The NBA season always seems to creep up on you. With the NFL in full-swing and MLB postseason happening, it’s easy to forget that basketball is going to be back in [checks watch] three hours. The League Pass alerts, Spursgasms, Stephen Curry heat checks, Russell Westbrook drives and DeMarcus Cousins dirty looks toward teammates are just three hours away from being in our lives again. If you’re looking for some last minute gambling tips, here is your guide.
All odds are from Bovada unless otherwise noted.
Charlotte Hornets to win Southeast Division (+350)
Charlotte Hornets over 42.5 wins (-105)
Charlotte Hornets to make playoffs (-140)
These odds may not reflect it, but the Hornets are good. Last season, Charlotte won 48 games and finished in a three-way tie for first place in the Southeast despite Michael Kidd-Gilchrist playing just seven games.
There are some concerns: Marvin Williams may not shoot 40.2 percent from 3 again, Courtney Lee and Jeremy Lin are gone, Nicolas Batum had a career-year and probably won’t match it—but this is still a playoff team by a fair margin. Steve Clifford is one of the most underrated coaches in the league, Kemba Walker is turning into a real crunch-time scorer and Batum is still a solid 3 and D player at his worst. Even if his 3-point percentage declines by five or six points, Marvin Williams is still a viable stretch four who can negate the damage Kidd-Gilchrist does to their spacing.
Additionally, the Southeast has gotten markedly worse. Unless Justise Winslow turns into a two-way All-Star, the Heat are out of the playoff picture. The Hawks effectively traded Al Horford for Dwight Howard—a move that helps their rebounding at the cost of their spacing, defense and chemistry. John Wall and Bradley Beal are at each other’s throats in Washington—a chemistry issue for a team that already has to deal with Markieff Morris—not to mention the fact that the Wizards are depending on a strategy that won them one playoff series two years ago. Frank Vogel’s Magic are intriguing, but they’re still at least a year away.
Chicago Bulls under 38.5 wins (+115)
Chicago Bulls not to make playoffs (Even)
The Bulls brought in Fred Hoiberg to run a pace-and-space system to better fit today’s NBA. One year later, they’re starting Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic and Robin Lopez—a five-man crew with a grand total of one 3-point shooter, assuming if you count Mirotic, who has shot 35.5 percent from beyond the arc in his career, as a 3-point shooter. The building of this roster makes absolutely no sense unless Gar Forman’s goal was to sell jerseys. You can already see the chemistry issues building as Wade, Butler and Rondo compete for touches, not to mention the latter’s incessant stat-padding and the potential conflicts with Hoiberg given the impossible task he has in front of him and the poor job he last season.
New York Knicks under 38.5 wins (+115)
Somehow, people haven’t come to grips with the fact that Derrick Rose is not a starting-caliber point guard. The evidence is in plain sight—Rose was 68th among point guards in Real Plus-Minus last season, per ESPN.com. That’s lower than Joe Young, Tyler Ennis, Marcelo Huertas and Ray McCallum. Joakim Noah isn’t anywhere near the player he was in 2013-14 and that’s assuming he stays healthy. Carmelo Anthony will mail it in on the defensive end and, frankly, isn’t a good enough player on the offensive end to carry the load at age 32. Kristaps Porzingis is a great player, but he’s surrounded by older players who will demand touches. As soon as the Knicks start losing, there will be conflict between Jeff Hornacek and Phil Jackson, giving the season that trademarked sense of hopelessness.
Denver Nuggets over 37 wins (-120)
This is based mostly on projection systems being smarter than me—FiveThirtyEight and Kevin Pelton's SCHOENE both have the Nuggets at 40 wins and I can see the upside. Nikola Jokic is as good a passer as a big man can be and on the cusp of becoming a legitimate star. If Denver doesn’t trade Danilo Gallinari, he’ll give them a go-to guy on the offensive end and Wilson Chandler is returning from injury. Kenneth Faried will either be a scorer off the bench or draw assets as trade-bait and Will Barton would have been a 6th Man of the Year candidate had the team drawn more national attention. The Nuggets may not make the playoffs, but they can compete.
Memphis Grizzlies not to make playoffs (+150)
The bottom of the West is so cluttered that no team should have odds this high to miss the playoffs. On top of that, the Grizzlies have more injury risk than any of these teams and a lack of depth that will rear its head if Marc Gasol or Mike Conley goes down again. Zach Randolph is going to drop off one of these years, even if David Fizdale has him come off the bench, and FiveThirtyEight has Memphis at just 35 wins, well out of contention for the 8-seed. At +150, the odds are just too good to pass up.
Blake Griffin to win MVP (+3300)
MVP seems like the most interesting bet this year, but I’m surprised there haven’t been more arguments for Griffin. Let’s assume that Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant are out of the running because no media member will want to vote for a Warrior. Let’s also assume that LeBron starts going the Tim Duncan route and plays between 60 and 65 games, taking himself out of contention for the award. Russell Westbrook is currently the odds-on favorite, but there are legitimate questions about his efficiency with the offense entirely in his hands. The counting stats will undoubtedly be great, but if his usage rate climbs above 35 percent, he may get treated like Kobe Bryant did in 2006 with a similarly loaded field. There’s also a chance Oklahoma City doesn’t make the playoffs, in which case there’s a pretty low chance the media votes for him. If the Pelicans don’t make it, they won’t vote for Anthony Davis either.
Kawhi Leonard and James Harden are both interesting, but Leonard lacks the offensive flash necessary to ever be heralded as the best in the league while Harden will get docked for his defense—especially given that the Rockets may be one of the worst defensive teams in the league even without him. As long as we’re not veering off into Karl-Anthony Towns’ territory, that leaves only a few viable options: Paul George (+2200), Kyrie Irving (+3300), Chris Paul (+3300), Damien Lillard (+3300) and Griffin.
George is intriguing—he could hypothetically carry Indiana to 50 wins—but the way Larry Bird has built that team reminds me too much of the Bulls. The Pacers may get to the playoffs, but they won’t be a juggernaut, nor will George carry them emphatically enough to grab attention. Even if LeBron James plays just 60 games, that’s still enough to take the credit out of Kyrie Irving’s hands and in Portland, Lillard’s defense is a few Vine-able plays away from Harden territory.
Chris Paul is 31—old enough to hand the offensive reigns to Griffin for the majority of the regular season. If Blake (and everyone else) can stay healthy, the Clippers are capable of winning 60 games. They’ve fallen off the radar, but don’t forget that they won 53 last year while being riddled with injuries. At his best, Griffin is a top-10 player—an offensive threat inside with ability to step out past the elbows that can switch on the defensive end and carry a team in crucial playoff games. If Doc Rivers takes the plunge and slides him over to the five for stretches, Griffin will look like Draymond Green with a better offensive game and the Clippers will become the darling of the media—which will strive to avoid making the Warriors the topic of discussion for an entire season.
Rudy Gay to be traded during the regular season (-175)
Gay essentially demanded a trade without explicitly demanding a trade and risking a fine. Even for the ever-incompetent Sacramento front office, it’s a no-brainer to get some sort of asset for Gay while they can. This is as close to a lock as anything can be.
Rick Carlisle to win Coach of the Year (+3500)
I don’t have Dallas making the playoffs, but the West could be congested enough that they slip into the postseason on the backs of Dirk Nowitzki, Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews. As crazy as that sounds, it’s not much more insane than the Mavs winning 42 games last season when, before the season, it seemed likely they would tank to keep a top-7 protected pick dealt to Boston in the disastrous Rajon Rondo trade. Carlisle has won this award before, but it was in 2001-02—his rookie year as a head coach—when he took the Pistons to 50 wins and the #2 seed. It’s been too long since Carlisle was given some appreciation—the fact that he’s 35/1 for this award reflects that more than anything. Dallas is primed to beat expectations and if they do, Carlisle will be given the credit (rightly so).
All stats are from basketball-reference.com or NBA.com unless otherwise noted
 They were the six seed for the postseason due to tiebreakers as four different teams in the East finished 48-34 last season
 This bet is from Sportsbook.ag as Bovada does not offer odds on Coach of the Year