By Mark Strotman | | 10 mins
NBA Futures Sleepers, MVP Picks & More with Sean Deveney
LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers have one of the NBA’s worst records, a title-contending team ditched their head coach before Thanksgiving, and the Utah Jazz would host a playoff series if the postseason began today. Yes, it’s safe to say this has been a wild first three weeks of the NBA betting season.
We wanted to break down this wacky start with NBA insider Sean Deveney, who joined our Jasmine McKoy to discuss the soap opera that is the Brooklyn Nets, NBA futures bets, and the ultimate tank happening for teams in pursuit of blue-chip prospect Victor Wembanyama.
Just about everything that could go wrong for the Nets has gone wrong, and their title odds have shifted considerably to a pedestrian (for their standards) +1400 following their 2-6 start. With Ben Simmons still nursing a knee injury and Kyrie Irving now suspended indefinitely, it’s tough to see things getting better.
But Brooklyn is also reportedly nearing a deal to hire Ime Udoka, who was suspended by the Boston Celtics for the entire 2022-2023 season for multiple policy violations. Udoka turned the Celtics into contenders in his first year, and he has history in Brooklyn as a former assistant and someone the current Nets brass wanted to hire before opting for Nash.
“There was a significant portion of the organization that wanted to get Ime Udoka at that time,” Deveney said. “And so I think the fact that he’s out there now…this is the guy we want. We’re going to bring him in despite the baggage that he brings.”
Watch: Sean Deveney on NBA Futures, the Nets & More
While the Nets continue their tailspin, Deveney is focused on a different team that’s showing real promise (and no drama) to begin the season. The New Orleans Pelicans were the postseason darling a year ago, making the playoffs as a No. 9 seed and winning two straight in the Play-In Tournament. They likely won’t need to earn their way into the postseason in 2023 after a solid 4-3 start.
Their NBA odds for the title are still +3000, making them a solid long-shot option—and their odds to win the West stand at +1400 on betting apps. With a core of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, and Jonas Valanciunas, Deveney believes there’s real value here.
“If I’m looking for a sleeper…I’m probably looking at the Pelicans,” he said. “I think that’s a team that people are going to catch onto. If Zion Williamson can stay healthy…they’re a very deep team. I think they’ve got really good role players; guys like Trey Murphy, Herb Jones…this is a team that has a lot more depth and staying power than people realize.”
There are rarely sleepers when it comes to NBA MVP, and Deveney—like the rest of us—can’t look past what Luka Doncic is doing in the early part of the season. One of the frontrunners to win the award (+400 on betting sites, trailing only Giannis Antetokounmpo’s +300 odds) is averaging a league-best 36.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 9.0 assists through seven games while leading an undermanned Mavs team to a 4-3 record.
The three-time All-NBA First Team member is well on his way to a fourth selection, and he could earn his first MVP honor in the process.
“Luka’s big problem in the past was that he’s shown up out of shape and he hasn’t gotten off to good starts. He’s put that aside,” Deveney said. “If the Mavericks can be a good team, a top 4 team in the Western Conference…then I think you’d have to take Luka as the MVP.”
Deveney also mentions Jayson Tatum (+600) and Ja Morant (+1200) as good value plays as the youth movement in the NBA continues.
The aforementioned players and teams are all chasing wins. The same can’t be said for some of the bottom feeders who are all chasing Lottery balls and the chance to draft uber-prospect Victor Wembanyama. The 7-foot-4 do-it-all center is the best prospect since LeBron James in 2003 and is the unquestioned first pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, with the expectation being that teams near the bottom of the standings will tank their way to losses in March and April.
“There are some teams that are tanking for him, no question,” Deveney said.
We’re tracking those teams all season long—as well as looking at what their odds are of grabbing the top pick and having the ability to turn their franchise around with a single selection.