By Mark Strotman | | 4 mins
LeBron James MVP Odds: Pounce Now Or Hope For Better Value?
The last time LeBron James won MVP, in the 2012-13 season, he was 28 years old and in his final season with the Miami Heat.
James has since won titles with the Cavaliers and Lakers, averaged 26.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 8.1 assists over more than 500 games, and been named an All-Pro in all seven seasons. But none of those campaigns resulted in a fifth MVP award.
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James’ numbers in 2021 aren’t necessarily better than they were in those previous non-MVP seasons. But a combination of his level of play, his team’s success, and taking his age into consideration have helped his NBA MVP odds shrink considerably — from +1200 to +600 in the span of just a few weeks.
The longest gap between NBA MVPs is five seasons — Wilt Chamberlain from 1960 to 1966 — but James is making a real case to rewrite history as he has done so often during his illustrious career.
Case For Betting LeBron James MVP Odds Now
An NBA betting wager for James as MVP right now is the belief that his odds are going to shorten. The 18-year pro is on a roll lately, averaging 25.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.6 assists in 13 January games. The Lakers are 11-2 in that stretch.
On Monday night, James was back home in Cleveland and put on perhaps his best performance of the season with 46 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. He scored 21 points in the fourth quarter as Los Angeles closed out his former team, beating the Cavaliers 115-108.
Numbers are always going to be important in an MVP race, but James’ credentials stem primarily from the fact that he continues to be the game’s best player at 36 years old. In fact, he’s actually averaging the fewest points (25.2) since his rookie year, the fewest assists (7.4) since 2014, and is shooting under 50% for just the third time since 2010.
But even a slight dip in numbers — if it happens — isn’t going to hurt his candidacy like it would another player. As long as he maintains his current pace, James will have a strong MVP case. James is the fifth-oldest player in the NBA. His numbers are unprecedented for someone who has been in the league 18 seasons and he is on schedule to surpass 60,000 career minutes (regular season plus playoffs) this week.
Case For Waiting on LeBron James MVP Odds
James has a strong case as an MVP candidate but he is not alone. There is no runaway favorite and it’s clustered at the top: Luka Doncic is the NBA futures betting favorite at +450 with DraftKings, but James, Kevin Durant and Joel Embiid all have +600 odds as of Tuesday morning. Giannis Antetokounmpo (+700), Nikola Jokic (+800) and Stephen Curry (+1400) have legitimate MVP chances, too.
With that in mind, it wouldn’t be surprising to see one (or multiple) of those seven players putting together a hot stretch of play — like the one James is having now — that would shrink their MVP odds. In theory, those players getting a bump up could decrease James’ MVP odds, providing him with more value.
We’ve seen it in just the past few weeks, with Jokic, Embiid and Durant earning Conference Player of the Week honors and subsequently seeing their MVP odds shorten. This is the most open MVP race in recent history.
The Lakers are in the midst of a seven-game East road trip that will test them. They have won the first three of those games and are 10-0 on the road, but if they struggle and a few losses pile up, James could also see a decrease in his MVP odds. The Lakers are an NBA-best 14-4, and that’s a significant part of James’ MVP candidacy, too.