After a wild offseason, we can finally start to look at more solidified rosters and project what is likely to happen for the new season. Coming off of a very strong year, Giannis Antetokounmpo took home the 2018-19 MVP. Antetokounmpo took home most of the first place voting, while James Harden came in second. Paul George, Nikola Jokic, and Stephen Curry rounded out the top five in voting. With a lot of faces on new teams, and players joining up again, the MVP race is going to be a hot topic. Antetokounmpo is in a good position to repeat as MVP, and comes in as the favorite on FanDuel Sportsbook.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (+270)
When James Harden wasn’t going to be considered the MVP, there was some talk about the voters not wanting to go with him back-to-back years. While the voters change throughout the years, those who say voters do not want to see back-to-back MVPs are just crazy. Going back to 2000 we have seen five back-to-back MVPs go to the same player. LeBron James did it twice, Steve Nash, Stephen Curry, and Tim Duncan were the names to do it. There is certainly repeat potential here. Giannis Antetokounmpo is coming off a career high 27.7 points per game, and led the league in player efficiency rating (30.9).
Averaging 12.5 rebounds per game and 5.9 assists per game give him the all-around game to compete with some of the other MVP contenders. He is also a freak defensively. Antetokounmpo was able to average 2.8 blocks + steals per game. Being able to build upon his numbers despite playing about four minutes less per game was a nice surprise. Antetokounmpo has an incredible drive for getting better, as you can see in the tweet below. The NBA continues to be where teams have a few superstars or at least a few top 40 players on the same team. You have to say he has a slight advantage of not having the likes of a Paul George, Russell Westbrook, or Anthony Davis as a teammate. Antetokounmpo is a clear cut favorite to win the MVP, but there are plenty of names chomping at the bit.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: I’m only at ’60 percent of my potential’
— NBA TV (@NBATV) July 16, 2019
James Harden (+750)
It was just two years ago that James Harden had won the 2017-18 MVP, taking home 86 of the first place votes. Harden averaged 30.4 points per game during that year, and then averaged 36.1 points per game last season. It will be interesting to see how he gels with Russell Westbrook, and how that affects his stats. Westbrook’s rebounding and assist rates have caused surrounding teammates to dip down in those same categories. However, averaging around five-six rebounds per game and six-seven assists per game is certainly still in his range. It is interesting to see Harden has the same odds as Stephen Curry, who we will get to in a moment. Harden has the potential to lead the Rockets to a high seed in a brutal western conference. Among the top three options, Harden has a great chance to pull ahead. When looking at the odds, you have to believe him, Antetokounmpo, and Curry are the big three for MVP odds.
Stephen Curry (+500)
Stephen Curry has already won two MVPs, and this is by far the most he will have to do as a high usage option over the last few seasons. Klay Thompson is out until the final third of the season, Kevin Durant is in Brooklyn, and the bench isn’t an appealing set of names either. Now Golden State did add D’Angelo Russell, but this is setting up for a big Curry season. We already know he is one of the lights out shooters in the game, and has averaged over 25 points per game in the last four seasons. The narrative is there for Curry to lead this team through an insanely tough conference with all the injuries and departures of the dynasty. The only thing that would knock Curry off is if he misses time due to injury. In the 2014-15 season, Curry averaged a 23-4-7 line. In the following MVP season, he averaged 30-5-6. He also tacked on 2.1 steals per game that year. I would say an average of the two seasons is like when all is said and done. This would be more than enough for an MVP type season.
Battle For Los Angeles
After these three names, we have a few Los Angeles names to talk about. LeBron James comes in with +850 odds, and will look to get his fifth MVP award of his career. Anthony Davis comes in at +950 to take down the MVP award. Davis has yet to win an MVP award, while LeBron James has not won one since 2012-13. Given the team up approach over the offseason and going on an age 35 season, I have my doubts about James surpassing other names. However, James playing point guard and running this offense to perfection would be a different story. Davis’ number from last season were lowered due to the minutes limit he went through in the second half of the season. He ended up playing 56 games anyway. Davis has established himself as one of the best players in the game, and is a top player on both sides of the ball.
Kawhi Leonard comes in at +950 and it seems the only award he hasn’t won is the MVP award. Leonard going to the Clippers, and bringing Paul George isn’t as big of a hit to his MVP odds as some other players. George’s sidekick role is likely never going to be enough to take over an MVP race, especially on this team. I love George’s 2018-19 stats with 2.2 steals per game and he averaged 28 points per game. If Leonard duplicates his numbers from last season and carries the Clippers to a strong seed in the west, he has a great chance at taking home the MVP award. With that being said, early odds look very good for Leonard and a good payout. What ultimately drops these guys down is Antetokounmpo on the other side.
Best Long Shot Odds
This is a tough award to overthrow one of the top names. However, there are a few names to throw out there for long shot guys. Damian Lillard is one of them. Projection systems have Portland taking a step backwards, but Lillard has been one of the most consistent players over the last five years. Averaging 25.8 points per game and leading Portland to 53 wins was a huge and he ended up with 69 votes for MVP. The problem is Lillard just doesn’t get the buzz other players gets. He has been top ten in three of the last four seasons. With the western conference tougher than ever, a strong run by Lillard and Portland should be good enough to get him in contention. Kyrie Irving is in a similar boat, but does have that buzz. If the Nets close in on 50 wins and push better than last season in the east, Irving has potential. Kevin Durant is back next year, where it would be tough for Irving to take this award home.
Boston went through a transition this offseason, seeing Al Horford and Irving go elsewhere. Jayson Tatum is a deep long shot at +10000, and is expected to take a major jump in usage. Kemba Walker taking over for Irving puts him in a better chance to succeed. He is +5000. If Boston comes out strong this year, and either of these names take full leadership in production and of the team, they will be in the hunt.
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