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Russell Westbrook +300 Favorite in Wide Open Field to Lead League in Assists per Game

Chris Amberley

by Chris Amberley in NBA Basketball

Oct 16, 2019 · 6:42 AM PDT

Russell Westbrook on the bench
Can Westbrook lead the league in assists alongside James Harden? Photo from @SINow (Twitter).
  • Russell Westbrook is the favorite to lead the NBA in assists for the third straight season
  • Westbrook’s usage is expected to decline now that he’s playing alongside James Harden
  • Jrue Holiday presents some sneaky long shot value

Russell Westbrook has led the NBA in assists in back-to-back seasons and now he’s teaming up with 2016-17 leader James Harden in Houston.

Westbrook is favored to win the assist title for a third straight season, but one look at the odds board suggests this race is wide open.

Odds to Lead NBA Regular Season in Assists

Player Odds
Russell Westbrook (Rockets) +300
LeBron James (Lakers) +425
Trae Young (Hawks) +450
Chris Paul (Thunder) +650
Ben Simmons (76ers) +750
Kyle Lowry (Raptors) +1000
De’Aaron Fox (Kings) +1100
Jeff Teague (Timberwolves) +1400
Draymond Green (Warriors) +2000
Nikola Jokic (Nuggets) +2000
Lonzo Ball (Pelicans) +2000
Jrue Holiday (Pelicans) +2500

Odds taken on 10/15/19.

Westbrook has slightly shorter odds than LeBron James and last year’s NBA Rookie of the Year runner-up Trae Young. He’s the only player to average double-digit assists in each of the last two seasons, but could the move from OKC to Houston actually limit his upside?

Will Westbrook’s Usage Decline?

Both Westbrook and Harden ranked top-15 in usage last season. Harden led the league in that category by a wide margin and it’s more likely that Westbrook will spend more time without the ball in his hands than his new teammate.

Harden led the NBA in iso possessions by a staggering margin and with all the success he’s had playing that style, it’s hard to envision him changing.

It’s easy to see Russ playing off the ball much more often when the two are on the court which will significantly impact his assist totals. Even if his usage decreases by 20 to 25 percent, he’ll have a difficult time reaching double digit assist totals which is what it will take to win this award.

Harden is a much more efficient player with the ball in his hands and Westbrook’s gaudy assist numbers over the last few years have been a product of his outrageous usage. If that usage declines, there’s no way to justify his short odds.

The Case Against LeBron

You get the feeling that LeBron James can roll out of bed and average 15 assists per game whenever he feels like it. Unfortunately for this award, he’s always been more inclined to score. LeBron has never averaged double digit assists in a season, and has exceeded 8.7 per game only once.

Now that he’s teamed up with Anthony Davis, there is a legitimate concern that James will play less minutes during the regular season, and more of the offense will run through the Lakers new big man. Given his short odds, it makes sense to look elsewhere.

Is It Trae’s Time?

In his rookie season, Young finished top-4 in assists per game, total assists and assist rate. There is definitely potential for him to grow into one of the league’s premier playmakers, but the lack of elite talent around him makes it difficult at the moment.

He’s the only All-Star calibre player on the Hawks roster and he’ll be relied on much more heavily to score than facilitate.

Don’t Sleep on Holiday

Jrue Holiday finished fifth in assists per game a season ago and now gets to share the floor with Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and JJ Redick, among others. The massive upgrade to the Pelicans roster will lead to plenty of easy helpers for Holiday, as will the breakneck speed New Orleans is expected to play at.

Despite the addition of Lonzo Ball, this is still Holiday’s offense to run and if he can stay healthy, he’s poised to put up massive totals this season. +2500 for his potential upside feels like a bargain.

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