The 2016-17 season delivered an MVP battle for the ages. The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook and Houston Rockets’ James Harden submitted monster stat lines and carried their squads, while the San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard and Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James played fantastic basketball for elite teams.
In the end, Westbrook edged out Harden on the strength of his triple-double average. This year, though, both Westbrook and Harden have new All-Star teammates that will cut into both their numbers and MVP narratives.
These developments have changed the MVP race. There are new favorites for 2017-18 who should contend for the award, as well as some dangerous dark horses.
Let’s preview this year’s MVP race by discussing the odds on offer from the USA online betting sites for some of the top candidates, bringing up some underrated dark horses. Then we will give a couple of final predictions and betting picks.
Leonard is the rightful betting favorite heading into this year. He’s the only player to place in the top three of the MVP voting in the past two seasons, and he is now the only top-seven player in the NBA without an All-Star caliber teammate. While other superstars may be penalized for having a stud playing alongside them, Leonard doesn’t have that stigma.
Of course, the steady Spurs will still be one of the Western Conference’s best squads. Head coach Gregg Popovich is a genius and the team’s bench is great, but it’s Leonard’s immense contributions on both ends of the floor that will get a lot of the credit in 2017-18.
James has been in the running for MVP for the past 13 years. The legendary small forward has shown some small signs of slowing down, mainly on defense, but he continues to play like the best player in the NBA.
If newly acquired point guard Isaiah Thomas’ hip injury is worse than expected, James will have to do everything on the offensive end for the Cavs, which he is capable of. LeBron’s statistics will be impressive next season, but will his defensive performance (and reputation) continue to decline?
Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors (+550 at Bovada)
If fellow Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry is out for a good chunk of the season, Durant will have a great chance to take this award.
However, it’s just tough to see an MVP route for Durant as long as Curry is healthy and playing to his usual standards. There’s still a debate as to who is more valuable to the team between the two, and there’s still two other All-Stars on the squad. Remember, this team won a record 73 games in the season before Durant arrived, so there’s definitely a question as to how valuable he really is.
The Warriors will have to submit an insane season with probably something like 75 wins for Durant to be a serious contender for the MVP.
Best MVP Dark Horse Bets
Remember the point above where this preview noted that Kawhi Leonard was the only top-seven player without an All-Star caliber teammate? Well, that’s because Antetokounmpo is my No. 8 player in the NBA and he also doesn’t have a great second banana next to him.
The NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2016-17 is a physical freak (hence the nickname “Greek Freak”) who has gotten better in each of his four seasons. The only thing he’s missing is a halfway decent jump shot.
If he adds that, he can certainly challenge the top contenders for this award.
John Wall, Washington Wizards (+5000 at 5Dimes)
Wall is one of the few players in the NBA who plays for a very good team and is also the obvious best player on said team. If the Wizards make a jump of a few wins or more and challenge for one of the East’s top seeds, voters will be eager to reward Wall.
The Wizards superstar point guard also just had easily the best season of his career in 2016-17. If more development is on the way for the 27-year-old, he could be a strong MVP dark horse.
Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz (+30000 at 5Dimes)
It’s a slap in the face to Gobert that his MVP odds are this long. Last season, the 25-year-old center had a huge breakout season, placing second in the Defensive Player of the Year voting and making the All-NBA Second Team (despite arguably deserving a first team spot). Gobert finished fourth in in the league in win shares per 48 minutes (0.250), behind only Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Kawhi Leonard.
Despite all this, Bovada has him as the 39th-most likely MVP winner. He is behind players like Andrew Wiggins, Devin Booker and Jeff Teague, none of whom were even close to earning spots on any of the All-NBA teams. None of these three players are the best players on their teams, either, unlike Gobert.
The Jazz will probably be weaker than they were last year without Gordon Hayward and George Hill. But if Gobert continues his development as an offensive player to match his amazing defensive capabilities, he will certainly be in the hunt for the MVP.
Our Preview’s NBA MVP Betting Picks & Predictions Verdict
James submits an MVP-caliber season every year, but he hasn’t won since 2013. It seems like it might take a superhuman effort from King James for him to get singled out as the most valuable player. Durant, meanwhile, has just too many talented teammates.
- Therefore, Leonard (beat at +350 with Bovada & 5Dimes) is definitely the top bet of the contenders, as his narrative should have no major weak points.
- You might also want to put down some cash on Gobert (+30000 at 5Dimes). Given the level he played at last season and his consistent improvement, he is worth a bet for the chance at a huge payout.
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.