Don't sleep on Kevin Durant's MVP potential, plus other players to bet

ByJORDAN SCHULTZ via <a href="" title="ESPN" class="espn_sc_byline">ESPN </a>
October 05, 2018, 12:26 PM

After another sterling "offseason" of entertainment, the NBA season tips off in 11 days. With a never-ending barrage of storylines to consume -- and wagers to be made -- we wanted to take another peek at what has us most excited. After taking on teams in our last installment, this time we'll concentrate on the player side of the equation:

(All player prop odds are courtesy of Fan Duel and/or William Hill U.K.)

Kevin Durant wins MVP (12-1)

Is there anything for Durant to pursue beyond a third straight title for the  Golden State Warriors? Well, a second MVP would put him in elite company, making him one of just eight players to win multiple titles and multiple MVPs.

While Anthony Davis (4-1) or Giannis Antetokounmpo (9-2) might be the most logical pick to capture MVP honors, Durant seems like the best value. The world's most versatile scoring machine is as efficient as he is clutch: According to advanced stats, KD ranked 11th in clutch scoring last season while connecting on 56.3 percent from the floor, better than LeBron James, Davis and Steph Curry.

During his two years in the Bay, Durant has also quietly emerged as a terrific rim protector. He's a switchable Inspector Gadget who totaled a career-high 2.5 blocks per 100 possessions last season, up from a then-career-best 2.3 blocks per 100 the previous season. We often wax poetic about fellow frontcourt star Draymond Green, but it's Durant's length, anticipation and basketball acumen that often make the most impact defensively for the Warriors. If voters recognize those abilities on both ends of the floor, don't rule out Durant's MVP potential.

Julius Randle wins Sixth Man Award (12-1)

Don't overthink this one. Randle showed real promise during the second half of last season, averaging over 19 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers. Now a Pelican, Randle will have an opportunity to post strong numbers in a variety of roles.

While he doesn't have the skill set or sheer size of ex-Pelican DeMarcus Cousins, Randle is a more fluid athlete and better rim runner -- a trait  Jrue Holiday will embrace -- whose activity around the basket will lend itself to constant offensive rebounding chances and quality looks in the half court.

A deft switcher on ball screens, Randle's ability to play both the 3 and 4 with the Pelicans will help Davis on both ends of the court. This versatility can help Randle become an even more effective offensive player as well.

The Pelicans have a chance to be very good. If Randle helps them off the bench, as expected, he has a good chance to take home this kind of hardware.

John Wall leads NBA in assists (2-1)

FanDuel lists Wall in its assists leaders section, but behind 21 other players and without a line -- these are shockingly long odds (and others including William Hill U.K. have listed Wall at 2-1 odds). In the four seasons that preceded his injury-plagued 2017-18 campaign, Wall was an absolute maestro, ranking either second or third in assists per game. He should be highly motivated to again assert himself as one of the league's top-flight point guards in 2018-19.

If he can play an 82-game slate, few players offer more value in this category. When healthy, the former No. 1 overall pick showcases a dazzling display of speed and open-floor playmaking that generates excellent looks for teammates. He excels in pick-and-roll, and should the artist formerly known as Dwight Howard actually try to blend in, even he will notice an uptick in scoring. It is Wall's rare ability to get into the teeth of defenses that helps teammates, and it should help him make a run at the assist title. Even at 2-1 odds, it is a wager worth making.

Kevin Knox wins Rookie of the Year (7-1)

Knicks fans may have wanted Michael Porter Jr. on draft night, but after an NBA Summer League showing that included plenty of SportsCenter Top 10-worthy plays (he averaged 21.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game en route to first-team All-Summer League honors), Knox showed he has the natural tools to quickly morph into a major star.

A rangy perimeter player with tremendous natural scoring instincts, Knox -- still just 19 -- projects to be a three-level scorer as a pro. Why? Because as he grows into his body and gets stronger, his unique skill set will help him flourish. With no timetable on Kristaps Porzingis' return, Knox will assume an even heftier offensive load. Knox will soon be challenged by opposing defenses keying on him every night, sending multiple defenders his way and pushing him off spots. But Knox -- who earned co-SEC Freshman of the Year honors at Kentucky -- is armed with the talent to not only persevere, but excel.

Luka Doncic wins Rookie of the Year (5-2)

If Knox doesn't win Rookie of the Year, it could well be because of Doncic, another offensively advanced teenager whom Dallas shrewdly acquired on draft night from Atlanta. Doncic amassed 90 games in the ACB League (second only to the NBA) last season, displaying his capacity to dribble, pass and shoot -- and maturity well beyond his years -- that will separate him from other rookies. At age 19, Doncic was the youngest player to ever win EuroLeague MVP. He's the most accomplished European to ever enter the NBA, including the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Pau Gasol and Drazen Petrovic.

What's more, Dallas should be improved all-around. Doncic's stable of tricks in the pick-and-roll will pay dividends with newly acquired dive master DeAndre Jordan, whose best days were with Chris Paul delivering pinpoint lobs. Doncic may not be CP3 yet, but he's no slouch either. Whether he emerges as a fully formed product in Year 1 or not, it won't be long until we all realize Doncic is the best player from this draft.

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