The NFL preseason is entering its final week, and the MLB playoffs are quickly approaching. Basketball is on the back burner for the time being, which gives us a perfect opportunity to make some bold predictions and long-shot bets for the upcoming NBA season.
The Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics are the favorites to emerge from the Eastern Conference, while the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers top the odds board in the West.
Luka Doncic and Joel Embiid have the shortest odds to capture MVP, and Paola Banchero and Chet Holmgren are the early favorites for Rookie of the Year.
We’re not here for favorites!
2022 NBA Title Odds
NBA Bold Predictions
Jayson Tatum wins MVP (+1400 via FanDuel)
Tatum shot a dreadful 36.7% from the floor in the 2021-22 NBA Finals and ended the 4-2 series loss to the Warriors with a 13-point stinker on 6-of-18 shooting. He’ll take the letdown to heart and play this season with a chip on his shoulder.
Boston’s offseason additions of Danilo Gallinari and Malcolm Brogdon have added enough depth to make this a 60-plus win team, and the best player on the league’s best team always has a great shot to win MVP.
For what it’s worth, Boston has the best odds to win 60 games this season at +165.
Detroit Pistons make the playoffs (+1800 via FanDuel)
One of the most exciting young cores in the NBA added the most athletic guard in the draft in Purdue’s Jaden Ivey to team with Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey. The last couple of spots in the East are always up for grabs, and Detroit takes the next step.
Memphis Grizzlies miss playoffs (+500 via PointsBet)
Of the teams that made the playoffs in the West last season, we can reasonably pencil in the Warriors, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, and New Orleans Pelicans for the 2022-23 postseason.
The Utah Jazz are going through a tumultuous time, so we can count them out. That leaves two spots up for grabs in the West, and the Clippers should be much improved with Kawhi Leonard healthy.
We can expect a bounceback from the Los Angeles Lakers, and the new-look Portland Trail Blazers will be in the mix as well.
The Grizz regress after a magical season and fall just shy of the playoffs. They'll miss Jaren Jackson Jr.’s defensive impact and won't be able to stay as hot as they did a season ago.
Top NBA Long-Shot Bets for 2022
LeBron James to break scoring record on 2/23/23 vs. Warriors (+3000 vis DraftKings)
Lakers forward LeBron James can make history this season by scoring 1,326 points to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. James averaged a ridiculous 30.3 points per game a season ago, and he’s averaged 27.1 PPG for his career. At that pace, he’d break the record as early as 1/25/23 against the San Antonio Spurs.
James has missed 63 total games over the last two regular seasons, so it’s not reasonable to expect him to play each of the first 49 of the season to break the record on January 25. If James misses some games here and there, he could break the record in the Lakers’ 60th game of the season on February 23 in a home matchup against the Warriors, which would be the first game back from the All-Star break.
Coincidentally, he scored his 1,326th point of last season on March 5 against the Warriors at home in his 63rd game of the season. James is a student of the game and surely understands how important this record is. He’ll want to set it in front of his home crowd, and if he can do so with Finals rival Stephen Curry in the building, that’s a cherry on top.
James’ odds to break the record at home are +145 compared to -175 on the road. The Lakers play a five-game road trip after that homer against the Spurs and finish out the first half of the season with seven of 10 games on the road. That presents a golden opportunity to get plus money.
Alperen Sengun to win Most Improved Player (+4000 via DraftKings)
Last year’s winner of the Most Improved Player award, Ja Morant, was surely deserving, but there were a bunch of other guys who could have won it without much backlash from the NBA community.
Players such as Tyrese Haliburton, Jalen Brunson, and Dejounte Murray are back on the list for 2022-23, but when it comes to the MIP, there has to be significant room to grow.
All three aforementioned players had excellent campaigns last season, and while Haliburton is still a strong choice for the 2022-23 award, Houston Rockets center Alperen Sengun clearly has the most room to grow. The Rockets traded Christian Wood to the Mavericks, signaling its willingness to invest in Sengun as the team’s starting center next season.
The rookie averaged 9.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.9 blocks in 20.7 minutes per contest. More minutes and more usage could vault the Turkish center to a 17/10 average with strong assists and defensive numbers for the rebuilding Rockets.
New Orleans Pelicans win the Western Conference (+2600 via FanDuel)
The Memphis Grizzlies shocked the NBA last season by delivering a 56-26 record and the team’s first No. 2 seed in franchise history.
Morant won Most Improved Player, Desmond Bane lit it up from beyond the arc, and Jackson broke Pau Gasol’s 20-year-old single-season blocks record. Don’t forget the highlight reel from Morant, and the swagger of a young and hungry squad that captivated audiences all season.
There’s another team in the West that can be just as good, if not better, in 2022-23.
It’s the New Orleans Pelicans. The Pels made the playoffs and lost to the Suns 4-2 in the first round last season, but there is a lot to love moving forward.
Guard CJ McCollum will start the season in New Orleans for his first full campaign. Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas are back, as are defensive standouts Jose Alvarado and Herb Jones. Most importantly, Zion Williamson is reportedly at full health after missing all of last season.
In his only healthy campaign (2020-21), Williamson averaged 27.0 points, 7.2 boards, and 3.7 assists, so if he can get back to that All-Star caliber play, New Orleans could be a dangerous team to meet in the playoffs.
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