Quite clearly, Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks will be the MVP of the NBA Finals. What’s more, a $100 wager on that eventuality will bring you back $3000.
Wait a minute. You are not so certain of that? You think the Mavs may not even get past the Clippers in the first round despite what Doncic did at the buzzer Sunday, winning the game with a 3-pointer?
Well, you have a point.
We are still in the first round of the postseason, and a million different things can happen by the time the Larry O’Brien Trophy is presented in the Orlando bubble. But in the legalized US sports gambling industry, it is never too soon to put down a nifty futures bet.
And that is what we have going on this particular Monday as we move into Week 2 of the playoffs.
Look to the futures
Sunday was an especially eventful day with the Raptors looking dangerous in sweeping the Brooklyn Nets despite an ankle injury sidelining Kyle Lowry; the 76ers getting eliminated by the Boston Celtics as that rivalry added a chapter that should be entitled “Humiliation”; Doncic gunning down the Clippers with yet another triple-double; and Donovan Mitchell eclipsing 50 points for the second time in these playoffs as the under-regarded Utah Jazz took a 3-1 lead on the Denver Nuggets.
The championship futures market still looks much the same at the top, with the Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers all being considered the most likely championship winners. But the Celtics’ odds have dropped down to the +1000 to +1200 range, the Raptors have dropped to the +700 to +850 range, and Doncic’s Dallas Mavericks are anywhere between +2000 and +3000 at the largest US legal sportsbooks.
“[Sunday], the four NBA playoff games did more action than any other sport, and there was baseball, golf and hockey,” said Johnny Avello, head of DraftKings Sportsbook. “Our customers simply love basketball, and in this business you have to put up different kinds of content, and then the users will let you know if they like it or not.”
Added Andrew Mannino of PointsBet: ”We’re always looking for fun and interesting ways to look forward, and like all futures bets, this is an opportunity to show that you knew what was going to happen.”
These playoffs have featured a significant number of incredible individual performances, most notably (on the scoring end) from Mitchell, Doncic and Jamal Murray. Kawhi Leonard has been steady enough through four games to be third in postseason scoring average, and we all know the best we are going to see from LeBron James and Anthony Davis has yet to come.
Whatever the case, all of those players have NBA Finals MVP futures odds on the board today, so let’s have a look at them one-by-one in assessing the field.
NBA Finals MVP odds
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks (+280 at DraftKings; +285 at PointsBet): With the exception of Game 1, the Greek Freak has been carrying underachievers Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe – while the likes of Brook Lopez, George Hill and all of the bench shooters run hot and cold. Giannis is already a shoo-in to be voted Most Valuable Player for the second straight year, and the folks who set the gambling lines still believe the Bucks will have a fairly clear path to the title despite likely having to go up against Miami, which leads Indiana 3-0 and went 2-1 vs. Milwaukee this season. No surprise that he is the favorite.
Kawhi Leonard, Clippers (+400 at DraftKings; +375 at PointsBet): When it comes to making the game look easy, Kawhi remains the best in the business. He is carrying the underachieving Paul George, and at a certain point it may behoove everyone to start second-guessing Doc Rivers for playing Leonard and George together so infrequently during the regular season. Hey, rest is good. But successful teams are highly successful because they become used to playing with the same teammates every night. The Clippers do not have that going for them.
LeBron James, Lakers (+600 at DraftKings; +650 at PointsBet): His team’s Game 2 and Game 3 victories over Portland quieted all of the Blazers juggernaut conversations, but this series could still go six or seven games. What we have seen from James has been up to his lofty standards. He is averaging a triple-double (23.7 points, 11.7 rebounds, 10.3 assists) while shooting nearly 50% from the field and 70% rom the line. What we do not know is whether he and Anthony Davis will find another Alex Caruso to help carry the load. Then again, LeBron has carried lesser supporting casts to championships before.
Anthony Davis, Lakers (+1100 at DraftKings; +1000 at PointsBet): He is the No. 1 scoring option on a team that also includes James, and has there ever been a player we could say that about? His stinker of a Game 1 was followed up by solid outing in Games 2 and 3, although he did go 7-for-14 from the line in Game 3 – a weakness that opposing coaches will try to exploit if it continues. It is very tough to win Finals MVP if you are a detriment to your team from the foul line (we will see Hack-a-Giannis with more regularity in later rounds), and Davis would have to vastly outperform LeBron to win a Finals MVP award from voters who often tend to add a little sentiment to their picks.
James Harden, Rockets (+1300 at DraftKings; +1200 at PointsBet): Shooting under 30% from 3-point range in the first three games of the series, Harden is having some difficulty with Oklahoma City’s highly capable array of defenders who are not sending him to the foul line with the frequency he is accustomed to. Still, you know this guy has at least one 50-point game in him, but making it to the Finals with Jeff Green as your default center is going to be a tall task if/when the Rockets move to the second and third rounds, not to mention the championship round. Charles Barkley calls Harden the best one-on-one player in the history of the game, and that has to be worth something when assessing these odds. If the Rockets are one of the final two teams left standing, his Finals MVP odds drop to a minus number.
Pascal Siakam, Raptors (+1600 at DraftKings; +1700 at PointsBet): If there is a confluence of perfect storylines, we get Clippers-Raptors in the NBA Finals and it is Siakam’s job to defend the reigning NBA Finals MVP, Leonard. Watching the Raptors disassemble the Nets, you could not really point your finger at one player and say he is unquestionable the best guy on the team. They just have too many solid pieces, including Fred VanVleet, who may end up being the top free agent in the NBA when bubbleball is finally behind us and we can get to the NBA Draft and free agency. Siakam gets the nod as the best Finals MVP candidate because he is going to have to get it done on both ends of the floor.
Paul George, Clippers (+1700 at DraftKings, +1700 at PointsBet): No star player is slumping like this guy: 4-for-17, then 3-for-16, then 3-for-14. It is one of the reasons why the Clippers and Mavericks are tied at two games apiece and the basketball-viewing public is getting more mesmerized every other day by the wonders of Doncic. But the Clippers are still a loaded team that is favored to make it out of the West, and whatever George did in the first round will be long forgotten by the time the Finals roll around if he is still there.
Kyle Lowry, Raptors (+2000 at DraftKings; +1700 at PointsBet): It is a good thing that sprained ankles heal. By Thursday, let’s hope this half of the East’s best backcourt is up and running at full strength. But even if he cannot go at full speed for another two weeks, we are still more than a month away from the Finals. And remember, these are Finals futures wagers.
Fred VanVleet, Raptors (+2500 at DraftKings; +3000 at PointsBet): Cooled off in Game 4 against Brooklyn, but the dude is hitting at a nearly 60% clip from the 3-point line. Some payday he is going to have. And after him, perhaps Norman Powell if Sunday was indicative of what he can do in the future.
Jayson Tatum, Celtics (+2000 at DraftKings; +2500 at PointsBet): He was the best player, just ahead of Jaylen Brown, on a team that shrugged off Gordon Hayward’s injury and swept the Sixers out of the postseason, costing a lot of folks in South Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania the money they laid on the 76ers in the championship futures market. This is probably not a good time to remind folks in Philly about the Markelle Fultz trade, eh?
Jimmy Butler, Heat: (+3000 at DraftKings, +3000 at PointsBet): Best free agent signing of last offseason? The Clippers would probably disagree, but let’s all see who is still standing a month from now. Never underestimate Erik Spoelstra’s ability to gameplan for a certain opponent, and never underestimate Butler’s desire to be the guy taking the game-winning shot. He is almost as good at it as Doncic.
Donovan Mitchell, Jazz: (+4000 at DraftKings; +4000 at PointsBet): The Jazz get no respect, even when they have a guy who dropped 57 and 51 in Games 1 and 4 against the Nuggets.
“There is good value there, but look at the road they still have ahead of them,” Avello said. “The Jazz have not drawn a ton of action, but that is a franchise that has been trying to build back respect since the days of Stockton and Malone.”
Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers: (+12000 at DraftKings; +15000 at PointsBet): The flavor of the week. But that was last week.
“Lillard’s problem is that he has a very long way to go just go get to the Finals. If they do, they will have had a magical run, and if that happens it’s probably going to be because of Lillard,” Mannino said.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Thunder: (+60000 at DraftKings; +50000 at PointsBet): One day, he will be appreciated. Based upon these lines, that day is not today.
“We have Chris Paul at 200-1, so even if they make it all the way there, he has competition on his own team,” Mannino said. “So he kind of has a double bullet to bite.”