NBA MVP Betting: Can Anyone Catch Giannis?
With a quarter of the NBA season behind us, it's time to start looking at how players are faring in the race for MVP.
I’m not here to tell you why Carmelo Anthony or Zion Williamson won’t win the Most Valuable Player award -- that’s pretty self-explanatory. What I will do is look at those who still have a realistic chance of winning it and see if there’s any value to be had in their odds.
The Long Shots
Donovan Mitchell, SG, Utah Jazz
FanDuel Odds: +6000
Through 16 games, Donovan Mitchell's case for MVP was slightly stronger than it is not. The Utah Jazz were 11-5, and Mitchell was averaging 25.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.9 assists on 45.3/38.9/82.6 shooting line. However, over their last five games, Utah is 1-4 with Mitchell posting a line of 20.0/1.8/2.4 -- he's also shooting 37 percent from the field while putting up nearly 20 shots a game.
Mitchell's nERD rating -- which measures the total contribution of a player throughout the course of a season, based on their efficiency -- is just 1.1. That's outside of the top-60 in the league. His numberFire efficiency rating -- which measures a player's raw efficiency -- is the fourth-lowest of the 16 players averaging 24.5 points per game or more.
Even at 60/1 odds, there's little value to be had in betting on Mitchell.
Kyrie Irving, PG, Brooklyn Nets
FanDuel Odds: +6000
Prior to his injury, Kyrie Irving was having a rock-solid statistical season. The 27-year-old was averaging 28.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 7.2 assists -- all of which would have been career-highs.
Aside from the fact that he has already missed nine games, there's quite a bit working against Irving's potential case for the award down the line. With Kyrie on the court, the Brooklyn Nets had a record of 4-7, which is not a great starting argument for a potential MVP candidate. Additionally, Brooklyn has won six of nine games with him off the court, and that doesn't exactly look great.
With so much already working against Kyrie, it's tough to justify any real wager here -- even at +6000.
The Value Picks
Pascal Siakam, PF, Toronto Raptors
FanDuel Odds: +6000
You'd be hard-pressed to find better value on the board than Pascal Siakam.
Here you have a budding superstar on an overachieving team that has the third-best record in the NBA, and his odds are 60/1.
Yes, Siakam's case does fall short when compared to some of the frontrunners, but he is in his fourth season and just 19 games into his role as the leader of the Toronto Raptors. Few players have displayed the rapid growth that Siakam has, and if he continues to improve this season, those who bet on him could end up with much thicker wallets.
Through 19 games, Siakam is averaging 25.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 4.0 assists on a 47/39/81 shooting line. The 25-year-old is also 9th in defensive win shares and 14th in overall win shares. However, Siakam comes in just 23rd in our nERD rating, which indicates that he needs to improve his efficiency in order to have a chance.
At +6000, I'm willing to chance that he'll continue to improve and lead the Raptors to a top-two seed in the East.
Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Minnesota Timberwolves
FanDuel Odds: +3100
In 17 games this season, KAT is averaging 25.9 points, 12.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.4 blocks, and a steal -- all on a highly efficient 50.2/42.1/80.6 shooting line. He's also sixth in the league with a nERD rating of 3.7, as well as fifth in PER, seventh in win shares, and fifth in box plus/minus.
If Towns can up his game -- even a bit -- and lead the T-Wolves to the playoffs, he'd have a legitimate chance of bringing home the hardware. You can do worse at 31/1.
LeBron James, F, Los Angeles Lakers
FanDuel Odds: +550
Here we are -- season number 17, and LeBron James is once again playing on a superhuman level.
Given his great career, it was hard to imagine that LeBron would find a new way to dominate, but alas, he has. Through 20 games, King James leads the league with 10.9 assists -- 1.3 more than the next closest player. LBJ is also on pace to become the first player in NBA history to average more than 25 points, 7 rebounds, and 10 assists while shooting above 50 percent from the field.
James is fifth in the league in nERD, PER, and offensive win shares, and he's also fourth in box plus/minus, seventh in defensive win shares, and fourth in VORP (value over replacement player).
At +550, he presents better value than the other frontrunners.
James Harden, G, Houston Rockets
FanDuel odds: +470
It's hard to imagine that a player is averaging nearly 39 points per game, yet is third in MVP odds.
James Harden is averaging 38.9 points per game, which would be third-most all-time behind only Wilt's two seasons in 1961-63. The 2017-18 MVP is also contributing 5.9 rebounds and 7.8 assists to his cause. So why on earth is Harden third in MVP odds?
For starters, it's hard for NBA fans and voters alike to appreciate a player who plays for a whistle. In fact, Harden is averaging a whopping 14.4 free-throw attempts this season, which would be the second-most in a single season in NBA history. The 30-year-old is also hoisting 24.1 shots and 13.9 three-point attempts per game. If it holds, the 13.9 attempts from three-point range will beat out his own NBA record.
It's true that Harden is putting up gaudy numbers, but asking voters to ignore his record-setting volume is unreasonable. He is also currently behind the other two frontrunners in PER, win shares per 48 minutes, box plus/minus, and VORP. Given all of that, his +470 odds are understandable.
Luka Doncic, SF, Dallas Mavericks
FanDuel odds: +350
What Luka Doncic is doing in his second year in the league is downright unprecedented.
Doncic is on pace to become only the fourth player in NBA history to average more than 30 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists in a season -- and he's doing this before he can legally drink. If his current pace holds, he'd be the first player to average more than 30 points per game prior to turning 21.
Doncic has the Dallas Mavericks sitting at 13-6 and in fourth place in the West. He is third in the league in nERD rating, second in PER, and leads the NBA in win shares per 48 minutes, box plus/minus, and VORP.
At +350 odds, the value isn't fantastic, but still worth a wager.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, Milwaukee Bucks
FanDuel odds: +180
The only reason Luka doesn't have the best MVP odds is the play of reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Through 21 games, Giannis has led the Milwaukee Bucks to a league-best 18-3 record while averaging 30.8 points, 13.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.3 blocks on 56 percent from the field and 30 percent from downtown. How many players have averaged more than 30 points, 13 rebounds, and 5.5 assists in a season? Zero.
Furthermore, Giannis is averaging 2.2 fewer minutes than any of the 72 players in NBA history to post more than 30 points per game in a season.
The Greek Freak leads the league in numberFire's efficiency metric, as well as defensive rating, defensive win shares, and PER. He's also second in our nERD rating, win shares per 48 minutes, box plus/minus, and VORP.
All that said, at less than 2/1 odds, there's very little value to be had by betting on Antetokounmpo.
Anthony Davis (+1200): Anthony Davis is having a great season, but he's not even the MVP of his own team right now.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George (+3100): Neither of the players -- not their team -- are dominating right now. And it's hard to imagine a scenario in which one doesn't siphon the other's votes.
Joel Embiid (+2200): Joel Embiid is having a significantly worse season than he did last year. Even if his play improves, he won't get enough minutes to bring his stats to where they need to be for him to garner consideration.
Damian Lillard (+5000): Damian Lillard is having (arguably) his best season, but he isn't doing enough to overcome his team's poor play.