LeBron MVP favorite at Las Vegas SuperBook

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Following LeBron James’ brilliant 46-point night on Monday in his one scheduled performance in Cleveland this season, the 36-year-old who hasn’t been voted the NBA’s Most Valuable Player since 2013 ascended to the favorite’s role for the honor at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

Jeff Sherman, VP of Risk Management at the SuperBook, tweeted that James was now 4-1 to win the MVP for the fifth time. That would put him in the esteemed company of Bill Russell and Michael Jordan, who won his final individual honor at 35 back in 1998. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won the MVP six times.

Given his form and desire to play until his oldest son Bronny, currently a 16-year-old high school sophomore, can join him in the NBA, he might make a run at Abdul-Jabbar.

James hasn’t missed a game in this strangest of COVID-impacted seasons, suiting up for all 18 Lakers contests that have been played entering Wednesday’s visit to Philadelphia. L.A. has opened up a league-best 14-4 and James is averaging over 25 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.4 assists while shooting what would be a career-best 41.2 percent from 3-point range.

LeBron has been masterful in 2021, sending one message after another. The Lakers scored a season-best 138 points vs. Luka Doncic’s Mavericks on Christmas night. Against reigning two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, James scored 34 points and knocked down six 3-pointers in a 113-106 win last Thursday, opening this season-long seven-game road trip the Lakers are currently embarked upon in style. In beating the Cavs, he outscored Cleveland’s entire team 23-19 in the fourth quarter and finished 7-for-11 from beyond the arc.

A few of the popular online sites still have James in the +700 range and behind Dallas’ Doncic and Denver’s Nikola Jokic, both of whom are piling up gaudier stats in flirting with averaging triple-doubles. Still, the move to make LeBron the favorite is merited. This was no prisoner-of-the-moment action from the Westgate. James is the best player on the best team and will carry some sentimental value in the minds of voters because he’s doing this at such an advanced age.

Like it or not, this has been a subjective award and remains so. Many of the voters who have denied James over the years because other players have had better seasons may be more easily swayed in 2021 considering how impressive it is that he’s doing this as a 36-year-old in the midst of a pandemic. He’s been a leader and mentor while dominating younger players. He’s often been the best player on a court that typically also includes Anthony Davis.

However, because he’s now the favorite, you can’t set this copy of Gaming Today down and run over to the window and bet James. In fact, this column is being written so that you don’t do that very thing.

There’s a good chance James follows through in joining Russell and Jordan in the five-time winners club. He’s never shot the 3-ball this confidently and his team looks head and shoulders better than everyone else’s in a season where it might be more difficult than ever to bridge that gap.

If you’re patient, you’ll get better odds on James’ MVP conquest down the road.

Doncic’s Mavs and Jokic’s Nuggets are both struggling despite their individual exploits. One of those teams will go on a run and the player most responsible for their success will supplant James in the favorite’s role. Don’t forget, the Eastern Conference is currently being led by the 76ers. They were just upset by the lowly Pistons because their MVP candidate, Joel Embiid, was out with a bad back. He’ll be in this mix too. So will Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant, top dog on a team that includes James Harden and Kyrie Irving.

James isn’t going to play all 72 scheduled games this season. He’s had nagging ailments act up and will be smart about resting since he’s always been more about championships than MVP awards. Practically all season, he’s been listed as questionable. While that’s been a mere formality, there will likely be a stretch over the next few months where it will become reality.

That’s when you can bet James to win the MVP — because he might. The story is great. He’s been incredible. But LeBron’s fifth award can only rightfully be earned in an underdog role. He’d be the oldest to ever win, replacing Utah’s Karl Malone.

These days are supposed to have been behind him. Instead, he’s performing like a player who has never won an MVP award and his team is benefitting from it.

over the Knicks last Sunday. Portland led by 20 points at halftime but ended up blowing nearly all of the lead and held on, 116-113. The line fluctuated from -2.5 to -4 points prior to tip-off.

Thursday

Trail Blazers at Rockets: It will be fun to see what number oddsmakers place on this one. Portland’s highest total this season was set at 237.5 while Houston’s came in at 232. Since James Harden was traded, its biggest figure was just 225. That means this one should be manageable and there are just too many catalysts who typically aren’t interested in playing much defense not to back the high side.

Damian Lillard, Carmelo Anthony and Enes Kanter will run into John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. Christian Wood and Victor Oladipo, if healthy, should aid the cause too. OVER

Friday

Nets at Thunder: Durant and Harden are back in Oklahoma City as a tandem, but fans won’t be allowed in Chesapeake Energy Arena to boo them mercilessly. While that will detract from the atmosphere we would’ve otherwise been treated to, it won’t change the fact Durant and Harden will want to show out in this one.

This is the second of a three-game roadie that concludes with Durant visiting his hometown of D.C. for the first time since his Achilles tear, so count on him being locked in. The Thunder defeated the Durant-led Nets on Jan. 10 but will face payback with Harden and Irving now part of the equation. NETS

Sunday

Magic at Raptors: Because Toronto is playing in Tampa this season, Orlando will have a short bus ride ahead of it before this road game. That means the Magic will be playing eight consecutive games in the Central Florida area from Jan. 24 to Feb. 6 and should have the fresh legs necessary to try and challenge the Raptors.

With Evan Fournier back in the lineup and rookie Cole Anthony asserting himself offensively, look for a higher-scoring game than expected against a Raps squad that surrendered a season-worst 129 points in Indiana on Monday. OVER

Last week: 2-1

Season: 10-7

About the Author

Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia has been a national sportswriter for nearly two decades and has covered NBA and college basketball as a columnist, analyst, handicapper, and bracketologist for CBS Sports, Pro Basketball News, and numerous other sites.

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