It seems to be the case every week in the NBA, but the Most Valuable Player debate reached fever pitch with a new favourite appointed. Meanwhile, Ja Morant has been cleared and the Golden State Warriors are a worry.
Ja’s Return To Play
This should be the end of it…
Whether the NBA’s decision to suspend Ja Morant is soft or not enough, it’s a decision. Unlike other recent incidents, they made a call and have tried to put a lid on the issue themselves.
Morant is a key part of the NBA’s future. He’s one of the most exciting players in the league and it’s in their best interest that this is put in the past as soon as possible.
Here's the basketball bottom line of the NBA's Ja Morant announcement: He's eligible to be on the court in five days (home against Dallas).
It's a massive factor that the league did not conclude that the gun belonged to Morant or was brought to NBA facilities (plane included).
— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) March 15, 2023
He is due back in the upcoming week. Whether or not he takes the floor at the earliest opportunity remains to be seen. The Memphis Grizzlies have maintained their place towards the top of the Western Conference without Morant, but their price to win the NBA championship has been slowly drifting out. Out at $17 last week, the Grizzlies are now on the 8th line of betting at $21 and losing ground on the rest of the contenders. The Philadelphia 76ers are next at $12.
It has shown in different ways than expected, but their inexperience and immaturity was always going to be a factor in their title run this year. Provided they finish this year well, perhaps even make a deeper-than-expected run in the playoffs, and the Grizzlies will set themselves up well for the 2023-24 NBA season.
NBA MVP Update
The NBA’s Most Valuable Player award has been one of the major talking points throughout the week.
Things started off in one of the strangest ways we’ve ever seen a potential MVP discredited.
Zach Lowe highlighted Nikola Jokic’s kicked-ball violations. He has 17 this season to lead the league while the second-placed player has only 17. It’s an eye-raising stat, but not one that should be coming up in MVP discussions…
“It’s his way of saying ‘I just don’t feel like playing defense.’ It’s smart … [but] we shouldn’t allow guys to karate kick the ball.”
Add Joel Embiid’s incredible play to the desperation to avoid a back-to-back-to-back MVP and Jokic has tumbled from $1.36 out to $4.50. Meanwhile, Embiid’s $3.50 from the end of last week is into $1.30 to start this one.
There isn’t really a wrong answer to this debate. Jokic is one of the best players in the league and the most important reason behind the Denver Nuggets’ 47-24 record to lead the Western Conference. His numbers are incredible (24.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 9.9 assists per game) and there isn’t a better passing big man in NBA history. The ease in which he plays the game is jaw-dropping.
Embiid is in the conversation and the current favourite for a reason, too. He now has a better player efficiency rating than Jokic; a regular feature of the pro-Jokic argument. His numbers aren’t too shabby either: 33.5 points, 10.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.7 blocks, 57.3 eFG%.
Joel Embiid now has 9 straight games with 30 or more points and he hasn’t played in the 4th quarter in 5 of those games. Just let that sit in for a minute
— Prez💊 (@PresidentEmbiid) March 19, 2023
The 28-year-old is dominating to have registered a 76ers record nine-straight 30-point games, and he’s dominating early. He recorded his seventh straight 30-point game shooting 55+% from the field this week. That ties LeBron James for the longest streak in the shot clock era. Of the 25 NBA players averaging 3.3 or more mid-range shots per game, Embiid’s 49% is behind only Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
For better or worse, the NBA’s MVP debate really rages at this time of the year. So often playoff seeds are close to set. Those teams at the bottom of the league are long out of the picture. This year seems particularly fever pitch, though. As it stands, Embiid is in line to win his first, and long-awaited, Most Valuable Player award ($1.30).
Clyde Frazier says Joel Embiid is his MVP, because “he has no weaknesses.” Points to Jokic’s interior defense and Gianni’s’ free throw & jump shooting as counter examples
— Nekias (Nuh-KY-us) Duncan (@NekiasNBA) March 18, 2023
Worried About The Warriors?
The Golden State Warriors have been without Andrew Wiggins which is another firey talking point around the NBA fan base. The Warriors know why Wiggins isn’t available, and he doesn’t want to speak publicly about it. He is dealing with a “family matter” and that should be the end of it…
It shouldn't be this difficult for people to respect Andrew Wiggins' privacy.
— Vivek Jacob (@vivekmjacob) March 18, 2023
On the basketball side of things, with a 133-119 loss to the Grizzlies, the Warriors have now lost 11 road games on the bounce. Within those losses is one in which Steph Curry dropped 50 points; the second time the Warriors have lost a game where their main man scores 50.
Their road woes have been enough for Vince Carter to write them off entirely:
“I’m convinced that at 7-27 (now 7-29), the way Golden State’s defence has played, that they won’t make it far in the playoffs. I’m not saying they won’t get in, they’ll get in. But I just think with their defence on the road, if they’re in the position in the top 4 where they get homecourt advantage first and foremost, they have a better chance in my opinion. Because if you do your business at home, you now go on the road, if you split, that’s great, it’s 2-2, instead of the other way around, instead of 0-2 with the pressure on yourself. So I’m convinced that right now, the Golden State Warriors will not do well and won’t make it deep in the playoffs with this defence right now.”
The Warriors are 7-0 at home. There is still a good team in there. A championship-contending team at $12. The other major issue comes in defence where the Warriors rank 19th, allowing 115 points per 100 possessions. For comparison, much of the same group last year won the NBA championship with the best defence in the league allowing 106.9 points per 100 possessions.
We’re likely to see a different Warriors team in the playoffs, but their recent regular season form and fall down the standings will make their path to the NBA Finals a lot more difficult. As it stands, they’re on the fourth line of betting to get through the West at $6.
NBA Championship Odds
We don’t need to check in on the teams towards the bottom of the NBA championship list. Here, we keep an eye on those inside the Top 10 each week.
The Milwaukee Bucks are notable movers; improving their status as NBA championship favourites by shortening to $3.75 from $4 a week earlier. Meanwhile, concerns around the Boston Celtics have them drifting out from $4.20 to $4.40 as the Phoenix Suns also move further out from $7 to $7.50.
The Los Angeles Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers are major movers, though. Perhaps the Russell Westbrook move won’t be so bad after all? We saw him play out these brief team-first periods at the Lakers so can’t get too excited just yet. Still, his Clippers have moved into $12 from $17. So too have the 76ers behind the stellar play of Joel Embiid.
Top 10 Odds
|TEAM||WEEK 21 PRICE||WEEK 22 PRICE|
|Golden State Warriors||$11||$12|
|Los Angeles Clippers||$17||$12|
|Los Angeles Lakers||$26||$23|