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NBA season betting preview: Tatum for MVP among best future bets in 2022-23

With the NBA season starting Tuesday, there’s still plenty of betting value in the preseason futures market.

Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum is among the best bets to win NBA MVP ahead of the 2022-23 regular season. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum is among the best bets to win NBA MVP ahead of the 2022-23 regular season. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)Read moreElsa / Getty Images

The start of the NBA season is just one day away, but there’s still time to mine for value in the futures market ahead of Tuesday’s tip-off. Here are four of our favorite bets to make at BetMGM ahead of the 2021-22 season:

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Atlanta Hawks to win the NBA Finals (+5000)

I wrote about the Hawks’ chances as a title long shot last week, but I’m doubling down here on what I see as the single biggest value in the championship market.

How could you think otherwise given the glimpses of an elite ceiling that we’ve seen from this group in recent years? Atlanta looked like one of the best teams in the NBA down the stretch of the 2020-21 season – by the eye test and advanced metrics, too – and parlayed that into a surprise trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. Last year’s group was beset by injuries, but this young core returns this year with more experience and, hopefully, better health.

Then there’s the crucial addition of All-Star and former All-Defensive guard Dejounte Murray, who led the league in steals (2.0) last season and serves as a dynamic secondary scorer and playmaker alongside All-NBA guard Trae Young. This team has the pieces to make a serious run in the loaded East, and I wouldn’t want to be the one who turned down a 50/1 price if that comes to fruition.

» READ MORE: NBA Win Totals: 5 best bets for the 2022-23 season

Jayson Tatum to win NBA MVP (+1200)

The MVP market has been relatively stagnant in recent years: Luka Doncic is the preseason favorite for the second straight season, while Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid have finished first and second each of the last two campaigns. There’s no player I’d rather bet to shake up the monotony than Tatum, who is quietly knocking on the door of the NBA’s top tier of stars.

The Celtics’ burgeoning young wing burst onto the scene last year with career highs in points (26.9), rebounds (8.0), and assists (4.4) en route to first-time All-NBA honors and a top-six finish in MVP voting. He followed that up with a sensational playoff run in which he scored 27 points per game through the first three rounds before cooling off in the Finals.

He teased his elite playmaking in that series, though, and I’d be stunned if Tatum doesn’t enter this season with a refined approach in the key areas that plagued him in that Finals loss. The 24-year-old star has the talent to post an MVP-level stat line, and if the title favorite Celtics snag the top seed in the East, too, this will be Tatum’s award to lose.

» READ MORE: 2022-23 NBA MVP odds: Joel Embiid among betting favorites

Jalen Brunson to win NBA Most Improved Player (+2000)

This is notoriously one of the toughest awards to bet every year, as the criteria for winning it is as ambiguous as the voters’ motivations for awarding it. Still, recent winners have followed a fairly rigid archetype, and Brunson fits the bill as well as anyone.

Since 2006-07, 12 of the 16 winners have been a ball-dominant guard or wing, and almost all of them saw a sizable uptick in their usage rate, minutes played, and playmaking, in addition to a healthy increase in their scoring totals. Brunson feels like a lock to improve in all four areas after inking a massive deal with the Knicks this offseason to be their de facto “backcourt star.”

He showed flashes of earning that title in last year’s postseason with the Mavericks, scoring 32 points per game in teammate Luka Doncic’s absence with a 41-point epic to introduce himself as a household name. If Brunson can muster even a remotely similar output in a leading role in New York, he’ll be among the final candidates in this highly volatile market – and at a solid price, to boot.

Matisse Thybulle to lead NBA in steals per game (+2200)

I don’t tend to bet statistical leader markets in the NBA, where load management is rampant and the margins over an 82-game season are razor-thin. Yet every year, I find myself betting Thybulle to lead the league in steals.

It’s got to happen one of these years, right? The 76ers’ defensive specialist has increased his per-game steals total in each of his three years as a pro, boasting a career-high 1.7 swipes per contest last season. That ranked sixth among all players despite Thybulle playing fewer minutes (25.5) than anyone in the top 15. He also led the league in steal rate (3.4%), a full 0.4 percentage points higher than anyone else in the NBA.

Clearly, Thybulle’s case for cashing in this market isn’t about talent; it’s about opportunity. The fourth-year guard has increased his playing time every year and saw a jump of 5.5 minutes per game last year. Even a smaller incremental bump this year would put him in position to cash here.

» READ MORE: Full sports betting coverage from The Philadelphia Inquirer

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