The NBA season is, somehow, right around the corner, and with it come a bounty of future odds at your local sportsbook. There are team win totals — if you plan on betting these, please remember it’s a 72-game season, not an 82-game season, and adjust your math accordingly — as well as player props on everything from points to rebounds, but the odds that get the most attention on the player side are the MVP odds.
This season will be a difficult one to handicap for both team and player future bets simply because it’s happening under such unique circumstances and there is the ever-present possibility of someone missing considerable time should they come down with COVID-19. However, beyond just that looming risk, the swift turnaround from the Bubble to this season also means you have to factor in things like player rest and how teams will treat this season with an eye towards the playoffs with guys having an abbreviated offseason and training camp.
It is with that in mind, along with how MVP voting tends to work, that we look ahead to the NBA MVP odds (courtesy of BetOnline) and present our five best and five worst bets you can make going into this season.
Luka Doncic (+350): The Mavs star is the betting favorite for a reason, but if you shop around, you can get his odds above 4-1, which I’d highly recommend seeking out. Dallas should be a playoff team once again this season, although it remains to be seen if they improve on their standing from seventh in the West with such a stacked conference and the lingering question of Kristaps Porzingis’ health. However, Kristaps’ absence early and the caution they’ll likely use in bringing him back means Doncic is going to put up a ton of points, to go along with his eye-popping assist and rebounding numbers. If Dallas is simply a decent playoff team, that means Doncic will have been unbelievable this season and he will have near triple-double averages with huge scoring, and we know that’s a recipe for an MVP win.
Anthony Davis (+900): LeBron James shares this 9-1 mark. Under most circumstances, it would be reason to jump on James’ odds, particularly given the push last year to tout his efforts at 35 years old. However, the quick turnaround presumably puts James on the shelf more than we usually see as he’ll probably rest a good bit early on after playing a Finals just a couple months ago. That means Davis will have the spotlight, and if the Lakers still manage to pull out the top seed in the West, it will be Davis who likely has the most production (coupled with DPOY caliber defense) in the most games for L.A., all while the “pass the torch” narrative that, early in the Finals, led some to think he’d win the Finals MVP award in the Bubble swirls. As such, I believe his value is pretty strong.
Jayson Tatum (+2500): We now turn to further down the odds board to seek out some value for high ceiling players. First up is Tatum, who has a chance this season to continue taking the leap into superstar status. It would take something truly sensational from him, but with Kemba Walker likely being brought along slowly with his lingering knee issues, Tatum could see even more of the ball and be asked to take on an even bigger scoring and creation load in Boston. Given they’ll be in the hunt to be a top-4 team in the East again this season, it stands to reason that he could have huge numbers for a good team, along with being a young guy who is likely to play almost all of the Celtics’ games if healthy and that will matter this season.
Kyrie Irving (+3300): The Nets are expected to make a huge leap this season as they get their two new superstar teammates on the floor together in Irving and Kevin Durant, both of whom return from injuries. Irving got off to a scorching hot start last year, and while Durant will certainly get his, he’s also not going to be playing back-to-backs for much of the season coming off of the Achilles injury. As such, Irving is likely going to have nights where it’s his show. We know he will happily produce huge numbers when that is the case and, similarly to the Davis reasoning, if the Nets pop as a team as some believe they can, Irving will likely have played more than KD at similar production and it could vault him firmly into the conversation.
Trae Young (+6600): The Hawks have gotten much better this offseason. While that may mean Young doesn’t score quite as much, his assist numbers and efficiency should benefit greatly, and it’s possible he still averages near 30 points a night. As such, his odds being as long as they are makes him, for my money, the best value on the board overall. That’s not because I think he’s some kind of lock to win, but he should probably be in the 33-1 range just by virtue of the numbers he’s capable of producing and the fact that Atlanta is likely a playoff team this season. If they overachieve as a team and Young continues to put up big stats, he’ll get buzz and is worth a flyer at this longshot number.
Kevin Durant (+1200): As mentioned above, I just can’t see Durant playing enough to warrant being this high on the odds sheet. He’s not the absolute worst bet — we’ll get to that in a bit — but I simply think there’s not much value here. He’s coming off of an injury that has, historically, been extremely difficult for guys to return to their absolute best form from, especially in the first year back. On top of that, I’d be pretty surprised if he plays more than 60 games this season, and to be clear, the Nets absolutely should be cautious with him and try to have him at his best come playoff time.
Kawhi Leonard (+1400): I mean, he’s the king of load management in what might end up being a season defined by it. On top of that, he doesn’t produce the eye-popping numbers you see from other superstars around the league. Kawhi’s a sensational player, but it’s hard to envision him having the regular season production to earn himself MVP favorite status and at this number, the value’s just not there.
Nikola Jokic (+1600): Jokic is one of the league’s absolute best players and I’m thrilled to see him getting the kind of respect as a player that’s indicated by this position on the MVP odds board, but also, no. Don’t bet on him. Denver didn’t do anything this offseason that makes me believe they’re going to take a leap this season, and if anything, the rest of the West likely started reeling them back into the middle of the playoff picture. On top of that, with Michael Porter Jr. likely taking on a bigger role and Jamal Murray emerging in the Bubble as an apparent No. 1 (now, if that’s for the better of the Nuggets is a legitimate debate), I don’t see Jokic’s role expanding in anyway and he would need that to happen to have a shot at MVP. He’ll be All-NBA, but I don’t see him being seriously in the MVP conversation.
Jimmy Butler (+2000): We have arrived at the worst bet on the MVP board and maybe for any NBA future. I want to preface this by saying Jimmy Butler is an awesome player and what he did last postseason is, truly, the thing of legends. But the MVP is a regular season award and Butler, for all his talents, is not a guy who puts up the production that will have him in the MVP discussion. Like, he averaged 19.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 6.0 assists last year, which is terrific and will get you in the conversation for All-NBA when you combine it with his defense on a good team, but it’s not what you’re going to see out of the MVP. Again, this isn’t a slight against Butler, it’s just the simple fact that what he does is all the little things that help you win, and, whether you like it or not, that’s not what MVP voters are voting for when there are the eye-popping stats we see from other top stars.
Donovan Mitchell (+2500): I do not believe Mitchell is about to reproduce his production from the Nuggets series over the course of the NBA season and that is really the only reason anyone would put money on him at 25-1. Mitchell, like Butler, is a very good player and while he’s more of an offensive focal point than Jimmy, he’s just not going to go out and put up what you need to win MVP and this number is just not providing you any value for a guy like Mitchell. If he were in the range you find Trae Young? Sure, you can talk me into that as a flyer. But he can’t be 13th in MVP value right now. His primary value is scoring and he doesn’t score enough to be among the league’s best in that category and he doesn’t do enough as a facilitator to make up for that. Again, a terrific player who could be an All-NBA candidate, but there’s just so far to go to be in the MVP-caliber tier.