- 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
|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.
— LakeShow (@LakeShowCP) October 12, 2019
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.
6️⃣0️⃣ seconds of Trae Young dropping dimes. He’s elite. pic.twitter.com/tOg71kBWde
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) October 8, 2019
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.
With Zion in New Orleans and the Pels on TV all the time, causal NBA are gonna find out that Jrue Holiday is one of the truly elite all-around players in the league
— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) October 10, 2019
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.