Beyond Knicks and Nets: Picking NBA Individual Award Winners

Posted on: October 18, 2022, 11:06h. 

Last updated on: October 18, 2022, 12:12h.

The first thing you need to know about wagering on the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets is that the best long-term wagers are only available across state lines. Those bets are on individual awards, and if you believe that Kyrie Irving is MVP material, you’d better get to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or Connecticut pronto before his odds drop from 100-1.

Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving and the Brookly Nets open their season on Wednesday against the New Orleans Pelicans. There are many betting options for fans who want to wager on Irving and the Nets throughout the season. (Image: ESPN)

The biggest mystery for Brooklyn this season is whether Steve Nash will last long as coach after Kevin Durant called for the firing of Nash and general manager Sean Marks over the summer. Overseas books are posting prop wagers on which happens first: Nash getting fired, or Russell Westbrook getting traded, so the NBA season isn’t exactly a sea of tranquility on either coast.

With the Knicks, we pretty much know what we are going to get: a team capable of finishing in the top 10 and making the play-in tournament, at the very least. They open on the road and on a nationally televised ESPN game at Memphis on Wednesday night as a 6 1/2-point underdog, and we shall quickly see how capable Jalen Brunson is as he goes up against Ja Morant, the winner of last season’s Most Improved Player award.

Brunson is among the favorites to be this year’s Most Improved Player, as is teammate R.J. Barrett. Brunson is on the board at Fan Duel as the +2400 fifth choice, just behind Zion Williamson at +1800 — the same odds as Barrett. The favorites are Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards (+850) and Philadelphia’s Tyrese Maxey (+1200). And as we learned two seasons ago when Julius Randle won that award, it tends to go to a team that overachieves. So if the Knicks are in the top four in the East, as they were in 2020, those odds are enticing. And if Obi Toppin ever becomes something special, now would be a good time with his MIP odds at +10000.

The thought here regarding the Knicks is that they’re more like an eight, nine, or 10 seed when the season is all said and done, and Brooklyn’s Cam Thomas may be a better Most Improved Player bet. That’s because he is going to get playing time to start the season with Joe Harris and Seth Curry sidelined by injuries for the Nets. Thomas is on the board for +13000 at Fan Duel, where Ben Simmons is +10000 in the same category.

And heck, if Simmons can come back from a lost season in which his mental health and his lost confidence kept him on the shelf, and if he can become the same type of nightly triple-double threat that he was three years ago, that’s not the worst flier wager in the history of flier wagers.

The Nets open at home Wednesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans as a 3-point favorite, and they’re on the board at +900 to emerge as this season’s champion, which is within their grasp if they can truly put the drama of this past summer behind them.

Only the Milwaukee Bucks (+550), Boston Celtics (+600), Los Angeles Clippers (+650), and defending champion Golden State Warriors (+700) have shorter odds, and we should see those odds stay in that same range for quite some time. An 82-game season has numerous unforeseen twists and turns, and as we’re seeing in the baseball playoffs, regular-season success isn’t a great indicator of what will happen in the postseason.

The Best Wagering Strategy for NBA Games

Because of the cross-border travel needed to wager on individual player awards, it won’t always be easy for New Yorkers to play those markets on a regular basis. But because we have trains, buses, bridges, and tunnels connecting New York with neighboring states, we suggest that those in the New York metropolitan area keep their EZ-Pass accounts current and learn how to take the PATH train to Hoboken or Jersey City.

For times when that’s not possible (yes, we’re all very busy), individual player props are often the way to go when wagering on the Knicks and Nets.

As an example, if you believe Durant scoring at least 29, Simmons handing out at least eight assists, and Royce O’Neale making at least three 3-pointers are all likely to happen, a same-game parlay wager of $10 would return $122. The trick, it says here, is to find a combination of individual accomplishments that you believe will happen, and go for a bigger score than simply wagering one or two game lines.

With nine companies competing for customers in the state of New York, there are better same-game parlay options than what existed back in January when online sports gambling began in New York. So go ahead and take advantage.

Look at it this way: if you find a +1200 parlay seven times in a week and lose six of them, that seventh — the winner — puts you in the black for the week. It’s the best strategy we can suggest to get around the age-old rule that “The House Always Wins.” That expression is true, but savvy gamblers are the exception.

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The Best NBA Bets to Avoid

Willis Reed won’t be walking through that tunnel (the one at Madison Square Garden that no longer exists), and it’s a rule of thumb that as long as James Dolan owns the Knicks, the championship drought that’s existed since 1973 will continue.

So, if you’re thinking about dropping some of your hard-earned money on the Knicks to win the championship at odds of +12000, we have one word: DON’T. Buy a Treasury bond instead. It’s one of the few guaranteed winners out there.

We would also counsel readers to avoid picking just one game per night. Yes, that’s the way your granddad did it with the bookie, but he didn’t live in the smartphone age and didn’t have the thousands of options that are out there these days. One-and-done is boring. The winning formula is the parlay, and we encourage you to open multiple accounts in multiple states so that you can shop around.

Brand loyalty is good when it comes to cereal. It’s bad when it comes to betting because a competitive market means there are better odds available at different books. The nine that are operating in New York are DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars, BetMGM, BetRivers, PointsBet, ResortsWorld, WynnBet, and BallyBet.

Download the apps, and if you’re a technophobe, then do two things: take your laptop across the border to open an account in neighboring states and have someone from Gen Y or Z help you figure out your apps. Those young folks may not know how to make a phone call, but they can do things virtually that Boomers and post-Boomers can’t. Make them a resource. It’s a bad bet to not call upon the knowledge of those younger and more adept at navigating a smartphone.

Appealing Player Futures

If you think Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors can lead the league in scoring, that wager is available at +2200 across the border with Bet365. If you think LeBron James will end the season as the league leader, he’s at 20-1. James was in the mix last season until the final weekend, and ultimately, didn’t play enough games to qualify, finishing with an average of 30.3 to Joel Embiid’s 30.6.

Defensive Player of the Year often goes to the league leader in blocked shots, and last season was an outlier year, as Marcus Smart took home the award to become the first guard to win since Gary Payton in 1996. Rudy Gobert is favored at +400,  but ex-Net Jarrett Allen of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who averaged 1.6 blocks when he played for Brooklyn before being traded to Cleveland, is out there at +2800 in this category. Mo Bamba of Orlando, who averaged 1.7 blocks last season, is 66-1 to lead the NBA in blocks this season.

Under the “what the heck” category, each of those players was deemed worthy of a $10 bonus money wager that came from opening an account with Bet365 in New Jersey and making a $1 qualifying bet (Giants ML vs. Packers two weeks ago, which hit.)

As we’ve explained here before, the trick to getting bonus funds is to read the fine print. At Bet 365, for example, bonus funds that lay dormant for 90 or more days are forfeited, even if they’ve already been wagered in the futures market. So, if you go across state lines to open accounts and play individual awards futures, bring a pen and paper with you and write yourself a reminder note.