The NBA’s MVP award is the most prestigious of all the annual awards that the league gives out. As such, pundits discuss the race for the MVP all season, plus some more in the offseason.
The 2018-19 NBA campaign doesn’t start for a while, but most of the player movement is over and we can start predicting how the season might play out.
So what do the MVP odds with the legal USA sportsbooks look like so far? And who are your smartest bets? Read on to find out our preview’s NBA MVP predictions and picks.
Top NBA MVP Favorites at the Sportsbooks
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers (+335 at 5Dimes)
James won four MVPs in a five-year stretch between 2008-09 and 2012-13. Since then, he hasn’t won any, but he has been second, third or fourth in the voting in every campaign. The general consensus is that LeBron doesn’t take the regular season seriously enough to deserve the award, even though most people consider him the best player in the world.
He now has a new challenge to take on in Los Angeles. With a bunch of young players and suspect shooters around him, the Lakers do not have a championship-caliber roster. If James isn’t careful, the Lakers could miss the playoffs in a stacked Western Conference.
The stage could be set for James to try harder this season to will his Lakers to a postseason berth. However, this award rarely goes to a player whose team isn’t near the top of its conference.
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans (+400 at 5Dimes)
Davis stuffed the stat sheet with amazing totals once DeMarcus Cousins injured his Achilles tendon right before the All-Star break last season. AD was regularly posting around 30 points and 12 rebounds per contest as the lone big man in most lineups.
Now Davis gets the chance to reprise his performance in 2018-19. The Pelicans have a nice three-headed big man rotation of Davis, Nikola Mirotic and Julius Randle, but Davis’ minutes will stay high. He seems to be a good fit on the court with either teammate.
Are the Pelicans good enough to get Davis the wins necessary to win the award, though? New Orleans has the aforementioned big man trio plus a fringe All-Star guy in Jrue Holiday manning one of the guard spots, but the rest of the squad is underwhelming.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (+475 at 5Dimes)
Antetokounmpo is a rising NBA superstar. The 23-year-old forward has improved markedly in each of his five NBA seasons and should be challenging for the title of the league’s best player within the next couple of years.
The Greek Freak’s only real weakness is outside shooting and even that has come around some in the past few years. Don’t be surprised if he takes another step forward in that aspect of the game.
Once again, we have the issue of team record. The Bucks seem to be clearly behind the East’s top tier of the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers and also probably behind the Indiana Pacers. Will Giannis’ teammates provide enough help to push the Bucks closer to title contention?
Best Dark Horse NBA MVP Bets
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (+1600 at 5Dimes)
Embiid is on a team that should win 50-odd games. He is the most talented big man outside of Anthony Davis and is arguably a top-seven or eight talent in the league. Plus, he is clearly the best player on his squad and is on the upswing of his career. There is hardly anyone in the league who can say all of those things.
The 24-year-old center’s only major question mark is health. He sat out the first two seasons with foot injuries after being drafted and he also missed 70 combined contests in the past two campaigns. But Embiid is only ninth in MVP odds, so maybe he is a worthwhile investment.
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (+4550 at 5Dimes)
Lillard placed fourth in the MVP voting in 2017-18. With few changes to his squad in the offseason and no apparent injury issues, Dame has fallen to 12th in MVP odds for 2018-19.
The drop is confusing. Sure, it was a career year for Lillard and his teammates were good in the regular season, but the scoring point guard has been gradually improving throughout his career. It is not like we should be expecting him to fall off next year. Most people are expecting the Blazers to fall in the standings because of what other teams in the conference did to improve.
Portland very well could have a more difficult season in 2018-19. However, the prediction of the Blazers being a fringe playoff team will only help Lillard in the event of his squad having another surprising campaign.
Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers (+10000 at 5Dimes)
There is a serious talent vacuum in the Eastern Conference after the Celtics, Raptors and 76ers. Oladipo’s Pacers, though, look like the favorite to be the best of the rest in 2018-19. Indiana is a mostly young team that is on the rise and will benefit from the playmaking of new guard Tyreke Evans.
However Oladipo is still clearly the top dog of the Pacers and the only All-Star-caliber player on his team. He is an athletic and fundamentally sound guy on both ends of the floor. The Celtics, Raptors and 76ers are all two (or more) star squads.
When it comes time for awards voting, people might look at the top half of the Eastern Conference playoff bracket and see that Indiana admirably won around 50 games with Oladipo as its only star and be convinced.
Our Preview’s Final NBA MVP Predictions, Recommendations & Picks Verdict
This is a year with no major MVP favorite. None of the superstars really has that strong of a preseason case. That means this is good a time as any to place a bet or bets on some dark horses.
Oladipo is my favorite dark horse NBA MVP prediction here with his very long odds (+10000 at 5Dimes) and the Pacers’ opportunity to be good in a weak Eastern Conference. Betting on Embiid and Lillard could also prove smart.
He wasn’t mentioned, but defending winner James Harden (+550 with 5Dimes) might also be a smart choice. Many people are expecting the Rockets to experience a bit of a decline, but if Harden prevents that and again puts up huge numbers, he could get a repeat win.
- We can’t bet on them all and if pressed to pick just one NBA MVP prediction, then I will stick with the real dark horse and longshot, namely Victor Oladipo of the Indiana Pacers at a huge +10000 (100/1) at 5Dimes.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.