Is anyone surprised that Russell Westbrook is heaving up just under 25 shots per game? Of course not. We knew he would. But I certainly didn’t expect him to pick up the slack elsewhere, too. The Thunder point guard is not only proving he is capable of sharing the ball (11.3 assists per game), but he is also the team’s leader in rebounds as well (10.5 per game).
It’s no secret that Westbrook has established himself as the odds-on favorite for the MVP. We haven’t even played a quarter of the season, though. There is still a lot of basketball to be played, and a lot that could happen between now and April. So which other players remain in the MVP conversation? How about the Rookie of the Year?
Here are the odds for who will take home the three major individual awards, as well as which coach may be hoisting some hardware at the conclusion of the 2016-17 season.
Odds for NBA Player Awards
Russell Westbrook, Thunder: 4/1
James Harden, Rockets: 14/3
LeBron James, Cavaliers: 11/2
Kawhi Leonard, Spurs: 7/1
Anthony Davis, Pelicans: 15/2
With almost a quarter of the season in the books, Russell Westbrook is still averaging a triple-double. Only one other player in league history has done what Russell Westbrook is right now, and that was Oscar Robertson in 1961-62. If Westbrook puts his name alongside “The Big O,” he’ll be the unanimous choice for MVP.
If his numbers fall, Westbrook will find himself in a tight race with James Harden, who is thriving under new head coach Mike D’Antoni. The Rockets point guard currently sits in the top five in points per game and leads the league in assists per game.
It was awfully weird setting these odds and not including the likes of Kevin Durant or Steph Curry, whose names have been attached to the award for the last three seasons. But it’s difficult to imagine the league giving it to one of the two, since they’re both sacrificing their respective numbers to play together. The two Warriors along with Damian Lillard, Blake Griffin, DeMarcus Cousins, and even DeMar DeRozan bring some legitimacy to the field, though.
Rookie of the Year Odds
Joel Embiid, 76ers: 2/3
Brandon Ingram, Lakers: 7/1
Jamal Murray, Nuggets: 9/1
Ben Simmons, 76ers: 12/1
It has not been a great year for the 2016 draft class. First-overall pick Ben Simmons won’t play his first NBA game until January, after suffering a broken foot in training camp; second-overall pick Brandon Ingram is struggling offensively, in spite of playing quality minutes; and the rest of the top ten are either getting lost in their respective teams’ rotations or squandering their opportunities.
With the door wide open for a rookie to steal the show, it has been a 2014 draftee who has seized the opportunity. Joel Embiid leads all rookies in scoring, averaging slightly more than 18 points per game (next best is 10.4 per game), and also leads the class in rebounds as well. Now that he has proven to be a reliable big-man, Embiid’s minutes are increasing, and so too should his numbers.
Defensive Player of the Year Odds
Hassan Whiteside, Heat: 5/1
Rudy Gobert, Jazz: 11/2
Kawhi Leonard, Spurs: 11/2
Anthony Davis, Pelicans: 6/1
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks: 9/1
The Pelicans’ talented big-man, Anthony Davis, is currently leading the league in blocks per game (2.8) and adding just under two steals per game as well. Add in the fact that he’s a vacuum on the glass and you’re probably wondering why he isn’t the odds-on favorite to take home the honor. Injuries. Davis has never played in more than 68 games in a season, so his odds get a little longer as a result.
For now, the favorite is Hassan Whiteside. The center is the only rim protector on the Heat, so his 2.4 blocks per game are likely to remain true. Whiteside also currently leads the league in rebounds per game with 14.8. If Davis does fall victim to injury, or his numbers drop-off, Whiteside and Rudy Gobert will find themselves neck-and-neck down the stretch to dethrone back-to-back winner Kawhi Leonard.
Coach of the Year Odds:
Mike D’Antoni, Rockets: 6/1
Doc Rivers, Clippers: 19/3
Tyronn Lue, Cavaliers: 7/1
Gregg Popovich, Spurs: 15/2
Steve Kerr, Warriors: 9/1
Last season Houston was a .500 team that was lucky to make the playoffs, and then almost got swept by a Curry-less Warriors. After an offseason that saw Dwight Howard leave and some B-list free agents arrive, there was a lot of skepticism surrounding the team entering the season. Yet, after a little more than a month of play, they find themselves sitting fourth in the Western Conference. They have also proven they can play with the best, evident by their double-overtime victory over the league-leading Warriors – playing with Steph Curry and Kevin Durant this time.
What has changed? Mike D’Antoni is getting the most from James Harden, and his team is buying in on the defensive end, too. If Houston can remain a top-contender in the West, D’Antoni would deserve the award.
Remember I said the league won’t want to give Steph Curry or Kevin Durant the MVP? Well, the same goes for Steve Kerr with the Coach of the Year award. What he accomplished with the Warriors last season was nothing short of incredible, but now he is expected to coach this team to at least 65 wins. In order for him to defend his crown, Golden State will likely have to win at least 70 games. That’s not impossible, though.
Since it is still early, the field carries some rather short odds here. Coaches like Dwane Casey of the Raptors, Fred Hoiberg of the Bulls, Billy Donovan from the Thunder, and even David Fizdale of the Grizzlies have a decent shot at the award. The latter will be a prime contender if he can get the Grizzlies through all the injuries they have suffered, while Casey would carry some weight if he can find a way to take the top seed from the Cavs.
Photo Credit: Erik Drost from United States (Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.