Basketball is the ultimate superstar-driven sport, with five-man squads largely driven by a singular talent.
And in a league like the NBA, where one transcendent player – Michael Jordan and LeBron James come to mind – can singlehandedly take their team to the promised land, the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award is a rite of passage among the superstar class.
LeBron has earned MVP honors on four occasions (’09, ’10, ’12, ’13), and this year – his first with the Los Angeles Lakers – he’ll be the consensus favorite to match his idol Jordan (’88, ’91, ’92, ’96, ’98) in that regard.
So say the oddsmakers at online sportsbook Bovada, where James’ line of (+333) puts him far ahead of New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis (+450) and Milwaukee Bucks scoring sensation Giannis Antetokounmpo (+500).
That electric trio leads Houston Rockets dynamo James Harden (+650), the defending MVP after winning last year’s vote in a landslide victory over James and Davis. Harden was also named runner-up in the 2015 and 2017 voting, and as it’s finally his award to defend, he’ll surely be in the running by season’s end.
To secure the 2017 MVP award, Harden had to put up his best scoring season to date. His line of 30.4 points (ppg), 8.8 assists (apg), and 5.4 rebounds (rpg) per game marked the first time Harden eclipsed the 30-point plateau for an entire year.
In fact, the last three MVPs of the league – Harden along with Russell Westbrook (31.6) of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Stephen Curry (30.1) of the Golden State Warriors – have put 30+ ppg seasons in the books.
At first glance, this statistical trend doesn’t seem to bode well for the favorite James, who has only hit the mark twice in his illustrious 15-season career. And in his four MVP years, “King James” never topped 30 ppg at all.
The last time James scored at that level was way back in the 2007-08 season, when he posted an even 30.0 ppg while dragging the Cleveland Cavaliers roster of misfit toys to the second round of the playoffs. That edition of the Cavs featured Žydrūnas Ilgauskas as the second-leading scorer (14.1 ppg), and Daniel Gibson (10.4) as the only other player to crack double-digits.
In his first season in Hollywood, James will be the lone star on the Lakers – which feature a starting five rounded out by Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, and JaVale McGee. Ingram’s the top scorer in that bunch, but his 16.1 ppg last season don’t give James much of a supporting cast with which to work.
Based on his clear favorite status, bookmakers expect James to shoulder the scoring load like he used to for those marginal Cavs teams. And if he can carry a lackluster Lakers team that went 35-47 last year to the playoffs in his first season wearing purple and gold, James could be a shoo-in to join Jordan in the five-time MVP club.
The tandem of Kevin Durant (+1000) and Stephen Curry (+1200) make the Warriors overwhelming favorites to win their third straight NBA Finals but given both players’ MVP pedigree, they deserve dark horse consideration.
Durant won the award in 2014 while playing for the Thunder, while Curry took the trophy in 2015 and 2016. Playing as part of a “Super Team” may devalue their contributions somewhat, but if either superstar goes nova en route to a three-peat, taking the 10 to 1 odds or better seems like a steal.
For a full rundown of MVP candidates and their respective futures betting odds on Bovada, check out the table below:
Odds to Win 2018/19 NBA MVP Award
|Player (Team)||Odds to Win 2018/19 NBA MVP Award (as of 10/15)|
|LeBron James (Lakers)||+333|
|Anthony Davis (Pelicans)||+450|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)||+500|
|James Harden (Rockets)||+650|
|Kawhi Leonard (Raptors)||+950|
|Kevin Durant (Warriors)||+1000|
|Stephen Curry (Warriors)||+1200|
|Joel Embiid (76ers)||+1500|
|Kyrie Irving (Celtics)||+1500|
|Russell Westbrook (Thunder)||+1600|
|Ben Simmons (76ers)||+2500|
|Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)||+2500|
|Damian Lillard (Trailblazers)||+3500|
|Victor Oladipo (Pacers)||+5000|
|Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)||+6000|
|John Wall (Wizards)||+7500|
|DeMar DeRozan (Spurs)||+8000|
|Nikola Jokic (Nuggets)||+10000|
|Chris Paul (Rockets)||+10000|
|Jimmy Butler (Timberwolves)||+10000|