NBA MVP Betting Market
The NBA has passed the midway point of the regular season, and the Western Conference is a jumbled mess. Entering January 27, the No. 3 seed in the West is separated from the No. 13 seed by just five games. And while the natural instinct is to look for “yes/no to make the playoffs” and similar bets in the futures market, we’d rather turn our attention to the NBA MVP board, where a familiar name may hold some big value.
2022-23 NBA MVP Odds
|NBA MVP Odds||Courtesy of DraftKings as of Jan 27|
NBA MVP Analysis
We’ve got our eyes on LeBron James, widely available at 100-to-1 at the time of posting. Where shall we start?
James enters Friday night’s action averaging 29.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game while shooting 50.7-percent from the floor. He has won the regular season MVP award four times in the past, but not since 2013 when he played with the Heat. During that season, he averaged 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game. So he’s averaging more points and rebounds at age 38 than he did in his back-to-back MVP seasons with the Heat a decade ago. That’s a pretty nice place to start.
Now, let’s pivot to his Lakers’ team. Los Angeles enters this weekend at 23-26 and the No. 13 seed in the West. However, they are only three games out of the No. 4 seed. They got Anthony Davis back this week. They acquired Rui Hachimura earlier in the week. The Lakers are about to embark on a five-game East Coast roadtrip with three-straight nationally-televised games against the Celtics, Nets and Knicks. Will the stretch be easy? No, certainly not. But if the Lakers can go 2-1 in this spotlight games with James putting up the numbers that he has been, those 100-to-1’s are not going to last much longer.
Let’s take a look at who’s in front of him. Nikola Jokic has won the award in back-to-back seasons, and he’s the favorite to win it again. Denver is sitting in first place in the West, so he’s certainly a worthy favorite. But when will voter fatigue start to kick in? This is a regular season award, but you’ve got humans voting on it. Humans remember that the Nuggets got swept by the Suns in the 2021 playoffs and lost 4-1 to the Warriors last year. Are they really looking to give it to Jokic again?
Next you’ve got Luka Doncic, who suffered a sprained ankle on Thursday and was forced to leave the Mavs’ win over the Suns. He’s not expected to miss too much time, but nonetheless, it’s still something to monitor. Doncic is fantastic, but the Mavs are sitting in the same pool as the Lakers. Dallas has lost seven of its last ten and doesn’t appear primed to make a run any time soon, especially without Christian Wood (broken thumb).
Steph Curry has missed 15 games. Kevin Durant has missed the Nets’ last eight games. Why are they at 40-to-1 and LeBron is at 100-to-1? Jokic, Curry and Giannis have already won multiple MVP awards. Durant already has one, too. If the stat profiles remain relatively the same through the end of the regular season, are voters going to go with one of them over LeBron? The only newbies in the mix are Joel Embiid and Jayson Tatum, who are certainly both worthy, but there’s still 35 games left to play.
If there was ever a year to give a “career achievement award” instead of focusing on the current regular season, this is probably it. It’s been talked about for the last decade, but the voices for regular season change continue to get louder after Denver and Golden State each sat their entire starting lineups for games this week. The value of the regular season has been diminished. Change is likely on the horizon, whether that means a shortened regular season, a mid-season tournament or incentives to stop resting players. Some kind of change is likely on the docket. Without a clear stand-out choice in the market this year, the award should either go to a new guy (Embiid or Tatum) or the guy who broke the league’s all-time scoring record.
LeBron was available as high as 500-to-1 ten days ago. He’s now down to 100-to-1 at most shops. He’s going to break Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s scoring record within the next two weeks. At FanDuel, the Lakers are +164 to make the playoffs and +1600 to win the Pacific Division (They’re only five games back). If you are attracted to either of those prices, you probably want a couple bucks on the 100-to-1 MVP ticket, too.
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