In the era of the super team, it has no longer become a matter of who can score the ball the best, but mostly a matter of whose role will be the largest in a league so focused on scoring, on shooting, that defense has become something of a ghost from the past. The Golden State Warriors have two league MVPs, and that mitigates the offensive output of either of them, never mind their talented cast of teammates.
But that same motif is so common throughout the league, that superstars are ceding their high usage roles to pair with one another, and the result is that it becomes difficult to pinpoint any one superstar as destined to see enough touches to run away with the scoring trophy.
Among the six most-favored for the award, all share the ball with at least one teammate averaging 20-plus points per game in their own right. However, we will see a certain value pick that has a superb chance of winning the scoring title, even if his team is not a true contender. Let us dive in.
Futures odds c/o Bovada.lv
James Harden (+180)
Now that James Harden is going to give up some of his point guard duties with Chris Paul in the fold, the thought here is that his scoring output increases only further on a Houston Rockets team that could easily lead the Association in points per game.
Yes, even besting Golden State, in that scenario.
Mike D’Antoni, for all his faults, is a mastermind of offense, and he now has two of the best passers in the league sharing the backcourt together. Harden also has a penchant for drawing fouls like none other, and getting to the line 10-plus times per night is one way to manage to keep one’s scoring average quite high. He is the favorite for a reason, and he is a pretty good value as that favorite, even at +180.
After all, CP3 is known to be unselfish, and though the Rockets are replete with shooters and scoring weapons, Harden is still the No. 1 option offensively. Strongly consider betting the favorite, though we will get later to an option that sparkles with value.
Russell Westbrook (+195)
It is simply too difficult to bet on Russell Westbrook given that the Oklahoma City Thunder just added Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, the latter of whom has never seen a shot he did not like. George is hardly the embodiment of unselfishness either, and for as excited as the trio is to join forces, there are just as many analysts sure that their off-court chemistry is less likely to translate to on-court chemistry.
Simply playing with other superstars and liking them ensures little, and while the Thunder could be a smashing success, the fact that Anthony relies on isolation sets to get his buckets makes this a huge no-go on Westbrook’s chances to lead the NBA in points.
Kevin Durant (+800), Steph Curry (+950)
We already alluded to the super team effect and what it does to the elite players’ numbers, but Kevin Durant is a strange sort of exception in some ways. He is extremely efficient and playing for a team that shares the ball, which means at a minimum he will be near the top of the league in scoring. He is a lock to finish in the top-three, even.
But Stephen Curry is also in his prime, and Klay Thompson is money while left wide open. Draymond Green serves mostly as a facilitator, but he takes his shots too.
There are simply too many mouths to feed to feel that confident in Durant taking the scoring title, which is a strange thing to say given that he led the league in scoring three times before he turned 24 years old. Last year, Durant averaged 25.1 points per game, and that was a decrease of over three points from his previous season sharing the ball with “only” one other superstar in Oklahoma City.
Durant attempted 16.5 shots per game and shot 53.7 percent last season, but it is doubtful his field goal attempts ever approach the 20 per game he saw back as a scoring champ. Golden State just is not rigged up that way. Curry, too, will get his numbers.
Some nights Steph will shoot like crazy and drop 40, but the Warriors M.O. for success is strangely similar to the San Antonio Spurs, who rarely produced any scoring-leader threats, despite winning titles and being competitive for decades. Teams win, and that hurts individual stats.
Anthony Davis (+1000)
Anthony Davis makes a good, if not great, value pick for so many reasons.
Perhaps paramount of those reasons is that A.D. is still improving. Last year represented a career-high in scoring for the big man from Kentucky, as he averaged 28 points per game and attempted a career-high 20.3 shots per game.
However, the Pelicans added DeMarcus Cousins at the trade deadline, and he is going to get plenty of touches, too. Jrue Holiday will be a 2-guard when Rajon Rondo returns from injury, and though the Pelicans are far from a poor team, there are a ton of issues to be resolved in the Big Easy, not the least of which is a sheer lack of perimeter shooting.
Simply because the Pelicans itself have so many team issues that need to be remedied before it attains any success, and because Cousins is a redundancy, a second center essentially, Davis making that leap to scoring champ seems unlikely. That said, he did lead the league in scoring for the early stretch of last season before settling down some and normalizing at 28 points per game. He is top-five material, but the guy we really like to make the quantum leap is next up.
Damian Lillard (+1600)
Damian Lillard is the absolute best value here in this prop bet. Though he shares the backcourt with another major scoring option in C.J. McCollum, there are few other major offensive threats throughout the Portland Trail Blazers’ roster.
If it is not Lillard or McCollum, there will be some buckets from Jusuf Nurkic, but it also has to be remembered the reason that Portland attained Nurkic in the first place was to put the ball in Lillard’s hands more often, as Mason Plumlee was simply serving as a detractor to what the Blazers had going on at the 1 and 2 spots.
Lillard also embraces the clutch, and can go absolutely bonkers late in games, which will only help him win this award as a big underdog. It is strange to think he is an underdog, though. Lillard has increased his scoring average every season through his first five in the league, and last year was his best at 27 per. Portland already knows its success lies in his hands, and Lillard probably will attempt over 20 shots per game this year, which we already indicated is the key to this award.
If only because he has fewer players to share the ball with, we like Lillard surprising the league with his best season-to-date, as he continues to the trend of simply getting better and better.
Conclusion: Gimme Dame. +1600 is tasty odds for the guy we pegged.