Having been an NBA MVP voter before, I can tell you something from experience: Voters tend to gravitate toward players who lead their teams to heights that seemed unimaginable in the preseason.
Just look at what happened last season: The Milwaukee Bucks finished 60-22 for the best record in the entire NBA, and Giannis Antetokounmpo rightfully won the award — beating out James Harden despite Harden’s 36.1 points per game scoring average … the highest individual average in several years.
So when looking at the wagering choices going into the upcoming season, the focus in the sports gambling market needs not be on who is likely to win the award (The Greek Freak is the favorite), but which players might be the best value bets as the preseason approaches.
If not Giannis, then who?
At FanDuel, the next five choices are Steph Curry (+500), James Harden (+750), LeBron James (+850), and Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis at +900.
|G. Antetokounmpo (MIL)||+270||1st|
|Stephen Curry (GS)||+500||5th|
|James Harden (HOU)||+750||2nd|
|LeBron James (LAL)||+850||12th|
|Anthony Davis (LAL)||+900||DNQ|
|Kawhi Leonard (LAC)||+900||9th|
Curry at +500 is an enticing pick, because Klay Thompson is out for the season and Kevin Durant has relocated to Brooklyn, which is going to mean a helluva lot more of the scoring load is going to fall onto the shoulders of the guy who has rewritten the record book when it comes to 3-pointers. Also, expectations have been lowered for the Warriors following their five consecutive trips to the NBA Finals. They are considered by the sportsbooks to be less likely to win the title than four other Western Conference teams: The Clippers, Lakers, Jazz and Rockets.
But as for the other favorites, a word of caution: MVP voters can be fickle, and if a superstar player is doing great things alongside another superstar player, it can work against him. Keep that in mind if you like Davis and/or James, who will both be putting up big numbers for the Lakers; and Leonard/George, who will be doing the same thing for the Clippers.
Also, Harden will be paired this season with Russell Westbrook, and what that tandem will look like is a mystery. Both guys tend to take a lot of shots, you might say.
So in looking at the rest of the field, it is worth taking a gander at some of the players with longer odds who have the potential to lead their teams to much better-than-expected seasons.
So here we go …
Outside of Dallas, nobody gives much thought to the Dallas Mavericks, who have the reigning Rookie of the Year in Luka Doncic and will have Kristaps Porzingis doing his Unicorn thing again after a long, long absence from basketball. Their over/under win total is a mere 40.5, which means they are expected to be a sub-.500 team.
Yes, the West is loaded, but a starting five of Doncic, Seth Curry, Porzingis, Dwight Powell and Tim Hardaway Jr. is not all that shabby, and you can get Doncic for MVP at 70-1 and Porzingis for MVP at 150-1 at DraftKings, while at FanDuel Doncic is 50-1 and Porzingis is 100-1.
Outside of Utah, nobody gives too much thought to the Utah Jazz … but they will now that Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic have been added to the starting lineup and the bench has been bolstered by the additions of Ed Davis and Emmanuel Mudiay. Rudy Gobert will be their defensive anchor, and Donovan Mitchell — coming off a summer spent staying in shape playing for Team USA — is on the board to be MVP at a price of 40-1 at DK and 80-1 at FD.
And what of the Brooklyn Nets, who signed free agents Durant and Kyrie Irving over the summer to add to a nucleus (minus Davis) that made the playoffs last season. Irving, who will often play in tandem with another point guard, Spencer Dinwiddie, is on the board at +5000 at both DK and FD. With Durant not expected back until late spring — if at all — Irving will be playing major minutes and getting a disproportionate number of shots for the Nets, whose win total over/under is only 44 1/2.
Don’t forget that they added DeAndre Jordan, Taurean Prince and Wilson Chandler (who first must serve a 25-game suspension), so dismiss them — and Irving at your own peril.
Hey, 50-1 on a guy as talented as Kyrie?
Although he had a less-than-stellar World Cup, Nikola Jokic is a nightly triple-double threat playing for a Denver Nuggets team that remains well-balanced and sneaky good. He is sitting at +1400 (along with Damian Lillard of Portland) at DraftKings and +1100 at Fan Duel.
Charles Barkley has already gone on record as saying the Philadelphia 76ers will win the championship following the acquisitions of Al Horford and Jason Richardson and the departure of Jimmy Butler, and MVP odds on Sixers players include Joel Embiid at +1100 (DK) and +1600 (FD), and Simmons at +8000 (DK) and +10000 (FD). Again, the “great teammates can cancel each other out” theory is in play here.
A look at the NBA MVP betting market
Here’s how the bets have come in for MVP markets at DraftKings so far.
How ’bout some longshots?
And for those of you who want to take a flyer on someone at +25000, the place to wager is DraftKings (FanDuel lists no one above 100-1). The candidates (from teams that have a legit chance of making the playoffs) include Jrue Holiday, LaMarcus Aldridge and Buddy Hield.
Just a step below, Jimmy Butler of Miami is +20000. Hmmm.
Yes, preseason NBA prognosticating from a gambling standpoint is interesting and potentially lucrative.