NBA MVP Odds 2020

MVP Betting Favorites

The NBA is a star-driven league. At the conclusion of the season, the star of all stars is crowned the Most Valuable Player (MVP), as voted upon by a panel of 100 media members who are not affiliated with any NBA franchises.

Each member of the panel casts a vote for first to fifth place selections. Each vote counts incrementally towards a players’ total, with first-place votes netting 10 points and fifth-place votes counting for only 1 point.

In the history of NBA MVP voting, only Steph Curry (2015-16) has received every first-place vote from the entire panel to be named MVP unanimously. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won the award a record six times and LeBron James has won four MVP awards, which makes him the leader among active players.

Since the 1975-76 season, only two players have been named MVP in a season where their team failed to win 50 games. That includes Russell Westbrook in 2016-17, but it has become a rarity for a player from a mediocre team to win the award.

NBA MVP as a futures bet

Betting on the MVP winner is one of the more popular options for outright bets known as “Futures,” which are usually wagers on a season-long outcome such as the NBA champion, NBA division winner, or individual award winners. It’s also possible to bet Over or Under on Team Win totals, i.e. the number of games a team is expected to win during the regular season.

Odds for futures bets are set during the preseason, but can change throughout the season based on news and results.

For the purposes of MVP betting, players will be listed in order of the favorites. So, defending MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (+300 on DraftKings Sportsbook) was considered the most likely to win the award.

These odds refer to the potential payout if the bet is successful. So, a $100 bet on Giannis to repeat as champion could pay out $300. These odds are set based on how the book evaluates the market and they can change following each game if players perform well or start to slide.

NBA MVP odds (February 22, 2020)


(Eastern Time)
G. Antetokounmpo
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Luka Doncic
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James Harden
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LeBron James
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Anthony Davis
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Damian Lillard
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Kawhi Leonard
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Nikola Jokic
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Joel Embiid
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Donovan Mitchell
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Jimmy Butler
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Paul George
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NBA MVP odds report (Feb. 13)

The Favorites

Giannis Antetokounmpo (-390): The Bucks are on pace for an historic point differential and are top four in both offensive and defensive rating as we head into the ASB. Giannis has obviously been at the center of their dominance with the top PER (32.2) and top defensive rating (96.5) in the NBA this season. It’s almost impossible to argue with those numbers from an efficiency standpoint, and the bulk averages (30 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 5.8 APG, 2.2 STL/BLK per game) seal the argument that Giannis is clearly the best player on the best team in the NBA. It would likely take an injury or a precipitous collapse for another candidate to pass him.

Antetokounmpo’s odds sat around +120 on DraftKings Sportsbook over the first two months and moved to around -139 when the Bucks became a serious threat to vie for 70-plus wins this season. Now that Luka Doncic and James Harden have lost momentum as MVP candidates, Giannis is the prohibitive favorite at -400 odds on DK.

LeBron James (+700): The perennial MVP candidate is gaining some momentum after another transcendent performance (33 points, 12 rebounds, 14 assists) in a 120-116 OT win at Denver before the break. The Lakers have won 17 straight road games against WCF foes (only loss in their opener at Clippers) and LeBron is unquestionably the reason for that feat of mental toughness. He leads the league in APG (10.8) and is buying on the defensive end. However, fans of advanced metrics will note that LeBron ranks fifth or lower in Win Shares, Box Plus/Minus, and Value Over Replacement. Plus, he has another MVP candidate and the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year on his team in Anthony Davis.

Luka Doncic (+700): Oddsmakers at DK Sportsbook are still giving Doncic a legitimate shot with +500 odds. It’s worth noting that he’s the second favorite (+175 odds) to win Most Improved Player of the Year behind Brandon Ingram (+150). That award could serve as a consolation prize for a fantastic 20-year-old, who is likely a couple years away from dominating throughout a full season. Doncic has missed 11 games this season with ankle injuries, which hurts his case.

The Contenders

James Harden (+1100): The biggest fall in the MVP race belongs to Harden, who was not even listed in the top 10 when released its MVP Ladder on February 7. The usage monster has trailed Giannis all season (and last) because in addition to leading the league in PPG (35.3), he continues to lead the league in missed FGs, missed 3-pointers, and is now second (to Trae Young) in turnovers. Harden is not known for his defensive prowess and he’s losing even more steam because his teammate, Russell Westbrook, is creeping into the race. Westbrook is getting +10,000 odds at FD sportsbook and very long odds (+25,000) at DK sportsbook. He was ranked No. 10 in’s latest rankings and has arguably been just as valuable to the Rockets over the past month.

Anthony Davis (+2300): As mentioned above, Davis is the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year (-200 odds at DK Sportsbook). That is almost certainly the award he’s headed towards barring an injury to LeBron and a monstrous performance by AD down the stretch to maintain the No. 1 seed in the West. Davis is a big reason the Lakers allow a league-low 24.3 PPG in fourth quarters and his 101.3 defensive rating ranks fourth behind three different Milwaukee Bucks.

Damian Lillard (+3200): While Lillard has surged into the MVP conversation with an historic stretch of play in January, he suffered a groin injury prior to the ASB that could slow him down. The bigger obstacle towards his MVP status is that the Blazers, at 25-31 heading into the break, may not make the playoffs and almost certainly won’t win 50 games. Only two MVPs in the modern era have won the award when their teams won fewer than 50 games.

The Longshots

Kawhi Leonard (+5000): Leonard is incredibly valuable to what the Clippers do on both ends of the floor and there should be no doubts about his potential to dominate throughout the playoffs once again. But voters are extremely unlikely to consider a player who willingly sits out 20-plus games for load management purposes. Last season, Leonard did not earn a first-team All-NBA selection because he only played 60 games. He’s missed 13 games prior to the break and will likely suit up for around 60 games once again.

Nikola Jokic (+6000): The Nuggets are dealing with a rash of injuries and traded away a key player in Malik Beasley, but thanks to Jokic, they head into the break in second place in the tough WCF. The Joker averaged 24.6 PPG, 10.8 RPG, and 7.7 APG over his last 22 appearances heading into the break, but still trails most of the MVP candidates in PER, Win Shares, etc. His value goes beyond the box score as a unique “point center” who does it all for Denver. If Jokic leads the Nuggets to the top seed in the West and the Bucks falter, he could go from a longshot to a contender in the MVP race.

Joel Embiid (+9500): Embiid is clearly a longshot given the 76ers struggles on the road and internal struggles related to chemistry. He also missed 9 games with a broken finger, and Ben Simmons (also +9500 on FD Sportsbook) carried the Sixers to heightened success during that span. Simmons is getting 25/1 odds and Embiid is getting 15/1 odds at DK Sportsbook because they’ve been inconsistent and their team is clearly underachieving.

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Where you can bet on the MVP legally

Sports betting is currently legal at a regulated sportsbook in the following states:

New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
Rhode Island
West Virginia

Legislation is on the table in a number of states with more states sure to legalize sports betting in the upcoming years.

Residents of Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia have access to online sportsbooks, including the platforms created by industry titans DraftKings and FanDuel. William Hill and other online books also offer great opportunities to bet on NBA games and Futures.

In order to bet on MVP, users can click on the NBA tab and find the tab labeled “Futures” and move to “Player Futures.” Regular Season MVP should be one of the categories along with Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and more postseason awards.

Previous winners and trends

As mentioned above, only two MVP winners in the “modern era” have come from teams that won 50 games or fewer. Additionally, since 1985 only two MVPs have come from teams that failed to finish at least second in their conference.

So the starting point for choosing a good bet is finding the best player on a winning team. Heading into the 2019-2020 season, sportsbooks regarded the Clippers (+325), Lakers (+425), Bucks (+650), 76ers (+700) and Rockets (+800) as the top five contenders for an NBA championship.

But we’re looking at a regular-season award, so consider that the Nuggets (+425) and Jazz (+425) were considered two of the most likely teams to finish first in the Western Conference.

Based on Team Win Totals, the Bucks (56.5), Clippers (56.5), Sixers (53.5), Jazz (53.5), Rockets (52.5) and Nuggets (52.5) were the teams expected to finish the season with over 50 wins and thus have a legitimate MVP candidate.

Because the award is voted upon by sportswriters, a players’ body of work tends to put them over the top. Only four MVP winners were younger than 23 and the last rookie to win the MVP was Wes Unseld back in 1969.

Scoring is a key criteria for MVP, as the NBA’s leading scorer has won the award in four of the past five years.

While the Center position is fading in today’s small-ball NBA, that position leads the way in MVP awards with 25, although 22 of those came in the first 28 years of the award.

Over the last 14 years, guards have won the award 8 times, signifying how the NBA has transitioned to a faster-paced, higher-scoring game. The past four guards to win (James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry, and Derrick Rose) are not particularly renowned defenders. Posting gaudy offensive numbers can be enough to sway voters.

Shooting guards have won the fewest awards (eight) in the history of the MVP and Michael Jordan snagged 5 of those trophies.

NBA MVP betting favorites in 2019

Giannis Antetokounmpo does impact the game on both sides of the ball and that swayed many voters to take him over James Harden, who averaged a league-best 30.7 PPG last season.

Harden trailed Curry (+500) as the most likely candidates to take the award away from Giannis before the season. This is due to the Rockets addition of Russell Westbrook and the fact that Curry would be asked to do much more with Klay Thompson (knee) out indefinitely and Kevin Durant in Brooklyn. However, an early-season injury to Curry all but ended his chance at winning the award for the third time.

When two superstars are on the same team, it can lead to votes getting split between them. We could see that this year with LeBron James on the same team as Anthony Davis. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George could also split votes.

If looking for value, our best dark horse candidate to win MVP is Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. The versatile big man nearly averaged a triple-double (20.1 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 7.3 APG) last year and finished fifth in Player Efficiency Rating.

Denver checks all the boxes in terms of having a chance to finish first in the tough Western Conference and win over 53 games this year. And unlike the Clippers, Lakers, or Rockets, the Nuggets have one player who is clearly their most valuable.