2017 NBA Awards Odds and Playoff Primer

Cavaliers raising their championship banner
By Erik Drost (Wikimedia Commons)

For a season that most believed didn’t need to be played, that was rather painless, some might even say enjoyable. The NBA’s 82-game schedule featured a bevvy of broken records, a fistfull of “basketball fights,” a Mike D’Antoni resurgence, one blockbuster trade, and a whole heaping of embarrassment for the Knicks. And we accomplished it all sans Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett. Great job everybody!

But we’re not done yet, not even close! To quote the great Chubbs Peterson, “we’ve only just begun.” Saturday marks the beginning of the NBA Playoffs, or in other words, the start of meaningful action. Though I can’t blame you if you still believe the NBA Finals has been set since last July.

Before we delve too deeply into what’s to come, let’s analyze what we’ve seen. First up: odds for all the player awards and honors for the 2016-17 season, as well as some coaching props. Once you navigate your way through those, you’ll find odds on everything post-season, from championship odds to groin shots. Enjoy the pre-ride ride!

2016-17 NBA Awards/Honors

MVP

Russell Westbrook (Thunder): 1/1
James Harden (Rockets): 3/2
Kawhi Leonard (Spurs): 16/1
LeBron James (Cavaliers): 49/1
Isaiah Thomas (Celtics): 99/1
FIELD: 99/1

The topic that dominated the entire season is coming down to the wire. Westbrook has the better surface numbers after averaging a triple-double and leading the league in PPG. But Harden’s advanced metrics, especially his efficiency numbers, trump his rival, and his Rockets were the third-best team in the entire NBA, while OKC only managed a sixth-place finish in the West. It will all come down to the make-up of the voting body, and what those voters value most in their MVP considerations.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Dario Saric (76ers): 1/1
Malcolm Brogdon (Bucks): 15/8
Joel Embiid (76ers): 8/1
FIELD: 19/1

This is the most frustrating rookie class in a long time. Only one rookie was truly impressive: Joel Embiid. Can we really give him the award, though, when he barely played 30 games? His teammate Saric has been the next best, and he really turned it up in the second half of the year. As we’ve seen in past seasons, finishing strong tends to get you more votes (for all these awards) than consistency.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Green contesting a shot
By Keith Allison

Rudy Gobert (Jazz): 5/4
Draymond Green (Warriors): 5/3
Kawhi Leonard (Spurs): 5/1
FIELD: 75/1

Yeah, the Warriors give up well over 100 points per game (104.4) but that’s a product of their frenetic pace. They’re actually one of the best teams in terms of defensive efficiency. Better than the Jazz in fact, even though Utah led the league in points against (96.8 PAG). Gobert remains the modest favorite for a few reasons. The award usually goes to rim protectors, he has the advanced metrics to back up his campaign, and Utah’s success is entirely predicated on defense. Plus Draymond kicks people in the balls.

ALL-NBA FIRST TEAM

Russell Westbrook (Thunder): 1/24
James Harden (Rockets): 1/19
LeBron James (Cavaliers): 1/15
Kawhi Leonard (Spurs): 1/9
Anthony Davis (Pelicans): 7/8
Hassan Whiteside (Heat): 3/2
DeAndre Jordan (Clippers): 9/1
DeMarcus Cousins (Pelicans): 12/1
Kevin Durant (Warriors): 12/1
Steph Curry (Warriors): 33/1
Rudy Gobert (Jazz): 33/1
Draymond Green (Warriors): 66/1
Isaiah Thomas (Celtics): 75/1

The top four have been the four best players in the league this year. There’s not much debate on that. The fifth spot is where this gets interesting. Voters tend to include a center on the first team, since it’s actually supposed to resemble a starting-five. But, as with many progressive coaches, they’re getting more flexible with who they are willing to slot in at the five. I’m still banking on a traditional big-man getting the nod, and Davis has been the best of the towering bunch.

Westbrook elevating into contact
By Keith Allison (flickr)

COACH OF THE YEAR

Mike D’Antoni (Rockets): 4/5
Gregg Popovich (Spurs): 7/2
Erik Spoelstra (Heat): 12/1
Brad Stevens (Celtics): 12/1
Scott Brooks (Wizards): 12/1
FIELD: 99/1

Aside from getting rid of Dwight Howard, what’s the major difference between this year’s Rockets and last year’s Rockets? Mike D’Antoni. He took the team from eighth in the West to third, posting nearly 15 more wins. Popovich should probably win this award every season, but it’s no fun giving it to the objectively best coach year after year. So congrats, Mike!

Spoelstra would get the award if it only factored in the last half of the season. He orchestrated a remarkable turnaround for the Heat. He also oversaw an 11-30 start that wound up costing the team a playoff berth.

ODDS TO BE FIRED/LEAVE TEAM BEFORE 2017-18 SEASON

Alvin Gentry (Pelicans): 5/4
Jeff Hornacek (Knicks): 4/1
Stan Van Gundy (Pistons): 6/1
Earl Watson (Suns): 6/1
Fred Hoiberg (Bulls): 7/1
Brett Brown (76ers): 9/1
Doc Rivers (Clippers): 12/1

Not a single coach was fired in the 2016-17 season. I guess everyone’s happy with where they’re at.

Lol. No. Many of the basement-dwellers just made changes — see Lakers, Magic, Nets — so they’re not going to veer course just yet. Most of the other guys on the list have given management something to be encouraged about. Hoiberg had the hottest buttocks until Dwyane Wade went down and the Bulls made a playoff surge. Van Gundy wasn’t really in the conversation, but they were the anti-Bulls and tanked late.

The favorite remains Gentry. It wasn’t a big sample size, but he couldn’t figure out how to make the Anthony Davis/Demarcus Cousins experiment work. With just over 60 wins in his two seasons on the Pelican bench, change may be a’comin as soon as this offseason.

2017 NBA PLAYOFFS

ODDS TO WIN THE NBA TITLE

Warriors: 6/5
Cavaliers: 4/1
Spurs: 9/1
Rockets: 19/1
Celtics: 25/1
Clippers: 35/1
Raptors: 40/1
Wizards: 45/1
Jazz: 75/1
Hawks: 90/1
Bucks: 90/1
Thunder: 90/1
Pacers: 115/1
Bulls/Heat: 115/1
Grizzlies: 125/1
Trail Blazers: 150/1

ODDS TO MEET IN THE NBA FINALS

Cavaliers/Warriors: 1/1
Cavaliers/Spurs: 7/1
FIELD: 5/2

FIRST ROUND UPSET ODDS

Thunder over Rockets: 3/2
Bucks over Raptors: 2/1
Bulls over Celtics: 7/3
Grizzlies over Spurs: 3/1

These 2 vs. 7 and 3 vs. 6 matchups are going to be fun. (I know the Celtics are technically the one-seed. But that’s only a nominal designation.) Westbrook has OKC streaking into the pl’offs. He’ll give his MVP rival Harden and Houston’s mediocre defense a run.

The Celtics should be thankful the Heat missed out. They matchup a lot better with the Bulls, as does almost everyone in the league because the Heat are just a better team right now.

OVER/UNDER NUMBER OF LOWER-SEEDED TEAMS THAT ADVANCE IN THE FIRST ROUND: 2

Jazz/Clippers is basically a pick’em series, and Hawks/Wizards should be close, too. No one from the six-seed down is, on their own, likely to pull the upset, but I’d be surprised if one of those six teams didn’t advance to the second round.

ODDS WARRIORS SWEEP TRAIL BLAZERS: 3/5

The Warriors won all four matchups this year by an average of margin of 19.5 points. The last one ended up tight (113-111) but the Warriors also led by 20-plus at times. Steph and company won’t be too worried that the Blazers are blazing into the playoffs.

OVER/UNDER AVERAGE MARGIN OF VICTORY FOR WARRIORS OVER TRAIL BLAZERS: 10.5 PPG

Did I mention that the average margin in the four regular-season meetings was 19.5 PPG? These aren’t going to be close games, for the most part. That said, that regular-season number is boosted by a 45-point win back in December. It will come down in a more hotly contested playoff atmosphere. Expect roughly 15-point wins in Golden State and single-digit games in Portland.

ODDS CAVALIERS SWEEP PACERS: 6/5

LeBron knows the importance of rest, especially in the postseason. He hasn’t lost a first-round game since 2012. Don’t expect Cleveland to let off the gas if they go up 3-0. Don’t expect them to put together four flawless games, either, though. Make no mistake: this team has issues. And Paul George is the NBA’s version of Mr. October.

ODDS SPURS SWEEP GRIZZLIES: 3/2

The Grizz actually took two of four from the Spurs this year, both at home. There are a few reasons you shouldn’t expect the same parity in the playoffs: Kawhi Leonard didn’t play in one of the Memphis wins; the Grizzlies have only beaten one playoff team in the last four weeks (Pacers), while dropping games to the lowly Kings, Lakers, and Pistons; and their spirits may be crushed when they return home for Game 3 of the series already down 2-0. They should still manage to take a game, though.

ODDS ANY TEAM COMES BACK FROM A 3-1 DEFICIT TO WIN A PLAYOFF SERIES: 20/1

The Cavs’ comeback in last year’s finals was just the 11th time in NBA history that a team rallied from 3-1 down. The Warriors’ comeback against the Thunder in the West finals was obviously the tenth. But don’t let the fact that we saw two last year convince you that these are now common occurrences; it’s highly unlikely we see another this year.

OVER/UNDER TOTAL NUMBER OF PLAYOFF LOSSES FOR THE 2017 NBA CHAMPION: 5.5

The average over the last five years is 6.2. But unless a surprise team makes a run to the title this year, under six is likely. The Cavs, for all their blemishes, are still the class of the East. They lost five last year en route the title. The 2015 Warriors also lost five, and this year’s team won’t be pushed until the Western Conference finals.

OVER/UNDER PLAYOFF TRIPLE-DOUBLES

LeBron James (Cavaliers): 3.5
James Harden (Rockets): 2.5
Russell Westbrook (Thunder): 2.5
Draymond Green (Warriors): 1.5

By Keith Allison (flickr)

Westbrook just set the NBA record (42). In other words: he basically had a triple-double every second game. Why isn’t he the run-away favorite here? Harden had half as many (21), but figures to get about twice as many playoff games as Westbrook. James had just 13 in the regular season, but figures to get about twice as many playoff games as Harden. And the dude has a history of bringing it in the postseason.

ODDS TO RECORD THE MOST POINTS IN A SINGLE PLAYOFF GAME

Russell Westbrook (Thunder): 6/1
James Harden (Rockets): 8/1
LeBron James (Cavaliers): 9/1
Steph Curry (Warriors): 12/1
Isaiah Thomas (Celtics): 12/1
DeMar Derozan (Raptors): 15/1
Kevin Durant (Warriors): 15/1
Klay Thompson (Warriors): 15/1
John Wall (Wizards): 25/1
FIELD: 3/1

Russ had four 50-point games this year. That’s nuts. He also had 49, 48, 47, 46, and 45 (four times). All told, he had seven of the 25 highest scoring games this season. He might only get five or six chances, with OKC matching up with Houston in the first round, but saying he’s the Thunder’s go-to guy is like saying Pol Pot was kinda mean. The Houston defense is also really bad still.

Harden was just behind Westbrook in PPG (31.9 vs 29.3). He was more consistent than explosive, but did have two 50-point games of his own.

The odds that some Warrior wins this prop are pretty good. But which one? Any of Curry, Durant, and Thompson can go off for 50 on any given night. You might expect Durant to be higher, given his history of high-scoring games. But he only hit 40 once this year and is just coming back from that knee injury.

Given the names that are on the board, you might be strongly averse to the FIELD at 3/1. But keep in mind who’s not on the list: Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Buckets, Bradley Beal, Paul George, Blake Griffin, plus Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. (Don’t laugh; the Warriors give up a lot of points on a nightly basis.)

ODDS TO GET THE FIRST TECHNICAL FOUL OF THE PLAYOFFS

DeAndre Jordan (Clippers): 5/1
Dwight Howard (Hawks): 13/2
Markieff Morris (Wizards): 7/1
Rudy Gobert (Jazz): 22/3
Patrick Beverley (Rockets): 10/1
Russell Westbrook (Thunder): 10/1
Lance Stephenson (Pacers): 14/1
John Wall (Wizards): 14/1
Isaiah Thomas (Celtics): 19/1
John Henson (Bucks): 24/1
DeMar Derozan (Raptors): 33.1
Draymond Green (Warriors): 49/1

Jordan and Howard tied with 19 technical fouls this season, only trailing Boogie. Gobert’s odds get shorter matching up with Jordan. The double-technical is a good way for the officials to assert control early. And can’t you just see Patrick Beverley and Russell Westbrook getting into a shoving match?

ODDS RUSSELL WESTBROOK DOES NOT LEAD OKC IN SCORING IN A PLAYOFF GAME: 3/1

You can count on your fingers the number of times someone other than Russ led OKC in scoring this season (nine).

ODDS JAMES HARDEN DOES NOT LEAD HOUSTON IN SCORING IN A PLAYOFF GAME: 1/1

You’ll need your feet to count that number for Harden (20). The Rockets have other potent offensive players, namely Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, and Lou Williams. All can catch fire from behind the arc and light up the score sheet.

ODDS DRAYMOND GREEN PICKS UP A FOUR FOR HITTING A PLAYER IN THE GROIN: 7/3

He did it three times in last year’s playoffs. Though he has been on his best behavior during the regular season, when times get tough, look for those appendages to start flailing again.

ODDS JAVALE MCGEE AIR-BALLS A FREE THROW IN THE PLAYOFFS: 3/2

McGee only averages 1.4 free-throw attempts per game and misses half of them. However, Golden State should make a lengthy run and opposing teams could target the big, strategically putting him on the line to get the Warriors out of their groove. Expect McGee to shoot more than two free throws per game, which shortens these odds.

OVER/UNDER PLAYOFF FREE-THROW PERCENTAGE FOR…

DeAndre Jordan (Clippers): 48.5
Clint Capela (Rockets): 52.5
Dwight Howard (Hawks): 53.5

ODDS ANYONE BREAKS MICHAEL JORDAN’S PLAYOFF RECORD OF 63 POINTS IN A GAME: 9/1

Over the last 22 years, no player has scored more than 55 points in a single playoff game. This season, only Devin Booker recorded more than 63 points in a regular-season game, and he won’t be participating in the playoffs.

If it is going to happen, expect it from either Westbrook or Harden, who will both be looking to make a statement in their first-round matchup. Every other series that is going to be tightly contested will feature defense.

ODDS TO CORRECTLY PREDICT THE NBA CHAMPION

Kenny Smith: 7/4
Charles Barkley: 3/1
Shaquille O’Neal: 4/1

This prop is so meta! It basically boils down to, “Odds they’re stupid enough to pick a team not named the Warriors.” Since Shaq doesn’t even know where the Warriors play, he finishes up the field.

ODDS LONZO OR LAVAR BALL IS SHOWN ON TV DURING A CLIPPER PLAYOFF GAME: 19/1

LaVar has made it known that the Balls are all Lakers, all the time!