In what might be the most wide-open MVP in years, Nick Ballistreri previews the odds of the top candidates, and makes his MVP pick.
Just a season ago, the NBA MVP was wild. It was clear that either Giannis Antetokounmpo or James Harden would win, but this decision would show what exactly the voters valued: individual statistics or team impact. Their stats from a year ago were both impressive:
- Giannis Antetokounmpo 2018-19 stats
- 27.7 PTS 12.5 REB 5.9 AST 1.3 STL 1.5 BLK
- 60-22, 1 seed in Eastern Conference
- James Harden 2018-19 stats
- 36.1 PTS 6.6 REB 7.5 AST 2.0 STL
- 53-29, 4 seed in Western Conference
This was an interesting debate because it is clear that Harden had a better individual season, while Giannis’ team had more success. The Bucks overachieved, while many thought that Harden’s Rockets under-achieved.
Giannis ended up receiving 78 of 101 first-place votes, while Harden received 23 first-place votes. If it wasn’t for Antetokunmpo’s success, James Harden would be looking at back-to-back MVP’s. That’s not the case, and this season is once again wide open, with 6 players having +1000 odds or better.
2019-20 NBA Futures- MVP Odds
- Giannis Anteokounmpo +300
- Stephen Curry +500
- James Harden +600
- LeBron James +700
- Anthony Davis +1000
- Kawhi Leonard +1000
- Joel Embiid +1200
- Paul George +1400
- Nikola Jokic +1600
- Russell Westbrook +1600
It’s truly incredible how talented the NBA is right now, as five of the players mentioned above already have an MVP award to their name. It will be interesting to see who separates themselves from the pack, as it is clear that team success, as well as individual success will dictate the voters decision.
NBA MVP Pick
I first want to eliminate a couple of people from consideration. As good as James Harden was last season, with the addition of Russell Westbrook I don’t see how either of them puts up the statistics that will be required to win MVP.
Looking at Antetokounmpo, I don’t see too much value in his odds at +300. First off, it only pays 3-1, and when I’m picking an MVP, I tend to look for a little more. Also, I don’t see the Bucks being as good as they were last season, as I expect them to take a slight step back. This, along with the voters tendency to avoid picking a back-to-back winner, makes me wary of picking Giannis.
With Kawhi Leonard, he has enough talent to win the MVP, but in recent seasons his teams have given him more days to rest due to “load management”. With the success that the Raptors had with this management, I expect the Clippers to do the same, and I don’t think we’ll see Kawhi play in enough games to get serious MVP consideration- especially with the talent on that team.
The duo that most intrigues me in regards to one of them winning MVP is the LeBron-AD duo. I would not be surprised if either of these players won MVP, as I expect them to both put up video game numbers this season, especially AD. AD will see the least attention of his career, as teams will have a number of options to worry about in LA, and with LeBron running the offense. LeBron very well might average 10+ assists with Davis scoring 30+. Therein lies the problem, if the team has a great season, voters will have a hard time differentiating who the “Most Valuable Player” of the Lakers is.
That leaves me with a familiar face to the MVP world, Steph Curry. If you remember, Curry isn’t new to the MVP life, as he won back-to-back MVPs after the 2015 and 2016 seasons. With the offseason circumstances, it has opened up for Curry again.
Kevin Durant left the Warriors in the offseason, and it was apparent that while he was in town, neither of them would be winning an MVP with the shared spotlight. With KD elsewhere, along with the injury to Klay Thompson that will keep him out until mid-season, the onus is on Steph Curry to keep this Warriors team in contention. He has proved before that he is up to the challenge.
Another thing working in Curry’s favor is that most people are writing this Warriors team off this season due to KD’s departure and Klay’s injury. However, most people are overlooking the addition of D’Angelo Russell, as well as Draymond Green still being in town. This team will still compete, and it will be on Curry’s back. A scenario where he averages 30+ points on a 50+ win team is definitely in the realm of possibility, and for that reason, Steph Curry at +500 is my best bet for the 2019-20 NBA MVP award.