VSIN’s basketball expert dives into a few emerging NBA betting issues.
DeMar making strong case
The MVP race has seemingly been whittled down to two contenders: Stephen Curry (+120 at BetMGM) and Kevin Durant (5/2). It makes sense to an extent. They are the best players on the best teams in their conferences, but a three-game losing streak for Brooklyn entering Wednesday had dropped them to second in the Eastern Conference standings behind the Bulls. If we’re running with the simple criteria of “best player on the best team,” then the Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan deserves more respect in the MVP race.
DeRozan has had multiple MVP moments this season, none more impactful than the back-to-back buzzer-beaters on Friday and Saturday. On two consecutive nights, DeRozan won games for the Bulls at the horn against Indiana and Washington. He leads Chicago in scoring and PER, and even his advanced metrics compete with the likes of Curry and Durant. Of the three, Curry leads the way in efficiency differential at +19.9, with DeRozan behind him at +17.0, according to Cleaning The Glass, both way ahead of Durant (side note: Nikola Jokic — BetMGM’s fourth choice at 14/1 — blows all of them out of the water).
DeRozan is also clutch. In the fourth quarter this season, he’s shooting 53.0 percent from the floor and a remarkable 53.8 percent from 3-point range. There’s a much more complicated picture to paint, but the point is DeRozan deserves respect for what he has done, and his current 40/1 price tag to win the award is not reflective of his true odds at this point.
Cavaliers’ future bleak
Cleveland has been a tremendous story this season. The Cavaliers are just eight victories away from clinching the Over on their win total, and right now they control the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. Their +4.9 net rating in non-garbage time minutes is fourth-best in the NBA and the best in the Eastern Conference. However, the loss of Ricky Rubio for the season is a massive blow and has the potential to derail a magical season.
With Rubio on the floor, the Cavaliers were outscoring their opponents by 6.9 points every 100 possessions. Rubio and Darius Garland formed one of the most effective backcourts in the league, ranking in the 98th percentile of qualified lineups in net rating (+15.5) and the 88th percentile in offensive efficiency (115.7).
Garland has come along strong, but there’s no question Rubio has been the main straw stirring the drink. When he is off the floor, the Cavaliers’ net rating drops to +2.3 with the offense averaging just 110.9 points per 100 possessions.
There is still plenty to like about the Cavs without Rubio — their power rating is still extremely strong — but this team becomes pretty average without him. It would not be surprising to see the Cavaliers slide down the standings as they adjust to life without Rubio.
Scoring surge up north
Last week, the Ontario government capped attendance at concert venues, arenas and theaters to 1,000 people due to surges in COVID-19 cases. As a result, the Raptors canceled all tickets to home games for the next three weeks and limited attendance to team staffers and family and friends of players.
The first two games in Toronto with no fans have gone over the total by an average of 14.5 points, which is something to monitor.