Earlier this week, we looked at James Harden’s MVP odds and the chances he finally claims the award. As the current +125 favorite, he appears to be well positioned to raise the trophy at the end of the season. But as we’ve seen twice in the last three years, voters aren’t particularly fond of The Beard.
These are the next four players in line for the award should MVP voters rob Harden yet again.
LeBron James (+350)
The King is always in the hunt for the award and will no doubt be eager to claim his fifth MVP trophy, which would tie him with Michael Jordan.
James is the heart and soul of everything the Cavaliers do yet again, and he’s putting up MVP-caliber numbers with a less than stellar supporting cast.
James is also second in the league in win shares (4.4) and offensive win shares (3.6).
But how long will James’ astronomical production last?
Isaiah Thomas is reportedly “steps away” from a return that is expected to be before Christmas. As an outstanding fourth-quarter scorer, we can assume Thomas will take points away from James, who has scored most of his points (9.6 per game) in the last 12 minutes of games this season.
Unlike Harden who has posted monster numbers with a high-profile teammate (Chris Paul) returning to the lineup, we don’t know the Cavaliers look like with James and Thomas side by side.
It might be best to see how the pair coexists before getting too excited about James’ attractive +350 odds.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (+400)
After a hot start to the season, the Greek Freak has cooled off somewhat. He averaged 34.6 points per game in his first six, but that number has dropped to 29.7 now that he’s 18 games into the season.
There’s a lot of discussion surrounding the way Jason Kidd uses Giannis, and not a lot of it is complimentary towards the Bucks’ coach. And after Antetokoumpo’s altercation with assistant coach Sean Sweeney on Sunday, the fifth-year pro isn’t overly pleased with the coaching staff either.
It could all go horribly wrong in Milwaukee any moment now. Following the news of David Fizdale’s firing – arguably the ideal coach for Antetokounmpo – the clock is ticking a little faster on Kidd’s future with the franchise.
Antetokounmpo is widely considered to be a future MVP of the league, but with the Bucks only projected to win 42 games, Antetokoumpo will fall well short of the unofficial minimum win total.
I’d steer clear of Giannis for now.
Kyrie Irving (+1000)
Irving is the dark horse for me.
We’ve seen media-driven narratives single-handedly gift players the MVP award before; see Derrick Rose in 2011. Rose opened as a +2500 outsider, but an array of dunks, a No. 1 seed and the opportunity to crown the youngest MVP in history was reason enough for the voters on that occasion.
Now we’ve got Irving, who opened the season at +1700. His numbers are nowhere near those of Harden, James or Antetokounmpo, but still, he remains in the conversation.
Irving has removed himself from LeBron’s shadow. He wanted to be “the guy” and became so – and even more when the Celtics lost Gordon Hayward five minutes into the season. Boston already has notched a 16-game winning streak and currently boasts the best record in the league, so the story of another hype-inspired MVP is writing itself.
The total number of wins will be what voters consider most down the stretch. If the Celtics can replicate the 2010-11 Bulls and finish the season with the NBA’s best record, we’re all going to be wishing we got on Irving to win the MVP at those inflated opening odds.
Russell Westbrook (+1000)
To be honest, Westbrook shouldn’t even be on the list. He’s there for the squares who are still hyped about him averaging a triple-double last season.
The Thunder simply isn’t good enough, and Westbrook isn’t producing the triple-double average that allowed him to be the first MVP since 1982 on a team with fewer than 50 wins last season.
The integration of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony doesn’t appear to be going as planned. Even in the moments they play well, there’s isn’t a lot to suggest they are anything more than a losing team in the first round of the playoffs.
Stay away from Westbrook in the MVP market. If you’re looking for an outsider, any one of the remaining top 10 is a better way to go:
Steph Curry (+1400)
Kevin Durant (+1400)
Kristaps Porzingis (+2000)
Anthony Davis (+2500)
Kawhi Leonard (+3300)
All odds taken from William Hill
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