Sportsbook.ag became the first offshore book to post a full list of names as favorites to win the 2019 NBA MVP award. Although it’s still too early, considering that the 2018 free agency period is only just beginning and that there are still many key free agents left unsigned, the list is interesting and worthy of discussion.
Last season, James Harden opened as a +800 to win the 2018 NBA MVP award. The Beard only had the 6th best opening odds to walk away with the NBA’s top individual prize. But after leading the Houston Rockets to a franchise best 65 win season, Harden became the favorite to win the Maurice Podoloff trophy as the 2018 NBA Awards night came closer.
When the voting was done, Harden garnered a total of 86 out of 101 first place votes for MVP. He finished with a total of 965 points, 227 more than second placer LeBron James who received the remaining 15 first place votes contested. Pelicans’ big man Anthony Davis came in third with a total of 445 points. The only other player to hit triple digit points in the MVP voting was spitfire guard Damian Lillard with 207.
The Early Favorite
James opened as a +700 when the betting lines were first released last year while Davis was at +1500 and Lillard a +4000. But King James played one of the best individual postseasons of all-time in leading the Cavaliers to another Eastern Conference title. Davis stepped up his game after frontline partner DeMarcus Cousins went down with an Achilles injury. His Pelicans reached the 2nd round of the playoffs where they lost to the eventual champions. On the other hand, Lillard led the Blazers to the 3rd best record in the Western Conference last season.
This year, it’s LeBron James who is the early betting favorite to win the 2019 MVP award. With a new team in the Los Angeles Lakers, James is Sportsbook.ag’s top favorite to win the next NBA MVP award at +300. Playing for a new team means new responsibilities and given the talent around him.
Prior to James’ agreeing to play for the Lakers next season, the team was rumored to be shopping for two max free agents this summer. James was one top of their list and California native Paul George was the other. The names of Kawhi Leonard and DeMarcus Cousins also popped out as James’ possible tag team partner in L.A. But George decided to stick it out with the OKC Thunder while Cousins decided to play for the Warriors.
The Other Favorites
Meanwhile, Leonard is still with the Spurs although it’s widely considered that they are actively shopping him. Leonard has supposedly mentioned the Lakers as his top preferred destination with the ‘other’ Los Angeles team, the Clippers as another possibility. If Leonard does indeed land in Lala Land, then James’ MVP odds should move.
The reigning 2018 MVP James Harden leads a trio of favorites at +400. Harden’s Rockets were able to re-sign Chris Paul but they lost Trevor Ariza to the Phoenix Suns. Ariza’s departure could hurt the Rockets’ 2019 campaign and consequently Harden’s chance to repeat as MVP.
With DeMarcus Cousins leaving for Golden State and Rajon Rondo leaving for the Lakers, Anthony Davis has been left with Jrue Holiday and Nikola Mirotic in New Orleans. Because of his strong performance last season, and the fact that his role is expected to get bigger without Cousins, Davis should have another big time season.
The Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo is the third player at +400. The Greek Freak had a strong start to the 2017-18 season. But when his Bucks sputtered to finish with a mediocre 44-38 record and just 7th place in the East, Antetokounmpo’s MVP chances faded while Harden, James, Lillard and Davis soared.
Surprisingly, disgruntled Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard is still in the mix as one of the favorites for the 2019 NBA MVP award. The former Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year still has the 6th best odds to win his first MVP award next season. Leonard has reportedly demanded to be traded and is said to prefer either of Los Angeles’ teams. Leonard is coming off a serious quad injury and it’s interesting that he is still on the list.
Another surprise entry to the oddsboard is the presence of 2018 Rookie of the Year winner Ben Simmons. Although he’s at a far +3500, Simmons and teammate Joel Embiid (who is at +2000) are one of two pair of teammates on the list. The other pair is the Golden State duo of Kevin Durant (+1000) and Stephen Curry (+1550).
In the last two installments of the NBA GM Survey, Karl Anthony Towns was chosen by the league’s executives as the ‘player they want to build a franchise around. The 2017 Rookie of the Year winner continued to improvement in his game during his third NBA season last year. His Minnesota Timberwolves made the playoffs last season for the first time since the Kevin Garnett era.Towns completes the list of favorites.at +5000.
Here are the complete odds to win the 2019 NBA MVP award as per Sportbook.ag as of July 5, 2018:
LeBron James +300
Anthony Davis +400
Giannis Antetokounmpo +400
James Harden +400
Kevin Durant +1000
Kawhi Leonard +1500
Stephen Curry +1500
Joel Embiid +2000
Kyrie Irving +2000
Russell Westbrook +2000
Ben Simmons +3500
Karl-Anthony Towns +5000
The Better Storyline
As we saw during the 2018 MVP voting, James Harden won it over LeBron James not necessarily because he had the better individual season but because his season had a better storyline. Sure, his regular season numbers were dope, but so was LeBron’s. King James was having one of his best season ever, in 15 seasons at that. Not only that, James had one of the best individual performances in NBA playoff history. Still, those weren’t enough to top the Rockets winning a franchise record 65 games and overtaking the mighty Golden State Warriors on top of the NBA’s team standings.
This year, LeBron James has a golden opportunity to turn a 35 win team to a playoff contender. The Western Conference is tough but it seems that the Lakers have assembled a crew good enough to finally break them free from their playoff slump. It remains to be seen if the Lakers can add one more superstar to their current team. If they can, they can be one of the coming season’s top title contenders. But even if they don’t they will still be a playoff team.
As for LeBron James, he has not won an NBA MVP since 2013 but has always been a contender for that award in every season of his career. Going to Los Angeles may be the toughest challenge that James has ever taken in his career. But as he always says, everything is earned, not given to him. So we’ll see.
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