There are seven current NBA players who have won the league’s Most Valuable Player award. With apologies to Dirk Nowitzki and Derrick Rose, there are only five still playing who have a realistic shot of winning it again.
So we’re going to look past LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook and James Harden as potential dark horse/value bets that fans of NBA betting should be considerin.
What’s next for the Greek Freak?
Two seasons ago Giannis Antetokounmpo became the fifth player in NBA history to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. Last year he was named All-NBA Second Team, and really only missed out on the first team because of two guys named LeBron James and Kevin Durant. The next step for the 24-year-old superstar is MVP candidacy. He finished seventh in voting in 2017 and sixth in 2018. Now he’s set to compete in a LeBron-less Eastern Conference, teaming up with Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe and new head coach Mike Budenholzer, who could unleash the Greek Freak further.
Antetokounmpo has increased his scoring and rebounding each of his first five NBA seasons, and though it sounds cliché there’s no limit to his ceiling. It shouldn’t count for much but team wins matter. And with LeBron out of the East, Antetokounmpo could have a superb storyline of vaulting a Bucks team – playing in a new stadium, nonetheless – into the top 3 of the East. He is one of the favorites, but at +400 we like him to potentially win it for the first time.
One eyebrow, and one of a kind
Speaking of athletic freaks who seemingly have untapped potential, Davis is the poster child for it. He was an absolute monster the second half of the season, earning Western Conference Player of the Month in both February and March/April. Then he kept that momentum rolling in the postseason, sweeping the Blazers before running into the Warriors in Round 2. He’s putting up numbers we’ve never seen before, and the best part is he plays both ways. There’s a legitimate chance Davis wins both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. The only two players to do that? Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon.
True, he’s in the gauntlet of a Western Conference. It’s going to be tough sledding for his New Orleans Pelicans, no matter how well Davis plays. But two years ago Russell Westbrook bucked the notion that an MVP needs to be on a heavy-win team. It makes it easier, but it’s not a requirement. Monster stat lines are, and Davis will have plenty of those. We love his value at +500 on 888Sport/SugarHouse.
Trust the MVP Process
Davis isn’t the only player capable of winning MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. Embiid was a distant second to Utah’s Rudy Gobert last season, but he’s only beginning his reign of terror on that end of the floor. Oh, and he averaged 22.9 points in just 30.3 minutes. He does everything, from the post to behind the arc, and he even averaged 3.2 assists per game for that high-powered Sixers offense.
And that could be the key for Embiid. Teammate and Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons might wind up stealing votes from Embiid if Philadelphia is as good as everyone thinks they will be, but that’ll be Embiid’s way in. If the Sixers can withstand the Celtics, Raptors and Bucks for the top spot in the East, it’ll mean they likely hovered around 55-57 wins. With a healthy season and monster numbers, it’d be tough not to consider JoJo. For someone so loud and boisterous, he’s quietly flying under the radar at +1400 on SugarHouse and 888Sport.
Kyrie Irving returns with a chip on his shoulder
Embiid isn’t the only player who will try to make his MVP case on a stacked roster. Kyrie Irving battled through knee injuries in his first season with the Celtics, ultimately missing the entire postseason because of it. So you can bet he’s coming back with a vengeance in Year 2, and he’ll have perhaps the deepest supporting cast in the league around him.
Irving is helped out by a couple of factors. First, the NBA is trending toward point guards more than ever before. The last four winners have all been point guards (Harden, Westbrook, Curry, Curry). Second, the Celtics are going to win. And win a lot. There’s no reason why the Celtics shouldn’t hover around 60 wins, and while the Celtics are loaded it would be tough not to give a 60-win team’s best player MVP consideration. For that reason we like his value at +1400 on SugarHouse and 888Sport.
Donovan Mitchell: The next Derrick Rose?
Derrick Rose is the youngest MVP in NBA history. And while Mitchell would be a few months older than Rose was, would it shock anyone if Mitchell went from really good to great? Mitchell’s regular season numbers were solid and Rookie of the Year-worthy, but it was his playoff performance that’s inspiring so much confidence in what he can achieve next season. In 11 games he averaged 24.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.5 steals in 37.4 minutes. He went toe-to-toe with Russell Westbrook and crushed him in the five-game series win. This guy doesn’t back down from anyone, and now we get this mentality for an entire 82-game season.
Rose won MVP in 2011 in part because the Bulls won 62 games, more than LeBron James and his new Miami Heat. The Utah Jazz won’t have that much success in the tough Western Conference, but if they have a season like they had a year ago – 49 wins and homecourt in Round 1 – and Mitchell plays in the regular season like he did in last year’s playoffs, he’s going to get consideration. He has the look and feel of a Derrick Rose. If you’re feeling wild, give him a look at +5000 on SugarHouse and 888Sport.