Philadelphia 76ers' Matisse Thybulle
Philadelphia 76ers' Matisse Thybulle, right, blocks a shot by Atlanta Hawks' Trae Young during the second half of Game 7 in a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

4 DARK HORSE BETS FOR NBA DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

The futures game is a fun one to play, and when you look at preseason odds it can be the most rewarding financially too. Around this time of the year, NBA bettors and fans love to play Nostradamus and put their money where their mouth is about their hunches. Most betting sites have odds available for predicting the major awards now, and if you look carefully enough, you can spot where there is some disagreement in Las Vegas about who the favorites are. If you’re confident in your award-winner predictions, you can find opportunities to get in and lay a bet now at much better odds than at some other places. So, shop around and see where your bet money will go further. Also, if the reference to Nostradamus went over your head, you might want to consider putting a little less time into betting and read a bit more. Balance, folks. Balance.


DraftKings Promotion

One of the key NBA awards is the Defensive Player of the Year. It is not an easy one to handicap (as the widely varying Vegas odds will confirm), but there are a few players who are serious possibilities and would pay off at a high rate. Here are a few that stood out to me as being worth an investment.

JRUE HOLIDAY, Milwaukee (+2000 on DraftKings)
He finished in eighth place in voting last season, his first in Milwaukee, and despite not playing his best offensively during the Bucks’ run to a title, his contributions on the defensive end were massive. The Bucks were the only team to slow Chris Paul down during the 2021 postseason and Holiday deserves a lot of credit for that. Now that he is playing for the defending champs, he becomes a more viable candidate to win the award. As a champion you get more television time and you’re given the benefit of the doubt for a lot of things. Though Giannis remains the team’s defensive key, he has already won the DPOY before. If the Bucks remain a stellar defensive team this year (and why wouldn’t they?), the writers may look for someone else to give the lion’s share of credit to, and that player will not be Khris Middleton.

BEN SIMMONS, Team TBA (+500 at FanDuel)
Obviously, he won’t be winning this award while playing in Philadelphia. Just as obviously, where he gets traded will profoundly affect his ability to win this award. Remember, though, that he finished in second place in DPOY voting just last year. Despite being an All-Star three times in his first four NBA seasons, there’s still somehow a deeply unfair feeling about Simmons that he’s been a disappointment. Philly fans, press and execs seem all-too willing to blame him for the 76er’s postseason disappointments, which is at very least an oversimplification. I suspect that a traded Ben Simmons is likely to be a highly motivated Ben Simmons, and if his new team manages to improve their defensive culture and playoff chances significantly, the new guy’s contributions will not go unnoticed. Writers love nothing better than a redemption story, even if they contributed to his need for redemption a year earlier. The question will be – does Simmons want to write a redemption story for himself? I’m betting that he does.

MATISSE THYBULLE, Philadelphia (+2000 on BetMGM)
This is a futures article, so let’s talk about the future. Thybulle will absolutely win this award at some point in his career. He will likely win it multiple times. Helping lead Australia to a bronze medal in the 2020 Olympics immediately after a strong performance in the NBA playoffs served as proof positive to players (and writers) all over the world that he had arrived as a lockdown defensive player. He did an amazing job of locking up NBA MVP favorite Luka Doncic vs. Slovenia during the Bronze Medal game as Australia won their first-ever medal in basketball. With Simmons all but gone from the Sixers very soon, Thybulle steps in as their designated stopper on the perimeter. He’ll have plenty of help from Joel Embiid (who finished 7th in voting for DPOY in 2021), but no one wins this award without contributions from other teammates, and if Philadelphia remains a top-tier defensive team and make a playoff run again this season, Thybulle will get a lot of the credit for that.

DRAYMOND GREEN, Golden State (+3300 on FanDuel)
Firstly, the odds at FanDuel are much longer (better for you) on FanDuel than on any other site I saw. All the other houses have him at around +2000, which is odd, considering many NBA execs and players will tell you that Draymond is still the best defensive player in the game. He has already won the DPOY Award in 2017, when Golden State was in the midst of their run of 3 championships in 4 years. Injuries have contributed to the Warriors’ lack of playoff success in the last couple of years, which has kept Green out of the national spotlight somewhat. In spite of his team’s struggles, he still finished third in voting for DPOY in 2021. This year, the Warriors are planning (hoping) to be healthier – Klay Thompson will return at some point and Steph Curry hopes to be at 100% for the first time in a while. They also added veterans Avery Bradley and Andre Iguodala (again), both of whom are excellent defensive players. After drafting two young wing players this spring, the Warriors are hoping to be among the elite in the West again this season, and if that happens the spotlight will find Green’s defensive prowess again and those clever writers will re-discover that he is a generational defensive player.

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