The NBA awards markets are vast, with some having a ton of candidates to choose from.
Handicapping awards is challenging because the thought process is almost too simple sometimes, but there is value in these markets if you dig deep enough.
Here are my top three candidates for each award and the best price on each.
Most Valuable Player
Jayson Tatum (13-1, FanDuel)
It’s a simple handicap here: Tatum could be the best player on the best team in the league. The Celtics have the highest win total on the board, and if they are going to live up to those expectations, it will be because Tatum builds on his final 40 games in which he averaged 28.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists on 48.6% shooting while playing phenomenal defense.
Trae Young (40-1, widely available)
Young was incredible last season, averaging 28.4 points and 9.7 assists on 46.0% shooting, and he did it as the Hawks’ only dominant shot creator and scorer. Dejounte Murray is now in Atlanta, and while some might view that as a negative, they shouldn’t. Murray being on the ball means more shooting opportunities for Young and the ability to pump up his points per game average.
Karl-Anthony Towns (75-1, Circa)
Minnesota has the makings of a successful regular-season team, which is represented by a consensus win total of 48.5. Should the Timberwolves reach 50 wins, they will do it because Towns is taking advantage of playing power forward and shooting the ball even more than his career-high of 7.9 3-point attempts per game. If he can average a 25-point double-double while shooting 40% from deep, Towns will be in the mix.
Rookie of the Year
Jaden Ivey, Detroit (+ 700, DraftKings)
There is a very real opportunity for Ivey in Detroit, as the Pistons are somewhat desperate for another dominant scoring presence in the backcourt. Ivey fits well next to Cade Cunningham, and his game is also electric with plenty of opportunities for highlight plays, which is always a plus when it comes to wooing voters.
Bennedict Mathurin, Indiana (11-1, FanDuel, William Hill)
Mathurin impressed in Summer League and looked ready for NBA action. If Indiana decides to pull the trigger on trading Buddy Hield and Myles Turner, that means more opportunities for Mathurin. He is a great shooter and solid defender, and he can fit right next to Tyrese Haliburton and Chris Duarte on the floor.
AJ Griffin, Atlanta (60-1, Barstool)
One thing Atlanta will need is consistent shooting off the bench, and Griffin can provide just that. Griffin was a 40% 3-point shooter at Duke and fills a hole for the Hawks. He will get the opportunity to play, and that is all we can ask for when betting a deeper shot on the board.
Most Improved Player of the Year
Tyrese Haliburton (15-1, FanDuel)
Haliburton’s numbers in his short time with Indiana last season were incredible, and now he enters this season as the best player on his team. In 26 games for the Pacers last season, Haliburton averaged 1.279 points per shot attempt and improved their net rating by 3.2 points per 100 possessions. Should he come close to replicating those numbers, he’ll be a great candidate for this award.
Patrick Williams (65-1, FanDuel)
Chicago has been waiting for the emergence of Williams, but injury issues last season slowed him down. He enters this season healthy and the presumed starter at power forward for the Bulls. He’s in his third season as a pro, and if he can average a double-double while maintaining his career 49.0% shooting, he’s a fantastic candidate.
Kevin Huerter (200-1, DraftKings)
Why not a long shot here? Huerter will be locked into the starting lineup next to De’Aaron Fox for Sacramento, and given how much gravity Fox and Domantas Sabonis have, Huerter should get some incredible looks from deep. His career high is 12.2 points per game, a number he should be able to surpass while maintaining his 37.9% career shooting percentage.
Coach of the Year
Tyronn Lue (13-1, DraftKings)
The Clippers are very much in the mix for the top seed in the Western Conference, and the narrative has shifted on Lue as a coach. He is well respected and has received a ton of credit for a great season in which the Clippers came back from seemingly every deficit. If they grab a top-two seed in the West while Kawhi Leonard regularly rests, Lue will be rewarded.
Steve Nash (14-1, DraftKings)
If the Nets just stay together for the season, Nash will have a shot at the award. Should Brooklyn keep its roster intact and grab the fourth seed or better in the East, media members will run to vote for Nash. There is no doubt about it.
Nate McMillan (28-1, DraftKings)
There are a lot of Hawks being mentioned for these awards and some good candidates. What happens if Atlanta wins the Southeast Division over Miami and grabs the fourth seed in the East? McMillan will be applauded for making two ball-dominant guards work and will surely be in contention here.
Sixth Man of the Year
Jordan Poole (+ 500, Barstool, FanDuel)
Betting chalk for Sixth Man of the Year can pay off, as Tyler Herro taught us last season. Poole was a popular candidate last season and many thought he should have won it. It’s his to lose as we enter the season, and if he puts up 18.5 points per game again, he’ll win it.
Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland (16-1, FanDuel)
Hyland could be a candidate to win Most Improved, but with the dumb, unwritten rule saying second-year players can’t win that award, Sixth Man is the way to look. He averaged 10.1 points per game last season, but his per-36 numbers were nuts (19.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.2 assists). He should be a primary guard off the bench for the Nuggets and will get his opportunity to win this award.
Norm Powell (27-1, FanDuel)
The Clippers are the deepest team in the league, and Powell could be a starter on some rosters. He is a solid defender who shot 41.9% from beyond the arc last season across both of his stops. He is going to be the first guy off the bench for Lue and he fits the profile of a high-scoring reserve, which generally wins this award.
Defensive Player of the Year
Bam Adebayo (+ 650, widely available)
Adebayo was a market darling last season, at one point becoming the favorite to win this award before ultimately falling short. PJ Tucker is in Philadelphia now, so if Miami grabs another high finish in the defensive efficiency standings, Adebayo will receive a vast majority of the credit, especially if Jimmy Butler misses his usual amount of time.
Evan Mobley (25-1, Barstool)
Mobley flashed his defensive prowess last season as a rookie, and if Cleveland can somehow finish inside the top 10 in defensive efficiency again with a backcourt of Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell, then Mobley is live in this market. The worry is he might be cannibalized in the voting process by teammate Jarrett Allen.
Herbert Jones (65-1, FanDuel, William Hill)
If you paid attention to NBA Twitter last year, the name Herb Jones is familiar. As a rookie last season, Jones received 10 second-team All-Defense votes, and he has the attention of voters everywhere after a solid, albeit short, postseason showing. The price of 65-1 on a guy who is already known as an elite defender, and who is reportedly going to start this season, is too good to pass up.