NBA MVP Betting: What to Make of the Lakers' Duo?

Both LeBron James and Anthony Davis could finish the season with compelling cases for the MVP award. Should you bet on either of them?

With nearly half of the NBA season behind us, it's time to revisit how the MVP race is shaping up.

I’m not here to tell you why Alex Caruso or Carmelo Anthony 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 odds are subject to change. You can track each contender’s odds on oddsFire or FanDuel Sportbook.

The Value Picks

LeBron James, F, Los Angeles Lakers
FanDuel Odds: +750

LeBron James is 35 years old and is in middle of his 17th NBA season, yet, remarkably, he's doing things on the court that we've never seen him do before.

Through 35 games, LeBron leads the league with 11.0 assists per game -- 1.7 more than the next closest player. The only other player in NBA history to average 11 or more assists per game at age 35 or older was Steve Nash. King James is also on pace to become the first player in NBA history to average more than 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 10 assists while shooting above 48.5 percent from the field. Again, he's in his 17th season.

James is fifth in the league in nERD (numberFire's efficiency rating), win shares, and box plus/minus, seventh in defensive win shares, as well as fourth in VORP (value over replacement player).

His odds have decreased from +550 to +750, making him the best value bet on the board.

Anthony Davis, FC, Los Angeles Lakers
FanDuel Odds: +750

Anthony Davis has had quite the stellar season for the Los Angeles Lakers thus far. Through 34 games, Davis is averaging 27.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.2 assists on 50.7 shooting from the field.

Davis is fifth in the league in VORP, fourth in offensive win shares, PER, and defensive rating, third in nERD and overall win shares, as well as second in defensive win shares and blocks per game.

After a slow start to his season (by his standards), the 26-year-old has posted averages of 29.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 4.0 steals plus blocks on 52.3 percent shooting over his last 22 games. If he can continue to increase his production, he'd have to garner real consideration for the award. Davis's odds were at +1200 at the quarter-season mark and have shrunk to 7.5/1 since. Get in before those odds continue to shrink.

The biggest obstacle working against both Davis and James is they will eat into each other's votes.

The Frontrunners

James Harden, G, Houston Rockets
FanDuel odds: +430

Voters that look just at James Harden's raw numbers will undoubtedly cast their vote for him. The 30-year-old is averaging a whopping 38.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 7.6 assists per game.

That said, it's impossible to judge Harden's raw numbers without taking into account his massive volume. Harden's 13.5 three-point attempts per game would be 1.8 attempts more than the next closest player in NBA history. He'd also be the first player since 2006 to average more than 24 field goal attempts per game. Additionally, his 12.3 free throw attempts per game has been topped by just four players in league history.

Ignoring Harden's gaudy numbers would not be fair to what he is accomplishing on the court. At the same time, asking voters to ignore his record-setting volume is not fair, either.

All that said, given the odds of the frontrunner, the 2017-18 MVP is probably the better value bet.

Luka Doncic, SF, Dallas Mavericks
FanDuel odds: +350

It's impossible to overstate how great Luka Doncic is for a player who can't legally buy a beer in the United States.

Doncic is on pace to become only the third player in NBA history to average more than 29 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists in a season. Barring a drastic drop in performance, Luka will become be the first player in league history to score more than 29 points per game in a season before turning 21.

If the 20-year-old can get the Dallas Mavericks back to their winning ways, his case for MVP will be quite strong.

At +350 odds, he's worthy of consideration, especially considering the unappealing odds of the frontrunner.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, Milwaukee Bucks
FanDuel odds: -145

The reason you can bet Harden or Luka at odds better than 3/1 is the play of reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Through 38 games, Giannis has led the Milwaukee Bucks to a league-best 32-6 record while posting averages of 30.2 points, 12.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.1 blocks on 55.3 percent from the field and 32.6 percent from downtown. If it holds, Giannis will be the first player in league history to average more than 30 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 assists per game while shooting better than 55 percent from the field.

Astonishingly, Giannis is playing 3.2 (!!) fewer minutes per game than any of the 72 players in NBA history to average more than 30 points in a season.

The Greek Freak leads the league in defensive rating, defensive win shares, and PER. He's also second in scoring, nERD rating, and win shares.

Only Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon have won the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season -- there's a good chance Giannis joins them this season.

All that said, with odds of -145, there isn't much value to be had by betting on Antetokounmpo.