In 2020, Giannis Antetokounmpo became the first player to win back-to-back NBA MVP awards since Steph Curry in 2015 and 2016. The Greek Freak will now be looking to make even more history as he seeks a 3-peat. No player has won three MVPs in a row since Celtics legend Larry Bird in the mid-1980s.
Giannis was among the favorites to win the award entering the 2020-21 season but wasn’t THE favorite. That honor went to Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who was +400 at DraftKings Sportsbook at the start of the season. Other players in the mix to win basketball’s most prestigious hardware at the start of the campaign were Steph Curry (+800), Anthony Davis (+900), LeBron James (+900), Kevin Durant (+1200), Damian Lillard (+1600) and Jayson Tatum (+1600).
Here is a look at the current NBA MVP odds from the top US sportsbooks.
NBA MVP odds 2021
NBA MVP futures report (Jan. 23)
NBA MVP odds posted below are from DraftKings Sportsbook.
Luka Doncic (+400): Doncic is carrying the shorthanded Mavs while they deal with a COVID outbreak. He’s averaging 28.9 PPG. 12 RPG, and 10.8 APG in January and has an absurd 39.5% usage rate in Mavs wins. He leads the NBA with a 52.2% assist rate and is third in Box Plus/Minus (8.3) this season.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (+600): The Bucks appear to be taking a more balanced approach on offense now that they have Jrue Holiday to run the show. Giannis is sporting a 34.7% usage rate after posting a league-high 37.5% usage rate last season. His averages (27.2 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 5.3 APG) are still elite, but are down across the board and he’s shooting 58.6% from the FT line.
Kevin Durant (+600): Durant is essentially the first superstar to truly regain their form after an Achilles tear. He’s ninth in true shooting (.675%) and fourth in PER, but adding a perennial MVP candidate to the Nets roster hurts his case. James Harden (+3000) has been a fantastic co-star with KD and now Kyrie Irving (+15000) is returning to form Brooklyn’s Big 3.
Nikola Jokic (+800): Jokic opened the season with +2000 odds to win MVP and has now joined the inner circle of MVP contenders at most sportsbooks. He leads the league in PER, Win Shares, Field Goals, and Box Plus/Minus. With the Nuggets supporting cast struggling, Jokic is carrying his team by averaging 25.1 PPG, 11.4 RPG, and 10 APG on 57% FG shooting.
Steph Curry (+1000): Curry led another iconic comeback with a late flurry to down the Lakers on MLK Day. He’s slowly approaching the numbers he put up during his consecutive MVP campaigns in 2014 and 2015, but is currently shooting 36.6% from 3-point range as he struggles to get good looks without Klay Thompson or Durant there to threaten defenses.
LeBron James (+1000): James is playing 32.2 MPG and plainly appears to be taking plays off on both ends of the floor. The Lakers are loaded, so he doesn’t have to hit another gear until the latter half of the season. While we fully expect LBJ to turn it on heading into the playoffs, that may be too late to sway MVP voters.
Joel Embiid (+1200): After erupting for 45 points to carry the shorthanded Sixers over the Heat on Jan. 12, Embiid had to miss the better part of a week with knee soreness. He’s making a tremendous impact on both ends with a 120 offensive rating and the fifth-best defensive rating (100.2) in the league, but his health is always a question mark.
Anthony Davis (+2000): Davis finished fourth in PER (27.4) and second behind Giannis in Defensive Win Shares (4.4) last year, but finished sixth in MVP voting (82) with LeBron (753), finishing second. As long as James is active, the Lakers overall depth and the shared burden between those superstars makes it tough for either to win MVP.
Damian Lillard (+2000): Early in the season, Lillard is sharing the load with C.J. McCollum, who ranks fourth in Offensive Box Plus/Minus. Now McCollum (foot) is slated to miss a month and we’ll see what Dame can do with an increased workload.
James Harden (+3000): Harden’s odds to win MVP drop from +2500 to +4000 following his move to Brooklyn and immediately shot back to +3000 after he became the first player ever to produce 30-plus points and 10-plus assists in his first 2 games with a new team. He’s playing inspired ball and could help Brooklyn get over the hump to secure the top seed in the ECF.
Jayson Tatum (+4000): Tatum and Jaylen Brown were on a tear before JT caught COVID and the Celtics went on a league-enforced pause for over a week. We’ll see how strong they look when they’re able to resume basketball activities.
Kawhi Leonard (+5000): The Clippers coughed up a 20-point lead in a loss to the Warriors on Jan. 8 and have been on fire ever since. Leonard is the leader of that team and he deserves credit for correcting what has been the top offense in the NBA by far since that loss.
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, Luka Doncic (+410 at FanDuel at the beginning of the season) was considered the favorite to win the award.
These odds refer to the potential payout if the bet is successful. So, a $20 bet on Doncic would only profit $82, whereas a $10 bet on a longshot such as Joel Embiid (+3000) would pay out $310.
Best NBA MVP betting site
Where you can bet on the MVP legally
Sports betting is currently legal at a regulated sportsbook in the following states:
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 eight 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 five of those trophies.
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.
The Most Valuable Player (MVP) award is 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 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 has won four MVP awards, which makes him the leader among active players.