The NBA preseason gets underway this week, which means we now have less than two weeks until the regular season gets underway. Basketball betting sites have been getting ready for the new campaign, with a number of props and futures bets available for your perusal.
The upcoming season will look a little different. Most games will be held without fans in arenas, at least early in the year. The schedule has also been sliced from the standard 82 games to 72 games so that the league can conclude the 2020-21 season before next summer’s Olympics get underway. Adam Silver is hoping to be able to start the 2021-22 campaign next October, as usual.
It should be interesting to see how certain players fare after the short turnaround from last season to this one. We could see more “load management” early in the year for teams like the Lakers and Heat that played deep into the postseason, which could affect the individual numbers for LeBron James, Jimmy Butler, or Anthony Davis. Time will tell.
NBA betting sites have props on which players will finish the season as the leaders in certain statistical categories, including scoring, rebounds, assists, and blocked shots. Which players are worth a wager as the new season tips off?
Harden Favored for Scoring Title…Again
James Harden (+125)
Luka Doncic (+650)
Damian Lillard (+650)
Stephen Curry (+800)
Russell Westbrook (+900)
Giannis Antetokounmpo (+1100)
Devin Booker (+1100)
Trae Young (+1400)
Kevin Durant (+2000)
Bradley Beal (+2200)
Anthony Davis (+2800)
Kyrie Irving (+5000)
Nine of the last 11 NBA scoring titles have been won by players that were teammates with the 2012 Oklahoma City Thunder. Kevin Durant won four between 2010 and 2014, Russell Westbrook won twice in 2015 and 2017, while James Harden has taken the crown in each of the last three seasons.
Harden may not know where he’ll be playing this season, but the Beard checks-in as a +125 favorite to lead the league in scoring average for a fourth-straight campaign. Harden averaged a career-high 34.4 points per game last season despite sharing the floor with Russell Westbrook, which is a remarkable feat considering Russ still averaged nearly 28 points per game himself.
James Harden has indicated to the Rockets that he’s open to being traded to the 76ers or other contenders, per @wojespn@espn_macmahon
Assuming Harden starts the season in Houston, there is no reason to believe he won’t be among the leaders again. The Rockets will be running a different offense now that Mike D’Antoni and Daryl Morey are gone, but there is little reason to believe Harden won’t continue to monopolize the ball. John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins may be in Houston now, but the Rockets’ offense will continue to revolve around Harden until further notice.
He may post an even higher usage rate this season without another high-volume guy like Westbrook sharing the floor. Harden’s path to another scoring crown gets more complicated if the Rockets trade him, especially if he winds up on a team like the Nets that already has a pair of proven scorers on the roster. However, the most likely outcome seems to be Harden staying in H-Town. As a result, there is still some value in betting on the former MVP’s current +125 odds.
Curry, Giannis Among Value Bets
If you’re not sold on Harden winning another scoring crown, there are some other solid values here. Steph Curry, for example, really stands out at +800. Klay Thompson is set to miss another season after his offseason Achilles injury, which means Curry should once again take the lion’s share of the shots for Golden State. He’ll have some help between Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre, and rookie James Wiseman, but there is little reason to believe Curry won’t finish among the NBA’s scoring leaders if he can stay healthy.
Curry only averaged 20.8 points per game in five games last year, so we can’t really draw any definitive conclusions from such a tiny sample. Steph averaged 30.1 points per game in his most recent full season in which he didn’t have to share the ball with Durant.
Even with KD in Oakland, Curry still averaged over 26 points per game. He’s going to be the focal point of the Warriors’ offense, of course, so Curry really stands out as a stellar value option given his +800 odds.
best isolation players in the 2019 Playoffs ranked by eFG% (min. 25 POSS)
1. Stephen Curry (58.1 eFG%)
2. James Harden (49.6%) 3. Damian Lillard (48.6%) 4. Kevin Durant (47.2%) 5. Chris Paul (46.3%) 6. Pascal Siakam (45.8%)
Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged a career-high 29.4 points per game last season despite averaging just over 30 minutes per game. The Bucks were involved in so many blowouts that the Greek Freak often didn’t even need to play a full complement of minutes. He is one of the most dominant all-around players in the game, and his scoring numbers have increased in each of his first seven seasons in the league.
If the Bucks happen to be involved in more competitive games over the course of the season, there is no reason to believe Antetokounmpo can’t challenge for a scoring title. He still finished fifth in the league in scoring last season behind four players that averaged far more minutes on a game-by-game basis. Giannis at +1100 here is amazing value given his potential.
The last player worth a mention is Luka Doncic. Doncic went from averaging 21.2 points per game as a rookie to 28.8 points per game in just his second NBA season. Luka has to share the ball with Kristaps Porzingis in Dallas, but that didn’t hamper his scoring numbers much last year. I’m not sold that there is much room for improvement on Doncic’s scoring numbers this season, but would anybody be surprised if he took another step forward in year No. 3?
I would bet on Curry (+800) or Antetokounmpo (+1100) before taking a shot on Luka’s +650 odds, but Doncic is still a viable long shot.
Safe Bet –Harden (+125)
Value Bet –Curry (+800)
Drummond Headlines Rebounding Leaders
Andre Drummond (+125)
Giannis Antetokounmpo (+300)
Rudy Gobert (+400)
Hassan Whiteside (+500)
Domantas Sabonis (+2000)
Joel Embiid (+2000)
Jonas Valanciunas (+3300)
Nikola Vucevic (+3300)
Bam Adebayo (+5000)
Jarrett Allen (+5000)
You can debate how impactful a player Andre Drummond is, but you can’t question his ability to clean the glass. Drummond paced the NBA with an average of 15.2 rebounds per game a season ago. It was Drummond’s third-straight rebounding title and his fourth in the last five years. It was also the third consecutive year in which Drummond averaged better than 15 boards per game.
Drummond saw far less playing time after being traded from the Pistons to the Cavaliers in February, but those minutes should tick back up this season. The Cavs no longer have Tristan Thompson on the roster as Drummond’s backup, so one would imagine Drummond will see the majority of the minutes in the middle.
However, playing next to Kevin Love over the course of a full season may take a toll on Drummond’s numbers. Love is still one of the better rebounders in the league, too. Assuming both guys stay healthy and remain with the Cavaliers all season, it’s hard to imagine Drummond eclipsing 15 caroms per game again in 2021.
Look, I’m all in on the idea we’ve gone too far with the basketball reference historical markers
But only Wilt and Kareem have scored as much as Giannis while rebounding as much as Giannis while racking up as many assists as Giannis while shooting as well as Giannis.
Antetokounmpo (13.6) was the biggest threat to Drummond’s rebounding title last season, followed by Hassan Whiteside (13.5), and Rudy Gobert (13.5). Whiteside will likely see less playing time now that he’s in a crowded Kings frontcourt, so I’d pass on his rebounding title odds at +500. Giannis has amazingly improved his rebounding numbers with each passing season, and it’s again worth mentioning that he put up those insane totals while barely averaging 30 minutes a game last year.
If he goes from averaging 30.4 minutes to, say, 33 minutes per game, why can’t Antetokounmpo average 15-plus boards? You’re getting a bit more meat on the bone with Giannis at +300 than you are with Drummond at +125. Given the question marks in Cleveland, I’d much rather bet on the Greek Freak winning his first career rebounding title in ’21.
Best Bet –Antetokounmpo (+300)
Can LeBron Win Another Assists Title?
LeBron James (+275)
Trae Young (+300)
Luka Doncic (+400)
Ricky Rubio (+600)
Ben Simmons (+1000)
Russell Westbrook (+1150)
James Harden (+1400)
Ja Morant (+1400)
Damian Lillard (+1600)
John Wall (+2000)
LeBron James was the Lakers’ de facto point guard last season after the team brought Anthony Davis into the fold last summer. James was up to the task and then some, as he wound up averaging a career-high 10.2 assists per game. The fact that he’s still accomplishing things for the first time at this stage of his career is nothing short of remarkable.
James has shown no signs of slowing down. The Lakers let Rajon Rondo walk as a free agent this winter. Adding Dennis Schroder via trade means the Lakers have upgraded their bench, but Schroder is more of a scorer than a natural point guard. As a result, we can assume LeBron is set to reprise his role as the offensive initiator for the reigning champs.
James averaged all those assists last season despite the fact that the Lakers weren’t a particularly prolific shooting team. LA was just 21st in the league last season in three-point percentage.
The NBA actually keeps track of potential assists, which are essentially the total number of assists a player would average if his teammates had knocked down their shots. In news that should surprise nobody, LeBron led the NBA with 18.4 potential assists per game last season. Trae Young (17.3) ranked second, followed by Luka Doncic (16.5), and Ben Simmons (16).
The Lakers should be a better shooting team this season. Schroder and Wesley Matthews are both more capable shooters than the rotation players they’re replacing (Rondo and Danny Green), while Marc Gasol is a solid floor-spacing center that should easily replace JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard in the middle. There is plenty of reason to believe the Lakers will be an even more prolific offensive team this season, so betting on LeBron to improve his assist numbers looks like a pretty smart bet.
Westbrook or Wall?
Russell Westbrook and John Wall were traded for each other last week. Westbrook’s overall numbers took a bit of a hit last season playing next to Harden, but it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see him bounce-back in Washington. Bradley Beal figures to lead the Wizards in scoring, but Russ should be able to put up his usual well-rounded numbers. Westbrook led the league in assists in both 2018 and 2019 with OKC.
Top 5 players in assists the last decade 1. Russell Westbrook (6,462) 2. Chris Paul (6,215) 3. Rajon Rondo (5,626) 4. Lebron James (5,503) 5. John Wall (5,282)
John Wall has never led the NBA in assists, but he has routinely ranked among the league leaders. The fact that he hasn’t played in two years is concerning, but the 30-year-old should still have plenty of opportunities now that he’s in Houston. Assuming Houston’s offensive philosophy is still centered around guards penetrating and kicking the ball out to open shooters, Wall should be a nice fit with the Rockets.
Given the odds, Westbrook looks like a particularly appealing value at +600. The Wizards have been one of the most fast-paced teams in basketball under Scott Brooks, so Washington’s speed should only enhance Russ’ chances of racking up huge numbers. It also won’t hurt that he’ll be out from under Harden’s shadow.
Value Bet –Westbrook (+600)
Can Whiteside Lead the NBA in Blocks?
Hassan Whiteside (+225)
Rudy Gobert (+300)
Anthony Davis (+350)
Brook Lopez (+350)
Myles Turner (+600)
Mitchell Robinson (+600)
Kristaps Porzingis (+2000)
Bam Adebayo (+5000)
Hassan Whiteside blocked 2.9 shots per game a season ago with Portland, which led the league. Whiteside wound up logging huge minutes as the Blazers’ starting center for most of the season with Jusuf Nurkic sidelined. It was the second time Whiteside has led the NBA in blocks, but we haven’t had a repeat champion in this category since Anthony Davis went back-to-back in 2014 and 2015.
Whiteside is in Sacramento now, where he’ll share frontcourt minutes with Richaun Holmes, Marvin Bagley, Frank Kaminsky, and Nemanja Bjelica. That’s a lot of mouths to feed, and it’s not even a guarantee that Whiteside will earn a starting job here. He averaged 30 minutes per game last season in Portland, but I’d easily bet the under on that number this year in Sacramento. As a result, it’s hard to imagine Whiteside leading the league in blocks again.
Rudy Gobert has averaged at least two blocks per game every year since 2015, but he has led the league just once. He finished tied for sixth in the category last season behind Whiteside, Brook Lopez, Anthony Davis, Myles Turner, and Kristaps Porzingis.
Frank Vogel said Lakers still want to have a “blend” of Anthony Davis playing power forward and center.
Of the other candidates, Davis looks like the most alluring value at +350. AD spent much of last season playing power forward next to either McGee or Howard in LA. While Gasol is now in the mix, I would be surprised if Davis didn’t spend much more time in the middle this time around. Playing center and spending more time around the rim should increase Davis’ opportunities when it comes to swatting shots.
Lopez is an underrated defender, but at the same odds as Davis he looks like a middling value at best. Mitchell Robinson should play the majority of the minutes at center for the Knicks, which makes him an intriguing value bet at +800. Robinson averaged 3.0 blocks per 36 minutes last season, which ranked fifth in the league. He only played about 23 minutes per game, though, due in part to inept coaching and his unfortunate habit for getting himself into foul trouble.
If Tom Thibodeau entrusts Robinson with more playing time, I would expect the Western Kentucky product to be among the league leaders in blocked shots. You can do a lot worse than taking a flier on the young big man at +800 here. The smartest bet is AD at +350, but Robinson is a very strong long shot bet.
Value Bet –Robinson (+800)
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu …