There are no such thing as sure bets in the NBA -- if there were the sportsbooks wouldn't offer them. However, here are three things you can most likely count on for the upcoming season and how they affect various NBA betting odds.
Kevin Durant Will Not Win Scoring Title or MVP
LeBron James is clearly the best all-around player in the NBA, perhaps since Michael Jordan. However, the best pure scorer, also perhaps since Jordan, is the Thunder's Durant. He won his fourth scoring title last season -- and first NBA MVP Award -- by averaging a career-high 32.0 points per game. That was the highest in the NBA since Kobe Bryant won his first scoring title in 2005-06 at a career-high 35.4 points per game.
Durant is currently the 3/2 favorite on Bovada's NBA odds to win a fifth scoring title. Only Jordan (10) and Wilt Chamberlain (7) have ever won at least five. To qualify for a scoring title, a player must play in 70 percent of his team's regular-season games. That means 58 in an 82-game season. I don't see Durant playing that many.
He just had surgery on the Jones fracture in his foot last week and won't even be re-evaluated for five weeks. Even if Durant got clearance then -- and he says he is not going to rush back and risk long-term problems -- he is going to need a few weeks to get into game shape, etc. Let's say for the sake of argument that Durant misses the first two months and returns for the team's Christmas Day game in San Antonio -- the first meeting of the season between the two Western Conference betting favorites at sportsbooks. That means Durant would miss 29 games. Even if Durant only misses 20, you know the Thunder will baby him and give Durant a few games off, especially in the second of back-to-backs.
In fact, Durant might not even lead his own team in scoring: Russell Westbrook (12/1 on NBA odds) might. He could be good value to win the scoring title along with Golden State's Stephen Curry (20/1). The lack of games played also will cost Durant a shot at repeating as MVP. LeBron is the heavy 5/6 betting favorite there. Westbrook is interesting at 15/1.
Jabari Parker Will Win Rookie of the Year
I personally never like recommending chalk bets, but the Bucks' Parker seems like the easy choice to win NBA Rookie of the Year. He is the 5/2 favorite on Bovada's NBA odds. The Bucks have had just one Rookie of the Year and that was Lew Alcindor in 1970. He went on to have a decent career.
Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 overall pick by Cleveland and now with Minnesota, might have the most overall upside in the draft. Or perhaps his former Kansas teammate Joel Embiid does, although he won't likely play at all this season. But you aren't going to be Rookie of the Year because you play good defense and that's really all Wiggins is ready for in the NBA right now. He probably won't even start.
Parker will start from Day 1 and probably be the main offensive threat from the get-go on the offensively challenged Bucks. Scouts believe Parker's offensive game is NBA-ready now. Yes, he needs work on ball-handling and defense, but ROY voters don't care about that. Parker is a lock to lead all rookies in scoring and that's what draws attention.
The Philadelphia 76ers Will Finish with NBA's Worst Record
Unfortunately, the sportsbooks won't offer a prop on simply which team will finish with the worst record this upcoming season, but it will be a huge upset if it's not Philadelphia.
The 76ers were 19-63 last year, which actually was only the second-worst mark behind Milwaukee's 15-67 record. However, Philly also tied an NBA record with a 26-game losing streak and a huge majority of those were complete routs. Frankly, this year's opening night roster isn't close to as good as last year's.
Back then the Sixers had legitimate, if not great, veteran players such as Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes. The latter two were traded during last season and Young this offseason to the Wolves. Philly got basically nothing back any of those deals but salary relief. The 76ers had the most cap room of any team but spent nothing this summer -- no one would have taken their money anyway. So the only significant addition is Nerlens Noel, last year's first-round pick acquired in the Jrue Holiday trade. The Sixers' two first-round picks this year, Embiid and Dario Saric, aren't going to play. Saric is stuck in Europe at least two more years. Embiid maybe returns late in the season from his broken foot.
The Sixers have made no secret they are tanking for high draft picks. They did get great news on Wednesday when the NBA's lottery reform surprisingly was voted down by owners. The Sixers led the charge against that. It would have given the teams with the four-worst records an equal chance at winning the lottery.
The 76ers have an 'over/under' of 16 wins at Bovada's NBA odds. The 'over' is a -125 favorite, but I'm leaning 'under' a -105 for my free NBA picks. I do think the 73-loss record is safe.