If it feels like football season just started, that’s because it basically did. But with the NHL now in the mix and the NBA’s regular season set to tip off Tuesday night with a pair of marquee games (Celtics-Sixers and Warriors-Lakers) on TNT, the busiest time of year for omnivorous sports bettors has gleefully arrived.
To that end, several US Bets staffers have been shopping for primo futures wagers, and we’ve compiled the best of our bets below (all odds current as of Friday, Oct. 14). Heed our advice at your own risk, and regardless of which teams or players you get down on, bet responsibly!
Brooklyn’s Big 3 to play under 43.5 games together, -110 at FanDuel
Take a superstar who spent all summer asking to be traded, combine him with the most erratic high-profile personality in the league, and add a sports psychologist’s dream who’s found excuses not to play a single NBA game in 16 months. What could go wrong?
Among Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Ben Simmons, I wouldn’t be confident in the Brooklyn Nets getting two of the three on the court together for 44 or more games this season, never mind all three. There are countless paths to the under: Durant (or any of them) again demands a trade; Irving, who has played under 30 regular season games two of the past three years, decides to go backpacking across Europe or formally joins a cult or something; Simmons caves under the pressure and starts sitting out again; Simmons’ back acts up; Durant suffers yet another lower-body injury.
Two of the three players give the impression they aren’t sure they want to play professional basketball, and the third is 34 years old and possibly breaking down. And if it doesn’t all start clicking quickly, any or all of them could want out.
Nobody wants to root for injuries, but you don’t need anyone to stub a toe for this under to come in.
– Eric Raskin
Nikola Jokic to three-peat as MVP, 12/1 at Caesars
Nikola Jokic is the Rodney Dangerfield of basketball — no respect, no respect.
“Now just wait one Serbian second,” I can hear you saying. “No respect? The guy won back-to-back MVP awards on teams that won 47 and 48 games.”
Yeah. And now he’s playing for one of the most hyped teams in the NBA — with a win total set at 50.5 — and he’s getting Jamal Murray back and Michael Porter Jr. is clearly ready to make the leap and Aaron Gordon is going to be the biggest defensive pest in the league and … Jokic is +1200 to win the MVP at Caesars.
Ahead of him? Luka Doncic at +390, The Greek Freak at +575, Joel Embiid at +700, Kevin Durant at +1000, and Jayson Tatum at +1000.
Now, are NBA MVP voters as lazy as me, refusing to learn (or even look up) how to spell “Giannis Antetokounmpo?” Perhaps. Are they sick of giving the award to Jokic? Maybe. Can anyone above him easily take the honors? Of course.
But it seems insane that the two-time reigning MVP, with the best supporting cast he’s ever had, has the sixth-best odds. If he’s in the running as the season wears on, we’ll start hearing the three-peat drumbeat, something that hasn’t been done since Larry Bird did it from 1984-86. Wilt Chamberlain (1966-68) and Bill Russell (1961-63) are the only others who have accomplished the feat.
So at +1200, it’s not quite a steal, but it certainly seems like those odds should be shorter.
– Jeff Edelstein
San Antonio Spurs under 22.5 wins, -104 at FanDuel
Gregg Popovich is, indisputably, one of the best NBA coaches of all time. For nearly a quarter century, you could safely write the Spurs in as a playoff team in ballpoint pen, if not permanent marker.
But those days are over.
For the past three seasons, Pop’s Spurs have finished with a sub-.500 record, and this past offseason, San Antonio’s roster was blown to smithereens — most notably with triple-double machine Dejounte Murray getting shipped to Atlanta for a boatload of first-rounders. What’s left is one of the weakest collections of talent — Keldon Johnson is San Antonio’s top offensive option, for Pete’s sake — since, well, the 1996-1997 Spurs after they lost David Robinson to a season-ending injury and finished with the third-worst record (20-62) in the league.
That’s where there’s a method to this madness. After bottoming out in ’97, the Spurs won the draft lottery, selected Tim Duncan, and went on to win five NBA titles during the course of his career. French wunderkind Victor Wembanyama, a 7’4” Kevin Durant-Rudy Gobert hybrid, will be the top selection in the 2023 NBA draft, and the Spurs are fixing to be so awful that they won’t have to to tank in order to have great odds to snap him up and start their next dynasty.
Tanking typically requires effort — phantom injuries, weird minutes distribution, and the like. To the contrary, Popovich’s charges will undoubtedly give it their all each night, with San Antonio’s best players commanding the most playing time. But those “best players” are either so mediocre or inexperienced that the Spurs will start the season lodged in the bottom of the toilet, and it’s pretty tough to flush up.
– Mike Seely
Three-team parlay: Nuggets and Pelicans 50+ wins, Pistons 30+ wins, +836 at FanDuel
One of the most intriguing storylines for the opening of the NBA season surrounds the return of a host of star players following an extended absence from injury.
Two teams out west are poised for a bounce after first-round departures last spring. In the Rockies, Jamal Murray (torn ACL) and Michael Porter Jr. (back issues) will return for the Denver Nuggets after missing considerable time. And down in the Gulf Coast, a slimmer, more agile Zion Williamson returns for the New Orleans Pelicans after sitting out the entire 2021-22 season with a foot injury.
With the Jazz and the Spurs set to experience serious regression (Popovich even advised bettors not to wager on his team), the Pels and Nuggets could be the main beneficiaries. Beset by injuries last year, New Orleans still managed to post a 36-46 record after an atrocious 3-16 start. The Pelicans improved drastically after a blockbuster trade for CJ McCollum and pushed the Suns to six games in the Western Conference quarterfinals.
Pels swingman Brandon Ingram is coming off the best season of his career. The return of Williamson, along with Ingram and McCollum, gives New Orleans a potent “Big 3.” The Pelicans also have a pair of pesky defenders in Herb Jones and Jose Alvarado. Jones, who averaged 1.7 steals per game last season, is the third choice at FanDuel to lead the league in the category.
Denver, meanwhile, somehow won 48 games with Murray out for the whole year and Porter sidelined for the majority of the season. The Nuggets (20/1) rank fourth among all teams in NBA championship tickets, with 8% of the bet count at FanDuel.
I’m betting that both the Nuggets (-160) and Pelicans (+220) will win at least 50 games. I’ll take it one step further, as FanDuel allows bettors to parlay up to six season-win totals. I’ll parlay those two with a wager on the Pistons (-125) to win 30 games or more. A $100 bet will return $836.
– Matt Rybaltowski
Malcolm Brogdon, Sixth Man of the Year, 16/1 at Betfred
The Boston Celtics have had their share of issues this offseason, including their head coach getting suspended for the entire 2022-2023 campaign for allegedly creeping on a female staffer.
But the Celtics came within two wins of hanging another banner in the Garden just a few months ago and supercharged their bench this offseason by acquiring combo guard Malcolm Brogdon from Indiana. To be sure, health has been an issue for Brogdon, who would be the top guard on most NBA teams. But in Boston, he doesn’t even have to start.
Several sportsbooks are offering 11/1 odds on Brogdon to win Sixth Man of the Year, but Betfred has him at 16/1 — an absolute steal for anyone who thinks he can suit up for more than 70 games. He’s only done that once in his career — his rookie season with Milwaukee — but coming off the pine should keep his minutes down and, more importantly, ensure that Payton Pritchard never logs another meaningful postseason minute in green and white.
– Mike Seely
Minnesota Timberwolves over 49.5 wins, -110 at BetMGM
The Minnesota Timberwolves will win at least 50 games playing in the rough-and-rugged Western Conference with new addition Rudy Gobert roaming the paint.
A year after finishing with a 46-36 record, T-Wolves management refused to be complacent with the makeup of last year’s team that reached the first round of the playoffs, where they lost in six games to the Memphis Grizzlies. Minnesota took many by surprise over the summer by trading a bunch of role players and draft picks to Utah for the best low-post defender in today’s game in Gobert. The Stifle Tower will be paired with another 7-foot all-star, Karl-Anthony Towns, to headline one of the tallest and most talented frontcourts in the game.
T-Wolves coach Chris Finch will defy the present-day trend of implementing a lineup of interchangeable players capable of shifting to multiple positions to achieve success. Minnesota will win the old-fashioned way, utilizing a super-sized frontcourt to dominate the paint on both ends of the floor.
– Donald Emmons
DeMar DeRozan to average at least 26 points per game, +100 at FanDuel
An early warning that this bet may result in needing to sweat it out down the stretch. The belief is the Bulls small forward will have to shoulder the offensive scoring load in the early part of the season, similar to 2021-22 after Lonzo Ball was lost for the season with a knee injury.
DeRozan played 39 games after Ball was shut down and averaged 29.9 points while shooting 51.4% from the field and 90% from the foul line. Ball’s absence at the start of this season creates some uncertainty, however, because reported timelines for his recovery from his latest surgery have ranged from weeks to months.
The longer Ball is out, the more DeRozan has control of the offense, even if second-year guard Ayo Dosunmu or veteran pickup Goran Dragic are running it. And DeRozan does have capable scorers around him in Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic to help space things out.
At even money, the pick is priced as a coin flip, but the expectation is for the Bulls to lean on DeRozan heavily in the early going. The hope is he remains an efficient scorer while his usage ticks higher in Ball’s absence.
– Chris Altruda
Photo: Brad Penner/USA TODAY