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2018 NBA MVP Odds: James is Hot on Harden’s Heels

James Harden
James Harden led the league in scoring for the first time in his career. Photo by David Santiago/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire
  • LeBron James’ MVP candidacy is picking up steam after he averaged a triple-double in the month of February.
  • Can LeBron sustain his high level of production during the final two months of the season?
  • Will voters ultimately side with James Harden because of the Rockets’ superior record?

February was quite a month for LeBron James. The four-time MVP led the Eastern Conference in scoring and assists, tied for the league lead with four triple-doubles, earned MVP honors at the All-Star Game and became the first player in NBA history to rack up 30,000 points, 8,000 rebounds, and 8,000 assists.

The NBA formally recognized his brilliance on Thursday by naming James the Kia NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Month. It’s the third time he’s won the award this season and it has us wondering what he’ll do for a follow-up. Will he continue to stuff the stat sheet in March and leap over James Harden in the 2018 MVP race, or will he come back to earth during the final month of the season?

We’ve taken a look at the MVP odds available at Bovada and have included our own insights and analysis on this intriguing two-man race.

Player Odds
James Harden (Rockets) -400
LeBron James (Cavs) +300

Check out our full review of Bovada here.

The Case for James Harden

LeBron may have been the best player in the league in February, but Harden has been the best all season long. The six-time All-Star leads the league in points, free throws and three-pointers made, and is third in assists, fourth in efficiency, and fifth in triple doubles. He’s also powered the Rockets to a vastly superior record, which should count for something in a team sport. Houston has 12 more victories than Cleveland, and has already reeled off a pair of 14-game winning streaks since November.

Harden has finished second in MVP balloting in two of the last three seasons and it feels almost inevitable that voters will reward him for his sustained excellence this season.

james harden
VS
lebron james
31.3 Points 26.7
.449 Field Goal Percentage .545
.383 Three Point Percentage .360
5.2 Rebounds 8.4
8.9 Assists 9.0
1.8 Steals 1.5
0.7 Blocks 1.0
30.8 Efficiency 32.0

The Case for LeBron James

You know all those things that Harden is good at? LeBron is really, really good at them too. King James averages more rebounds, assists and steals than the Beard, his shooting percentage is nearly ten-percent higher, and he’s recorded 12 more double-doubles and nine more triple-doubles this season.

Sure, his team’s record is not as impressive, but neither is his team. Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, and Iman Shumpert all missed significant time before being traded, and Kevin Love has been on the shelf since January 30th with a fractured left hand.

LeBron James
LeBron James became the Cavs’ all-time leader in rebounds in February. Photo by Keith Allison (Flickr) [CC License]

Oh, and in case you didn’t notice, LeBron also serves as the Cavs’ coach and GM. His fingerprints were all over the trade deadline deals that turned over a third of the team’s roster, and he’s taken the responsibility for integrating the club’s new players since their arrival. That’s a lot of additional stress to put on one player, but LeBron has taken it all in stride.

Betting Advice

If the season were to end tomorrow, Harden would almost certainly win MVP honors. However, there are still 21 games remaining, and that gives a huge advantage to LeBron, who historically scores at a higher rate in the months of March and April as he ramps up for the playoffs. King James was especially lethal last April as he averaged 30.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, and nine assists in 43.1 minutes per game.

While Harden is racking DNP-CD’s or regularly sitting out fourth quarters, LeBron will still be averaging close to 40 minutes per game and stuffing the stat sheet.

Unlike Houston, Cleveland actually needs LeBron to post superstar numbers every game in order to get favorable playoff seeding. So, while Harden is racking DNP-CD’s or regularly sitting out fourth quarters, LeBron will still be averaging close to 40 minutes per game and stuffing the stat sheet with points, rebounds, and assists.

You won’t be able to get LeBron at better odds than the +300 available at Bovada, so pounce on ‘em while you still can.

Author Image

Ryan Murphy began his love affair with sports journalism at the age of nine when he wrote his first article about his little league baseball team. He has since authored his own column for Fox Sports, and now serves as SBD’s resident NBA and MLB expert.