NBA teams are 14-to-16 games into their season, so about one-fifth of the season is in the books. The Warriors have raced out to the best record in the league, the Wizards have been the biggest surprise, and the Pelicans have been the most disappointing team.
Zion Williamson should be back in December, and if he’s somehow able to put New Orleans on his back and take them to the playoffs, he’ll work his way into the MVP conversation. Just under one month of the way in, there are plenty of candidates tossing their hat in the ring for an award, most recently won by a Serbian center and a Greek Freak.
Denver’s Nikola Jokic and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo are in the mix again. Slovenian wing Luka Doncic, the preseason favorite, avoided a serious ankle injury late in Dallas’ win over the Nuggets on Monday. The Mavs lost their first game without him in Phoenix on Wednesday but remain in first place in the Southwest Division, so the foreign contingent is three-deep with top contenders for the 2021-22 MVP award.
The Top Of NBA MVP Oddsboard
Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant are the current favorites to become the first American-born MVP since James Harden won the award in 2018. Washington’s Bradley Beal, Chicago’s Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan, Miami’s Jimmy Butler, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, Memphis’ Ja Morant, and the L.A. Clippers’ Paul George round out the top dozen candidates.
There are no players listed above for the Lakers, the Western Conference title favorite that is off to just a .500 start. LeBron James has missed three-quarters of his team’s games, Anthony Davis has underachieved, and Russell Westbrook has had the type of impact most naysayers expected. He’s had moments of brilliance but has generally been sloppy.
Curry (+230 at FanDuel, +250 at BetMGM and DraftKings) has ascended to the favorite’s role. The two-time MVP is averaging 28.1 points per game, second behind Durant (29.6). But the time to wager on him has passed for now since value is out the window due to Golden State’s hot start.
At some point, potentially when Klay Thompson returns and there’s an adjustment working him back into the fold, Curry may fall out of the favorite spot, and the next opportunity to buy in on his magic will roll around. The Warriors star’s preseason odds at DraftKings were +900, a figure that will not be seen again this season.
On the other hand, Durant’s odds will likely shorten, which means it’s time to buy if he’s your guy. Brooklyn’s star forward had preseason odds in the neighborhood of +600, second behind Doncic, who began the season in the +380 to +400 range.
Durant is currently +500 throughout the betting market despite being the sole reason the NBA title favorite leads its division and is just percentage points behind the Wizards for the East’s best record. Harden, who is in the +4000 range, has looked more like his old self of late but is still unquestionably playing second-fiddle. If Kyrie Irving returns to action, it will be Harden’s numbers that will take a hit, not Durant’s. If you’re not already holding a ticket on the “Easy Money Sniper,” hop on now while he’s still 5-to-1.
Antetokounmpo is in the +700 to +750 range and just scored a season-best 47 points in leading the Bucks past the LeBron-less Lakers, undeniably getting the better of Davis. Doncic is now down at +900 at BetMGM, +1000 at DraftKings, and +1300 at FanDuel, while Jokic can be found in the +1000 range. So long as they stay healthy, all three of the international candidates are going to remain in the hunt by putting up eye-popping numbers that will lead to 50-plus wins.
NBA MVP Longshots
Of the longshots, Miami’s Butler (+1900 at DraftKings +2200 FanDuel) is the most interesting name to crash the MVP party who can realistically win. The Heat are his team. Despite the presence of All-Stars Bam Adebayo and Kyle Lowry, and Tyler Herro emerging as the favorite for top Sixth Man, it’s Butler who leads the way.
Butler not only supports the emotional fire, he also produces on the floor. With Adebayo and Lowry out last Wednesday against the Pelicans, Butler suited up following a three-game absence due to an ankle sprain and helped pull off a comeback win over the Pelicans behind a 30-point triple-double.
If Miami can compete for the best record in the East all season, Butler will be the primary reason why and receive full credit. While we’re concentrating on Durant as the top choice, sprinkling a little on Butler could prove to be lucrative while making you the envy of your friends at the bar.