No team sport relies on the best individual players quite like the NBA. A bad offensive line can make a great quarterback look pedestrian, while aces pitch once every five days and even the best hitters bat four of five times per game.
And there’s never been more star power in the NBA than there is right now. Those two factors make the league’s Most Valuable Player race one of the most exciting for fans of NBA betting to track and follow during the year.
The best of the best, as the name of the award suggests, are usually the frontrunners. But there are a handful of things that can make your bet a better one.
Factors to Consider Betting NBA MVP
Best of the Best Are Also Winners
While it’s true that the Most Valuable Player award in basketball – in all sports, really – has become about who puts up the best numbers, value to a team is still critical. MVP winners haven’t just played on good teams, they’ve played on great ones.
From 1982 to 2017, a span of 36 Most Valuable Player winners, that player’s team finished first in their respective conference 28 times (77.8 percent). Six other MVPs finished second in their conference, one finished third and one finished sixth. Ninety-five percent of the MVPs in that span came from a pool of four teams (top 2 in the East, top 2 in the West).
Identifying those teams cuts down the list of potential winners to just a handful of players. The MVPs put up massive numbers, which make the players around them better, which vaults that team into elite category as far as wins and losses go.
Find a Great Storyline
There isn’t really a statistic to convey how important this is, but it is. It’s important to remember that it’s not the players or coaches who vote on this award, but the media. And seeing as we’ve got some experience in this realm, there’s nothing media members love than a good storyline to follow.
Numbers are important, as we’ll show you below. Wins are important, as we showed above. But posting big numbers and team wins can feel hollow. There needs to be some sort of obstacle a player overcomes, or an achievement they reach along the way.
Did a fellow superstar leave the team in the offseason? Did a player show flashes of greatness in the postseason and feels ready to do it for the entire following season? Is a player on the cusp of doing something statistic that’s never been done in the history of the game? Find something to attach a player to that can be tracked and followed all season.
In 2006, Steve Nash posted a 50/40/90 season for the offensive record-breaking Suns. In 2009, LeBron James posted the fourth best individual PER in NBA history. In 2015 Steph Curry set an NBA record for 3-pointers made in a season, and in 2016 his Golden State Warriors won an NBA-best 72 games.
Storylines are everywhere if you look for them (and can predict them).
Future Hall of Famers
We’ve seen some random winners in just about every major award in the NBA.
Guys such as Emeka Okafor and Michael Carter-Williams have won Rookie of the Year. Most Improved Player award winners have included Aaron Brooks, Bobby Simmons and some guy named Isaac Austin. Even Marcus Camby was a surprise winner for Defensive Player of the Year in 2007.
But when it comes to the MVP, the granddaddy of them all, there’s nothing random about the winners. Since the award was first handed out in 1956, all but one player is either in the Hall of Fame or well on their way to being inducted.
The only exception to the group is Derrick Rose, who won the award in 2011 and being the youngest player (22 years old) in league history to do so. He clearly was on a Hall of Fame trajectory before myriad knee injuries crippled his career.
So, when determining who to bet on for MVP, only consider the absolute best. There are rarely, if ever, dark horses who come on and win the award. Your pick for MVP should be one you believe will one day be elected to the Hall in Springfield, Mass.
Find A Shooter/Scorer
From 2008 to 2018, nine of the 11 MVP award winners ranked in the top five in points per game. From 2014 to 2018, four of the five winners led the NBA in scoring.
It’s always been an important factor in the voting – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has won it six times and Michael Jordan has won it five times for a reason – but it means even more now. Find an elite scorer, along with these other factors, and you’ve got a good shot at finding your MVP.