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Feb 19, 2024 1:03 pm

NBA second-half betting: Finding value in MVP, Coach of Year odds

mark Daigneault

The NBA All-Star break moves the race for the postseason into high gear and opens some interesting options for betting on NBA futures.

The injury to Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid forced a reset of the MVP odds, the Coach of the Year race has become a matter of translating the qualifications and the Boston Celtics remain the choice to unseat the Denver Nuggets for the NBA title in June.

These markets, and more, provide a few value opportunities that can be sampled before the Association cranks it up again Thursday.

(All odds per FanDuel)

COACH OF THE YEAR

The Oklahoma City Thunder were 40-42 last season; they are 37-17 today. The Minnesota Timberwolves were 42-40 last season; they are a Western Conference-best 39-16 as they begin the home stretch.

No doubt that the Thunder’s Mark Daigneault (+190) and the Timberwolves’ Chris Finch (+250) have pushed their teams to surprising heights, so it’s a matter of whether either team can distinguish itself — perhaps grabbing the top seed and securing their guy the Coach of the Year honor.

We’ll stick with Daigneault, given the deep rotation he has established coupled with the immense buy-in from the players. Quiet star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continues to operate solely in the best interests of his team.

The Timberwolves are more unpredictable and would stumble a little if one of their big three (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert) miss a few games.

The fringe outsider: JB Bickerstaff, whose Cleveland Cavaliers suffered injury troubles (Darius Garland and Evan Mobley missed significant time) in the season’s early months, are now a formidable threat in the Eastern Conference.

Cleveland has won 10 of its past 11 and sit six games back of Boston but 3 1/2 games up on Milwaukee for the East’s No. 2 seed. The Cavs have fewer road losses than the Celtics and, with Mobley, Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen, Bickerstaff’s COY value is obvious at +410.

Live long shot: The best coaching job — albeit with fewer victories — belongs to Houston Rockets leader Ime Udoka, whose no-nonsense approach brings the “adult in the room” factor.

If the Rockets, only 24-30 now, roll through the home stretch, you’ll be happy to have invested in Udoka at +21000.

Contenders

Mark Daigneault, Thunder, +190

Chris Finch, Timberwolves, +250

JB Bickerstaff, Cavaliers, +410

Tyronn Lue, Clippers, +650

Rick Carlisle, Mavericks, +1500

Joe Mazzulla, Celtics, +2300

Tom Thibodeau, Knicks, +2500

Will Hardy, Jazz, +4800

Jamahl Mosely, Magic, +4800

Michael Malone, Nuggets, +6000

NBA MVP

This one is seen as a Nikola Jokic vs. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander battle.

The top two lead most experts’ lists for the league’s Most Valuable Player Award, Jokic is -140 and Gilgeous-Alexander is +210, but there are two better-priced candidates who could push for the honor.

The first, obviously, is two-time winner Giannis Antetokounmpo (2019, 2020), who is having another spectacular season and is first among the contenders in field-goal percentage at 61.6.

He’s the +850 third choice at the moment and has missed only two games. But there doesn’t seem to be much enthusiasm for his role in lifting the Bucks.

This team can’t play defense and doesn’t seem like it’s going to change, and that hurts Antetokounmpo’s chances.

The real value lies in Dallas Mavericks standout Luka Doncic, who sits fourth on the FanDuel list at +1200.

Doncic controls his team more than any of these contenders. He also hits 37.5 percent of his 3-point attempts, best among the top group, and attempts more than 10 per game — first by almost two full attempts more than Jayson Tatum’s 8.4.

If co-star Kyrie Irving continues to dazzle, the Mavericks could push Doncic closer to the top.

This award is Jokic’s to lose, of course, but that’s what he did last season when the Nuggets didn’t really need his best games down the stretch. The award isn’t terribly important for Jokic, but his team — fourth in the Western Conference — is likely to need him much more than they did last season.

He’ll be tough to beat if the Nuggets need late-season wins.

Contenders

Nikola Jokic -140

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander +210

Giannis Antetopkounmpo +850

Luka Doncic +1200

Jayson Tatum +2900

Kawhi Leonard +10000

Jalen Brunson +10000

Donovan Mitchell +15000

Kevin Durant +20000

Devin Booker +25000

TEAM FUTURES

The NBA title odds are about the same as they’ve been most of the season. The Celtics are the favorites, with Denver, the Los Angeles Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks making up the top four.

Futures bet No. 1: Cavs win it all.

The Nuggets and Celtics could make for a terrific NBA Finals, but the odds make them difficult investments.

The Bucks are +600 to win the NBA title but are not even the favorite to win their own division. The Cleveland Cavaliers are a heavy -480 to win the Central; the Bucks are +340.

The Cavaliers need only a couple of breaks — good health and a Celtics stumble (or injury) — to grab a spot in the driver’s seat.

Bet: They’re a nice value to take the title at +2200.

Futures bet No. 1: Suns win 49+

The Phoenix Suns have been easy to dismiss this season, given their inability to put their “Big 3” of Bradley Beal, Kevin Durant and Devin Booker on the court consistently.

But through a rocky few months, they’re still 33-22 and have gone 14-4 over their past 18 games. They have a tough schedule — who doesn’t in the Western Conference? — but it does include games against Charlotte, Toronto, two with San Antonio and three with Houston.

Bet: Suns go at least 16-11 and reach 49 victories (+110 at FanDuel).

–Field Level Media

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