The 2021 NBA All-Star Weekend is in the books, and with two more days off before regular-season action resumes, we’re taking the opportunity to review the first half that’s already behind us with the hope of providing insights for the upcoming second half. It’s certainly been an unusual year — with the top of the NBA standings featuring some unexpected teams — and some off-the-board candidates leading the way in various awards as well. DraftKings bettors have caught on to much of this, though some of the more surprising developments seem to have been truly unpredictable.
DraftKings Sportsbook Betting Trends
Starting with what DraftKings Sportsbook bettors have bet on the most, there are some hits and misses contained within this breakdown. Bets on Nikola Jokic, James Harden and Steph Curry started slow in 2021, but the three most bet on players in the NBA this season have all gotten their acts together, particularly Harden since he arrived in Brooklyn. It’s no surprise that the Nets are among the most bet on teams, trailing only the defending champion Lakers in total handle. Whether or not DraftKings Sportsbook bettors have done well with the Lakers has everything to do with timing, as they were utterly dominant early on but have struggled since Anthony Davis was sidelined due to a leg injury. The Lakers lost seven of 10 games heading into the break, and it very clearly coincides with AD’s absence. LeBron James may still have a good shot at MVP this year, but it’s become apparent that this Lakers team needs both of its stars.
These trends are further depicted in terms of profit, as Harden and the Nets are near the top of their respective lists, but there’s no sign of the Lakers here. Interestingly enough, the only player who’s made DraftKings Sportsbook bettors more money than Harden this season is Russell Westbrook, who already has already recorded 10 triple-doubles. Westbrook has been especially good in recent games, propelling the Wizards back into playoff contention with his strong play of late. Moving over to the most profitable teams, the Bulls have actually been one of the best teams against the spread this year despite a sub-.500 record and the Suns have been better than expected as well as they sit atop the Pacific Division standings at the break.
Teams on the Rise
With the Clippers and Lakers dealing with injuries to star players, the Suns have taken advantage and now find themselves in first place in what’s probably the NBA’s most competitive division. It hasn’t merely been a matter of those teams struggling, however, as the Suns have exceeded their own expectations in addition to capitalizing on some good luck. Phoenix has been one of the best ATS teams in 2021, and they’d likely be this season’s biggest story if not for the Utah Jazz. More on that below.
The Jazz lost a heartbreaker to the Nuggets in the first round of last year’s playoffs, and without any significant offseason moves leading into 2021, there wasn’t much reason to expect them to be more than a second-tier contender in the Western Conference. Despite a similar roster, they’ve somehow managed to make significant strides forward, most notably solidifying their defense, which struggled at times in 2020. It seems as though every player on the roster has gotten better, and DraftKings Sportsbook bettors who have backed them are obviously doing well based on their 27-9 record overall and 25-10-1 record ATS. Utah was just 35-1 to win it all when the season began, but their championship odds have improved all the way to 8-1 as of the All-Star break.
This season's battle for NBA MVP has been one of the most chaotic in recent memory, with constant and substantial odds shifts for most of the top contenders. When the season began, it looked like it would be primarily a two-horse race between Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic, with LeBron having the best shot to overtake them. LeBron did just that in late January/early February, as both the Bucks and Mavericks struggled in the early part of the year while the Lakers were surging.
While that was going on, we saw several other semi-longshots enter the picture. Curry has singlehandedly carried the Warriors into playoff contention, while Nikola Jokic has had some eye-popping numbers for the Nuggets. Joel Embiid opened with the longest odds of any of these players (40-1) but he gradually made his way into the race with numbers that have become too hard to ignore. Embiid is probably the best defensive player of these contenders, but his offensive game has hit another gear and the 76ers have been one of the best teams in the NBA. As of All-Star Weekend, Embiid has passed LeBron and now sits as the favorite at +200, with his last game against the Jazz seemingly the one that put him over the top. Embiid hit a late game-tying 3-pointer in that one, and the Sixers won the game in OT behind Embiid’s monstrous 40 and 19 stat line. LeBron is still the player most bet on to win the award, but the gap has narrowed substantially there as well.
Upcoming Second Half
Looking ahead to the second half of the season, there are plenty of compelling storylines and narratives to keep an eye on. One that wasn’t mentioned above is the improved play from the New York Knicks, and it’ll be interesting to see if they can keep it up and earn a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The newly released schedule looks to bring a more challenging second half for the Knicks, however, and you can read more on the implications of the schedule release here.
Lastly, below you’ll see a full breakdown of the current betting splits for the Eastern Conference, Western Conference and NBA Championship.
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