NBA Finals Preview: Get the Best Value from Betting Series MVP
Christian Petersen/Getty Images. Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo (left) and Devin Booker.
The Milwaukee Bucks, like literal deer vaulting over backyard fencing, leaped back into their NBA Finals series vs. the Suns with their Game 3 win on Sunday.
Still, Phoenix holds home-court advantage, which means the Bucks have to win three of the next four games, including at least one road game. The series price for the Suns at BetMGM is -275, with an implied probability of 73.3%, while the Bucks are at +225 with a 30% implied probability.
However, any bettor shouldn’t look to the series line regardless if you think the Bucks or Suns’ odds are too long. There are much better odds right under the hood in Finals MVP.
Chris Paul is -165, Devin Booker is +600, and Giannis Antetokounmpo is +240.
If You Like the Suns
Booker has shot 31% from the field outside of the second half of Game 2. He had good numbers in Game 1 thanks to a high free throw count that is difficult to replicate. But ultimately, Booker’s play through three games has been less than spectacular.
Booker is averaging 23 points, four rebounds, and five assists on 38-33-87 shooting splits (🤮).
Chris Paul, on the other hand, is averaging 25 points, 3 boards, and 9 assists with 57-50-75 shooting splits.
If those lines were reversed, I would put Finals MVP between the two as a pick’em, if the Suns were to win the title. That’s how much of a narrative edge Paul holds.
You can think it’s not fair to regard Paul as this much of a driving force for the Suns’ success after their bubble performance last fall, but even recognizing that they were in a good place going into this season regardless, there is a post hoc ergo propter hoc happening here.
The Suns were not a playoff team. They traded for Paul. They are in the Finals.
All the other factors here are “To be sure (X, Y, Z),” but Paul is a main carrier of narrative. His Finals MVP can’t be awarded as a lifetime achievement award if Booker was clearly better, but Booker hasn’t been through two of the four wins the Suns need.
Booker would have to resoundingly outplay Paul over the course of the Suns’ final two wins. It could not be “Paul had a really good game, but Booker was phenomenal.” It would have to be, “Devin Booker reached his basketball zenith, a level few players have even briefly scraped and Chris Paul was decidedly pretty bad. Booker knew briefly what it was to be a basketball god and Chris Paul became Mario Chalmers. And not even the good years of Mario Chalmers, the bad Mario Chalmers years.”
As a good example, Booker had 31-5-6 in Game 2 and wasn’t the main storyline; it was the Suns’ impressive shooting from 3-point range as a team (20-of-40) and Mikal Bridges’ 27 points that stole headlines.
For all these reasons, I think you can equate the Suns winning and Paul winning Finals MVP at 1:1. Jae Crowder has played great defense and shot the lights out the last two games but isn’t playing at a Kawhi Leonard-2014 or Andre -2015 level defensively, and as dominant as Giannis Antetokounmpo has been, he’s not LeBron James.
Getting Paul at -165 (implied probability 62.3%) and betting it at the same probability as the Suns’ -275 (73.3% implied) gets you 17.24% in expected value via our Action EV calculator.
If you think the Suns are going to win the series (and I do, still), then you’re getting much better value by just betting Paul, once you factor that there are very few realistic outcomes that would see anyone but Paul winning Finals MVP.
If You Like the Bucks
This one’s a lot simpler.
- came back from a hyperextended knee,
- has averaged 34 points, 14 rebounds and 5 assists with 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks per game while shooting 63% from the field
- and has an on-court net rating of 10.3, the best of any player in the series.
The Bucks have outscored the Suns by 24 points when Giannis has been on the floor and been outscored by 27 points when he’s been on the bench.
Khris Middleton could become Michael Jordan in the Bucks’ final three wins and might not even get top billing. Jrue Holiday certainly isn’t stealing it. There’s no other Bucks player good enough to put up the numbers to pass Antetokounmpo.
If you like the Bucks, you can bet Antetokounmpo to win MVP at +240 (29.41% implied) vs. the Bucks at +225 (30.77% implied) and get 4.62% expected value on the bet.
Whether you like the Bucks or Suns, the value is narrow on the series price, given the Suns are up 2-1 with home-court. If the Bucks win Game 4, the Suns’ value will of course improve, while the Bucks’ odds tighten. Now is definitely the time to bet Milwaukee if you believe they get back in the series, while the Suns odds may improve as long as you don’t believe the Suns will close the series out in five.
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