Will Joel Embiid Play At Least 56 Games This Season? 5 NBA Prop Bets to Consider

by Taylor Smith
on October 16, 2017

After a long and crazy summer that saw a huge chunk of the NBA’s star-level talent change teams, the regular season is finally upon us. The season gets going on Tuesday night when LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers take on Kyrie Irving’s Boston Celtics. In the nightcap, the James Harden/Chris Paul Houston Rockets will head to NorCal to make their debut against the defending champion Golden State Warriors.

While the Warriors are heavily favored to repeat, it’s still going to be a wildly entertaining season. We’ve already handicapped the races for Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year and scoring champion, but Bovada has a slew of new props posted in anticipation of the season getting underway.

Let’s break down a few of our favorites here.

Odds via Bovada.

Who Will Win Coach of the Year?

  • Brad Stevens +400
  • Mike D’Antoni +600
  • Steve Kerr +700
  • Billy Donovan +800
  • Gregg Popovich +800
  • Tyronn Lue +800
  • Jason Kidd +1200
  • Erik Spoelstra +1500
  • Quin Snyder +1500
  • Tom Thibodeau +1500.
  • Brett Brown +2000

All 30 of the league’s coaches are listed, but we’re not going to bother breaking down some of the longshots. Sorry, Fred Hoiberg, you aren’t winning Coach of the Year this season. There’s always next year!

Boston’s Brad Stevens understandably checks in as the favorite to win the honors in 2017-18. The Celtics earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs last season, but GM Danny Ainge essentially tore that team to the ground. Just four players – Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, Al Horford – are still on the roster. The Celtics have picked up a bunch of new faces, including Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Morris.

Expectations are high for Stevens and the Celtics. They were absolutely obliterated by James and the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals last year. Frankly, anything short of a seven-game series against Cleveland or a Finals berth would be a massive disappointment for this squad. Unfortunately, we think there may be some growing pains here that could hamper Boston’s shot at the No. 1 seed. A team with so many new players is going to take time to acclimate to playing together. That could also hurt Stevens’ COY case.

We really like the value in the 76ers’ Brett Brown at +2000.

Philly is dealing with expectations for the first time since Brown was hired a few years back. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles that after the team has been mired in a lengthy, ugly rebuilding process. With Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz all in the fold, most expect the Sixers to make the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Brown will be rewarded of the Sixers meet or surpass those expectations. The Coach of the Year Award is often handed to the coach of a team that raises eyebrows in a good way. Just look at Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets last season. Gregg Popovich probably won’t win, because he rarely does. He’s the best coach in the league, but he rarely gets the accolade. Ditto for Steve Kerr, who is likely going to lead Golden State to another 70-win campaign.

There’s always the chance someone could come out of nowhere to claim the award, but we really love Brett Brown at +2000 here. It feels like a fairly safe bet with good profit potential, to boot.

Who Will Lead the NBA in Rebounds per Game?

  • Hassan Whiteside +240
  • Andre Drummond +250
  • DeAndre Jordan +260
  • Karl-Anthony Towns +650
  • Rudy Gobert +800
  • Anthony Davis +1800
  • DeMarcus Cousins +2000
  • Nikola Jokic +2000

The NBA’s rebounding crown has been dominated by the same names over the last several years. Dwight Howard has won the rebounding title five times since the 2007-08 season. While we believe Dwight is due for something of a bounce-back season now that he’s in Charlotte, we also think his days of grabbing 14 boards per game are in the rearview mirror.

Since Howard’s slight decline, we’ve seen DeAndre Jordan, Hassan Whiteside and Andre Drummond win rebounding titles. These three are, unsurprisingly, the three favorites to take home the title again in ‘17-18. Whiteside claimed his first rebounding title last season when he averaged 14.09 boards per game.

Drummond and Jordan each narrowly missed out, as they averaged 13.8 boards apiece. Rudy Gobert came in fourth with 12.8, while Howard averaged 12.7 in his lone season with the Hawks.

There’s really no way of pegging this race other than acknowledging that some combination of Whiteside, Jordan and Drummond will make up the top-three once again, especially if they stay healthy. Drummond, in particular, has been drawing rave reviews during training camp and the preseason, so perhaps he makes for an interesting value at +250.

Karl-Anthony Towns is another strong value way down at +650, but we don’t like him as much as the top-three here.

We’ll pick Drummond, but you can’t go wrong with Whiteside or Jordan here, either.

It really comes down to preference in the end.

Who Will Lead the NBA in Assists per Game?

  • John Wall +240
  • Russell Westbrook +260
  • Chris Paul +300
  • James Harden +500
  • Lonzo Ball +1100
  • Ricky Rubio +1100
  • LeBron James +1600
  • Rajon Rondo +2000

The assists race will make for an interesting one. James Harden led the world in dimes last season when he averaged a career-best 11.2 per game. John Wall came in second with 10.7, while Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and Ricky Rubio rounded out the top-five.

Harden is still an interesting play at +500, but we know now that he’s going to essentially be splitting point guard duties with his newest superstar teammate, Chris Paul. CP3 will likely slide in as the de facto starting point guard, but these two are going to be alternating between the backcourt spots. Harden will man the point whenever CP3 rests, and vice versa. We think they’ll both post solid assists totals, but they’ll eat into each other’s statistical production enough to where neither will lead the Association.

Westbrook’s circumstances have also changed. Last season, he was forced to shoulder the bulk of OKC’s scoring load without Kevin Durant around. Now, though, he’s going to be playing with Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, which will naturally cut into his own shot attempts. That said, there should be more assist opportunities with a pair of high-octane offensive teammates now in the fold.

It would not be overly surprising to see Westbrook take more of a distributor’s approach, especially early in the season as the Thunder try to integrate their two new star players. Playing with scorers like PG13 and Melo could lead to some legitimately gaudy assist totals for Westbrook, who still managed to average 10.4 last season despite playing with lesser teammates.

Whether Westbrook or John Wall leads the league in assists is basically a coin flip. Wall may be the most under-appreciated player in the entire league. He just keeps getting better and better every season, yet nobody really seems to notice. Wall has upped his per-game assist average in each of the last four years, and the 10.7 mark from last season was a career-high.

We think Westbrook is playing with better teammates, which has us leaning ever so slightly in his direction here.

Both make for fine enough values, but give us Distributor Russ here at +260.

Who Will Win Defensive Player of the Year?

  • Draymond Green +160
  • Kawhi Leonard +300
  • Rudy Gobert +325
  • Hassan Whiteside +900
  • Anthony Davis +1000
  • Paul George +1600
  • LeBron James +1600
  • DeAndre Jordan +2000

Defensive Player of the Year used to be an afterthought during awards season, but over the last few years, it’s become a serious dogfight. Both Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green have a viable claim to be the league’s best overall defender. Leonard won the award in back-to-back seasons before Green ended his reign with a win last year.

To the surprise of nobody, those two lead the pack once again heading into 2017-18. Leonard is battling a quad injury, which could linger into the beginning of the season. The Spurs are going to be careful with their franchise player, and you can be sure they won’t rush him out there early if he’s not 100 percent healthy. If Leonard potentially misses the first few weeks of the season, that is going to cost him once people are voting for awards.

Let’s not forget that Leonard also has a legitimate shot at winning the MVP. Do you know how many players have won MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season? Two. Michael Jordan (1988) and Hakeem Olajuwon (1994). It’s not unprecedented, of course, but it’s still rare.

Of course, Leonard’s stalwart defense is going to help him in the MVP race. If he puts forth a truly MVP-worthy performance on both ends of the court, he could very well win both awards this season. The Thunder adding PG13 and Melo could hurt Westbrook’s chances at a repeat, while the Rockets putting CP3 into the mix could water down Harden, too.

As for Green, he’s the most versatile defender in the league right now. The scrappy Michigan State product is capable of defending all five positions on the floor at an elite level, which makes him a singular talent in today’s game. There are players that can defend multiple positions, but nobody changes a game on that end the way Green can.

Rudy Gobert is without question the best defensive big in the league nowadays, and he makes for a sneaky value here at +325.

The race will probably come down to Green and Kawhi, and we’re going to side with Draymond here. If the Warriors in 70-plus games again, they’ll be showered with accolades.

Regular Season Games Played by Joel Embiid

  • Over 55 ½ +550
  • Under 55 ½ -230

Earlier this week, the 76ers made the surprising decision to give Joel Embiid something close to a max contract. This is for a guy that has played a grand total of 31 NBA games since entering the league in 2014. All 31 games came last season, as he missed his first two campaigns thanks to injury.

Embiid is reportedly healthy heading into this year, but, as usual, we can expect Philly to treat him with kid gloves. Embiid routinely sat out one-half of back-to-backs last year, and he didn’t play a game after January 27th thanks to a meniscus injury.

It’s understandable why the Sixers would be eager to lock him up. When healthy, Embiid may be the most talented two-way big man in the league. Philly’s defense collapsed without Embiid on the floor last season, and his offensive repertoire is incredibly mature for a 23-year-old.

55 ½ games may be a lot to ask, though. Embiid has said that he wants to play in back-to-backs this year, but, again, the team is going to be monitoring his health closely. The Sixers have 14 back-to-backs this year, which could shave seven games from Embiid’s total. That still leaves another 75 games, but the 76ers aren’t going to unnecessarily push their fragile young big man.

As much as we love Embiid and hope he can stay healthy all year, we aren’t overly optimistic that he can stay out there for 55 games.

Mostly because we’ve never seen him do it before. We will take the under here, and hope we’re wrong.

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