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The individual awards futures markets for the NBA are strange this particular season. Pretty much every race is decided, if the sportsbooks are to be believed. If they are off, there is one particular race that offers a wagering opportunity: Coach of the Year.

Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns is the -350 favorite because his team has an eight-game lead in the West and has lost only 13 games all season. He is a worthy favorite after leading his team to the NBA Finals last season, and it would take an epic collapse over the final several weeks of the regular season to knock him off his perch.

But with Chris Paul sidelined for the forseeable future because of a broken thumb, it is worth considering whether someone else may be wager worthy.

On Twitter, there is support for a few longshots


So let’s have a look at those coaches:

Ty Lue, Clippers: He has not had Kawhi Leonard for the entire regular season and has been without Paul George for all but 26 games, yet his Clippers are two games above .500 sitting sixth in the West. Because they are the lesser of the two El Lay teams the Clips never quite get their due, but they have gone 6-2 since February 12 and have a chance to get some national attention tonight when they visit the Golden State Warriors in the second half of the TNT doubleheader. Lue’s odds are +10000, and it is hard to see them going lower unless the Clippers finish something like 15-1 over their final 16 games, half of which are against teams from the East.

Ime Udoka, Celtics: Fifth place in the East is not where you need to be to win this award, but Boston is just three games in the loss column behind second-place Philadelphia with 16 games remaining. The Celtics have gone 2-2 against Philly, 2-0 against Miami, 2-1 against Milwaukee and 1-1 against Chicago, so it is lot like they have beefed up on the weaklings. Boston has seven games against Western teams over the remainder of this month then will play the Bucks, Heat and Bulls in three of their final six games. Udoka, +3000, also probably needs something like a 14-2 or 15-1 finish to be in contention.

Chris Finch, Timberwolves: Minnesota is probably going to make the postseason for the first time 2017-18 and will be looking to get to the second round for the first time in 18 years. That in and of itself is a tremendous accomplishment, and the Wolves are winning under the radar to a certain degree as they sit eight games above .500 in seventh place in the West, 2.5 games behind the Denver Nuggets. Finch has led the Wolves to five straight wins, tied with Dallas for the longest current winning streak in the NBA, and a key game will come April 1 at Denver with Minnesota leading the season series 2-1. A play-in spot will not get him the award, but sixth place or fifth place will get Finch some votes. He is 1-1 against Dallas with two games against the Mavs remaining.

The other individual award race that seems somewhat up in the air is Defensive Player of the Year, with Rudy Gobert the -145 favorite despite his chippy performance against Luka Doncic on Monday night. Gobert is second in defensive rebounds (558) to Nikola Jokic, is fourth in blocks behind Jaren Jackson Jr., Robert Williams and Myles Turner and is fifth in defensive win shares behind Jayson Tatum, Jokic, Williams and Jarrett Allen, so he is not exactly killing it category-wise. Voters tend to make this a stat-driven award, and there are always a few votes for terrific on-the-ball defenders such as Mikal Bridges, Jrue Holiday, Patrick Beverley and Marcus Smart, so this one could be the most wide open. In terms of value, the longest shot with a legit chance is Bridges at +1800, especially if another coach finishes strong, taking Coach of the Year votes away from Williams, and voters need a spot to show some love for the league-leading Suns.

Now let’s have a look at tonight’s slate, with the TNT doubleheader being led off by Pelicans-Grizzlies before the Clips-Dubs tilt.

Brooklyn (-3) at Charlotte: Six losses in seven games have the Nets below .500, yet they remain the +475 Eastern Conference favorite because the books expect them to flip some sort of switch once the postseason comes along and Ben Simmons is finally playing. He is currently week-to-week with a bad back and conditioning issues but is expected to attend the Nets’ road game in Philadelphia on Thursday night. He may want to bring his thick skin. As for tonight, Kevin Durant is coming off a 37-point outing against Boston on Sunday and will again be flanked by Kyrie Irving, who remains limited to road games because of New York City’s vaccine mandate for employees of private companies. Brooklyn is 0-1 against Charlotte with two games remaining. The plays here are Durant over 29.5 points (-110) and Terry Rozier over 20.5 (-130).

Cleveland (-4) at Indiana: Life without Jarrett Allen begins for the Cavs after they lost their All-Star center over the weekend to a fractured middle finger. He is out indefinitely, and Kevin Love is expected to pick up the slack in his absence. The Pacers have dropped three of four against bad teams (Orlando, Detroit and Washington), but the absence of Allen makes this a stay-away game in terms of the point spread and the over/under. But there are playable wagers here, and we like Evan Mobley to step up in Allen’s absence and go over 16.5 points (-125) and over 10.5 rebounds (-125).

Phoenix (-6.5) at Orlando: The best team in the league against the worst team in the league, and the line is only 6.5? The Suns are 14-8-0 as an away favorite and the Magic lost to these guys by 27 when they played on Feb. 12. This is one of those games where you look at the alternate lines, and Betway has the Suns at +450 if you feel like giving 20 points. We would counsel boosting your parlay card off an alternate line, such as Phoenix -10.5 (+145) since the Suns have defeated the dregs of the league (the Magic, Rockets and Pistons) by double-digit margins every time.

New Orleans (+5.5) at Memphis: As much as we love the Grizzlies, the Pelicans have been sneaky good lately with wins in four of their last five games as they play a big lineup aside from C.J. McCollum, who came over from Portland at the trade deadline. This is a massive game for the Grizzlies because they do not appear on national television all that often and thy have the league’s "it" player in Ja Morant. They defeated New Orleans by 12 points on Feb. 15, and they should win this one despite the Pels being just one game behind the Lakers for ninth in the West and homecourt advantage in the play-in 9-10 game. The line seems about right, so the play here is Morant and Brandon Ingram both having at least eight assists at the enticing odds of +700. Yes, that is a longshot, but we expect Morant to be extra unselfish (and thus reaching eight assists) in order to impress the TNT crew.

Milwaukee (-13.5) at Oklahoma City: The Bucks have won four in a row and are scoring points in bunches, having not been held below 100 since Jan. 26, a span of 15 games. This line is too large to mess with, especially with the Thunder getting a string of good games from Shai-Gilgeous Alexander. Sit this one out, y’all.

Clippers (+6.5) at Warriors: The Dubs left all of their best players back in the Bay Area as they played Denver last night in a COVID makeup game and lost. The Clips are 1-2 against the Warriors this season and have been getting balanced scoring from their starters along with especially strong play from point guard Reggie Jackson, who is matched with Steph Curry tonight. The Dubs have not been inspiring for several months, so the play here is taking the points (-110).