Moore: Finding the Best NBA Finals MVP Betting Position

Moore: Finding the Best NBA Finals MVP Betting Position article feature image
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Photo credit: USAToday Sports. Pictured: Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green

  • Steph Curry (-140) is currently a large favorite to win his first NBA Finals MVP award.
  • Matt Moore (@HPBasketball) analyzes the race by taking 100 betting units and walking through four interesting ways to allocate that amount.

I’ll tell you one thing that’s not going to happen in the NBA Finals.

“Warriors lead 95-94, three minutes remaining here in Game 2!”

Lights go out:

The music hits.

“By God, that’s LeBron’s music!”

LeBron proceeds to dunk on both teams, locking them both up and then posing to the crowd.

That’s not going to happen. We know the range of who’s going to win Finals MVP, meaning there’s an opportunity to leverage a position and come out ahead. Let’s go ahead and take 100 units (whatever that means to you in terms of dollar amount) and see if we can’t workshop the best situation.

NBA Finals MVP Odds (via Westgate SuperBook)

Stephen Curry: -140
Kawhi Leonard: +250
Draymond Green: +1000
Kevin Durant: +2000
Klay Thompson: +1400
Pascal Siakam: +4000
Kyle Lowry: +4000
Andre Iguodala: +20,000
Marc Gasol: +10,000
Fred VanVleet: +30,000
Serge Ibaka: +30,000
Field (all others): +10,000

Alright, so let’s start here: There’s no combination of stakes that makes taking Curry and Leonard the smart play. Putting 75 units on Curry at -140 yields 54, and putting 25 on Leonard yields 63. You can effectively hedge Curry with Leonard under the following construct: If the Warriors win, Curry wins it; if the Raptors win, Leonard does.

If you’re in on the Raptors to win the series, you can build a position with Leonard as the largest stake and then take the Raptors’ longshots — particularly Pascal Siakam.

The same is true with Curry. You’re effectively leveraging the two favorites as hedges against the longshots.

[A brief word on Kevin Durant: The assumption is that he’s out for at least Games 1 and 2, and Game 3 is looking shaky as hell… but he did travel with the team to Toronto. Voters are simply not going to give him the award if he misses at least 43% of the total games played. One game, though?

Now… that said, I’m not going to be shocked if he suddenly winds up moving from out to questionable to playing by Game 2, which changes the dynamics. If the Warriors win and Curry doesn’t go supernova, it’ll just be easier if Durant wins it. I genuinely don’t believe he’ll play enough to win, and I am simultaneously genuinely terrified he will. Injuries, especially leg injuries like this, are big deals until they’re suddenly not.]

The losing team isn’t going to generate the MVP in this series. It’s possible in the future, but to let you know what the bar is — LeBron didn’t win it in any of his three losses despite absolutely superhuman numbers.

If you want the most simple answer, just load up on Curry and be done. He’s the favorite for a reason. He’s the best player on the Warriors when Durant’s not on the floor, and Durant’s not on the floor.

But the better value is to use Curry as a hedge.


Plan 1: Ride the Big 3

  • Curry: 70 units at -140, 50 units won = total 120 units (+20)
  • Green: 20 units at +1000, 200 won = total 220 units (+120)
  • Thompson: 10 units at +1400, 140 won = total 150 units (+50)

You’re slightly ahead on Curry while giving yourself two longshot positions on the other Warriors likely to win it with Durant injured. After all, we’ve had four straight Finals where Curry didn’t win it. That’s a pretty clear pattern.

Green is a really valuable get here. If he has a magnificent defensive series where Leonard is shut down (a la 2015 with Andre Iguodala), and Green manages to fill some of the scoring gaps by attacking, he’s going to be a popular draw from the voters.

Thompson’s matchup isn’t great in this series. He’s going to get a healthy dose of Kawhi Leonard at times and Danny Green the rest. But he’s also a player who will blister the nets if he gets hot, and his defense will be notable as well.


Plan 2: The Kawhi Hedge

  • Kawhi Leonard: 50 units at +250, 125 won = total 175 units (+75)
  • Pascal Siakam: 25 units at +4000, 1000 won = total 1025 units (+925)
  • Kyle Lowry: 25 units at +4000, 1000 won = total 1025 units (+925)

Same principles as the Curry hedge above, only with the Raptors, where you’re getting higher return based on the unlikelihood of the Raptors winning. You can use this whole package as a hedge against a Warriors series price play or to double down on a Raptors win.

Getting Leonard at plus money helps you come out ahead, and Siakam is my favorite value on the board. He averaged almost 20 points per game in the regular season vs. the Warriors, and he’s got favorable matchups all over. He’s like Draymond Green, only hyper-athletic, and he’ll have showcase opportunities against Green early and Durant late.

Lowry is the feel-good story and probably the second-best player on the Raptors — yet he’s still at +4000.


Plan 3: The Durant Play

Let’s say the Warriors lose Game 1 — or Games 1 and 2 — Durant returns and then they win the series. That’s probably going to compensate for his absence in the minds of the voters.

  • Kevin Durant: 50 units at +2000, 1000 won = total 1050 units (+950)
  • Kawhi Leonard: 50 units at +250, 125 won = total 175 units (+75)

OR

  • Kevin Durant: 30 units at +2000, 600 won = total 630 units (+530)
  • Steph Curry: 70 units at -140, 50 won = total 120 units (+20)

You’re slightly ahead on Curry, striking big with Durant and you’ve got the most likely angles of the Warriors winning covered.


Plan 4: Let’s Get Nuts and Burn Some Money

  • Kevin Durant: 50 units at +2000, 1000 won = total 1050 units (+950)
  • Pascal Siakam: 30 units at +4000, 1200 won = total 1230 units (+1130)
  • The Field: 20 units at +10,000, 2000 won = total 2020 units (+1920)

Here’s all you need: The Warriors lose Game 1 without Durant, he returns for Game 2 and the Warriors win.

Now, from there, yes, you have two Raptors longshots. I went over why I like Siakam. The other bet is the field, which is basically built on OG Anunoby. Yes, OG Anunoby. He could be the Andre Iguodala of this series if Durant struggles when he comes back due to injury and the Raptors win.

This plan is insane, which is why I like it so much.