the same efficiency in both roles and has maintain the same impact on winning, owning a 3.1-net rating as starter, similar to his 3.9 off the bench.

My concern with his candidacy has to do with his competition.

Monk averages the most points and assists off the bench this year in the NBA and has been Sacramento’s third-best player.

If it wasn’t for injury, this award would already be wrapped up.

Now that Monk is out for the year, the door has opened for Reid especially with the Timberwolves overachieving as a team.

Luckily for Monk, he’ll finish the season at 72 games played, above the minimum award threshold.

Unless Reid drops multiple 30-point games to close, I wouldn’t bet against Monk.

He’s done enough to earn it.