NBA Finals MVP Odds & Betting Analysis: The Case for Jayson Tatum, Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole and More

NBA Finals MVP Odds & Betting Analysis: The Case for Jayson Tatum, Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole and More article feature image

Getty Images. Pictured (top from left): Draymond Green #23, Stephen Curry #30 and Jordan Poole #3 of the Golden State Warriors; (bottom from left) Jaylen Brown #7, Jayson Tatum #0 and Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics.

  • NBA Finals MVP often goes to the star player and face of the winning franchise. So it's no surprise that Stephen Curry and Jayson Tatum are favorites.
  • Action analyst Brandon Anderson gives a long look at 10 players who could win NBA Finals MVP in Warriors-Celtics.
  • Check out his betting analysis and favorite pick below.

We made it to the NBA Finals, and there are only two awards left to give out.

One team will win the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy, and one deserving player — almost certainly from that winning team — will be named the 2022 Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP.

Just 31 players in NBA history have been named Finals MVP since the inception of the award in 1969, so it's an incredibly prestigious list. All but one eligible retired Finals MVP (Cedric Maxwell) is in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. All but one Finals MVP was on the winning team, and a majority of them led the title team in scoring.

So who will be this year's Finals MVP, and how should we bet it? Here are 10 names who could win the award in increasing order of betting value.

Note: Best lines available at accompanying books as of publishing Tuesday.

10. Andrew Wiggins +4100 (FanDuel)

Wiggins was fantastic in the Western Conference Finals. He defended Luka Doncic well on one end and went at him relentlessly at the other, scoring with relative efficiency and tiring out the opponent's superstar as Golden State continually pulled away in the second half. Wiggins was everything the Warriors dreamed he could be in that series: the ultimate glue guy.

And yet… you didn't hear Wiggins get any real MVP buzz, did you? Maybe Wiggins does the same against Jayson Tatum this series, though it's not as kind a matchup on either end. But even if he does, if he didn't get MVP credit last round, why would the voters start now at the highest level?

9. Grant Williams +40000 (PointsBet)

If you're looking for a true long shot to throw a buck on, maybe it's Grant Williams. It feels like this series is destined to go small, and I'm not sure that leaves a big role for Kevon Looney or the injured Robert Williams. It does, by necessity then, push Grant Williams into a bigger role.

Williams gets compared to Draymond Green, and the Warriors really came together back in 2015 when Green was inserted into the starting lineup. Could the Celtics go small mid-series, start Grant Williams, see him out-duel the older Green, and turn the tide of the series?

Add in stout defense and some timely 3s, and maybe you get a Finals MVP a la Andre Iguodala, another bench player who became a starter mid-series in 2015 and helped change history.

8. Klay Thompson +1600 (BetRivers)

Thompson returned to the playoffs with a flourish, averaging 24.5 points and 5.3 3s his first four games, taking on a bigger role with Steph Curry limited. But as Curry returned to power, Thompson's numbers have receded to 18.3 points and 3.0 treys a game on 36%. Still impressive, but hardly MVP material.

Maybe Curry struggles to score and Klay hits a barrage of 3s in a couple key games. Perhaps he goes Game 6 Klay on the road and hits like eight 3s to win the title. Thompson has an obvious narrative path with the long injury return, and his defense against the Boston wings will be important. It's not outlandish.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images. Pictured: Golden State Warrios star Klay Thompson.

Still, Thompson has scored more than 21 points only twice his last 12 games. He's not the eighth-most likely Finals MVP, but there's little value on this number.

If you like Klay, you're better off waiting for one of those inevitable off shooting nights and betting him at a longer price afterward, or maybe just playing him to lead the series in 3s (+430 at FanDuel).

7. Draymond Green +1800 (DraftKings)

Curry is the Warriors' franchise superstar, but Draymond Green has always been the heart and soul of this team. He is absolutely central to everything the team does well at both ends, and his absence in the second half of the season was why this team fell off some and threw us off the scent.

This may turn out to be a defensive series, and Green is probably still sore that Marcus Smart has that DPOY trophy he thought he deserved. If the Warriors grind out a long, tough seven-game series win, and Green makes a game-saving defensive play or two along the way, could he be in the mix?

It's possible. But even in today's era of advanced metrics, voters still reward points and raw numbers. Maybe Green gets a triple-double or two, but it's just as likely he posts a line with something like 12 rebounds, 10 rebounds… and seven points. All but two Finals MVPs have averaged at least 16 points, and Green might be lucky to have half that. He may well be the most valuable player on the title team, but that doesn't mean he'll get the votes.

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6. Al Horford +12000 (DraftKings)

You can make a real argument that Al Horford has been Boston's best and most consistent player this postseason. He leads the team at 5.7 Box Plus-Minus, and he's done whatever the team has needed. Against Milwaukee he was a big scorer, and he crashed the boards against Miami.

Maybe Horford, not Grant Williams, is Boston's version of Draymond Green. Horford has waited a long time since those two Florida NCAA championships to get this chance in the Finals, and unlike Green, he actually scores too.

If Horford plays huge minutes with Boston's Williams duo limited and does a bit of everything — scoring, rebounding, assisting, and defending — could the voters give big Al something of a lifetime achievement award?

I still think the numbers won't be there at just 11.9 PPG this postseason, but you can't argue with the price. He's an intriguing long shot and my colleague Matt Moore's pick.

5. Jordan Poole +3000 (DraftKings)

If the Warriors win the title, they'll almost certainly need a big series from young Jordan Poole, a real bellwether of team success.

When Poole scores at least 15, the Warriors are nearly unbeatable at 9-1, buoyed by Poole's 64% from the field. But when Poole is held below 15, Golden State is just 4-3, and his shooting plummets all the way below 33%.

Boston's bench doesn't have much scoring punch, so maybe Poole won't get targeted as much defensively as he has in recent series. Could he light up Derrick White and Payton Pritchard by hitting 3s and driving to the rim?

When Poole gets hot, he can really fill it up. Over the final 20 games of the regular season, he averaged around 26/4/5 on 50/45/91 shooting.

Eric Espada/Getty Images. Pictured: Jordan Poole #3 of the Golden State Warriors.

To get numbers anywhere near that, Poole will likely have to start the series so well that he gets inserted into the starting lineup as Golden State plays its Death Poole lineup to go for the title and increase his minutes. Only Iguodala has ever won the Finals MVP off the bench, and he started mid-series too.

I'm loving my 200-to-1 Poole ticket from before the playoffs, but it's tough to tout a bench player at 30-to-1. Still, if the Warriors do win this, Poole will need to play a big role, and he'd have the narrative as the bridge to the next Golden State generation as the team stays light years ahead.

4. Jaylen Brown +1100 (DraftKings)

Brown was my repeated pick for Eastern Conference Finals MVP, and… sigh. Brown was right there. Make those late free throws in Game 6 or hit the big shots in Game 7 late instead of Tatum, and maybe things turn out differently. Alas.

Brown has a similar case for Finals MVP. He's Boston's secondary scorer and should find avenues to attack a smaller Golden State lineup. He's the guy the Celtics need to attack Poole in those bench minutes while Tatum catches his breath. But Brown struggles as a dribbler and at the free throw line, which means he tends to fade a bit late, just when we want our MVPs to play big.

Brown will have a similar case to Tatum, but perhaps that's the problem. Tatum ended up with more points, rebounds, and assists last series even though it was close, and he's the better defender and starrier name.

If the two have similar cases, Tatum will always be the default. Brown is a real Finals MVP option but will have to really outplay his teammate. Brown isn't a great value at +1100, but keep an eye out for a longer price worth playing later.

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3. Marcus Smart +4500 (DraftKings)

The Finals MVP almost always just goes to the top scorer on the winning team. Just that description alone covers 12 of the last 14 winners — everyone but Iguodala in 2015 and Kawhi Leonard in 2014. And what did those two have in common? They won MVP in large part because of their defensive roles against the opposing team's superstar.

Enter Marcus Smart.

Smart is the Defensive Player of the Year, and he has designs to make life absolutely miserable for Steph Curry. Smart is physical, tough, and strong, and he's given Curry real issues in the past.

Curry has had some really tough shooting outings against Boston, and Smart is one of a precious few guards in the league who might have the ability to hang with, and maybe even partially shut down, Curry without much help.

Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images. Pictured: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics.

Smart averages 15.5 PPG this postseason, but he has five 20-point games. He can be a streaky scorer, and he has a knack for the big moment, always willing to take the big shot, for better and for worse. He's posted big numbers in games against the Warriors: 18.2 points, 3.8 3s, and 6.5 assists per game over his last five outings against a team that will force him to hit his shots.

Smart could make the game-winning play at either end, and if he puts up something like 16/4/6 while also limiting Curry en route to a title, he could get the Kawhi 2014 MVP.

Smart is the X-factor, and he is not afraid of the moment. He's a long shot to win, but there's a real path. This is my favorite value bet on the entire board.

2. Steph Curry +120 (FanDuel)

Curry is the MVP betting favorite, and the case for Curry is easy: he's the best player on the best team and Finals favorite. He'll likely lead the team in scoring, and the narrative case is easy since everyone's been talking about Curry not having a Finals MVP yet for years.

If the Warriors do win the title, it sure feels like Curry will have to play well enough to win Finals MVP. The question is whether he can.

No team in the NBA is better suited to defend Curry than Boston. Smart is a nightmare one-on-one matchup , and Boston's long wings will be a problem when switched onto him.

Look, part of the reason Curry doesn't have a Finals MVP yet is because his smaller stature allows elite defensive opponents to zero in on him and limit his powers at the highest level since he can't just rise and fire over the defense like Kevin Durant could. Boston has limited Curry better than any team in the NBA for almost a decade.

Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors and Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics.

That's why I'm leaning toward Boston in the series, and Curry won't win MVP if the Warriors don't win. But if they do win, it'll almost certainly have to be because Curry found a way to beat this elite defense four times — and if he does that, he'll be an easy Finals MVP pick.

Betting a Finals MVP from the Warriors feels like Steph or no one to me. The Warriors are -150 to win the title at DraftKings, an implied 60%. At +120 Curry is an implied 45.5%, meaning he'd have to win Finals MVP in 75.8% of all Ws title wins for this bet to have value. That number feels low and in our favor.

If you believe in the Warriors, this is a great way to get a better price on a Golden State title.

1. Jayson Tatum (+175 FanDuel)

In the end, Tatum is my best bet to win Finals MVP because he's the best player on the team I expect to win the NBA championship.

Tatum just won the inaugural Larry Bird ECF MVP trophy, and he could very well leave Boston in all three major counting stats. He's scoring 27.0 PPG in the playoffs and adding 5.9 assists per game with increased playmaking, and his assist numbers are even higher in wins. He's also a good defender, so he could help limit one of Golden State's main scoring options.

And as we already know, it's Tatum who will have the ball late with the game in the balance. He hit two ice-cold shots late in Game 7 to keep Boston in front of Miami, and he's the guy taking those shots for this team because Brown can't dribble or create well, and Smart isn't a naturally efficient scorer.

Sometimes the easiest answer is also the best one. The Finals MVP is almost always the top scorer on the champion. If you like Boston, Tatum is your most likely MVP winner.

The only reason I won't bet Tatum yet is because I love the Warriors in Game 1. If Golden State does win, that should push Tatum to 4-1 or longer, and that's a spot I'll look to grab him as a way to bet on Boston.

Right now at +175 and implied 36.4%, Tatum would have to win Finals MVP in 83.6% of all Boston series wins to have value here. That's too much to pay right now, but Tatum is my most likely Finals MVP, so I'm waiting for Boston to trail in the series and looking for a chance to strike.

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Nick Sterling
Jul 21, 2024 UTC