A riveting NBA All-Star Game is in the books, won by a LeBron James turnaround jumper over Zach LaVine. Exhibitions can’t be thrilling, but the All-Stars put on a memorable game that will be known for Stephen Curry finishing with 50 points after making a ridiculous 16 3-pointers.
Of all the MVP candidates who showed out for Team LeBron, Curry stood out most. That could be a telling development since he’s the best of the longshots on NBA MVP oddsboards and one of a handful of players you should consider breaking your piggy bank for if you’re interested in a longshot lottery ticket.
With 20-plus games to go, the NBA MVP race can be broken down to two parts – the top candidates and the lovely longshots. We present odds from BetMGM, DraftKings, and FanDuel, but you are always encouraged to shop around the betting market for the best prices for your picks.
Top NBA MVP Candidates
Joel Embiid (+125 BetMGM, +130 DraftKings, +145 FanDuel) is your favorite to win take home the award. He nearly led Team Durant to an upset of Team LeBron with 36 points and 10 rebounds, which is noteworthy since he was battling Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, DeMar DeRozan, Curry and LeBron. Embiid has been terrific in leading Philadelphia to a 35-23 mark that tops the Atlantic Division, averaging a league-best 29.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 4.5 assists. He’s played in 46 of the 58 games, enough to cement his candidacy given how dominant he’s been.
Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic (+275 MGM, +290 DK, +270 FD) and Antetokounmpo (+375 MGM, +400 DK, +390 FD) are lumped into the frontrunners since they’ve been tremendous as the unquestioned leaders of their respective teams. Jokic’s Nuggets are sixth in the West but just three games back of Utah for the Northwest Division lead and wouldn’t even look like a playoff team if not for their star center averaging a near triple-double (26.0 ppg, 13.8 rpg, 7.9 apg).
“Greek Freak” has the Bucks 2.5 games back of Chicago in the Central and within that same striking distance of the top spot in the East that the Bulls share with the Miami Heat.
Backing Greek Freak’s Bid for Third MVP Offers Betting Value
Antetokounmpo has more help inside now with the acquisition of Serge Ibaka softening the blow of Brook Lopez remaining out after back surgery, and the defending champs have the look of a team set to go on a run. Jrue Holiday is healthy again, the Bucks are likely to add another wing in order to withstand the absence of Pat Connaughton, and the presents a number of opportunities for Antetokounmpo to impress his way into a third MVP trophy in four years.
The Bucks lost to the 76ers at home just before the break and host Brooklyn on Saturday in primetime in Milwaukee’s first game back from the break. Milwaukee plays Chicago three more times and goes out to Golden State, Utah, and Memphis for high-profile road games. Considering Antetokounmpo is on a tear, he’s got a shot to make this MVP undeniably his and is posting the type of numbers it takes to do that.
On Feb. 10, he scored 44 points on 17-for-20 shooting in a win at the Lakers. The Suns held him down, but he then scored 50 on 17-for-21 from the field against Indiana, and went for 32, 11 boards, and nine assists in the loss to Philly. If the Bucks have success over the final 20 games and Antetokounmpo is the driving force, getting as much as 4-to-1 odds at DraftKings is going to look like a shrewd buy.
Passing On Jokic, Embiid
Jokic is unlikely to repeat as MVP because Denver isn’t having enough success for that to happen as the team continues without Jamal Murray. Utah has survived lengthy absences from Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell and remains in control of the division, so I don’t see the Nuggets making a dent and landing among the West’s top three.
I also wouldn’t back Embiid at the current odds because you’re not going to see much of a return. Kudos if you backed Embiid while Kevin Durant was the MVP favorite earlier this season because you’re in a great position, but hopping on the Embiid train now isn’t a great bet.
James Harden is set to join the 76ers just after the break and will undoubtedly steal some production that will likely lead to Antetokounmpo ultimately emerging with the scoring title. There’s bound to be some adjustment period for Philadelphia given that it has been playing through Embiid and now has to work in a ball-dominant guard who is at his best with the ball in his hands.
Talent will get the 76ers wins in games where signals are crossed and guys struggle, but just the presence of Harden to help Embiid finish the job may be enough to alter perception and get the “Greek Freak” a few first-place votes the 76ers’ center would’ve claimed had he continued to work on his own without Ben Simmons.
Curry Leads Crowded Crop of NBA MVP Longshots
If you’re looking for an even larger payday, Curry (+1100 MGM, +850 DK, +1200 FD) may be your man since he’s about to get help that will only aid his candidacy. Draymond Green, who has been absent for the past 20 games due to a back issue, is likely to get back in the mix and will aid the cause as a screener, passer, and elite defender. Getting Klay Thompson reacclimated has been a focal point over the past few weeks, but he’s now looking like his old self, and the Warriors will be looking to round into playoff form as they try and catch Phoenix for the top spot in the Western Conference.
Although the Warriors have a 6.5-game edge to overcome in order to emerge with the Pacific Division title, the Suns will be without point guard Chris Paul for the next six to eight weeks as he recovers from a broken thumb and tries to get healthy for another playoff run. Devin Booker (+2200 MGM +1800 DK, +2000 FD) will be tasked with keeping Phoenix in the prime spot out West but isn’t likely to get serious MVP consideration unless his team keeps winning at the same ridiculous rate it has managed thus far – better than 8-2 over every 10 games.
Curry shot the ball poorly in January – 32.9 percent from 3-point range – averaging 22.3 points and suffering through games where he went 1-for-10, 1-for-9, and 1-for-13 from beyond the arc. He barely surpassed the 40 percent clip from the field in December, but is starting to snap out of his funk and could emerge as MVP if the Warriors take off the way everyone anticipates they will when at full strength. Even center James Wiseman is expected back over the next few weeks.
In a season in which he shattered the NBA all-time 3-point shooting record and is averaging over five rebounds and six assists to go along with nearly 26 points, there’s incredible value in riding his finishing kick.
More NBA MVP Longshots To Consider
Four more longshots deserve your attention. Either Memphis’ Ja Morant (+1400 MGM, +1100 DK, +1800 FD) or Dallas’ Luka Doncic (+4000 MGM, +3000 DK, +3000 FD) will lead their teams to a Southwest Division title.
The 22-year-old Morant looks like a shoo-in to win Most Improved Player given how he’s burst on the scene as an elite talent, and putting together a special next few weeks could lead to him getting the nod from some voters despite his youth. Doncic’s path to the MVP requires his Mavericks catching the Grizzlies, who lead the Southwest by 5.5 games and rank third in the Western Conference.
Doncic is averaging 36.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 9.4 assists in February and has scored 45 or more points in three of the last four games prior to the break, shooting 20-for-41 from beyond the arc to fuel those explosions. If the 22-year-old Serbian star can continue his assault and the Mavs keep winning, he’ll work his way into the mix.
The East’s top longshots are Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan (+2200 MGM, +2200 DK, +2000 FD) and Brooklyn’s Durant (+6600 MGM, +7000 DK, +6500 FD). The Bulls have broken through and joined their conference’s elite, threatening to get the better of a Bucks team that has won the Central three years running, taking the baton after LeBron James left Cleveland a second time. DeRozan has been the glue holding Chicago together despite injuries to guards Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso, delivering in the clutch time after time. He’s been Jordan-esque in late-game situations and has dominated with a mid-range game straight out of the 1990s.
DeRozan has broken Wilt Chamberlain’s record of most consecutive games of 35-plus points while shooting 50 percent or better in each, carrying a streak of seven into the Bulls’ Thursday night date with Atlanta. He’s averaged 35.8 points while shooting over 57 percent in February and will almost certainly be the Eastern Conference Player of the Month despite the exploits of stars like Embiid and Antetokounmpo.
With Ball and Caruso expected back and the Bulls having added another big man in Tristan Thompson, they’ve got a shot to finish as the top seed in the East. DeRozan will get significant MVP love if he leads Chicago to its best record since 2011, when a 60-22 mark helped get Derrick Rose the hardware, which makes 200-to-1 odds awfully enticing.
Lastly, there’s Durant. For those still holding a ticket on the Nets star who has been out of commission since suffering a knee injury on Jan. 15, there’s hope he can return and restore Brooklyn’s fading grip on a playoff spot. The Nets have lost 12 of 14 entering Thursday’s home game with the Celtics, who have climbed into the No. 6 slot in the East. Durant has averaged over 29 points per game and played in 36 contests, so if he returns and has a positive impact alongside Simmons, with Kyrie Irving still limited to play in solely road games, that could garner a few first-place votes.
The call here is to take a shot at Antetokounmpo as the most likely MVP winner while sprinkling a little on Curry and DeRozan as longshots who have an opportunity to captivate the basketball world between now and mid-April.