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 as most books had Luka Doncic with the lowest odds. As of April 19, Nikola Jokic had the lowest odds at DraftKings Sportsbook. Other players still in the mix to win basketball’s most prestigious hardware include Joel Embiid and James Harden.
Here is a look at the current NBA MVP odds from the top US sportsbooks.
NBA MVP odds 2021
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NBA MVP futures report (April 19)
Nikola Jokic (-225): Injuries opened things up for Jokic to take a big lead in the MVP race and losing his running mate, Jamal Murray, to an ACL tear will put even more on his plate. The Joker hasn’t missed a game all season and is averaging 26.1 PPG, 11 RPG, and 8.8 APG with 60% shooting inside the arc and the best Player Efficiency Rating (PER) in the league
Joel Embiid (+240): Embiid returned from a knee sprain in early April and has been on a tear since with averages of 31.2 PPG and 9.8 RPG while shooting 87% from the FT line on 12.8 attempts per game over his last six appearances. Embiid has 35-plus points in 5 of Philadelphia’s last six games against winning teams and is approaching Wilt Chamberlain status in terms of his trips to the charity stripe. It’s essentially a two-horse race now between these 7-footers and Embiid could pull ahead if he continues to lead the 76ers past top teams to clinch the top seed in the East. The biggest detractor might be that he’s missed 18 games while Jokic has played in Denver’s first 56 games.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (+1800): Add Giannis to the list of banged up stars. The two-time reigning MVP missed six games with knee soreness and appeared to be on a minutes limit in his return at Atlanta on April 15. The Greek Freak is averaging 28.5 PPG, 11.2 RPG, and 6.1 APG to lead the Bucks in every category.
Damian Lillard (+2100): Lillard is also dealing with a hamstring issue, which seems to be a theme for stars during the super-condensed second half of this shortened season. The Blazers have struggled without him at full strength and will have to get more out of C.J. McCollum, Norman Powell, and Jusuf Nurkic to stay out of the play-in tournament in the loaded Western Conference.
James Harden (+2200): Many voters will be relieved that they won’t be forced to put Harden in one of the top spots on their ballot in a season where he forced his way out of Houston to join a super team. He’s essentially missed eight games due to a hamstring issue that ironically popped up in his second meeting with the Rockets on March 31. Harden is still listed with a 14.6% chance to win MVP per Basketball-Reference.com’s MVP Tracker and he should finish atop the league in APG (10.9), but his superstar teammates are now active and he is not.
Luka Doncic (+2200): The Mavs got very hot before and after the All-Star Break but have come back to Earth and are just a couple games out of falling behind Memphis for the No. 8 spot in the WCF standings. Doncic is averaging 28.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, and 8.8 APG this season, but has lost some efficiency with 4.3 turnovers per game and a 36% mark from downtown.
LeBron James (+3000): LeBron was averaging 25.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, and 7.9 APG on 51.3% FG shooting when his season was derailed by a high ankle sprain that could keep him out for 4-6 weeks. Anthony Davis (Achilles) should return soon but LeBron is expected to be out until May and that should take him out of MVP contention.
Steph Curry (+6000): No one has been hotter than Curry over the past couple of weeks. The best shooter of all-time is averaging 39.8 PPG while shooting 51.2% from 3-point range on 14 attempts over his last six outings and he’s led the Warriors back to the .500 mark with a great chance to make the play-in tournament as the No. 8 seed if they can pass Memphis.
Chris Paul (+10000): Paul last finished second in MVP voting in the 2007-08 season and he’s been under-appreciated ever since. The veteran PG gets more out of his team during the regular season than any other leader and has turned the Suns from a lottery team to the No. 2 seed in a loaded conference.
Kawhi Leonard (+15000): There is no denying Kawhi’s importance to the Clippers but they’ve become more reliable recently thanks to the leadership of Rajon Rondo. Leonard is averaging 26 PPG, 6.6 RPG, and 5 APG on 51.5% FG shooting but has been sidelined this week with a foot injury.
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 Nikola Jokic is considered the favorite to win the award.
These odds refer to the potential payout if the bet is successful. So if you got Jokic at -110 odds, a $10 bet on Jokic to win would only pay out $19.09, whereas a $10 bet on a long shot such as Donovan Mitchell at +6000 odds would pay out $610 if voters select him after the season.
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.