MONTVALE, N.J. – The rest stop on the Garden
State Parkway less than a mile over the border from New York was
quiet early Saturday morning, with only three cars in the
park-and-ride lot -- one of which held a sportswriter with a
gambling app. That writer has a habit of believing in Michael
So a $50 wager was placed with PointsBet.com on Porter Jr. to
win the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award. And as a Nuggets
hedge, another $50 went down on Nikola Jokic.
But the Porter bet is more potentially lucrative, as PointsBet
listed Porter Jr. at 100-1 Saturday morning, while most other books
had him at lower odds. DraftKings Sportsbook, which usually takes
wagers in this market, has had the Finals MVP odds dark for a
couple of days.
The Jokic wager carries odds of 16-1, and it’ll be more than a
month before we know whether these were timely bets or merely
another Benjamin falling into the legalized U.S. sports gambling
sinkhole. The books had a spectacular week with the Los
Angeles Lakers getting knocked out of the playoffs by the Phoenix
Suns, and let’s just say that there are a lot of folks in Las Vegas
and in the online sports betting business that are going to be huge
Milwaukee Bucks fans in the second round. After the Lakers, the
books’ biggest exposure is on the Brooklyn Nets, and then the
BetMGM.com, which has partnered with the NBA on a new initiative
called NBABet, has taken 21.7% of its handle on James Harden to win
Finals MVP, 18.3% on Kevin Durant and 11.7% on Luka Doncic, who
still must get out of the first round after getting Kawhi’d last
Only 1.7% of BetMGM’s handle is on Giannis Antetokounmpo of the
Bucks, just 0.9% is on Kyrie Irving, and 0.7% on Ben Simmons.
PointsBet, which is especially strong in New Jersey, Pennsylvania,
Colorado and Michigan, lists Durant as the +375 Finals MVP
favorite, with Donovan Mitchell at +400, followed by Antetokounmpo
at +600. In the Andre Iguodala realm, PointsBet has John Collins,
Clint Capela and Kristaps Porzingis at 150-1.
FanDuel has Porter Jr. at 250-1, along with Porzingis, Collins,
Capela, Rajon Rondo, Tim Hardaway Jr., Joe Ingles and Bogdan
Bogdanovic. Simmons is on their board at 120-1, and Khris Middleton
and Jrue Holiday of the Bucks are at 100-1.
What this shows is that the books are not of one mind on who is
going to come out of the East or West, although the Brooklyn prices
are so low that the Nets are clearly seen as the favorites, despite
the fact that they still have not shown that they have any idea of
how to defend Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Brook Lopez at the same
time when using their preferred small lineups of Irving, Harden,
Durant, Joe Harris and whoever is playing the role of Jeff Green,
as he recovers from a foot injury.
Brooklyn is the championship favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook with
odds of +160, and the Utah Jazz are second at +300. The Dallas
Mavericks have the longest odds, 50-1.
It has been a mixed year for sports betting stocks. DraftKings went
from $44.86 on Jan. 1 to nearly $51 per share Friday. Penn National
Gaming has risen from $80.89 on Jan. 1 to $136.47 on March 14
before coming back to earth and closing at $80.54 Friday. FanDuel’s
parent company, Flutter Entertainment, dropped nearly 10 percent
Friday to close at $94.99, down from $119.40 on March 15.
The stock market may or may not have accounted for the profits the
sportsbooks will reap from all of the losing Lakers bets they
processed, and if the Nets fall to the Bucks in Game 1, it is fair
to assume that the sports gaming stocks will rise again. Sports
gambling will be legal later this year in Florida, New York,
Nebraska and Connecticut, and gaming commissions in Arizona and
Maryland are making progress on legislation; Wyoming’s sports
gambling rules will be finalized in the week ahead.
Wyoming borders Colorado, which will have a Most Valuable Player
within its borders after Jokic’s MVP victory becomes official.
Denver opens against the Suns in Phoenix on Monday night, with Game
2 on Wednesday. The Nuggets went 2-1 against the Suns this season,
with two of the games going to overtime, one to double OT. The
teams have not played since Jan. 23.
Jokic should present a formidable matchup challenge for Deandre
Ayton, and Porter Jr. will be relied upon to be a secondary scorer
whose point totals will need to offset those of Devin
The Suns are slight favorites in the series, but Denver has more
playoff experience, and Porter is coming off a Game 6 against
Portland in which he knocked down six three-pointers in the first
quarter. The third-place finisher in Most Improved Player award
voting, Porter shot 10-for-13 and 10-for-19 in the final two games
of the Nuggets' first-round victory against Portland.
It is unlikely that Porter will be more valuable than Jokic if
the Nuggets make the Finals, but that unlikelihood is mitigated by
the potential payoff ($5050) if he breaks out the same way teammate
Jamal Murray did in the postseason a year ago. Jokic is a decent
hedge, especially at 16-1.
If neither wins, we will have another chapter for the book “Why
the House Always Wins.” We shall see.
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