As we move past the halfway point of the NBA regular season, two frontrunners for league MVP have emerged. Giannis Antetokounmpo has somehow reached even new heights in his sixth season, while James Harden is on an historic pace that could see him repeat as the league’s most valuable.
Harden’s +150 odds pace the field, with Antetokounmpo’s +180 odds not far behind. But if Sunday’s performances are any indication, this is far from a two-man race. Two well-known stars are emerging as dark-horse candidates in NBA MVP betting for the league’s most prestigious individual award, and fans of NBA betting should consider taking a look.
Steph Curry Heats Up, Eyes Third MVP
Remember him? With apologies to Kevin Durant, Curry is still the best player on the league’s best team (apologies to the Nuggets and Bucks). He’s facing an uphill battle as far as the MVP race is concerned because of the three weeks and 11 games he missed in November with a groin injury.
Then again, Golden State went 5-6 in that span, proving Curry is as valuable player as there is in the league.
Since Curry returned the Warriors are 14-6, the fourth best record in the league since Dec. 1. In those 20 games Curry has averaged 29.4 points, 5.3 3-pointers on 43 percent shooting, 5.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists.
Golden State is riding a four-game win streak in which Curry is averaging 33.0 points and 7.3 3-pointers per game; he’s scored 40 or more in two of those, including a 48-point effort on Sunday in a road win over the Mavericks.
Curry scored 13 points in the fourth quarter, including the final seven against Dallas, and after the game Durant said his teammate was so hot that the Warriors weren’t even running plays, they were simply giving Curry the ball.
That’s the sort of performance that will put Curry back on the MVP map. Golden State has underachieved based on expectations, and yet they’re still 0.5 games back of the top spot in the West and have the league’s fourth best record.
They’ll also get DeMarcus Cousins (Achilles) back this week , adding to the embarrassment of riches they already have. Curry’s raw numbers may go down with a fully healthy lineup, but his efficiency will only skyrocket. If Golden State goes on a tear in the final three months of the season, Curry will be in the spotlight plenty and have a chance to steal MVP votes.
His odds with Sugar House and 888 Sport in New Jersey are at +1000, and that’s as low as they’ll be all year. Jump on them now.
Kawhi Leonard MVP Case Strengthens
The biggest move of the offseason has turned out to be the best one. The Raptors bet big when they dealt fan favorite and lifetime Raptor DeMar DeRozan to the Spurs for Kawhi Leonard, an impending free agent who had just missed an entire season with a mysterious hamstring injury.
It’s more than safe to say that 45 games in, the Raptors won that bet. They sit atop the LeBron-less Eastern Conference with the league’s best record (33-12) and Leonard has been the main reason why. He’s averaging a career-best 27.5 points on 50 percent shooting, 8.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.9 steals per game.
He’s regained his All-Star form, most recently in a 41-point outing against the Wizards on Sunday. In that contest Leonard scored 11 straight Raptors points spanning the end of the fourth quarter and beginning of the first overtime, and he had the decisive assist to Serge Ibaka on his game-winner in the second overtime.
Ibaka said after the game that Leonard “played like a superstar.”
The assessment isn’t wrong. The Raptors have won seven of eight to overtake the rising Milwaukee Bucks, and in that span Leonard is averaging 30.7 points on 54 percent shooting, 7.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.4 steals per game.
That span also included a career-high 45 points against a Jazz team ranked fifth in defensive efficiency. In that game Leonard made 16 of 22 from the field and went to the free throw line 17 times.
Leonard likely won’t win Defensive Player of the Year – he has the fifth best odds on 888Sport as his offensive accolades likely will overshadow his defensive prowess. But he’s transformed back into the elite two-way player he was a few years back in San Antonio. That hasn’t meant much in terms of MVP voting in the past but perhaps Leonard can buck the trend.
If Toronto finishes the year with the league’s best record, even if the ugly Eastern Conference, it’d be hard to deny Leonard’s MVP credentials. The Raptors began the year with a new head coach and Leonard was an unknown. He’s acclimated perfectly and hasn’t skipped a beat alongside Kyle Lowry. His +1200 odds to win MVP look like great current value.