Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) warms up before game one of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo has moved from +325 to +220 to win the NBA MVP over the past month, widening the gap between him and his closest competitors.
- Five of the next six top contenders have seen their odds drop over the last month, with LeBron James (+550) falling the most in terms of implied probability.
- Joel Embiid (+800) and Kevin Durant (+1200) are two of three other players besides Antetokounmpo to have their odds improve since last month.
We’re more than a quarter of the way through the 2018-19 NBA season and the MVP race has firmly taken shape.
With the Milwaukee Bucks at 15-7 and in second place in the Eastern Conference, the Greek Freak — Giannis Antetokounmpo — has given prospective MVP voters plenty of reasons to buy into the hype thus far.
A month ago, Antetokounmpo was favored, but he had some close company. According to the oddsmakers, he’s widened the gap substantially.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: +325 to +220 (+7.8% Implied Probability)
Anthony Davis may have the best player efficiency rating (PER) in the league, but the Pelicans remain a mediocre team at 12-12. Giannis trails The Brow by a hair in PER, but the Bucks are finally looking like a great team, something that hasn’t been the case the past couple of years.
With a gaudy 27.6-13.2-6.0 stat line, Antetokounmpo has improved on all of his major stats since last season. Those numbers combined with a high seed in the playoffs should make for an excellent MVP case.
Joel Embiid: +1400 to +800 (+4.4% IP)
Embiid posted a monster month of November, with eight games of at least 30 points and two in which he eclipsed 40.
The big man hasn’t been restricted due to his injury history this season and it’s clear that he can put up MVP-caliber numbers when playing regular minutes.
At 17-8, Philly is right there with the Bucks looking up at Toronto for the top spot in the East.
Kevin Durant: +1600 to +1200 (+1.8% IP)
With Steph Curry and Draymond Green both missing some time, KD has put the Warriors on his back. Golden State has certainly struggled in that time, winning just four of its past 10 games, but Durant has put up big numbers.
He’s averaging over 40 points in his past five games and is now up to an even 30 points per game on the year.
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LeBron James: +450 to +550 (-2.8% IP)
After a slow start, the Lakers have been a much-improved team, only losing three games since our last MVP odds update. Obviously, any success they have will be attributed to LeBron and for the first time in a while, he’s the only established superstar on his team.
Shockingly enough, JaVale McGee has been a huge factor for them. If LeBron continues to get help from his role players, the Lakers should be able to push for 50+ wins and keep The King in the MVP running.
Kawhi Leonard: +650 to +850 (-2.8% IP)
I’m a bit surprised that Leonard’s odds are not better. His numbers are not quite as good as those of Antetokounmpo or Davis, but the Raptors are the best team in the NBA right now.
I suppose a natural comeback for that argument would be that Toronto finished with the top seed in the Eastern Conference last year, which is true.
I’d still argue that +850 is good value for Leonard, given his two-way presence and the Raptors’ success.
Steph Curry: +650 to +800 (-2.2% IP)
After missing 11 games, Curry has returned, but his odds have taken a bit of a hit. It’s hard to miss one-eighth of the season and not have your odds get worse, but one could argue that he’s proven his value even more by missing those games.
The Warriors went just 5-6 without him, which is pretty lame considering they still had Durant and Klay Thompson, among others.
Before the season began, one oddsmaker felt Curry was more valuable to the spread than Durant, saying ““As incredible as Kevin Durant is, Curry’s the engine of that offense.”
This latest Curry-less stint essentially proves that point.