With about 25 games left to go in the regular season, time for a recap on my preseason futures picks as well as a few additions for the second half.
Link to preseason post: www.ybkpicks.com/nba/2016/10/24/futures-picks
Warriors under 67.5 wins (5u)
- The Warriors are currently 47-9 (83.9%), which extrapolates to a 68.8 win season. I had expected Golden State to start out a little slow with the addition of KD and making the necessary adjustments to accommodate an all-NBA caliber player. After losing the season opener to San Antonio, the Warriors won 16 of their next 17 games and seemed to transition flawlessly to KD's game. Although they're currently on pace to break the 67.5 win mark, I expect Kerr to give some starters a day off here and there in the final month of the season, especially after the #1 seed is locked up.
Regular Season MVP: Westbrook +400 (5u) / Harden +1600 (5u)
- Before the season started, I couldn't think of anyone else that could realistically contend for MVP besides these two. There's just too much voter fatigue on established MVP's like LeBron/Steph/KD, plus Steph/KD would likely see their usage rates drop and split MVP votes by being on the same team. Some players weren't going to have enough team success to qualify like Boogie/AD/PG, and the only other pick I considered was Kawhi, who probably wouldn't have enough counting stats. As of today, the odds for Westbrook are at +110 and Harden has dropped all the way down to a -150 favorite. It's essentially a two horse race at this point, with Russ needing either a triple double average or his team to clinch a top 4 seed (3.5 games back) in the West to have a shot at winning the MVP. If the Rockets maintain their 3 seed (4 games ahead) and Harden keeps up his current career-high pace (29.2/8.3/11.3), he should rightfully remain the favorite going forward.
2016-17 NBA Champions: Cleveland Cavaliers +300 (5u)
- I had written in my preseason post that there's no value in taking the Warriors as a sizable favorite before the season starts, and I still stand by that statement. The West is too top heavy and talented with the Spurs and Rockets standing in their way to see any value as a current -250 favorite. The Cavs are currently a +250 dog and the value seemed to be all but gone with them limping in early 2017, including a brutal 2-6 stretch in mid-January. Since then, they've added Korver who has been on fire lately, helping the Cavs go into the all-star break with a 7-1 record in February. LeBron is still playing far too many minutes (37.5 MPG, 2nd in NBA) but should rest up closer to playoff time to get ready to defend their title.
Houston to win the West +1000 (2u)
- Houston picked up Lou Williams yesterday and may not be done dealing before tomorrow's deadline. This is a deadly offensive lineup that can take on any team when their threes are falling, and adding Williams will only help their run and gun style offense that broke the NBA record for threes made (24) and threes taken (61) in a game earlier in the season. They also lead the NBA by a huge margin in 3pt frequency (45.9%) and lead the 2nd place team by a whopping 6.5% (Cavs - 39.4%). They're such a deep team on the offensive end and could feature Beverley/Williams/Gordon together in the second unit when Gordon is able to handle the other team's small forward defensively. If there's any team in recent memory that can beat the Warriors at their own game, it's these Rockets who could be putting teams on upset alert in the playoffs.
Boston to win the East +500 (4u)
- I expect these odds to drop, along with their championship odds (+2000) by the 12pm PST trade deadline tomorrow as they're in the running for several star players, including Butler. Boston still badly needs some help on the glass with their bottom 3 team rebounding if they want to make a serious run in the playoffs. If they're able to make a key addition or two by tomorrow's deadline, they should have the best chance to take down the Cavs in the Conference Finals in the East. Boston might even match up better against Cleveland than against Washington or Toronto because Thomas wouldn't be able to handle a Wall/Beal or Lowry/Derozan backcourt, but can hide on defense by sticking to Korver/JR and Boston can put a solid perimeter defender like Bradley on Kyrie. There's definitely some value with the Celtics who are just 3 games behind Cleveland to ride the emergence of a superstar in Thomas to upset the defending champs in May.
Brad Stevens to win Coach of the Year +1000 (2u)
- I'm doubling down on the Celtics by taking Stevens to win the CotY award. He's one of the most respected young minds in the game and deservedly got to coach the All Star game last week as the East team head coach. Since his first season where his Celtics went 25-57, Stevens turned the franchise around quickly, following up with records of 40-42, 48-34, and currently 37-20, winning 11 of their last 12 games going into the All Star break. The Celtics should make some noise in the East and there's value in taking Stevens to win CotY at 10:1 odds.