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NBA MVP, Damian Lillard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Nikola Jokic

Picking Dark Horse NBA MVP Candidates With High Odds

The NBA MVP race has been a roller-coaster affair since the start of the season.

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic opened as the favorite to hoist the trophy, but quickly gave way to more established names like LeBron James and Stephen Curry.

Sixers big man Joel Embiid was a fairly heavy favorite just weeks ago, but an injury derailed him from the top spot. The same thing happened to LeBron when he went down with an ankle injury.

By the beginning of April, Nikola Jokic was at the top of the NBA MVP list.

Jokic, Doncic, James, Curry, and Embiid have all sat atop the list as favorites at one point this season. Let’s look at two guys that have a shot at the MVP trophy that could earn you some bang for your buck.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (+950)

The Bucks superstar is posting nearly identical stats to his first NBA MVP year, but Giannis hasn’t gotten much attention from bettors for his excellent campaign.

Giannis checks all the boxes for an MVP candidate: He has led his team to the third best record in the Eastern Conference, he is clearly the best player on the Bucks roster, he hasn’t missed many games, and when he does sit, the team struggles without him.

Let’s take a look at the numbers.

Giannis won MVP in 2018-19 while averaging 27.7, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and an effective field goal percentage of 59.9%.

His stats this year are very similar: 28.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, 6.2 assists, and an eFG% of 59.5%.

The Bucks are still a serious contender, and Giannis has shown the team that they need him to succeed. The reigning MVP has missed only five games this season, and Milwaukee is 3-2 when he sits.

3-2 might not sound terrible, but two of those Bucks wins came against the worst teams in the league in the Kings and the Cavaliers. Milwaukee looks like a different team without Giannis initiating the offense.

The biggest factor working against Giannis here is voter burnout. There hasn’t been a player to win three straight MVPs since Larry Bird in the mid-’80s.

Antetokounmpo shouldn’t be the favorite to win the NBA MVP award, but +950 is a steal for someone that should be higher up in the ranks in a season that has seen constant flips.

Damian Lillard (+1100)

Of all the players currently on the MVP list, Damian Lillard might be the most disrespected.

Lillard has nearly single-handedly kept his team in the playoff race as injuries piled up against the Blazers.

Portland lost their second-best player in C.J. McCollum for 26 games, and their third-best player in Jusuf Nurkic for a whopping 33 games.

There is very few players in the league that could keep their team afloat with two of their three best players missing half of the games played.

Lillard not only had the Blazers survive, but take the fifth seed in a Western Conference that is absolutely loaded with quality teams.

There are no nights off in the West, and Dame took it upon himself to will the Blazers to victory. His stats show just how effective he’s been. Lillard is averaging 29.2 points, 7.7 assists, and 4.3 rebounds with an eFG% of 54.5%, just a touch below Giannis’.

Dame doesn’t check off the boxes of the typical NBA MVP, which lowers his odds considerably. Very few consider the Blazers to be serious contenders, and without an absolutely crazy stat line at the end of the season, it’s nearly impossible for a player on a fringe postseason team to hoist the MVP award.

Like Giannis, Dame should not be favored over players like Jokic or Embiid to win the award just yet. However, this shortened season has shown that a few games missed here and there or a cold stretch can shift the MVP race entirely. at +1,100, I’m willing to take that shot on one of the most driven and hard-working players in the league.