Two weeks ago you couldn’ve gotten a LeBron James MVP betting ticket at +1500 odds. He was +1000 just this past Friday.
But after what James did to the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Clippers over the weekend … and with Giannis Antetokounmpo sidelined with a bum knee … the gambling markets on MVP are closed.
And when they reopen, expect to see LeBron listed a heck of a lot lower.
“Over the past two weeks, almost every single MVP bet we’ve taken has been on LeBron at odds of everything from +1100 to +500,” said Patrick Eichner of PointsBet. “I don’t want to get into exact numbers, but it’s a pretty strong sample size.
“It’s telling,” Eichner said.
UPDATE: PointsBet reposted odds Monday morning with Giannis favored at -416 and LeBron at +300. View live odds here.
DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook also pulled down their MVP futures odds on Sunday following the Lakers resounding 112-103 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, which followed their 113-103 takedown of the Bucks on Friday night in which they held Antetokounmpo to a season-low 13 points.
The Greek Freak will not play Monday against the Denver Nuggets, and the folks who set gambling lines are unsure of how bad his injury is. Antetokounmpo underwent an MRI on his left knee. He has what the team is calling a minor joint capsule sprain.
“We believe Giannis is only going to miss a couple of games because the MRI came back negative, and if that remains the case, he goes back up as the favorite. If not, the rest of the season will change drastically,” said Johnny Avello of DraftKings. “We just need to know that this guy is going to be back two games from now.”
If you take a look at what the Lakers were saying following their victory Sunday over the Clippers, the MVP topic was at the forefront of their thinking.
All season long, Antetokounmpo was considered almost a shoo-in for the award.
“Never bet against LeBron”
After James had 29 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and two blocks against the Clippers, teammate Anthony Davis made a pretty strong argument that he remains the best player in the league.
“They need to watch the last two games,” when asked what he would say to someone who doesn’t plan to vote for James for MVP. “I mean, what he’s been able to do, taking on matchups, leading the pack offensively, making the right plays. You don’t see that from a guy who is 17 years in the league and his team is No. 1 in the West.
“He’s continuing to show the world why he’s the best, and if people don’t understand that, then the last two games, I think they understand now.
James is leading the league in assists at age 35, averaging 10.6 per game … giving him an almost insurmountable lead over Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks, who is averaging 9.2. No, he does not lead the Lakers in scoring … Davis holds that distinction … but James’ fire is what is fueling the Lakers’ recent surge. They have won 11 of 12 and now trail the Bucks by just two games in the loss column.
Milwaukee, meanwhile, lost to Phoenix last night and has dropped three of four.
Nobody is talking about them winning 70 anymore.
“Remember what MVP stands for, and what he means to that Bucks team,” Avello said of Giannis. “Look at the production they get from him in all areas. If he comes back soon, he is still the guy to beat.
“You can’t base things off one game.”
The case for The King
Avello makes a good point, but here is something to remember when looking at MVP odds and who might ultimately get the award.
MVP voters are older than NBA players, which means they consciously or subconsciously give added weight to the accomplishments of those closer to their age group.
One-fifth of the NBA season remains, and if the Lakers catch the Bucks in the standings and knock off the Clippers in their final meeting April 9, there is going to be what we like to call a large-scale changing of minds.
Yes, Giannis has made the Bucks the story of the season (the most positive one, anyway, given the negative news surrounding Kobe Bryant, David Stern and Steph Curry).
But one-fifth of the schedule remains to be played.
Just as championships are not won in March, MVP awards are not decided over the course of 62 games.
The season lasts 82 games, and James is surging. The sportsbooks are exposed, and that is why you couldn’t place an MVP futures bet overnight in the domestic U.S. market.
When those odds go back up, you could find James closer to +300. And you know what, that still might be a good bet.
Again, the rule of thumb is this: Never bet against LeBron. Folks in Milwaukee and Greece may disagree, but there is plenty of time left for more voters’ minds to be changed.
Keep that in mind between now and Thursday – the earliest we might see Giannis back on the court. He is no longer a lock to be the back-to-back winner of this award.