Is There Any Value in Betting on the NBA MVP Race?
The race for the 2019-20 Most Valuable Player (MVP) award is, for all intents and purposes, coming down to two players. However, unlike last season when it also boiled down to two contenders, this year's race doesn't seem nearly as close.
Over at FanDuel Sportsbook, Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning MVP, is listed as the overwhelming favorite, with odds of -2400. The only other player with odds shorter than 80/1 is Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James, who comes in at +1100.
James is a four-time winner of the award, though he hasn't brought home the hardware since 2013. Meanwhile, Antetokounmpo is attempting to become the fifth player to win back-to-back MVPs since Michael Jordan did it in '91 and '92.
Giannis being the heavy favorite is well earned, but is there any value in betting on LeBron to pull off the upset?
Why Giannis Is the Favorite
Let's start with the easy one. Giannis is leading a Bucks team that has an NBA-best 53-12 record. Milwaukee is 48-9 with the Greek Freak active.
Last season, Giannis won MVP despite playing just 32.8 minutes per game, the second-lowest total in history among MVP winners, only behind Curry's 32.7 in 2014-15. He averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 2.8 steals plus blocks per game, all while shooting 57.8% from the field.
Though his 2018-19 season was impressive, his 2019-20 campaign is nothing short of phenomenal. Giannis is recording career-highs with 29.6 points and 13.7 rebounds, while adding 5.8 assists and 2.0 blocks plus steals for good measure. Giannis is also hitting a career-best 1.5 three-pointers on 30.6% from behind the arc. Incredibly, he's doing all this while averaging just 30.9 minutes per game.
That's not all.
Giannis is also on pace to become the first player since Wilt Chamberlain in 1966 to average at least 29 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists per contest. Wilt did while being on the court for 16.4 more minutes than Giannis is this season. For context, 16.4 minutes is 34.2% of an NBA game.
The Deer hold the NBA's best defensive rating (101.6) and allow the lowest opponent field goal percentage (41.3%), and much of that is thanks to the MVP. Antetokounmpo leads the association in defensive rating, defensive win shares, box plus/minus, and win shares per 48 minutes.
The way Giannis impacted the Bucks has been nothing short of incredible, and he's a huge reason why they are currently the favorite to win the NBA title, at +240 odds.
The Case for LeBron
Despite being in his 17th season, the King has yet again found a way to amaze us all.
Just when you thought you'd seen him do it all, James goes out and averages a career-high 10.3 assists per contest -- 1.3 more than the next closest player in the league this year.
LeBron is on pace to become the second player in league history to average more than 24 points and 10 assists per game while shooting better than 49% from the field. The other was Oscar Robertson in 1967. Again, he's 35.
If he's able to pull it off, James would be the first player 35 or older to win the award since Karl Malone did so in 1999.
James won the league MVP as a member of both the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers. If he wins it with the Lakers, he'd become the first player in NBA history to do so with three different franchises.
Is There Any Value in Betting the MVP?
Given everything Giannis has accomplished, the chances of LeBron becoming the 2019-20 MVP are very slim.
The Bucks and Lakers have both all but locked up the one seeds, which could result in both players seeing a game or two of rest during the final eight games before the postseason. That doesn't leave James with much time to improve his case.
Giannis is a lock for MVP, which makes betting on anyone else a fruitless effort. It's also tough to recommend betting on him at -2400 odds, but there are a ton of other betting opportunities available. You’re better off betting Giannis to win defensive player of the year, these five NBA win totals our algorithm pinpointed as values, or these teams to win their conferences.