Are Doc Rivers’ NBA Coach of the Year Odds Worth Backing?
Mark Strotman | 4 mins
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It felt like a matter of when, not if, the Philadelphia 76ers would get over the hump. Since “The Process” began in 2013, they’ve stockpiled assets, watched their young talent blossom into All-Stars and All-Pros, and transformed from the laughingstock of the league to a perennial contender. They’ve yet to break through, however, having won just two playoff series during their three-year playoff run under Brett Brown.
So, there were major shakeups this past offseason. Daryl Morey was hired to run basketball operations, and the franchise moved on from Brown after seven seasons. The man to replace him? Doc Rivers, who had dealt with his own unmet expectations in seven seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers – the Clips failed to make the Western Conference Finals even once despite five 50-win seasons and a host of All-Stars and All-Pros on the roster.
Perhaps Rivers and the 76ers were meant for each other. And through 10 games, they look like the perfect pair. The top team in the Eastern Conference has dominated on defense, and the right supporting pieces seem to finally be place. The result has been oddsmakers shifting Rivers’ Coach of the Year odds on the NBA futures markets down from the +1400 at the start of the season.
At these reduced odds, should NBA betting fans jump on board? Or is now not the right time?
76ers Impressive To Start Season
The 76ers are 7-3 in their first 10 games, the best mark in the Eastern Conference. What’s more is they haven’t felt prey to slow starts that other contenders like Milwaukee (6-4), Brooklyn (5-6), Miami (4-4) and Toronto (2-7) have. After an NBA-best 31-4 home record last season (and a league-best 19-10-2 ATS), the 76ers are 5-1 in Philadelphia.
Also of note: Two of their losses (Cleveland, Brooklyn) came on the road on the second leg of a back-to-back, and the other (Denver) came on Saturday when they had just seven healthy players due to health and safety protocols. They truly haven’t had a bad performance through 10 games. Oddsmakers have taken notice, shortening Philly’s title odds from +2000 during the offseason to +1400 today.
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That’s big for Rivers and his Coach of the Year candidacy: From 2003 to 2020, the Coach of the Year winners averaged 59.3 wins and only one had fewer than 50 wins. In a 72-game season, 59.3 wins equates to 52 wins – Philadelphia is currently on pace for 51 wins.
Simmons, Embiid Look Fresh
Yes, the NBA’s offseason was short. But it also came after a six-month layoff, so the teams that didn’t advance deep into the playoffs are more rested than in seasons past. That couldn’t have been more beneficial for a team like the 76ers considering the lengthy injury history for both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
The time off – Simmons didn’t play in The Bubble and Embiid averaged fewer than 30 minutes in 11 games – clearly did them both good. Simmons looks great, averaging 13.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 7.0 assists. Embiid has done the heavy lifting and looks like an early MVP candidate, averaging 24.6 points on a career-best 53% shooting, 11.8 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks.
Embiid’s MVP odds have skyrocketed since: He began the season at +4000, moved to +2500 during the season’s second week, and now finds himself as low as +1000 at some sportsbooks, trailing just Luka, Giannis and Kevin Durant.
Again, good news for Rivers that he has two guys playing like All-Pros as 17 of the last 20 Coach of the Year winners had an All-Pro on the roster, and 18 had an All-Star. Embiid looks to be well on his way to a third straight All-NBA selection, while Simmons is certainly trending toward a third straight All-Star appearance.
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Media Narrative Fits
Never forget that awards are voted on by the media. There’s no algorithm that spits out the winner, and there aren’t any thresholds coaches need to meet to win. Often the tiebreaker goes to the best story. And what would be a better story than the 76ers, who have had such talented rosters in the past but never finished higher than a distant third in the East, finally breaking through and earning homecourt advantage in the postseason?
Rivers checks so many boxes that Coach of the Year winners meet. He’s a media darling – which matters significantly – and the storyline of him failing to meet expectations in Los Angeles but doing so in Year 1 with the 76ers is a compelling one. Yes, his Coach of the Year odds have dipped, but they will continue to do so if the season continues to play out as it has started. Right now, you can still get him at +1000 with DraftKings. Those are still great odds.
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