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Dario Saric becomes odds-on favorite to win Rookie of the Year

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Will Joel Embiid still win Rookie of the Year despite playing just 31 games before being shut down for the season?

It’d be historic if he does, and I think he has a pretty good chance.

Bovada doesn’t believe bettors will see his case so strongly.

The gambling website favors fellow 76ers rookie Dario Saric over the field for Rookie of the Year. The full odds:

Remember, these aren’t meant to accurately reflect the true odds. The intent is to maximize Bovada’s profit, likely by spreading bets across multiple players reasonably evenly. So, odds like these usually reveal no wise choices.

But I’d bet on Embiid if I were a gambler. I think he has about a 55% chance of winning Rookie of the Year, making him a huge overlay.

Embiid was just so good in his limited minutes, and the 2016 draft class is off to a historically bad start. Even with Saric hot lately, conditions are ripe for Embiid to deserve Rookie of the Year.

Here’s how many times a rookie scored 20 points in a win this season:

  • Joel Embiid 11
  • Dario Saric 3
  • Jamal Murray 2
  • Eight others each 1

That’s not the ultimate stat for every situation, but I find it telling here — especially considering Embiid is an excellent defender. Embiid just impacted winning more in 31 games far more than any other rookie has has in a larger sample, to the point I doubt anyone else will catch him.

But will Rookie of the Year voters see it the same way?

I believe enough will. Some might knock him down a peg, but Embiid will wind up on many ballots. And there’s no clear alternative. Saric, Malcolm Brogdon, Murray, Brandon Ingram and Jaylen Brown will split votes.

That said, this there’s no precedent for an award race like this. Perhaps, it’s prudent to be conservative with betting on it.

Don’t want to take the risk on Embiid at 15/4? OK. Just don’t bet on Saric at 1/2. That’s awful value.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”


Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.