Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo
- At the beginning of the year, I built an NBA MVP model to predict the upcoming race. I'll be updating its results throughout the year.
- As of today, preseason favorites Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis lead the model and betting market.
At the beginning of the season, I built an NBA MVP model to predict this year’s race. It has a few more variables than the Rookie of the Year one, and I think narratives come into play more with MVPs than rookies, but there are still a couple of key metrics that have done well predicting past MVP races.
Throughout the year, I’ll be sharing the results of the model and where players stand in the race.
There’s been a lot of shifting early in the season, with Stephen Curry taking an early lead but dropping due to missing a chunk of games with an injury. In his absence, his teammate, Kevin Durant, jumped up the leaderboard.
Things have since stabilized a bit, and as boring as it might be, the preseason favorites to win the award — the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis — now sit atop my model.
Before we completely dive in, though, here are the MVP ratings (from 0 to 10) as they stand today.
2018-19 NBA MVP Ratings
Giannis currently leads the field, and his odds reflect that: He’s at +250 to take home the award, with only Anthony Davis (+500) and LeBron James (+550) below 7/1 in the betting market.
The Bucks sit first in the NBA in point differential, which is more predictive of future success than just pure win-loss record. That’s a good sign for Giannis and Co. to continue to put up wins, and they now sit tied for second in the NBA with a .690 win rate (Toronto is first at .719).
Davis is an awesome candidate, and by most metrics he deserves to be right up there with Giannis and the field. But he’s not really getting a ton of buzz in the NBA landscape right now, mostly because the Pelicans are below .500.
On one hand, that record has to improve for him to take home the award or even be in contention. But, on the other hand, think how dominant his other stats have to be for him still to rank highly in my model and the overall betting market. Of note, he leads the entire NBA in pretty much all of the advanced metrics — PER (29.7), VORP (2.8) and Win Shares (5.2).
This does seem to be shaping up to preseason expectations, although LeBron and the Warriors guys will put some pressure on the young guys. Durant has lost his lead with Steph’s return, and it’s notable that the former is getting so much less buzz than his teammate despite having better raw stats due to playing much more so far this year.
LeBron is the lurking giant: The Lakers are up to a .600 win rate, and The King predictably has stellar marks across the board, particularly in the advanced stats categories. He has the narrative of taking what was a poor Lakers team a year ago and taking them into what looks to be a playoff run.
But it’ll be hard to overcome the season of Giannis, who has continued to take leap after leap in his age-24 season. He’s definitely the best player on the team with the league’s best point differential — that matters. But if you want to bet him, you’ll have to pay a high price of just +250 to do so.