The most prestigious award given in the most star-driven American sport, the NBA's Most Valuable Player award has been given to a remarkable group of players. In fact, almost everyone to have ever received the award is or will be in the Hall of Fame.
So while the Warriors look destined to win a third straight NBA championship, it feels as though the MVP award is as up for grabs as it has been in quite some time. Here are our five favorite betting picks to bring home the award in 2019 based on the odds from the top online sportsbooks.
Joel Embiid told us to Trust The Process, and he was right. The Sixers are officially back after an embarrassing four-year stretch in which they averaged 63.2 losses per season. Having Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons and adding sharpshooter J.J. Redick helped, but the turnaround last season – 54 games and a playoff series victory – can be attributed to Embiid becoming a bona fide superstar in his second NBA season.
The next step for Embiid is behaving on social media. But since that isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, perhaps the next goal is becoming an MVP candidate. Last year he averaged 22.9 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.8 blocks at 23 years old. Only three other players have accomplished that, and all three (Duncan, Garnett, Barkley) won MVPs during their career.
There’s no reason to think Embiid won’t continue to add to those numbers, and his partner in crime Ben Simmons is a year older and more mature. With one of the game’s best passers next to him, Embiid is going to feast. He’s also one of the game’s best interior defenders, as he finished second in the Defensive Player of the Year voting.
And of course, he’s a media darling. They vote on the award and will give Embiid points for his personality. Add in that the East is wide open without LeBron James and you’ve got the makings of a serious MVP candidate. It’s all adding up for Embiid, if he can stay on the floor. The fewest games an MVP has played the last 20 seasons is 75, by Steve Nash. Healh may be the biggest thing standing in his way. But we love these odds.
Love him or hate him, Durant is now finally entering the prime of his career. That’s a scary thought for someone with nine All-Star appearances and four scoring titles under his belt. And while injuries have caused minor bumps in the road in the regular season the last two years, he enters the 2018-19 season as a two-time reigning NBA champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP winner and is fresh off a First Team All-NBA selection.
He’s won this award before, and we already know the Warriors will be the favorites to three-peat and shatter more records in the process. With Durant the leader of that group, an MVP is certainly in the discussion. Then again, in the last two seasons no Warriors player has finished higher than sixth in MVP voting.
So why do we have confidence in Durant to earn his second MVP? No player has taken more criticism the past two years than he, and he seems primed for a campaign to shut it all up. Second, the Warriors coasted for large parts of the regular season in 2018 and it nearly cost them in the playoffs, when they had to play a Game 7 in Houston instead of at home.
You can bet they’ll be taking it more seriously this time around. And though there’s plenty of firepower around him, Durant is the alpha. If the Warriors bounce back (as far as the regular season is concerned) Durant will be the reason why. That makes him an MVP candidate as the best player on the best team.
Looking to back Kevin Durant as 2019 MVP? 888sport has Durant listed at +800.
The basketball world was turned upside down in early July when James opted to take his talents to Hollywood and join the Los Angeles Lakers. Though LeBron is never not in the spotlight, taking the game’s best player and putting him smack dab in the middle of the league’s biggest market is a match made in heaven that will keep LeBron on the front page on a nightly basis. That matters also as much as the actual production from an MVP candidate, something James shouldn’t have to worry about either.
It’s possible this coming NBA season will be the least pressure James has ever had on him since before high school. The Lakers were busy in free agency but didn’t make a second splash after signing James to a four-year deal in July. They seem to be content letting James mesh with his ultra-talented yet ultra-young and inexperienced core. They’re gunning for 2019 free agency.
That’s not to say the Lakers won’t be good. Any team with the world’s greatest player is going to rack up wins. What it means is that James may play a more free-flowing style of basketball, focused more on personal accolades than he has in years past.
He’s won the award four times, and in the last 10 seasons has finished third or better nine times (he finished fourth in 2017). Those four MVPs are one shy of Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain for the most all-time. You can bet the NBA writers who vote on the award know that.
And after James was the victim of some voter fatigue – he hasn’t won the award since 2013 – he may benefit from it now. If he puts up similar numbers as he did a year ago – when he was certainly MVP-worthy – in his 16th NBA season, while playing for the Lakers and carrying such a young team, it’s hard to see him not finishing in the top-3.
If you're expecting King James to return to his reign as MVP, 888sport is offering +500.
This one’s pretty straightforward. After a pair of second-place finishes Harden broke through last season, ironically after the team added fellow point guard Chris Paul, to earn his first MVP award. Harden and the Rockets perfected Mike D’Antoni’s offense and it allowed Houston to win 65 games and top the Warriors for the top regular season spot in the West.
It made Harden an easy choice for MVP, even with LeBron James doing what he did in his 15th NBA season. What will he do for an encore? Incredibly there have been five instances of back-to-back MVP winners since 2002 (Duncan, Nash, LeBron, LeBron, Curry). The game’s best player doesn’t just fall off after earning MVP, so it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Harden win again.
He’s without Trevor Ariza, which means he may have to take on even more of a scoring load after averaging a league-best 30.4 points per game. If he can keep the Rockets atop the West and hover around the averages he had a year ago, he should be the favorite to repeat. Add in that LeBron has joined a crowded West and such an accomplishment will be all the more impressive.
Ladbrokes is offering +500 for James Harden to repeat as MVP in 2019.
There was a time in the not-too-distant past when Davis was considered an injury-prone stat stuffer. He had failed to play 70 games in any of his first three seasons, and his Pelicans had been to the playoffs once in his first four seasons, losing an average of 46.2 games per year. Davis’ numbers were otherworldly, but the question of whether he could boost his team to another level and become a true superstar remained.
No longer. Davis has been named First Team All-NBA each of the last two seasons while missing just 14 total games, he led the Pelicans to 48 wins and a first-round playoff upset sweep of the Blazers last year and has solidified himself as a top-5 player. It’s all coming together for the Unibrow, meaning the next logical step in his career is MVP candidacy.
After DeMarcus Cousins suffered a torn Achilles and the Pelicans acquired Nikola Mirotic last year, Davis was absurdly good. In those 31 games Davis averaged 30.6 points, 11.7 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 3.1 blocks in 36.3 minutes. The Pelicans went 21-11 (a 54-win pace) and then swept the third-seeded Blazers before bowing out to the Warriors in Round 2.
Cousins is gone, but the Pelicans added Julius Randle and swapped Rajon Rondo with Elfrid Payton in the offseason, meaning they’re looking at another playoff berth. With a supporting cast that also includes Jrue Holiday and Mirotic, the Pelicans could certainly take the jump and contend for a third place finish in the West (Golden State and Houston are a pretty safe Nos. 1 and 2). Davis’ numbers on both ends are going to be MVP-worthy. The team might be, too.
It feels like this is the year he makes the jump. He’s our favorite MVP pick. If you are interested in backing Anthony Davis as 2019 MVP, he's listed at +500.
Don't forget to check out our list of dark horse MVP candidates worth backing this season!