As we exit January, we’re just across the halfway point of the NBA’s regular season. It’s been quite the ride so far. A couple young teams have emerged to stake their claim, while some familiar faces have struggled to stay atop the mountain. It also seems like someone is scoring 60 points every other night. So that’s fun.
However, we’re not here to recap. We’re here to project. Let’s dive into a few of my favorite futures on the DraftKings Sportsbook.
I know. Predicting the Clippers to have playoff success has been a fool’s errand for the better part of a decade. There’s also the matter of James Harden’s postseason track record and the general uneasiness surrounding the sustained health of Kawhi Leonard. Still, Los Angeles has looked the part of the West’s best team for weeks. After a period of admittedly hilarious growing pains, the Clippers have gelled around Harden, going 22-5 since the beginning of December. Across specifically its last 15 games, Los Angeles is 12-3 with a 9.9 net rating that leads all teams in its conference.
There’s no reason to question if the team has enough top-tier star power to succeed in the playoffs, while even role players like Norman Powell and Daniel Theis have experience in the Finals. The Clippers also lead the league in three-point shooting rate (39.2%) — a trait that isn’t just a bonus anymore, it’s a necessity. Considering how well the team has played the past two months, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Los Angeles in the mix for the Western Conference’s top-seed. The team currently sits two games back of the Timberwolves, yet has two games in hand on both Minnesota and Oklahoma City. The Clippers actually have three games in hand on Denver. The point is this: They control their own destiny.
Coach of the Year
Is this is the most fun future on the board? No. Not even close. In fact, Daigneault is currently the favorite to win this award on the DraftKings Sportsbook. Yet, he remains listed at plus-money, which feels like an opportunity.
When looking at the recent history of Coach of the Year winners, there are basically two ways to secure this trophy: Coach the team with the league’s best record or coach the league’s biggest turnaround story. Daigneault has a legitimate chance to do both. The Thunder are currently one game out of the top spot in the Western Conference and four games back in the win column from the Boston Celtics. However, despite their 63-win pace, it doesn’t seem like Joe Mazzulla (+1800) is getting a lot of buzz for this award. Not after the Celtics won 57 contests and appeared in the Finals just last season.
Instead, this appears to be a two-man battle between Daigneault and Chris Finch (+240). At first glance, these two squads weren’t all that dissimilar in 2022-23, both finishing within a game of .500. However, the Timberwolves have made the playoffs in each of Finch’s two seasons at the helm in Minnesota. The organization cashed in almost all its chips two off-seasons ago with the Rudy Gobert trade. For all intents and purposes, the Timberwolves were supposed to be good in 2023-24. Maybe not this good, but good nonetheless. That wasn’t quite the expectation for the Thunder, who barely managed to win 20 contests in Daigneault’s first two seasons with the team. It just feels like Oklahoma City will get rewarded in some way for its stunning performance. For my money, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander falls short of winning the MVP, so Coach of the Year becomes the team’s consolation prize.
Defensive Player of the Year
As of writing, Rudy Gobert (-300) is the overwhelming favorite for this award. That makes sense. Not only do the Timberwolves own the league’s best defensive rating (109.0), not only has Gobert already won this award three times, but there is a very clear trend when it comes to voting on Defensive Player of the Year. Big guys usually take this one home. In fact, since 2004-05, the only players not traditionally considered a power forward or center to win this trophy are Kawhi Leonard and Marcus Smart. That’s not a long list.
Still, I’d be remiss if I didn’t consider the power of a New York narrative. Anunoby has been spectacular since being traded to the Knicks, averaging 1.8 steals and 1.1 blocks per game for a team that is 13-2 with the NBA’s best defensive rating since his arrival (104.0). That’s not just a fun coincidence, either. In that same 15-game span, New York has maintained a defensive rating of 100.2 in Anunoby’s 501 minutes of action. Without Anunoby on the court this season? The Knicks have allowed a whopping 117.0 opponent points per 100 possessions. To be blunt, Anunoby is an on/off splits legend at this point — not that he’s off very often. Tom Thibodeau has found his new workhorse and has already asked Anunoby to log over 40 minutes on multiple occasions. While that’s likely not ideal for Anunoby’s knees and back, it does give the wing ample opportunity to keep racking up the defensive counting stats. There’s clearly a path here to overtaking Gobert.
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All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook, lines and odds subject to change.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theglt13) and I may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.