NBA MVP Dark Horse Candidates Worth Betting On in 2018-19
NBA MVPs don’t come out of nowhere...usually. Though more often than not the winner of the league’s biggest individual award is an accomplished superstar, sometimes 22-year-old Derrick Rose blows up for a 62-win Bulls team and wins.
Or 30-year-old Steve Nash has a career rejuvenation and wins it in Phoenix. And those are the types of performances you need to be on the lookout for when betting the NBA MVP market. Here are five dark horses to win the 2019 NBA MVP bettors should be keeping an eye on while their odds still have value.
Dark Horses To Consider
Ben Simmons, G, Philadelphia 76ers
Simmons’ rookie numbers were matched by only Oscar Robertson’s first year in the league. Expectations were high for Simmons in his rookie season (after missing his would-have-been rookie year with a broken foot). But no one knew he’d be this good, running the offense of a 52-win team that finished 11th in efficiency. He wasn’t your average rookie.
The Sixers are expected to contend for the Eastern Conference crown, and he’s got a sidekick in Joel Embiid that will only keep him in the national spotlight further. It’s scary to think how Simmons is just getting started and how much more versatility he’ll add to his game in Year 2. He’ll likely need to see an uptick in scoring to get really get MVP consideration, but a season like Steve Nash’s in 2006 (18.8 points, 10.5 assists, 51.2% FG, 54-win team) is within reach.
Simmons isn’t even the top MVP candidate on his team (Embiid), and his odds reflect that. But Simmons is an Embiid injury away from being the top dog on a championship contender. That’s well worth the 34/1 odds you can get him at on 888sport.
Victor Oladipo, G, Indiana Pacers
Oladipo rejuvenated his career this past season in Indiana, where he became an All-Star for the first time and surprisingly led the Pacers, who many had bound for the Lottery, to 48 wins and a near-knockout of LeBron James in the playoffs. The Most Improved Player averaged 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and a league-best 2.4 steals. He was named First Team All-NBA Defense and Third Team All-NBA.
What will he do for an encore? The Pacers had a great offseason that will keep them in contention, and Oladipo will be leading that charge. It wouldn’t be a shock to see the 26-year-old take another leap forward this season. If the Pacers contend for a top-2 seed in the LeBron-less East, Oladipo’s season will have been MVP-worthy. That’s easily worth a look at 100/1 on 888sport.
Donovan Mitchell, G, Utah Jazz
Mitchell might have been the most impressive Rookie of the Year runner-up in recent memory. The No. 13 exploded on the scene for the Jazz in their post-Gordon Hayward era, averaging 20.5 points, 2.4 triples and 1.5 steals per game. He was even better in the postseason, averaging 24.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists in 11 games. That gives us optimism he can take his game to another level.
He has a lot of Derrick Rose in his game, and the Jazz have the supporting cast around him where Utah could make a jump into the top 3 of the West standings. If they do, and Mitchell continues to improve, he’ll get Rose-in-2011 MVP love. He’s 50/1 at Ladbrokes, but he’s got much better value at 70/1 on 888sport.
Nikola Jokic, C, Denver Nuggets
Last season Jokic became the first player in NBA history to average a double-double in points and rebounds AND six assists per game. He helped the Nuggets to their first winning season since 2013 and has them playoff-bound this upcoming season. Jokic is destined for his first All-Star appearance at 23 years old as he looks to build on a season in which he had nine triple-doubles, six games with four of more 3-pointers and 13 games with 10 or more assists.
The Nuggets have been building their roster for this season, and Jokic will be leading the way. He’s got a strong supporting cast but one that won’t take away too much from his own numbers. Jokic is clearly still a secret, as he’s got 100/1 MVP odds. Jump on those odds if you believe in the young Nuggets.
Devin Booker, G, Phoenix Suns
Hear us out. He did it for a woeful Suns team that got no national exposure, but Devin Booker joined rare company last year. He averaged 24.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.7 assists as a 21-year-old. Here’s the all-time 24-4-4 at 21 or younger: LeBron James (twice), Michael Jordan, Tracy McGrady and Booker. His efficiency is ugly (43.2% shooting on 19.5 FGA; 3.6 turnovers) but it’s hard to deny the star he’s becoming.
The Suns also had one of the league’s best offseasons. They added No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton and No. 10 pick Mikal Bridges, with those rookies joining a talented young cast. If Booker improves his efficiency and Ayton becomes a Day 1 star – think Karl-Anthony Towns – there’s a sliver of a chance the Suns flirt with a playoff spot.
If everything falls into place it’s not unthinkable that Booker would get some MVP consideration. Yes, he’d be the most unlikely MVP winner in league history. But why not give a 22-year-old making history a shot? Ladbrokes has him at 50/1, but you can get Booker at absurd 1,000/1 odds on 888sport.
Outside the Favourites but Not Dark Horses
The usual suspects lead the way for our favorite 2019 MVP odds. But in such a star-driven league that appears wide open – outside of the Golden State Warriors – there’s about a dozen players who could take their games to the next level and enter the MVP discussion. Here are the rest of our favorite bets to take home the trophy next June.
Kyrie Irving, G, Boston Celtics
We haven’t seen Kyrie Irving since March 11, so it’s easy to forget just how good he was in Year 1 with the Celtics. In fact, for a large portion of the season’s first half Irving was an MVP frontrunner. He averaged 24.4 points on a career-best 49 percent shooting and did all this with a bothersome knee that eventually cost him the regular and postseason.
The Celtics are loaded, and it starts with Irving. They’re the frontrunner in the LeBron-less East, and they have a real shot to improve on their 55 wins from a year ago. Irving has the storyline of bouncing back after a significant injury and trying to get himself back to the Finals with the Celtics in his post-LeBron career. He’s the best player on the conference’s best team. That in itself gives him a shot. We’re amazed he’s still at 20/1 with Ladbrokes.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, Milwaukee Bucks
Alert the cliché police, but this guy just keeps getting better. A year after becoming the first player in NBA history to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks, the Greek Freak raised his numbers in just about every category. He averaged 26.9 points, 10.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists and shot better than 52 percent from the field. The only other players to do that? Kareem, Wilt, Barkley and Bird. Oh, and Giannis did it at 23 years old, younger than all of them.
So the question isn’t if Giannis will win an MVP. It’s when he will win an MVP. And why not this year? The Bucks have improved record-wise each of the last three seasons, they bring back most of their core and added Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova. All MVPs have that one breakthrough year when they go from great to all-time great. There’s a reason his odds are at 6/1, second highest behind James Harden.
Stephen Curry, G, Golden State Warriors
You read that correctly. Is it possible we’ve forgotten just how good Curry is? The two-time MVP missed 31 games last season, which relegated him to All-NBA Third Team despite averaging 26.4 points and just missing out on 13th 50/40/90 season in NBA history. So, like Irving, it almost feels like we could see a “remember me?” post-injury campaign from Curry.
It’s not easy getting MVP love in the Bay Area. Since Kevin Durant signed with Golden State two years ago, Curry’s sixth-place finish in 2016 is the highest a Warrior has finished in the voting. But Curry and the Warriors could be re-energized in the regular season after the Rockets took homecourt advantage with a 65-win campaign a year ago. That means less rest and more minutes in the regular season, leading to more numbers and more wins. A motivated Curry deserves better odds, but we’ll gladly scoop him up at 18/1 on Ladbrokes.
Kawhi Leonard, F, Toronto Raptors
What a redemption story this would be. Leonard finds himself in a difficult situation, having forced a trade out of San Antonio after the bad blood between he and the Spurs front office couldn’t be repaired. The good news, as far as his MVP candidacy is concerned, is that he landed with a contender in the Raptors. Don’t forget: the 26-year-old Leonard is two years removed from a second-place MVP finish. Now he goes to an easier Eastern Conference with an excellent supporting cast around him.
The biggest question mark will be his health. Is that mysterious quad injury healed? If it is, and Leonard explains his side of the story to help repair his image (which is part of the consideration in MVP voting), there’s no denying he has the talent to put up MVP numbers.
Every player’s numbers will improve in a LeBron-less Eastern Conference. Leonard was third in the NBA in PER two seasons ago, the last time he was healthy. He could easily get back there, giving him excellent value at 15/1 on 888sport, especially considering he’s just 10/1 on Ladbrokes.
Russell Westbrook, G, Oklahoma City Thunder
The 2016 NBA MVP matched his record-breaking campaign in 2017, averaging a season-long triple-double for the second straight year, but it didn’t yield any real MVP consideration; Westbrook finished fifth in the voting. The arrival of Paul George likely hurt his candidacy, and Carmelo Anthony’s inefficiency did him no favors.
But with Anthony gone and George now a long-term piece of the future, perhaps a resurgence from Westbrook is on the way. If he can find a way to improve his percentages and cut down on turnovers, it’d likely result in more wins for the Thunder and a better perception from the voters that he isn’t simply stat-hunting.
And if he averages a triple-double for a third consecutive season – after it had been done once in the history of the NBA – how can he not get a long look as MVP? On the chance that he makes serious NBA history, a look at 14/1 on Ladbrokes feels like a smart bet.
Don't forget to check out the top 5 MVP candidates worth backing this season!
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