Ailing Durant, slumping Curry vault 76ers' Embiid into MVP race

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Welcome to another edition of the weekly NBA betting report. This week we have a lot to discuss. Injuries and poor play have shifted the landscape in the MVP market, a contender is struggling to find its footing and the trade deadline looms.

Betting report

Favorites: 25-29-1 ATS (Season: 328-316-5)

Totals O/U: 26-27-2 (Season: 312-337-8)

Home-court advantage:

Three things to watch

MVP race evolving

The Nets were dealt a serious blow this week when Kevin Durant went down with a knee injury against New Orleans. Durant will be “re-evaluated” in four to six weeks. While his postseason status seems to be in no danger, his MVP campaign is. Prior to the injury, Durant, who is averaging 29.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists on 52.0% shooting, was the second choice on the board at 275 (DraftKings). But his injury knocked his price down to 13-1, and it’s Giannis Antetokounmpo who is second on the board now at 330. Most assume Stephen Curry, the 150 betting favorite, now has a clear path to win his third MVP, but this race is much more open than that.

Not only has Durant’s injury shifted the landscape for the award, but Curry’s play has as well. Over the course of his last 20 games, Curry is shooting just 37.7% from the floor and 34.5% from 3-point range. If we remove his 2019-2020 season in which he played just five games, his effective field-goal percentage would be the lowest it has been since his rookie year, and his 38.4% shooting from deep would be a career-low. How is that the resume of a player who has a 40% chance to win MVP? It’s not, so our quest should now go further down the board. 

Ja Morant has been bandied about as a contender, and the market has been snatching up tickets on him. One shop even has Morant as low as 800 to win the award which, to me, is lunacy. The Grizzlies went 10-2 SU when Morant missed 12 games with injury, and their net rating when he is off the floor ( 5.9) is better than the possessions with him on the floor ( 2.6).

The name to truly watch — and hunt for numbers on — is Joel Embiid, who can be found in the range of 13-1 at most shops. Embiid has been an unstoppable force, putting up 30.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game since Dec. 3. The 76ers are 14-7 SU during the span. Philadelphia is only the sixth seed right now, but just two games separate the 76ers and Nets, who are third entering Tuesday. Should Embiid maintain this level of play and somehow get Philadelphia to a top-three seed without Ben Simmons, he would have as good a case as any.

Warriors waning

I just mentioned the struggles of Stephen Curry of late. To reiterate, Curry is shooting just 37.7% from the floor and 34.5% from 3-point range over his last 20 games (entering Tuesday’s game against Detroit) and posting career-lows in some categories. The lack of production from Curry coincides with a slump from Golden State that extends back to the end of November. Since a loss to the Suns on Nov. 30, the Warriors are 13-10 SU and 9-14 ATS with a 2.0 net rating in non-garbage time minutes. The once-dominant title contender has looked downright average, and its offense has been the culprit.

Over the span of those 23 games, Golden State is 26th in non-garbage time offensive efficiency, putting up an average of 108.3 points per 100 possessions. The team’s shooting has all but disappeared. They rank third in frequency of 3-point attempts but are hitting only 35.2% of those shots. Their halfcourt offense is 22nd over the span and their transition offense is inefficient, adding just 2.3 points per 100 possessions and averaging only 122.7 points per 100 plays. These struggles go hand-in-hand with Curry’s, and that should not be a surprise. This squad has always been reliant on Curry, and now that he has lost his touch the offense has absolutely no flow.

The absence of Draymond Green has not helped matters, either. Green will be out for the foreseeable future due to a calf injury that stems from a back issue. Green is known for his defensive prowess, but his presence also helps on the offensive end. With Green playing, the Warriors’ offensive rating improves by 1.8 points every 100 possessions, their effective field-goal percentage jumps 2.4% and their offensive efficiency in transition improves by 6.3 points every 100 plays. Barring a sudden reversion to form from Curry, this offense will continue to struggle, but the market has refused to budge, which means value in the form of betting against this team.

Trade deadline approaching 

We are less than a month away from the trade deadline. The rumors have been few and far between, but expect things to pick up soon. A plethora of players are out there who, when added to the right situation, can completely change the fortunes of a franchise. Most are focusing on Ben Simmons, as has been the case all season long, but make sure to monitor the less-appealing names popping up in reports.

Detroit is reportedly shopping Jerami Grant, and the Lakers, Grizzlies, Knicks and Wizards have been named as potential suitors. Recent reports about Myles Turner’s foot injury being more serious than originally thought has altered the landscape, as the Hornets had been rumored to be sniffing around his availability. The Mavericks have a $10.9 million trade exception and are well below the luxury tax. Their 10-2 run over the last 12 games has them squarely in the mix for a top-six seed in the Western Conference, and they’re probably eager to add help for Luka Doncic. Those are just a few of the situations that make the most sense, but there are bigger trades bubbling under the surface. Like, what if Russell Westbrook and John Wall, among other pieces, are swapped yet again?

The Nuggets last season are a great example of a trade changing the entire outlook of a franchise in the middle of a season. When the Nuggets acquired Aaron Gordon, they suddenly took the shape of a title contender and were just that before Jamal Murray injured himself. Monitor those reports, because tremendous value can be had if you can jump on a number prior to a deal being made.

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