Kevin Durant Return Makes For Brooklyn Nets Intrigue; Obi Toppin Top Draw For New York Knicks Picks

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They may have crossed the Hudson River a few years back, but the Brooklyn Nets are perhaps the most intriguing team for bettors in New Jersey looking to put down last-minute futures wagers for the upcoming NBA season that begins Tuesday night.

On the flip side in Manhattan, the New York Knicks are again in a rebuilding season, though there looks to be some structure in place with the arrival of coach Tom Thibodeau and rookie Obi Toppin, the No. 8 overall pick and Brooklyn native looking to be a cornerstone of his hometown team. The Knicks are trying to avoid a franchise-record eighth consecutive season without a playoff appearance and have not had a winning record since their last postseason berth earned in 2012-13.

With last season ending in the bubble in Orlando and extending into October due to COVID-19, the 2020-21 season will be 72 games in length. The biggest differences for bettors and sportsbook operators for futures will be the second consecutive season of a play-in tournament among the seventh through 10th-place teams in each conference for the final two playoff berths and adjusted win totals based on there being 10 fewer regular-season games.

Durant’s return elevates Nets to title contenders

When we last saw Kevin Durant playing basketball, he was being helped off the court in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals with the Golden State Warriors after tearing his Achilles. The 10-time All-Star, who won two titles during his time in the Bay Area, signed with Brooklyn last offseason while in rehab and is the focal point of a Nets team that has a second superstar looking to make up for lost time in point guard Kyrie Irving.

Irving, who also joined Brooklyn last season after a tumultuous time in Boston, played only 20 games in 2019-20 due to injuries. The team will be guided by first-year coach Steve Nash — who knows a thing or two about running an offense as a former standout floor leader over his storied 18-year career. But being a first-time coach is an entirely different animal, and he has former NBA head coaches Mike D’Antoni and Jacque Vaughn among his staff.

D’Antoni’s presence, following his departure from Houston after being eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals, offers a clue the Nets will look to be an up-tempo team. That should play well to the scoring skills of both Durant — a four-time NBA scoring champion — and Irving, whose 27.4 points per game in his small sample size last season was on pace to be a career high.

Oddsmakers expect big things from the duo and the team, with FanDuel and DraftKings offering +600 for the Nets to win the title — the third-shortest odds behind the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks. PointsBet has the Nets as a +800 option to match up with the Lakers in the NBA Finals and a +1200 pairing with the Los Angeles Clippers. BetMGM has a +550 play on Brooklyn to finish with the league’s most regular-season wins.

FanDuel, PointsBet, and BetMGM are offering an over/under of 45.5 wins for the Nets at the standard -110 offering in either direction, while DraftKings has opted for winning percentage as its over/under metric and has set that bar at .625 (45 wins) at -110 both ways. In terms of winning the Eastern Conference, FanDuel has the shortest odds at +270, closely followed by DraftKings at +275, and BetMGM is offering +325 for Brooklyn to be the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the postseason.

The Nets are also odds-on favorites to win the Atlantic Division, with offerings ranging from +125 at DraftKings to +150 at both BetMGM and PointsBet. BetMGM has also grouped the Nets into three parlay offerings: a -250 option for them to make the playoffs with division rivals Boston, Philadelphia, and Toronto; +240 with Boston for both teams to have 45 or more wins; and +375 to join Denver and Milwaukee as division winners.

Oddsmakers clearly prefer Durant to Irving in terms of MVP odds, with the 6-foot-11 forward listed anywhere from +1000 to +1200 to win the award for a second time. The shortest odds for Irving are +5500 at PointsBet, though he can also be grabbed at +8000 at DraftKings. PointsBet also has short odds on the duo being an All-Star selection (the game will not be played) with Durant at -770 and Irving -345, but Caris LeVert is a +750 option to be on the squad.

DraftKings also has over/unders for Durant and Irving’s respective scoring averages for the upcoming season, offering -110 for Durant at 26.5 points per game and the same for Irving at 25.5 per contest. Durant is also a +2000 pick to win the scoring title at both PointsBet and BetMGM, but far further back at DraftKings (+2500) and FanDuel (+2900).

DraftKings is the most bullish on Irving at +3000, but lags at PointsBet (+5000), FanDuel (+6500) and Bet MGM (+6600). Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie is a top-five option for Sixth Man of the Year at PointsBet (+1000), DraftKings (+1100), and BetMGM (+1200).

Oddsmakers see Knicks enduring season of growing pains

The Knicks were a distant last in the Atlantic Division last season, finishing 11 games behind fourth-place Brooklyn and 29 games back of champion Toronto. Thibodeau, a grinder who found success in Chicago but flamed out in Minnesota in his previous two coaching stops, has been instilling a defense-first mentality into his young team. The Knicks remarkably have nine players on their 18-man roster with two or fewer years of NBA experience.

Accordingly, oddsmakers have pegged the Knicks as the longest of longshots when it comes to winning the NBA title, with FanDuel and PointsBet at +25000 and DraftKings at +50000. Even making the playoffs looks to be a tall order, with FanDuel offering +880 for them to be in the 16-team field and +1000 to make the play-in round. PointsBet and DraftKings have longer odds, with both offering a +1400/-5000 split for making and missing the postseason.

BetMGM has that split at +2000/-10000, but one area where the Knicks have equal standing with the Nets is being part of the play-in round as both teams are +1000 options there. For the over/under on wins, FanDuel, PointsBet and BetMGM have all settled on 21.5 wins, with FanDuel offering -115/-105, PointsBet -115/-106 and BetMGM -110 in each direction. DraftKings’ benchmark is a .305 winning percentage, which means 22 wins would deliver the over, and that split is +100/-121.

Toppin, who won the Wooden Award as the nation’s top college basketball player in March, is listed among the favorites to win the NBA Rookie of the Year award. The 6-9 forward is a consensus top-four option at all four sportsbooks, ranging from +550 at PointsBet to +650 at BetMGM. Toppin also is listed as an offering at BetMGM for the Sixth Man Award (+10000) and the NBA’s top rebounder (+50000).

Two other Knicks players — Mitchell Robinson and 2019 No. 3 overall pick RJ Barrett — are in the middle of the pack among those listed for Most Improved Player. Robinson, who averaged 9.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks, can be grabbed as low as +3300 at DraftKings and as high as +4900 at FanDuel. Barrett, meanwhile, has a more narrow range of +4900 at FanDuel and +5000 at the other three books after averaging 14.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.6 assists as a rookie.

Robinson is a higher-end option to lead the league in blocks, with the 7-footer listed as a sixth-choice option across the board at FanDuel (+650), PointsBet and DraftKings (+800), and BetMGM (+900).

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