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NBA Finals MVP Best Bets, Predictions & Why It's A Great Value Wager

Mark Strotman for Bookies.com

Mark Strotman  | 9 mins

NBA Finals MVP Best Bets, Predictions & Why It's A Great Value Wager

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It’s no surprise that the NBA champion is one of the most popular bets on any online sportsbook. It’s a NBA futures bet that gets wagered on plenty during the offseason when free agency shakes things up, again at the trade deadline when massive deals go down, and even more as the postseason takes shape and contenders emerge.

But as the postseason rolls on, there’s another market that pops up that could wind up being more lucrative for bettors attempting to bet on an NBA champion: Finals MVP. Here’s why bettors should be looking at that market on online betting apps.

A Simple Recipe for NBA Finals MVP

Steve Pearce won World Series MVP in 2018 for the Boston Red Sox at age 35. He was out of baseball one year later. In 2014, Seattle linebacker Malcolm Smith won Super Bowl MVP and didn’t even start for the Seahawks the following season. While those were extreme outliers, there have been some random title-winning MVPs thanks to the parity in baseball, and the one-game sample size of a Super Bowl.

But that isn’t the case in the NBA. It’s not difficult to find the Finals MVP

1. They’re always on the winning team: Jerry West famously won NBA Finals MVP in a losing effort in 1969, the first season the award was handed out. Since then, the award has been handed out 52 times—and each time, that award has gone to a player on the winning team.

2. They lead their team in scoring during the Finals: We went back and looked at the last 40 years of NBA Finals MVP winners. Yeah, we had some free time. What we found is pretty startling, and the basis for the argument.  Of the last 40 winners, 35 of them led their team (the winning team) in scoring during the Finals. That’s an 88% success rate if you’re keeping score at home.

The Five Instances When the Leading Scorer Didn’t Win?

  • Steph Curry in 2015 ceded to Andre Iguodala, the primary defender on LeBron James;
  • Tony Parker in 2014 ceded to Kawhi Leonard, the primary defender on LeBron James;
  • Rip Hamilton in 2004 ceded to Chauncey Billups—and the Pistons were an outlier for a host of reasons;
  • Kevin McHale in 1986 ceded to Larry Bird, who nearly averaged a triple-double (24.0 points, 9.7 rebounds, 9.5 assists);
  • Jamaal Wilkes in 1982 ceded to Magic Johnson, who also nearly averaged a triple-double with 16.2 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 8.0 assists

But as you can see, there’s a strong correlation with the leading scorer on the winning team earning Finals MVP honors.

Finals MVP Honors Dating Back To 1982

YearLeading Scorer In FinalsFinals PPGFinals MVP?
2021Giannis Antetokounmpo35.2Yes
2020LeBron James29.8Yes
2019Kawhi Leonard28.5Yes
2018Kevin Durant28.8Yes
2017Kevin Durant35.2Yes
2016LeBron James29.7Yes
2015Stephen Curry26.0No
2014Kawhi Leonard17.8No
2013LeBron James25.3Yes
2012LeBron James28.6Yes
2011Dirk Nowitzki26.0Yes
2010Kobe Bryant28.6Yes
2009Kobe Bryant32.4Yes
2008Paul Pierce21.8Yes
2007Tony Parker24.5Yes
2006Dwyane Wade34.7Yes
2005Tim Duncan20.6Yes
2004Rip Hamilton21.4No
2003Tim Duncan24.2Yes
2002Shaquille O’Neal36.3Yes
2001Shaquille O’Neal33.0Yes
2000Shaquille O’Neal38.0Yes
1999Tim Duncan27.4Yes
1998Michael Jordan33.5Yes
1997Michael Jordan32.3Yes
1996Michael Jordan27.4Yes
1995Hakeem Olajuwon32.8Yes
1994Hakeem Olajuwon26.9Yes
1993Michael Jordan41.0Yes
1992Michael Jordan32.8Yes
1991Michael Jordan31.2Yes
1990Isiah Thomas27.6Yes
1989Joe Dumars27.3Yes
1988James Worthy22.0Yes
1987Magic Johnson26.2Yes
1986Kevin McHale25.8No
1985Kareem Abdul-Jabbar25.7Yes
1984Larry Bird27.4Yes
1983Moses Malone25.8Yes
1982Jamaal Wilkes19.7No

It is, of course, impossible to know who will lead a team in scoring. But you can make some educated guesses based on how the playoffs have gone and who performed well in the regular season. Find a heavy-hitting scorer and you’ll likely have your answer to NBA Finals MVP. Note that 31 of these winners were their team’s leading scorer in the regular season, too, a healthy 78% success rate.

RELATED: Best NBA Player Prop Bets for Today

How To Bet This Year's NBA Finals

So how should we use this information when betting on the postseason this year? Well, how about we examine the extra value you get from betting on NBA Finals MVP vs NBA Champion. 

Say you want the Celtics to win it all at +475. You can instead get +600 on Jayson Tatum to win NBA Finals MVP. As we explain below, that's a value bet because if the Celtics win the championship, Finals MVP will almost certainly be going to Tatum...

Phoenix Suns (Title Odds +200)

Who to bet: We’re admittedly starting with a tough one. Devin Booker (+450) is narrowly edging out Chris Paul (+550) for Finals MVP this postseason, but we might give the edge to the legendary point guard who would be capping off his Hall of Fame career with a ring. Definitely one to consider for Arizona sports betting fans.

Who to avoid: Depending on who you go with between Booker and Paul, it’s good to avoid Deandre Ayton (+3000). He’s been great, but he won’t get past the narrative of Paul or Booker’s scoring.

Golden State Warriors (Title Odds +340)

Who to bet: We can’t believe it either that Stephen Curry (+500) has never won a Finals MVP. But you can bet he will this time around if the Warriors are crowned champions. This is the biggest lock on the board. 

Who to avoid: The Warriors have a new splash brother in Jordan Poole (+3000), Draymond Green (+3000) is playing inspired basketball, and Klay Thompson (+3500) is one of the best stories of the season. But they’ll all be out of the spotlight if Curry can bring this group to the promised land.

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Boston Celtics (Title Odds +475)

Who to bet: Jayson Tatum (+600) is making the leap from All-Star to superstar right before our very eyes. He’s flirting with 30 points each time he takes the floor, and now he’s rounding out his game as a facilitator. In addition to being the Celts’ leading scorer, he’s now acting as a distributor and solid defender. If Boston is crowned champion, Tatum would win this unanimously.

Who to avoid: While Jaylen Brown (+2500) might be as talented a No. 2 scorer as there is in the NBA, he’s trailing Tatum by a large margin in the points category this postseason. Marcus Smart (+7000) was a controversial Defensive Player of the Year winner, but defense doesn’t win this award unless you’re shutting down LeBron James. That won’t happen in 2022.

Miami Heat (Title Odds +475)

Who to bet: He would have been Finals MVP in 2020 if the Heat were able to upset LeBron James and the Lakers, but Jimmy Butler (+700) has an easy path to the Bill Russell Trophy if he gets it done this time around. He’s the team’s leading scorer by more than 10 points per game right now and the undisputed leader of the top seed in the East.

Who to avoid: We agree that Bam Adebayo (+1800) was snubbed as a Defensive Player of the Year finalist, but it’s tough to see him having a more impactful Finals than Butler. Kyle Lowry (+9000) has himself a championship ring thanks to his time in Toronto, but that won’t mean a Finals MVP if Miami can reach the mountaintop.

Potential NBA Finalists To Avoid

The following teams have the same title odds as their leading candidate for Finals MVP. There’s no value at DraftKings, but we also recommend bettors shop around at different betting apps to see if there is value elsewhere.

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Milwaukee Bucks (Odds +650)

Who to bet: NBA betting oddsmakers know what’s up. Giannis Antetokounmpo (+650) was a unanimous Finals MVP last year and would earn those honors once again if the Bucks repeated. No value here on a player like Khris Middleton or Jrue Holiday.

Memphis Grizzlies (Odds +1700)

Who to bet: The Grizzlies are talented around Ja Morant (+1700), but the guard who made the jump to superstardom this season would be an easy choice for Finals MVP. No value in these NBA odds.

Philadelphia 76ers (Odds +5500)

Who to bet: Two games without Joel Embiid (+5500) against the Heat showed why oddsmakers have given him the same odds as the Sixers’ title chances. There isn’t any value here. If the Sixers make a miraculous comeback and win it all, Embiid is a lock.

Dallas Mavericks (Odds +6000)

Who to bet: Oddsmakers know that if the Mavericks somehow come back to beat the Suns, then topple the Warriors or Grizzlies, and THEN win it all, Luka Doncic (+6000) will be the reason why. There’s no value here.

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About the Author

Mark Strotman for Bookies.com
Mark Strotman
Mark is a veteran sports betting journalist who has covered the Bulls and the NBA since 2012. His work has appeared on ESPN.com, FoxSports.com, The Chicago Tribune and Yahoo Sports. He regularly provides NBA betting picks, as well as in-depth sportsbook reviews and the latest promo codes for all the major sports gambling operators, including Caesars Sportsbook, BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel and more.