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NBA – Week 21 In Review

The pointy end of the NBA season is fast approaching and teams are jockeying for position. Meanwhile, the MVP race might not be over just yet.

Durant Goes Down

Whether or not he’s still one of the best players in the NBA when on the court, trading for a 34-year-old star is always a risk. For the Phoenix Suns, that risk may not pay off this season. Kevin Durant is expected to miss 2-3 weeks with an ankle sprain.

The injury has put a massive dent in Phoenix’s title hopes. While he will be back for the post-season, Durant will return in a tough spot. The Suns are currently 4th in the Western Conference at 37-30 ahead of the LA Clippers (36-33) and Golden State Warriors (35-33). With one of the hardest strengths of schedules remaining, the Suns will have a tough time jockeying for home-court advantage in the first round.

Phoenix’s price to win the NBA championship has taken a tumble. Jumping out to title favourites following the trade, the Suns are out to the third line of betting at $7 following the injury.

The issue is cohesion. We’ve seen stacked teams attempt to make a run through the playoffs having played little basketball together in the regular season. Durant’s Brooklyn Nets with James Harden is a prime example. Kawhi Leonard’s load management alongside Paul George is another. While the Suns might have enough firepower alone to win in the first round, they’ll struggle to piece it all together often enough to advance through to the NBA Finals.

NBA MVP Update

Nikola Jokic is still a heavy $1.36 favourite to take out the Most Valuable Player award. He is a freak. His 24.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 10 assists per game are attractive enough, but dig beyond the raw numbers into the analytics and apply a simple eye test, and it’s not difficult to see why he should win it well and truly against the preseason odds.

Joel Embiid is coming, though.

In stark contrast to Jokic who has always seemed indifferent to winning the MVP award, Embiid has publicly stated numerous times he wants to win it. He’s certainly giving it a good shake this season.

The 28-year-old is averaging a whopping 33.4 points per game to go along with 10.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.6 blocks. Across a two-day stretch he scored 81 points on 24-38 shooting while going 5-6 from deep, blocked four shots, reeled in three steals, played 65 minutes, and won a pair of games. As it stands, his 64.8% true shooting percentage is the highest mark of any player in NBA history averaging over 32 points per game.

He’s unstoppable at the rim shooting 81%. Give him some room for a long two and he’s knocking them down at 49% before taking a step back and hitting 36% of his three-point shots. Any other year and Embiid would more than likely win his elusive MVP award. This year, however, he’s on the second line of betting behind Jokic at $3.50.

Other Contenders: Giannis Antetokounmpo ($9), Jayson Tatum ($36), Luka Doncic ($56)

Westbrook Rises

It’s only fair, having taken most opportunities to point out the flaws in his game and contribution to the downfall of the Los Angeles Lakers all season that we give credit where credit is due.

Russell Westbrook continues to rise the NBA’s all-time assists list this week.

He’s an effective player in the right spot. That spot wasn’t with the Lakers and early signs suggest it isn’t with the Clippers either. Still, Westbrook will go down as one of the best players in NBA history when it is all said and done.

Will he have a championship to show for it? The Clippers are 5-5 in their last ten games and slowly improving to be on the sixth line of betting to win the championship at $17.

Donte Putting Up Numbers

Grizzlies Getting Back To Basketball

It has been a tumultuous couple of weeks for the Memphis Grizzlies. It’s fairly obvious in hindsight that the immaturity of the playing group would hold them back at the pointy end of the season and Ja Morant’s off-court issues have put a handbrake on their run towards a championship.

Morant is unlikely to be charged with anything officially, but the Grizzlies are putting their own restrictions on the point guard. Coach Taylor Jenkins wouldn’t go into too many details around what Morant needs to achieve while he sits out at least the next four games, but the Grizzlies aren’t going to accept his recent behaviour.

“There’s definitely steps that are going to need to be met personally and professionally as he deals with some stuff personally to get better. Then obviously the expectations on the team, he’s going to have some things that he’s going to have to clear to know what the expectations are when he does return,” Jenkins said.

“His responsibility to get better personally — that’s a big factor in this. And also, his responsibility to the team is something we’re addressing with him.”

Morant is electric on the court but gets his wires crossed off it. If he can sort out the distractions and focus on basketball, the Grizzlies will be back in the hunt for the championship. As it stands, and while also considering the continued absence of Steven Adams who is expected to miss the next four weeks, Memphis is out to $17 in the championship market.

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.

Here come the Los Angeles Lakers. Even without LeBron James and while Anthony Davis as an off night, this team is winning games. The longer they play together, they better the look. Add Playoff LeBron to this and their $26 starts to appeal.

At the top, the Milwaukee Bucks have leapt the Boston Celtics to be on the first line of betting at $4 to win the NBA championship. The Denver Nuggets, perhaps given the injury to Durant, are big movers from $9 into $7 while the Phoenix Suns drift from $5.50 to $7.

Top 10 Odds

TEAMWEEK 20 PRICE
WEEK 21 PRICE
Milwaukee Bucks$4.20$4
Boston Celtics$4$4.20
Phoenix Suns$5.50$7
Denver Nuggets$9$7
Golden State Warriors$15$11
LA Clippers$18$17
Philadelphia 76ers$17$17
Memphis Grizzlies$18$17
Dallas Mavericks$19$26
Los Angeles Lakers$26

 

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