The NBA is resuming its season at Disney World with 22 teams scheduled to play eight regular season games to determine the playoff bracket and seedings. The first regular season games will begin on July 30 without fans, and the NBA playoffs will begin in August with the NBA Finals set to wrap up in early October.
That means the race is back on for the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award, which will be voted upon by a panel of 100 media members who are not affiliated with any NBA franchises. That panel will vote for an MVP based on their regular season performance, so there are only eight games remaining for the frontrunners to make their case.
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 one 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 odds 2020
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 (-5000 on DraftKings Sportsbook) is considered a virtual lock to win the award.
These odds refer to the potential payout if the bet is successful. So, a $50 bet on Giannis to repeat as champion would only profit $1, whereas a $10 bet on LeBron James (+1000) would pay out $100 if the voters take a surprising lean towards James. 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. However, with only eight games left to factor into voting, books are considering the race to be all but over.
MVP Futures Report: July 28, 2020
Giannis Antetokounmpo (-5000)
Giannis held a relatively narrow lead over LeBron when the season was suspended on March 11. He was listed with -560 odds to win a second straight MVP on March 5, then those odds dropped after a loss to the Lakers. However, Antetokounmpo’s chances have multiplied significantly after a long layoff. With only eight regular season games left, the numbers we’ve seen so far should speak volumes. Note that Giannis has -2400 odds at FanDuel Sportsbook, which offers far more value if you want to bet on the Greek Freak.
The numbers for Giannis include the top PER (31.6) with the highest usage rate (37.4%) in the NBA as well as the top individual defensive rating (96.3) on a Bucks team that was on pace for an historic +11.2 PPG differential. Given his two-way dominance, Giannis could be named Defensive Player of the Year while earning another MVP award.
LeBron James (+1000)
After his Lakers defeated Giannis and the Bucks, 113-103, on March 6 LeBron was vaulted back into the MVP race. His odds were cut from +900 to +450 at DraftKings Sportsbook, and some books had him as high as +150 before taking his name off the board entirely following another huge performance against the Clippers March 8.
Yet after nearly 3 months off, and with only a few games left, oddsmakers aren’t giving James enough time to jockey back into the front of the MVP race. He trails Giannis considerably in advanced metrics such as PER (LeBron is 8th) and defensive rating (LeBron T-46th). James is also behind teammate Anthony Davis in several defensive categories and Davis is one of the longshots behind LBJ with +10,000 odds to win MVP at DK. There may not be a strong case for James to win MVP with Davis serving as a superstar sidekick, but we’ll have to see how the Lakers and Bucks finish over the final eight games this 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 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.