After tackling season win total over/under bets for the Eastern and Western Conferences, the MVP race is up to bat. Bookmakers have set their odds, with last season’s winner Giannis Antetokounmpo the favorite to repeat. The numbers will be in flux as we approach the beginning of the season, but the following picks will remain the best NBA MVP bets before season tipoff. If you’re not familiar with how betting odds work, take a quick look at the video below.
Best NBA MVP Bets
The Safe Bet – Giannis Antetokounmpo +300
We’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of Giannis Antetokounmpo. Last season’s MVP has a great chance to repeat thanks to his age, hunger to improve, and apparent durability. He’s only 24 years old, and coming off an unsatisfying exit in the Eastern Conference Finals at the hands of Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors. His two-way talent and motivation make him the betting favorite to take home his second consecutive MVP.
Thanks to his durability (he has never played less than 72 games in a season) and age, load management won’t even be a remote possibility unless he incurs a troubling injury. Other MVP contenders such as Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, and Paul George will be handled much more carefully in terms of health. That’s going to prevent them from fully putting their foot on the gas during the regular season. Antetokounmpo has that perfect mix of hunger and talent that’ll keep him in the MVP conversation the entire year. He offers the lowest reward out of the bunch at three-to-one, but he’s the safest bet of them all.
Anthony Davis +700
Anthony Davis has been in the MVP conversation for almost half a decade now. He came closest in the 2017-18 NBA season when he landed in third place behind James Harden and LeBron James. Davis didn’t get a chance to put his full skills on display last year thanks to the self-inflicted circus that was his Los Angeles Lakers trade demand. It’ll only make him more anxious to get out and remind people how dominant he really is.
If LeBron James is going to step aside and elevate any teammate, it’s going to be someone with age (26) and potential like Davis. Recent reports even surfaced that James has stated directly to Davis that he wants him to be the team’s focal point. It’s in LeBron’s best interest to conserve his energy for the playoffs, so he has every reason to take a step back and let Davis do the heavy lifting to get his shine.
Health is obviously the biggest risk with Davis, but it’s worth noting that he managed to suit up for 75 games in each of the previous two seasons before last year’s drama-riddled one. Injuries are always a risk with Davis, but the partnership between him and James may be mutually beneficial to their health. Not to mention, Davis is set to feast heavily in pick and roll situations with James.
Dark Horse NBA MVP Bets
Nikola Jokic +1600
Nikola Jokic is the sexy pick out of dark-horse MVP candidates. He was always viewed as promising, but last year he elevated his team to heights few people outside of Denver expected. He averaged 20.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, and a whopping 7.3 assists en route to 54 wins in the more competitive Western Conference. Not to mention, he beat out Joel Embiid for First Team All-NBA. At only 24 years old, there’s no reason that he shouldn’t take another step forward in his personal development.
Last year he finished fourth in MVP voting. To make that jump into the thick of the race, he’s going to have to bump up his three-point percentage (30.7 percent last season), take a leap defensively (which may require better conditioning), flirt with a season average triple-double, and possibly lead his team to the number one seed in the West. The Denver Nuggets shocked everyone last year when they rallied early and maintained the two-seed. They can certainly have the depth to make a run at the top spot.
Damian Lillard +2500
This bet is akin to Damian Lillard pulling up from the logo. It’s a longshot, but there’s a chance that Lillard is good enough to make it. He’s smack dab in the middle of his prime at age 29 as he enters his eighth NBA season. He hasn’t played less than 73 games in his career and even has four 80-plus game seasons. Lillard has the durability, talent, and leadership to be a serious MVP candidate. He also finished sixth in MVP voting last year, and fourth in the 2017-18 season.
Kevin Durant‘s departure and Klay Thompson‘s injury lowered the ceiling and raised the floor of the Western Conference. These new circumstances created a perfect setting for the Portland Trail Blazers’ continuity to pay off. The tragic injury to Jusuf Nurkic could even free up more opportunities for Lillard to score. He will have to lead his team to a top one or two seed in the conference like Jokic, but MVP voters would love to reward a perennially-snubbed guy like Lillard for his loyalty and success.
A Bet To Beware Of – Stephen Curry +500
Many people like Stephen Curry‘s MVP chances for obvious reasons. He’s a generational offensive talent and has the keys to the offense all to himself – especially with no Klay Thompson early on. The road paved for him to have another crazy offensive explosion as he did in his 2015-2016 unanimous MVP year. It’s certainly possible, and the addition of D’Angelo Russell could serve well to distract the defense. But at 31 and after five straight seasons of going the distance from the regular season to the NBA Finals, durability could become a concern for Curry.
Yes, he did have an otherworldly supporting cast which took the load off during this run, but smaller guys tend to break down faster. The game’s greatest points guards tend to decline when they hit 32, which Curry will turn this March. This could be the year that injuries catch up to him, and he’ll no doubt be assuming the greatest offensive responsibility in a long time as he wades his way through the dynamics of a dramatically different team than last year. He’s going to be the focus of every NBA defense night in and night out. Curry can manage against the league’s worse teams, but being in the West means he has to play stronger opponents more often. With the greater workload, one has to wonder how his body will hold up.