Throughout the current NBA season, Coloradans betting on the Denver Nuggets have been quite audacious in staking their in-state NBA franchise to win a championship and Nikola Jokić to claim the league’s MVP award. With Nuggets playoff odds now live at CO sportsbooks, that trend might only grow stronger.
Colorado sports betting apps have Denver as a slight favorite in its first-round matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers. At the same time, Jokić’s stranglehold on the MVP futures is anything but slight.
A look at the Nuggets playoff odds
DraftKings Sportsbook slots the Nuggets as a -117 favorite to eliminate Portland. The Trail Blazers aren’t really that much of an underdog, however. At the same book, Portland is -107 to end Denver’s season. That series starts on Saturday, May 22. As of Tuesday morning, DraftKings favors the Nuggets by 2.5 points in Game 1.
Denver sits +3,000 to win the Finals this season and +1,200 to win the West. The Nuggets aren’t the favorite in either market and that may not be the case even if they do advance to the second round.
“There are just so many good teams in the West,” said Johnny Avello, DraftKings’ director of race and sportsbook operations. “There are realistically four or five teams that it shouldn’t surprise anyone if they come out of the West. Even with the Lakers, LeBron has said it doesn’t matter who they’re playing and to a certain degree, I believe him. I’m not sure you can just turn it on anytime you want to, though, and it’s a tough road through the West.”
Despite the gauntlet that Denver has to run to make good on Finals futures, bettors in CO have been staking them to do so at a higher rate than bettors in other states with legal sports betting. A strong performance against the Trail Blazes could widen that gap.
CO bettors backing the Nuggets
According to DraftKings, bettors in all of their markets are taking the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers, and Philadelphia 76ers to win the NBA championship this year at a higher clip than they are doing the same with Denver. The Nets are getting the biggest chunk of handle at 37% while the Lakers claim the most tickets at 36%.
Comparatively, just 6% of both handle and tickets nationwide are on the Nuggets. Isolating the same markets to just what bettors in CO are putting down on this season’s NBA Finals winner, Denver screams up to the lead in both categories with 29% of handle and 28% of bets.
Avello thinks that disparity could normalize as Denver advances in the postseason, should they do so. One interesting factoid from the CO market that recently emerged is in regard to a potential Finals opponent for the Nuggets. The Atlanta Hawks are up to 36% of handle in CO despite accounting for just 2% of wagers based on what DraftKings calls “pretty substantial future bets placed on them.”
One place where CO bettors being homers isn’t out of step with national trends is wagering on NBA MVP futures. In that market, it’s Jokić and everyone else this year.
Huge movement on Jokić MVP futures
Just a month ago, Jokić sat -400 to win this season’s MVP award at DraftKings. As of Tuesday morning, he’s -10000. When Jokić was -400, 76ers center Joel Embiid was +325. Embiid now sits +3000. DraftKings isn’t an outlier here, either.
BetMGM Sportsbook has its odds on Jokić in the MVP futures at -5000, with Embiid at +2,500. At FanDuel Sportsbook, Jokić is -6,000 while Embiid is +2700. PointsBet Sportsbook probably has the widest gap between Jokić and the field, with Denver’s star at -10000 and the next trio of contenders +10000.
Why the big change in a matter of weeks?
Outside of seemingly being the consensus of the very people who will vote on the award, it’s the public betting. Jokić leads all NBA players across all of DraftKings’ markets in terms of seeing the most betting action this season, counting not only MVP futures but player props as well.
Despite the short odds, CO bettors have staked him to win the MVP with 36% of handle and on 30% of tickets. It’s official. Bettors in CO love Jokić and the Nuggets. Those amorous feelings should only grow more fervent if wagers on the Nuggets’ playoff odds pay out.