While economists argue over whether gold or Bitcoin is the best hedge against rising inflation, a BetMGM customer in Pennsylvania turned $100 into $50,000 by betting on Marcus Smart to win Defensive Player of the Year at 500-to-1 odds. The Boston Celtics guard was named DPOY by the NBA on Monday, becoming the first guard to claim the award since Gary Payton won it in 1996.
An intelligent bet
Smart opened the season as a 40-to-1 shot to win DPOY and closed as a -190 favorite. In between, his price ballooned up to 500-to-1, which is when the bettor swooped in with a targeted wager.
Surprisingly, those incredibly long odds didn't come at a point when the Celtics were languishing (Smart was 100-to-1 in early January when Boston was below .500), but rather in early March, well after the team went on a hot streak to turn its season around.
At the time of the bet, the favorites to win the award were Utah's Rudy Gobert (-140), Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo (+450), Miami's Bam Adebayo (+600) and Smart's Celtics teammate Robert Williams III (12-to-1).
Another Pennsylvania bettor placed a $1,000 wager on Smart at 66-to-1 odds in late March when the Celtics were sitting near the top of the Eastern Conference. Adebayo was a +105 favorite at the time, followed by Gobert (+160), Antetokounmpo (+700) and Williams (18-to-1).
Did Smart deserve to win DPOY?
Smart ranked seventh in the NBA in steals per game and ranked 10th in defensive rating among players with at least 2,000 minutes played this season. Two of Smart's teammates ranked ahead of him in defensive rating (Al Horford and Jayson Tatum). Topping everyone was Gobert, who was one of the other two DPOY finalists along with Phoenix's Mikal Bridges.
If we lower the minutes threshold to 1,800 minutes, Adebayo would slot just under Gobert, while Williams reigns over everyone with a 102.3 defensive rating. Adebayo wasn't too happy about being snubbed, calling it "disrespectful." He finished fourth in voting. Williams finished seventh, with one first place vote and one second place vote.
Gobert probably should have been named DPOY, but voter fatigue doomed him after he won it three of the last four seasons and he ended up coming in third behind Bridges.
Former Dallas Mavericks executive and noted NBA bettor Haralabos Voulgaris tweeted that Smart receiving the award is "absurd."
Marcus Smart is a fine defensive player - the idea that he is the DPOY is absurd tho.
— Haralabos Voulgaris (@haralabob) April 18, 2022
Voulgaris went on to label it "such a comical selection," stating, "I would struggle to have him in top 7-8 for DPOY this season."
It's an understandable position, given that Smart held the fourth-best defensive rating in Boston's starting lineup. He's the player people picture in their minds, though, when they think about the Celtics' suffocating defense that vaulted them from 18-21 to the second seed in the East.
Whether this was a lifetime achievement award gifted to the standard-bearer of Boston's top-ranked defense is inconsequential to the two Pennsylvania bettors who binked a huge payday on Smart's win. Congrats to yinz.
Stats provided by Basketball Reference, teamrankings.com, and StatMuse.