In 2018-19, the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo won the NBA’s MVP award for the first time in his career. He beat out the Houston Rockets’ James Harden in the voting despite a fantastic season from the Houston superstar.
The 2019 offseason was a very hectic one from a player movement perspective, which means the MVP landscape has changed significantly in the last few months.
USAbetting has analyzed the MVP odds at BetOnline and SportsBetting and this MVP preview comes up with four bets on players who might be good options for you. You’ll find descriptions for each player below:
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (+350 with BetOnline and SportsBetting)
Yes, Antetokounmpo is considered the most likely MVP winner with the USA sports betting outlets, but I still like his odds to win the award for a second straight year.
The Greek Freak’s improvement during his six years in the NBA has been constant and significant. His per-game scoring and rebounding, as well as field-goal percentage, have increased in each of his six seasons. There is really no limit for what the 24-year-old Antetokounmpo can accomplish.
Giannis has a clear narrative working for him, as well. Milwaukee’s roster did lose some quality players (Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic), but the Greek Freak still has an excellent chance of leading his squad to the NBA’s best record again. Voters will see that he is the only clear star on the team and reward him for his value to the team.
There could come a day when people are so used to Giannis’ dominance that they take it for granted, much like many people do with LeBron James. We are not there yet.
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (+1200 with BetOnline and SportsBetting)
Recent history shows us that players on teams that win lots of games are more likely to win MVP. In the past 11 seasons, 10 MVP winners have been on teams with at least 57 wins. The average win total for the 11 teams has been a ridiculous 62.1.
This season, these are the seven teams I can see challenging for 60 wins if things go right: the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets.
Many of those teams have situations where their best player is very similar in value to their second or even third-best player. That will factor into MVP discussions when people think about just how important each player is.
However, with apologies to Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris and Al Horford, Embiid is the very clear best player on the Sixers. He is an interior beast who can anchor a team on offense and defense. At 25-years-old with only three years of NBA experience, he is also still improving. I could definitely see a scenario in which the Sixers feast on a weak East, winning 60 to 62 games behind something like 28 points and 14 rebounds from Embiid.
The concern with Embiid is always durability, but he announced recently that he lost 25 pounds during the offseason. That should help him with needing less rest on the bench and maybe even with avoiding lower-body injuries, as well.
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets (+1600 with BetOnline and SportsBetting)
I actually like Jokic’s odds better than Embiid’s. While it is very debatable which guy is the better player, I think the narrative around Jokic not really having legit All-Star help (like Embiid does in Philadelphia) will help him tremendously.
The rest of the West’s elite is made of two or three-star teams (Leonard-George, James-Davis, Harden-Westbrook, Gobert-Conley-Mitchell, Curry-Green), but Jokic’s best teammate is probably Jamal Murray. Murray is pretty good, but he is not at the All-Star level yet.
If the Nuggets earn 55 wins or more in a loaded West behind Jokic’s offensive dominance and fantastic depth, it is going to be hard to deny Jokic from at least a top-three placing.
Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets (+3300 with BetOnline and SportsBetting)
Irving is a great sleeper pick here. I can see some narrative elements that could really help his case.
Last season was not a great one for the 27-year-old point guard. He had a decent year on the court by his standards, but his inability to mesh with the rest of the Celtics’ core on and off the court was a killer. That led to poor chemistry and a disappointing season for the team.
People will be watching to see if Irving bounces back in Brooklyn, and if he does, there’s a bit of a redemption angle there. The other thing going for him is that people are mostly writing this year off as a throwaway year for Brooklyn with Kevin Durant recovering from injury. If Irving lifts Brooklyn into the territory of 50 wins or more, people will look to Irving as the key reason for that overachievement.
Irving has a legit chance at averaging something like 28 points and seven assists per game on a Brooklyn roster lacking many high-volume teammates on offense. Combine that with Brooklyn’s potential for something like a No. 3 seed in the East, and you have the recipe for a strong MVP candidate.