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NBA Notebook: Nuggets' title hopes are dashed without Murray

Profile Picture: Dan Halverson

April 15th, 2021

Is it just us, or are things beginning to feel more dramatic with the NBA playoffs approaching? Every game has added significance as teams jockey for position and, in some cases, do everything humanly possible to avoid ending up in a play-in scenario.

Let’s hit pause for just a moment and review the top stories from around the Association in this week's edition of our NBA Notebook.

Jamal Murray's injury brings a swift end to Nuggets' championship aspirations

Denver Nuggets star Jamal Murray suffered a torn ACL in a loss to the Golden State Warriors and will miss the remainder of the season. This is a devastating blow to the fourth-seeded Nuggets, who appeared to be surging after acquiring Aaron Gordon at the trade deadline.

When Murray and Nikola Jokic were on the court together, the Nuggets had a highly efficient offense that could score at will. Without Murray, defenses are able to double Jokic, and force the team's less talented players to become playmakers.

The 24-year-old Murray is a dynamic and athletic leader whose absence is going to be sorely felt.

Load management is on the rise

In the past, coaches have called the act of resting players "load management." The practice has taken its fair share of criticism, but as injuries pile up across the league, expect to see plenty of players resting over the next month.

On Wednesday night, the Brooklyn Nets kept veterans Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, and LaMarcus Aldridge on the bench. Also on Wednesday night, the Los Angeles Clippers played without Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka, and Paul George. While Leonard and Ibaka were both out with legitimate ailments, they could have played if they had been truly needed. George was out purely for rest.

Load management is not a strategy that should be chastised too harshly as we all want to see the best players in the playoffs, but don’t forget to check roster updates carefully before laying a wager each night.

The NBA MVP Race is Over 

Nikola Jokic has been nearly unstoppable in 2021, and should get even more opportunities to shine with Jamal Murray unavailable for the remainder of the season. With James Harden suffering an injury and no other player capable of elevating their game significantly, the MVP race is all but over.

MVP Winner 2020/2021

Sun, May 16 2021, 11:00 PM

Jokic, Nikola

-225

Embiid, Joel

+240

Antetokounmpo, Giannis

+1200

Harden, James

+1200

James, LeBron

+1600

Doncic, Luka

+1700

Lillard, Damian

+1700

Mitchell, Donovan

+8000

Curry, Stephen

+10000

Leonard, Kawhi

+10000

Barring a demoralizing injury to Jokic over the next five weeks, the 2021 NBA MVP award is absolutely his to lose. Anything less than -300 looks like value to me.

Philadelphia's Eastern Conference odds are enticing

On Wednesday night, the Nets kept some of their bullets in the chamber in a matchup against the 76ers. James Harden, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Blake Griffin all missed the game in what could easily be a preview of the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals.

It would have been nice to see their full roster match-up against the third-seeded 76ers, because one thing we did see in the matchup was 76ers big man Joel Embiid having his way against the Nets’ defense. Despite it being an obvious mismatch, it made me take a look at Eastern Conference future odds, for which the 76ers sit at +450.

Eastern Conference Winner 2020/2021

Mon, August 30 2021, 11:58 PM

Brooklyn Nets

-106

Milwaukee Bucks

+250

Philadelphia 76ers

+450

Miami Heat

+1200

Boston Celtics

+2500

Atlanta Hawks

+4000

Indiana Pacers

+6000

Toronto Raptors

+6000

New York Knicks

+15000

Chicago Bulls

+15000

Embiid is as dynamic and dominant as any big man, and his 39 points and 13 rebounds on a recovering knee proved that yet again. The Nets are absolutely the team to beat, but with the 76ers sitting at such long odds they might deserve a closer look considering they can play defense, and Embiid is without peer in the East.

The Nets can score as effectively as anybody, but it is hard to imagine Griffin, Aldridge, or DeAndre Jordan being capable of shutting down Embiid. Basketball is about mismatches, and the 76ers have one they can leverage at long odds come playoff time.

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