Before the 2023-24 NBA season tips off, we’re scouring the league for value in the futures markets and picking five of the best bets.
Not The Suns
The Phoenix Suns are going to be a popular pick for the NBA championship. They’re stacked with talent and Kevin Durant is one of the most popular players in the league. However, at $6.50 heading into the first game of the season, it’s difficult to get behind them as favourites with how much work they still have to do.
The rotation is top-heavy. After Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal, the rotation is less convincing. The trio need to develop some cohesion. To do that, they all need to be on the floor, together, and for a large chunk of games. A big reason it didn’t work out for Durant with the Brooklyn Nets is the fact he only shared the floor with James Harden and Kyrie Irving 16 games.
A lot needs to go right for the Suns if they’re to win the championship in their first year together.
In stark contrast, the Golden State Warriors have been there and done it all before together. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green know what they’re doing as a group. Andrew Wiggins has been around long enough to be a reliable contributor as well. It remains to be seen how much of an impact Chris Paul will have, but he’s adjusted to his role before. If healthy, he will do what he needs to do for the Warriors to be contenders.
Steph Curry telling Chris Paul it's a good pass before the ball goes in the net 👀 pic.twitter.com/5cFmOBsOBE
— Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) October 14, 2023
They’re not going to be the dominant team of years past. Age and the load management that comes with it will cost them a handful of regular season wins along the way. However, if the Warriors get through to the playoffs as a top-four seed, they will be in a good position to use their experience against less cohesive units. There is a ‘championship or bust’ feeling around this squad given the moves they made over the summer. Led by a $13 MVP candidate in Curry, the value is in Golden State to add another banner.
Anthony Davis DPOY
A lot of the discussion around Anthony Davis will centre around the need for him to take on more responsibility with the ball. LeBron James is waiting for him to become the leader of the offence and he needs to be if the Los Angeles Lakers are to challenge for the NBA title. James can still score with the best players in the league, but as we saw in the Nuggets series last year, he can’t be relied on to do it efficiently every night.
Davis, it seems, is a confidence player. If he is scoring at will, he grows another leg on the defensive end. He always has the numbers to be in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation and had he played the way he did throughout the playoffs in the regular season last season, he’d have likely won it.
The Defensive Player of the Year race looks like it could be a close one this season.
Jaren Jackson & Evan Mobley are among the betting favourites but you can't look past Anthony Davis given his history, how well he performed last season, and what he produced in the playoffs. pic.twitter.com/fmGUU1CLlP
— Jason (@SportsJO13) October 19, 2023
Darvin Ham has already said he wants Davis to shoot more three-pointers this season. There is a good chance that sees him involved more often in transition with opportunities to improve on his 2 blocks and 1.1 steals per game in 2022-23.
Jaren Jackson Jr. and Evan Mobley deserve to be in the discussion as two of the best defenders in the NBA. But looking across a full season and considering the career form of those on the early lines of betting, Davis is the value option at $9.
New Orleans Pelicans Over 44.5 Wins
The New Orleans Pelicans won 42 games in 2022-23.
Zion Williamson played in only 29 of those games after missing the whole 2021-22 NBA season with a foot injury.
As with any Pelicans conversation, it starts with “if Zion can stay healthy.”
This is a team that started last season with a 23-14 record to sit 3rd in the Western Conference heading into January. Williamson dominated for 26 points per game shooting 60% from the field. But as another injury slowed Williamson and the same for Brandon Ingram, New Orleans went 17-26 the rest of the way before losing the first game of the play-in tournament.
If you’re looking at the top big three’s in the league Zion as the main man, Ingram the reliable number two with CJ McCollum the number three who can take over as the number one on any given night appeals. Trey Murphy III is developing nicely to have averaged 14.5 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game last season.
Zion himself, should he start to play up to his potential, can be one of the best players in the league.
We’ve already covered the comments from the front office. Zion is saying all of the right things, too.
“Worked on movements, staying in New Orleans for a good part of the summer working with the Pels and being on the same page with them and my personal trainers. But just really locking into every aspect of my body.”
It’s all about Williamson’s health. If he can play 70 games this season and develop his combination with Ingram, McCollum and Murphy III, the sky is the limit for the Pelicans. It’s a stacked Western Conference, but we’ve seen this team play well already. They’re a playoff team if it all goes well. Even last season when it didn’t, they fell only one win short.
Assuming better health and the improvement you typically see in a young team, the Pelicans look good to add a few more wins to the 42 they managed last season.
Scoot Henderson ROY
Victor Wembanyama is the deserving $1.72 favourite to win the 2023-24 Rookie of the Year award. He’s a generational prospect and the most anticipated since LeBron James. From what we’ve seen already throughout the preseason, he’s going to get his numbers. Gregg Popovich has shown a willingness to make him the focal point and design schemes that put him in the best position to utilize his unique skill set.
There isn’t a lot of value in his price. It’s gone if there was ever any in the first place. The same goes for Chet Holmgren ($4.50) who played out a promising preseason but has a lot of other on-ball players to deal with in his Oklahoma City Thunder roster.
Scoot Henderson, on the other hand, dropped to 3rd in the NBA Draft when he seemed to be a consensus 2nd and comes in on the back of two valuable years in the G League. Unlike a lot of other rookies he will be relatively well prepared to play from day one given what we’ve seen already.
Scoot Henderson dropped 22/4/4 last night. Already looking comfortable. Two years of G League experience helps. pic.twitter.com/pZhsPG6Egk
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) October 13, 2023
He’s a very good point guard already. While only 19 years old, he doesn’t look like a rookie. He’s well-built and can handle the rigours of an 82-game NBA season physically. That’s a concern for Wembanyama and Holmgren.
Henderson can knock down a jumper and has the handle and vision to run an offence. There is a Damian Lillard-sized hole in the Portland Trail Blazers offence that needs filling. There is no chance of Henderson doing it all, but he can take over a large chunk. Enough to be a genuine contender to win Rookie of the Year.
Keep Chucking, Trae
There is little to suggest Trae Young is going to change his approach any time soon. While there is a fair argument for him needing to focus more on making those around him better, it’s more likely that he continues to go about doing things himself.
He averaged 19 field goals per game last season for 26.2 point per game but had a down year in shooting. Young’s two-point field goal percentage dipped from 51.2% to 47.6% from the season prior. His three-point shooting dropped from an above-league-average 38.2% to a decidedly-average 33.5%. Assuming an uptick in his shooting, Young should inch closer, if not past, 30 points per game.
I love seeing Trae Young used as an off-ball weapon.
Moments like this are encouraging from the Hawks half court offense. For years, I've said embracing off-ball movement is the key for Trae to unlock his best version. pic.twitter.com/vO4JMwwO4V
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) October 13, 2023
Looking at the scorers list from last season and we can argue for a drop in production for a lot of the leaders. Luka Doncic and Damian Lillard have different players around them that will demand shots. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are the same while demanding shots from each other. The Cleveland Cavaliers need more than Donovan Mitchell so may share the load more this season. Shai Gilgeous Alexander has a target on him and the same can be said for Ja Morant who may be a little slow to get going.
Joel Embiid is the $4.50 favourite for a reason, but if we’re looking for a smokey play to come out of nowhere Young is the way to go. We know he’s going to put up shots and the more he makes, the more he takes.