NBA Odds and Predictions: Scoring, Assists and Rebounding Leaders
by Alan Matthews - 10/25/2013
I don't know about you, but I'm incredibly excited for the start of the NBA season on Tuesday night. The story lines are plenty. Miami going for a threepeat in perhaps LeBron James' final season in South Florida. There's Derrick Rose's return and to a lesser extent Kobe Bryant's and Russell Westbrook's at some point too. How bad will the Lakers be? How good will the Clippers be under Doc Rivers? How about the Timberwolves with a healthy Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love? Do the Spurs have one last title run in them? Are Danny Granger and Luis Scola enough to get the Pacers to the top of the East? Who wins the "Riggin' for Wiggins" tank job this year? Early heavy favorite: Philadelphia with the news that now Nerlens Noel may not play all season.
I could literally go on and on. This will be my final NBA season props story with the free picks previews starting Tuesday. Ball night!
Carmelo Anthony ended Kevin Durant's three-year reign as the NBA scoring king last year by winning his first title at 28.7 points. He hadn't averaged more than 27 since 2009-10 while with the Nuggets. I almost think Melo being limited to 67 games helped him a bit last year. Durant, meanwhile, played 81 of 82 games in averaging 28.1 points. It was actually his best year overall with career-highs in field-goal percentage (.510), free throws (.905) and three-pointers (.416). Durant is the 27/20 favorite this year at Bovada with Anthony No. 2 at 3/1. Durant is going to have to carry a massive load early in the season with Westbrook likely out a month. So his scoring should be really high in that span, but it also could wear him out down the road. Plus, he's going to be banged by double teams a ton, which also can take a physical toll.
LeBron James is the third-favorite at 7/2, and I simply don't think he's ever going to win a scoring title. He's just too good at everything. James will play point guard sometimes and power forward others. Anthony and Durant are pure scorers. James is an all-around marvel.
The favorites are rounded out by Kobe (8/1), Rose (14/1), Stephen Curry (14/1) and James Harden (16/1). Will Bryant be offended that GMs voted him only the second-best shooting guard in the NBA this season? It's the first time in the history of the GM poll they didn't pick Kobe -- they went with Harden. I have no doubt Bryant uses this to fuel him, but he's not going to be ready to start the season, is 35 and is coming off a very serious injury. Rose is never going to be more than a 25.0 ppg game in my opinion because he plays point guard, not shooting guard, although he's clearly scoring option No. 1 on the Bulls. He still has to facilitate some. If Curry plays like he did in the postseason he has a shot, but I don't trust him to stay healthy. Harden might be the best longshot bet. He should get more open looks with Dwight Howard down low, and Howard is great and feeding the ball back out to open shooters.
I don't realistically see any other player on this list worth betting on, although I pondered Kevin Love (25/1) for a minute.
Rajon Rondo has won this the past two years and is 7/2 to make it a threepeat, but I don't see that happening. For one, he may not get in enough games to qualify as he works his way back from his serious knee injury. Second, who on Boston will score enough when Rondo does pass them the ball?
Chris Paul is the 3/2 favorite, and it's hard to argue there as he was second to Rondo last year with 9.7 dimes per game. The Clips should be offensively dynamic this season even if they aren't "Lob City" any longer. Deron Williams is 3/1 and the Nets obviously will be hugely better this season. Williams already is dealing with an ankle injury, however. Plus, it will take a while to get adjusted to Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
The guy I like best is Minnesota's Ricky Rubio at 6/1. He's healthy, Love is healthy and now Kevin Martin is on board. The Timberwolves aren't going to ask Rubio to score much, so he's not like a Paul or Williams or Rose (17/2). He's there to pass.
Much like the scoring race, this might be a two-man show between Howard (even money) and Love (8/5). Howard has won the rebounding title the past two seasons and five of the past six. The only outlier? Love in 2010-11 when he averaged 15.23, the best in the NBA since Ben Wallace was at 15.42 in 2002-03 with the Pistons.
Frankly, I think Love will be hurt by the emergence of center Nikola Pekovic, who averaged 8.8 rebounds a game last season. He will grab his fair share of boards, perhaps allowing Love to hang outside the paint on offense or head out early on the break on defense once in a while.
The Magic's Nikola Vucevic is the 19/2 third favorite, and he was runner-up to Howard last season with 11.9 per game. I think Howard's the guy, but I might put a few bucks on Larry Sanders at 40/1 (hey now!). He averaged 9.5 boards last year in just 27.3 minutes per game, and I'm assuming he plays more this season after Milwaukee just gave him a big new extension. He's pretty much the face of the Bucks now.
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