Best NBA Player Award picks, predictions and best bets: Don't count out Jalen Brunson

New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) reacts after making a three-pointer against the Chicago Bulls in overtime at United Center.
Photo of Prop Holliday - Bobby Stanley

Prop Holliday - Bobby Stanley


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NFL and NBA props specialist for Pickswise.

We are three-quarters through the NBA regular season and there are 3 teams that have separated themselves from the rest of the pack: the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and Denver Nuggets all have 41+ wins coming out of out all-star break. The rest of the playoff picture is quite muddled. Phoenix is an instant contender with the addition of Kevin Durant, the Clippers are just starting to click, and the same can be said for the 76ers.

With all of this, our NBA Awards futures market is a mixed bag of definitive outcomes and “Well…what can he do with 23 games left?”. I’ve decided to look at the top awards categories and offer insights, along with any remaining value.

NBA MVP odds and analysis

Current Favorite: Nikola Jokic (-240)

In the Hunt: Joel Embiid (+600), Giannis Antetokounmpo (+700)

My take: Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell are the only players in NBA history to win 3 straight MVP awards. As much as I love advanced analytics, I do not consider Jokic to be in the same breath as those players, but he might add his name to a rare list after this season. The Nuggets center is averaging 24-10-11 on an absurd 63% from the field on the #1 seed on the Western Conference. He leads the league in Win Shares, VORP and Box Plus/Minus. It’s not even close no matter how you slice it. I do not even think voter fatigue will come into play when you factor in the Nuggets being the #1 seed for the first time in the last 3 years.

Bets to make: I’d stay away entirely or sprinkle a few dollars on Giannis. He’s averaging a career-high 31.8 ppg and will have a shot at the scoring title assuming Luka gives way to Kyrie and Embiid hits a wall at some point. The Bucks would need to take over 1 seed as well. No value vs reality.

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NBA Rookie of the Year odds and analysis

Current Favorite: Paolo Banchero (-1000)

In the Hunt: Benedict Mathurin (+950)

My take: Hopefully you locked Paolo in before Chet Holmgren went down in the summer at +340 because that was the last time he had any value in this market. Paolo is special and has the potential to be a top-10 player in this league at some point if he can refine his perimeter shooting (I think he will). It’s tough to give him an accurate player comparison, but he is lightyears ahead of where he should be in low-post play, can get to the basket with some of the best in the league and he’s fantastic in transition. He had this award locked up by Christmas, but I’m excited to see if he can get Orlando to be a play-in team.

Bets to make: None. Consider betting Banchero every night his points line is 19.5 or lower and enjoy the positive cash flow with 23 games left.

NBA Defensive Player of the Year odds and analysis

Current Favorite: Jaren Jackson (-180)

In the Hunt: Brook Lopez (+550), Bam Adebayo (+800), Nic Claxton (+950)

My take: Jackson is the clear front-runner, leading the league in blocks per game (3.3), averaging 1.1 steals, and leading the league in defensive rating (103.1). The only knock on JJ is that he’s only played 40 games and the Grizzlies have fallen off defensively in the absence of Steven Adams. Bam Adebayo was excluded from the race last season for only playing 56 games, so Jackson’s ability to play 16 of the next 23 is a real factor. Claxton is 9th in individual rating and 10th in defensive win shares on a Nets team that will be known for defense the rest of the way. His 2.6 blocks per game are second in the league to Jackson.

Bets to make: If Jackson finishes the season, he wins the award. However, it may be worth sprinkling 0.25U on Bam and Claxton at those odds in case he stumbles along the way.

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NBA Most Improved Player odds and analysis

Current Favorite: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (+135)

In the Hunt: Lauri Markkanen (+135), Jalen Brunson (+350), Tyrese Haliburton (+5000)

My take: Finally, an award that has not been decided yet. SGA and Markkanen are neck and neck to me, and I don’t say that just because the odds are that close. Both guys have not only taken a massive leap into All-Stars but have also elevated their teams’ play when many considered the Thunder and Jazz to be tanking going into the season. The Jazz and Thunder are currently the 10th and 11th seeds in the West. Brunson is the wildcard in this race. He signed a massive deal in New York, but even the biggest Brunson supporters didn’t expect this. He’s averaging 31 ppg in February and the Knicks are 5-2 in that span. Brunson is peaking at the right time while Markannen is fading, along with the Jazz.

Bets to make: I’m riding the Brunson wave at +350. The Knicks are climbing the Eastern Conference standings and it’s due to Brunson’s play. He’s knocked off Randle as the lead guy in New York and the timing of his ascendance is crucial to this award. If he can get the Knicks to the 5th seed and finish the season at 25+ ppg, I think the award is his. SGA’s leap is still impressive (24.5->30.8ppg), but I’m more shocked in Brunson becoming the lead guy and it is resulting in team success. OKC will struggle to keep that 10th play-in spot with the Lakers, Jazz and Blazers on their heels. This will be my deciding factor in the award. PS… if Haliburton didn’t get hurt he would win this award.

NBA Sixth Man of the Year odds and analysis

Current Favorite: Malcolm Brogdon (-155)

In the Hunt: Norman Powell (+410), Tyrese Maxey (+410), Russell Westbrook (+1200)

My take: The addition of Russ to the Clippers really throws a monkey wrench in Powell’s chances. He would have been my dark horse if LA didn’t do this over the all-star break, but Russ’s ball dominance when he is in games will have an impact on Powell’s scoring when on the floor. This award has been dominated by shooting guards over the last 20 years, with a 2-guard grabbing the award in 16/20 seasons. The top 3 guys tick that box, but I’m focusing solely on Brogdon and Maxey. Brogdon has been the more complete player on arguably the best team in the league. Maxey has only played 38 games to Brogdon’s 50 and has lower PER, Win Shares.

Bets to make: Brogdon at -155 feels safe with Russ and Powell taking each other out of the race. Maxey will need to put up absurd numbers down the stretch (he’s capable) and Brogdon will need to fall off slightly. The best team in the league deserves an award at some point, I think Brogdon gets his trophy.

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Pickswise is the home of free NBA picks and NBA predictions. Check out the latest NBA prop bets and NBA parlays as well as NBA Best Bets from our NBA experts.

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