Moore: Breaking Down Early 2020 NBA MVP Odds After Anthony Davis-Lakers Trade

Moore: Breaking Down Early 2020 NBA MVP Odds After Anthony Davis-Lakers Trade article feature image
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Photo credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Anthony Davis and LeBron James

  • After the Anthony Davis-Lakers trade was announced, sportsbooks released 2019-20 NBA MVP odds.
  • Matt Moore (@HPBasketball) dives in to see which player presents the most early value.

Anthony Davis is a Laker.

Well, I mean, he will be, eventually. At some point.

Regardless, the Lakers have agreed in principle to a deal with the Pelicans to send Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, three first-rounders (including this year’s No. 4 pick) and a pick swap in 2023 to the Pels in exchange for the All-Star big man.

There’s still so much to figure out with the draft tomorrow night, let alone free agency with so many players on the market. One thing we can start getting a sense of, however, is how the MVP race is already shaping up for next season.

(Yes, the answer to your question is “We do not have an offseason of any kind anymore, especially when it comes to betting.”)

Go peruse the odds from Caesar’s first, come back and let’s dig into some sweet, sweet value.

THE LAKERS GUYS

Can’t say “Lakers boys” because LeBron’s 35 next season. LeBron and Davis are both 7-1, with a DraftKings early bet at +265 for either one, so of course you’re much better off taking the 7-1 on both guys independently.

Here’s what the bar has to be for them to win:

  • 55-plus wins; usually the bar is 50 (with outliers like Russell Westbrook in 2017), but for a team with two stars, you had better be closer to 60 than 50
  • Statistical dominance with a specific highlight in a key category (points, assists, net rating, Real Plus-Minus)
  • A significant absence from the other star

That’s a high bar, but that’s what they have to get to. If LeBron misses time, Davis carries them and they win at a 70% clip with both of them, while Davis puts up a 30-15-ish line, that gets him into the conversation. But with LeBron, his usage likely won’t be that high nor will the perceived burden or minutes. It’s the same formula with James: If Davis misses two months of the season and James just goes wild in that stretch, it puts him in the serious conversation.

There will always be a generosity towards the Lakers from the media. Enough media is based in L.A. and sees the team on a regular basis to form a small availability bias. Further, the team will be on national television every week and both players carry strong narratives.

For James, it’s one last ride of dominant GOAT status and a fifth MVP to tie Jordan and Russell. For Davis, it’s “finally we get to appreciate the Brow,” which is stupid because had he just played out the season last year he likely would have forced his way into the conversation. (Davis was among the favorites to start the season before his trade demand.)

The rest of the roster will decide much of this. If they add a third star (which is a complicated process involving when the trade is completed; just know it’s not guaranteed they’ll get a max third star) then the concept will be that these players have too much help, a la the Warriors. If they don’t, then there may be a benefit in ‘dragging’ a mediocre team, and the roster might be better anyway.

In other words, there’s better value on either/both players at 7-1 if they don’t get a third star rather than what may be viewed as a better team with another star. Competent role players and depth would help them win enough games shorthanded; with three stars, they may suffer from the perception of a talent overload.

All in all, there’s good value on using this combination under the following conditions:

  • As a hedge against a favorite bet (Giannis Antetokounmpo +300, James Harden +350)
  • They don’t sign a third star
  • LeBron’s production schedule for movies/TV lightens up

THE OTHER OPTIONS

Giannis Antetokounmpo (+300): A great choice, but you want to wait until you see the Bucks’ offseason. Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon and Brook Lopez are all free agents, and there’s bound to be some regression from last year for the team, even if Antetokounmpo improves. You’ll be able to get something as close to that number by August.

James Harden (+350): NOPE. Not after the Yahoo Report that Chris Paul has demanded out and the situation is unsalvageable. Harden’s also going into his third year with an astronomic workload. There’s some upside here with the Rockets’ intention of adding another star through trades or free agency, but it’s at least worth waiting to see what those moves are.

Steph Curry (+600): Love this one. Klay Thompson is expected back by March. You’ll get a pretty clear sign of what the Warriors are going to do in free agency in terms of improving the bench while they re-sign whoever is willing to re-sign, but it’s worth getting out in front.

Curry unleashed could be something to behold, at least for the regular season. His usage will return to 2016 levels or higher, and he’ll have to put up big numbers. There’s a chance the team either tanks out or completely coasts for two months to make a late run once Thompson is back, but bear in mind Curry has consistently been the most impactful player in the league year in and year out in terms of team success with him on the floor vs. off.

Him having a huge statistical season and leading the Warriors to 50 wins would present an attractive narrative for voters. At +600 this is great value.

Nikola Jokic (+1000): Can’t see it. The Nuggets should experience some natural regression. Jokic just played the longest season of his life, will play for Serbia in FIBA play this summer and then will have to go immediately back into NBA play. That’s just a lot of workload for a young guy. The team success likely drags a bit, and Jokic didn’t generate enough conversation last year when he was deserving. The bar is too high for him in an NBA market like Denver.

Joel Embiid (+1000): This one is choice. It’s 10-1, so you can hedge it with something shorter against his injury history, but with Boston falling off and who knows what happens with Kawhi Leonard, there’s a good chance the Sixers — the No. 3 seed this year — rise up the ladder.

Here’s another reason to love Embiid beyond his impact on both ends: We’re likely to see a huge spike in “load management” for stars next season after the Raptors won the title with Kawhi Leonard resting 20-plus games. That fundamentally alters the bar for how many games a player like Embiid needs to play. Embiid played 64 to Leonard’s 60 this year, and while Leonard wasn’t in the MVP conversation in part due to that, the discussion is set to change. There’s not a better time to get in on injury-prone MVP candidates.

Paul George (+1800): He was firmly No. 3 in the conversation and danced with No. 1 mid-season before suffering his shoulder injury late in the year. He was playing his best basketball and was a serious DPOY candidate as well. If the Thunder take advantage of the turmoil in the West? This is incredible value. The only problem? When have the Thunder ever taken advantage of their situation?

Zion Williamson (+5000): Nah, I’m just playin’. (Unless you gonna do it.)

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