Eight Not So Great: LeBron, Other NBA MVP Candidates Unlikely To Have Enough Time To Catch Giannis

Written By Juan Carlos Blanco on July 23, 2020 - Last Updated on April 11, 2022
LeBron Giannis NBA MVP clock

If it’s happening in 2020, chances are it ain’t gonna be easy.

The NBA put together what appeared like a relatively seamless resumption to its season. While the plan remains in place, there have been recent rumblings about player apprehension for health, logistical and social justice reasons.

Assuming all differences are eventually settled and there’s ball being played on the hardwood beginning July 30 at Disney’s Wide World of Sports campus, the 2019-20 NBA MVP futures markets will once again be live and fluid.

However, contenders won’t have much time left to make their case for the honor. Each of the 22 teams involved in the restart of the 2019-20 campaign – six Eastern Conference teams and two Western Conference squads are already out of the equation due to their records – will be playing just eight more regular-season games apiece.

There’s also a chance the No. 8 and No. 9 teams in either or both conferences engage in a best-of-two “play-in” series. That will come to pass if the No. 9 team is within four games or fewer of the No. 8 seed by the conclusion of the truncated regular season.

When play was suspended March 11, the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo was a comfortable odds-on favorite (-5000-DK/ -2000-FD) to nab the MVP award for a second consecutive season. The Greek Freak was dealing with a left knee sprain at the time of the shutdown, now a non-issue after such an extensive layoff.

Antetokounmpo’s averages of 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.0 steal and 1.0 block (57 games) are certainly MVP-worthy. In fact, his tallies in scoring and boards both check in higher than the respective 27.7 and 12.5 he averaged in those categories last season.


(Eastern Time)
G. Antetokounmpo
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LeBron James
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Anthony Davis
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Luka Doncic
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James Harden
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Nikola Jokic
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Damian Lillard
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Kawhi Leonard
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Russell Westbrook
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LeBron with an outside chance

The biggest MVP threat to Giannis – both odds-wise and as a practical matter – is the Lakers’ LeBron James. The King’s odds were as short as +450 leading into the final handful of games but will reopen at +1000 on DK and +1100 at FD.

LeBron falls notably short of Antetokounmpo’s numbers in points (25.7) and rebounds (7.9). However, he’s averaging an NBA- and career-high 10.6 assists, along with 1.2 steals. Moreover, in a just-under-the-wire one-on-one showdown March 6, James (37 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, three steals) outdid Giannis (32 points, 11 rebounds six assists, one steal) in a 113-103 Lakers win.

Naturally, name value is on LeBron’s side in terms of mounting a comeback in the MVP race. His scoring average is also within reasonable striking distance of Antetokounmpo’s, perception-wise. Then, both James’ expansive lead in assists and narrower advantage in steals help offset the disparity in boards.

Evaluating each team’s record without its superstar in the lineup doesn’t involve a substantial sample size in either case. Giannis (eight games) and LeBron (three games) have been relatively healthy. Milwaukee is 4-4 without Antetokounmpo; Los Angeles is 2-1 sans James.

While this is likely to primarily be a two-man race in voters’ minds for all practical purposes, there’s no shortage of other candidates enjoying impressive seasons in their own right.

ALSO READ: NBA Draft betting guide with Mock Draft

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Best of the rest

A quick glance at the remaining players in the MVP Futures markets:

Anthony Davis, LAL (DK: +10000/FD: +9500)
Current stats: 26.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 3.1 APG, 2.4 BPG, 1.5 SPG
Team record in his absence: 6-2 (.750)

Has co-existed seamlessly with James and was posting second-highest scoring average of his career before suspension of play while shining defensively.

James Harden, HOU (DK: +10000/FD: +8000)
Current stats: 34.4 PPG, 7.4 APG, 6.4 RPG, 1.7 SPG
Team record in his absence: 1-2 (.333)

Also enjoying second-best scoring season of storied career despite gaining the prolific Russell Westbrook as a teammate this season.

Luka Doncic, DAL (DK: +10000/FD: +8000)
Current stats: 28.7 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 8.7 APG, 1.1 SPG
Team record in his absence: 6-7 (.462)

Significant year-over-year improvement on already impressive rookie-season numbers and Dallas is just 6-7 in games he’s missed. As with Antetokounmpo, clearly most indispensable player on his team, but would likely need gargantuan effort over remaining games to have fighting chance.

Nikola Jokic, DEN (DK: +15000/FD: +10000)
Current stats: 20.2 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 6.9 APG, 1.2 SPG
Team record in his absence: N/A

Impressive all-around effort once again, yet has seen slight declines in rebounds, assists and steals compared to last season.

Damian Lillard, POR (DK: +15000/FD: +10000)
Current stats: 28.9 PPG, 7.8 APG, 4.3 RPG, 1.0 SPG
Team record in his absence: 2-6 (.250)

Shining with career-best figures in scoring, assists, overall field-goal percentage (45.7) and three-point percentage (39.4) before shutdown. Not quite as robust a stat line as those above him, but team record in his absence helps illustrate how integral he is to Trail Blazers’ success.

Kawhi Leonard, LAC (DK: +25000/ FD: + 9500)
Current stats: 26.9 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.8 SPG
Team record in his absence: 6-7 (.462)

First Clippers season was yielding career-high scoring and assist figures prior to pause in play.

Russell Westbrook, HOU (DK: +25000/FD: +10000)
Current stats: 27.5 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 8.0 RPG, 7.0 APG, 1.7 BPG
Team record in his absence: 6-5 (.555)

Has fit right in alongside Harden and was shooting career-best 47.4 percent when season was stopped. However, rebounds and assists averages are currently lowest since 2015-16 and 2013-14 campaigns, respectively.

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Written by
Juan Carlos Blanco

Juan Carlos Blanco has served as a freelance writer for a wide variety of online publications and websites, with an intensive focus on fantasy sports. Juan has provided analysis and comprehensive coverage of the MLB, NBA, NFL, CFL, AAF and AFL while also reporting on news and developments in the daily fantasy sports and online gaming industries.

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