A few months ago, my brothers-in-law and I took my wife’s father to the third round of the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. Going into the weekend, the eventual champ Brooks Koepka held a seven-shot lead. He looked unbeatable. We were bored.
While fully acknowledging that we were about to light $200 on fire, we all went in and put that much down on Dustin Johnson – then trailing by eight shots - to win at +800.
We lost (of course) but it didn’t change the fact that it made the weekend a hell of a lot more fun. Johnson at one point pulled within one shot of the lead, and briefly got it to 8-under - the eventual winning score.
So far this summer, I’ve written up several MVP contenders that l feel are particularly good or bad bets. Even though one of these favorites is probably going to win, none of them are going to make your NBA season all that much more enjoyable, like Mr. Johnson did for us. In the last one of these MVP columns, let’s change that. Longshots, after all, are the spice of life.
Here’s the good news: unlike my family and I, there’s a chance that your money won’t evaporate into the ether if you place one of these bets. Just eight years ago, Derrick Rose, who had never before appeared on an MVP ballot, came out of nowhere to win the award at +2500, per sportsoddshistory. Four years later, Steph Curry wasn’t exactly on many radars either at +1600. It can happen.
Using 20-to-1 as our dividing line, here are the top five longshot bets for the season ahead. At the very least, they should spice up plenty of random League Pass Tuesday nights.
I’m cheating a bit here, because Lillard is +1400 in some places, but he’s also double that in others.
The thinking is twofold. First, the best player on whatever team finishes first in the West is going to be a contender for this award. There are six teams that Vegas currently has ahead of Portland in the conference, but five of them have undergone substantial changes this offseason (Denver being the lone exception). It’s not that nuts to imagine the Blazers outpacing their 46.5 number by a handful of wins or more, especially when some other contenders might be more than happy to engage in ample load management along the way.
Second, and more importantly, human beings vote for this award. Damian Lillard is one of the few stars left standing not to seek out placement in a major market, and that could matter to some folks. That narrative alone won’t be enough to win it for him, but it could be a tiebreaker of sorts if he averages 30 a night for the team with the best record in an absolutely brutal conference.
As a Knicks fan, the thought of Dallas being good enough to support an MVP candidacy next season makes my stomach turn, so allow me to hold my nose for a moment while I very quickly write the following:
If Kristaps Porzingis stays healthy and the Mavs can surround he and Luka with enough shooting, there’s no reason the team can’t win 50 games, vault to the top half of the conference, and Doncic can’t put up a young Magic-esque 22, 9 & 9, becoming the first second-year player since Kareem to take home the league’s most coveted individual award.
Phewwwwwwwwwww…that was painful. Now please place your wagers at +7000 and let us never speak of this again.
It’s kind of nuts that you can currently get the best player on the team currently pegged to finish second in the West at 80-to-1 odds, but that’s where we’re at with Donovan Mitchell.
I mean…it’s not that nuts. Even if the Jazz did continue their trend of being a better regular season team than postseason one and put up a 60-spot, one would think there would be ample “Mike Conley was the difference” noise, and Mitchell would wind up with a lot of token third and fourth place ballot appearances. His efficiency could take a huge leap and still be nowhere near the top contenders for this prize.
Still, never discount the best player on the best team, and at these odds, it’s worth a shot.
Just wanted to make sure you were still paying attention.
I don’t think there’s any chance Jimmy Butler wins the MVP this season.
I can’t imagine the Miami Heat think there’s any chance Jimmy Butler wins the MVP this season.
I don’t even think Jimmy Butler thinks Jimmy Butler will win the MVP this season.
But you can get a consensus top-ten player (when healthy, happy and engaged) for +20,000. Those are worse odds than the aforementioned Andrew Wiggins, except Butler is actually, you know…good.
Vegas doesn’t think much of Miami, setting their over under at 42.5, but there’s a funky, interesting team lurking somewhere within their roster, and we once saw Coach Spo finish a season by going 31-10 with just such a group. Would it absolutely shock you if they found a path to 50 wins with Butler leading the way?
Yeah…yeah it would. But what the hell…it’s 200-to-1.
My favorite bet on the board, and I can’t even take credit for it.
The comparisons to a 22-year-old Derrick Rose are there and they are obvious. The big difference is that the 2010-11 Bulls got a coaching upgrade from Vinny Del Negro to Tom Thibodeau, which is like going from the cargo bin to first class. Thibs’ star has since lost its luster, but the difference at the time was massive, propelling the Bulls from a .500 team to a league-leading 62 wins.
The Kings also have a new coach, but no one knows yet how much of a step up Luke Walton will be from Dave Joerger, if he’s one at all. Chicago also took advantage of a weak conference that saw the 44-win Hawks nab a five-seed and the 37-win Pacers make the postseason.
44 wins may not be good enough to get into the playoffs in this year’s West, and there’s no promise the Kings even get that many. But Marvin Bagley was lighting up Team USA’s camp before withdrawing this weekend, and every other young King should also be better than they were last year. The team also added Trevor Ariza, Dewayne Dedmon and Cory Joseph this summer, all competent vets who should help fill in the cracks.
Is he as likely to win as Derrick Rose was almost a decade ago? No…but Rose’s line was +2500, while Fox’s odds are ten times that, as he’s currently available for +25000.
If I’m going to light a C-note on fire in the season ahead, this is definitely the guy I want to do it with.